Live Life to the Fullest

How to Fix Health Problems With Exercise

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Low sex drive
Look no further than your local gym: In a Journal of Sexual Medicine study, women who hit the treadmill for 20 minutes were more physiologically aroused while viewing an erotic video than the group that didn't work out. "Exercise increases circulation to every area of your body," explains ob-gyn Alyssa Dweck, MD, co-author of V Is for Vagina, and that makes us more game for bedroom action. Mentally, regular workouts may help us get over body hang-ups, she adds. And the feel-good endorphins released during exercise can bust through fatigue or stress that drags down sex drive. (Having increased stamina won't hurt, either.)

Your fitness Rx: Add workouts that get your heart pumping and put you in touch with your body, like Latin dance or Zumba. Dr. Dweck also recommends yoga positions that increase blood flow to the pelvic area.

Food cravings
If you've been using willpower to resist those 3 p.m. chocolate urges—and failing miserably—try a little activity instead. Here's why: "In the throes of a craving, your brain is saying 'feed me dopamine!'—that neurotransmitter that taps into the reward center of your brain. You can satisfy the call with carbs—or with exercise," says John Ratey, MD, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Both fixes raise your dopamine levels significantly, but only one will have a favorable effect on your tush.

Your fitness Rx: When you get the vending machine crazies, take 15 minutes and go for a brisk walk, which was shown in recent research to be all it takes to short-circuit food cravings.

Hot flashes
During menopause and the years leading up to it, 80 percent of women will suffer from symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy BMI—crucial if you're feeling the heat, since overweight women report more severe symptoms—and dials down stress, which can trigger flashes, says Dr. Dweck. It doesn't take much: One 30-minute walk or run on the treadmill quelled hot flashes by up to 74 percent over a 24-hour period, according to a study published in the journal Menopause.

Your fitness Rx: Cardio is crucial if you're dealing with the big M. Aim for 30 minutes, five days a week.

Weak immune system
Aerobic workouts are a natural cold-fighter, coaxing immune cells out of body tissues and into the bloodstream, where they attack invading viruses and bacteria, explains David Nieman, DrPH, a professor at Appalachian State University, whose research shows that five days of cardio a week reduced sick days by 43 percent.

Your fitness Rx: Workouts that raise your heart rate can improve immunity. Good options: Jog, cycle or take a dance class. Or, try a circuit workout (with little or no rest in between exercises) for 30 minutes on most days of the week. (Avoid intense exercise beyond 90 minutes, since that can increase your risk of getting sick.) That little commitment is all you need to score a big health payoff.

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