Health

6 Natural Ways to Speed Weight Loss, Soothe Stress, Boost Heart Health, and More

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The colder months can do a number on our health such as triggering joint pain and stress. Luckily, you can nix these health woes in a snap using some simple and natural techniques. Here are six easy ways to stay healthy during the fall and winter seasons!

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Lowers Blood Pressure: Breathing This Way

Keeping blood pressure below 120/80 halves the risk of heart disease and stroke, and it keeps the blood vessels that nourish the lungs healthy, cutting the risk of Covid-19 complications by 60 percent. Plus, a University of Colorado study suggests that spending five minutes daily inhaling deeply can trim nine points off blood pressure in six weeks —better results than daily walks provide. In the study, subjects used a handheld device that provided resistance as they inhaled, like the Inhale Respiratory Trainer (Buy on Amazon, $24.95). How it works: Inhaling against resistance prompts the release of nitric oxide, a chemical that makes blood vessels relax and dilate.

Speeds Weight Loss: Happy Thoughts

The frustrating fact is, many of us don’t lose a single pound when we exercise since we subconsciously eat more after working out. Thankfully, British scientists say you can lose up to four times more weight than if you biked for a half hour every day just by spending 10 minutes daily picturing yourself at your goal weight — how great your clothes will look and how much energy you’ll have. Visualizing positive outcomes changes brain-wave patterns and heightens neural connections within the brain, making sticking to a healthy eating plan feel effortless!

Eases Joint Pain: Lingering in Bed

A good workout can prompt the brain to release painkilling endorphins, cutting joint pain by as much as half if you exercise daily — but Finnish scientists say staying in bed an extra five minutes to reach your arms overhead, circle your ankles, and pull your knees to your chest before getting up each morning can cut daytime stiffness and pain by as much as 62 percent. That’s because deep muscle stretches spur endorphin release (just like a good workout does — but without the work!), plus they help flush pain-triggering fluids out of joint tissues.

Keeps You ‘Quick’: Brain Games

Finding 20 minutes a day to play fun brain games (find them on MindGames.com) can help you think as clearly and effectively as someone 30 to 50 years younger (a bigger payoff than daily exercise), suggests a University of California, Irvine, study. According to neurologist David Perlmutter, MD, fun mental challenges boost the brain’s ability to grow and remodel itself at any age.

Boosts Heart Health: Blackberries

Blackberry season is short, but frozen berries and their freeze-dried powder (Buy on Amazon, $17.95) are just as nutritious, and they’re available year-round. Savor one cup (or stir one teaspoon of the powder into a daily smoothie or tea), and artery-clogging LDL cholesterol could drop by 14 points —enough to cut heart disease risk by 25 percent, say Chinese researchers. (You’d have to jog 30 minutes a day to get that improvement with exercise!) Credit the berries’ polyphenols, which help keep blood fats in balance.

Soothes Stress: The Scent of Leaves

When you feel anxiety building, jumping on a treadmill or stationary bike could settle your nerves for up to three hours. But if you take 20 minutes to step outside and focus on breathing in the blissful, familiar aromas of fall foliage, you could cut your risk of anxiety by 70 percent for 24 hours. That’s the word from researchers at Connecticut’s Manchester Memorial Hospital, who say inhaling the aromatic compounds released by plants (called phytoncides) activates the autonomic nervous system — a branch of nerves that tamps down the release of stress hormones.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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