The Real Secret is a different kind of self help. We debunk the empty promises of so many books and DVDs and bring you a simple, sensible approach to real life fulfillment. We don't believe you can achieve happiness, or anything else, by simply wishing for, thinking about or visualising it. Our book - and this blog - takes only the best of what really works and turns it into a positive, practical 12-step programme that will enable you to take control of your life and raise your happiness levels.

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The Real Secret is simple, sensible, scientifically supported self help
by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


Walking Back To Happiness

So much of what we say in The Real Secret is no secret at all (we emphasise the "real", as opposed to the unreality of much advice contained in The Secret). We suggest including in your weekly timetable, half an hour’s exercise at least twice a week. We all know that regular exercise supports good mental health and can raise happiness levels. One hour a week isn't asking much. Just do it, we say in Step 5 - "Healthy Body".

Older people who exercise three or more times a week have a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's and other types of dementia; healthy people who exercise regularly have a 30% - 40% lower risk of getting dementia; and even those who devote as little as 15 minutes to exercise, three days a week, cut their risk significantly. Exercising to recommended levels can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring by 40%. For prostate cancer the risk of dying from the disease is reduced by up to 30%. Bowel cancer patients' risk of dying from the disease can be cut by around 50% by doing around six hours of moderate physical activity a week.

Launching a new report, Jane Maher, chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer Support and a leading clinical oncologist said: "The advice that I would have previously given to one of my patients would have been to 'take it easy'. This has now changed significantly because of the recognition that if physical exercise were a drug, it would be hitting the headlines."

Even a short, brisk walk every day, researchers have said, can make a difference. If you can get into natural surroundings – the countryside, coast or park – even better, as this has been shown to sooth the mind more than urban settings.

'Burn calories and build muscle all you want, but remember that your brain and soul may be the pieces of your anatomy that benefit most from walking.'
Mark Fenton, The Complete Book of Walking

Now there is additional research in favour of regular walking from the Psychology Department in the University of Pittsburgh. Kirk Erikson, author of the study, puts it this way:

'As we search for a "magic intervention" to protect our brains from the effects of aging, we may find that this "magic" will come not in the form of a pill, but rather in the form of a brisk walk several days a week. So, I would recommend physicians to prescribe moderate amounts of physical activity—about 1 mile of walking per day—to improve brain function, reduce brain atrophy, and decrease the risk for cognitive impairment. Aerobic activities, such as a brisk walk, a game of tennis, or a swim are excellent activities that may improve brain function.'
Erikson's research study (published in Neurology) has found that the simple act of walking may improve memory in old age. As we age, our brains shrink and the shrinkage is associated with dementia and loss of cognitive functions such as memory. To test whether physical activity could mitigate some of these degenerative effects, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh tracked the physical activity of 299 healthy men and women with an average age of 78. The participants' activity ranged anywhere from walking 0 blocks to 300 blocks (up to 30 miles) per week.
Nine years later, the walkers underwent brain scans, which revealed that those who had walked more had greater brain volume than those who walked less. Four years after that, the volunteers were tested again — this time for dementia. Among the group, 116 people showed signs of memory loss or dementia. Those who had walked the most — at least 72 city blocks (or about 7 miles.) each week — were half as likely to have cognitive problems as those who walked the least.

The findings are in line with past studies linking physical activity with brain function, but dementia experts say there's not enough data yet to prescribe exercise to prevent memory loss (though we do, for health and happiness). It's also too soon to say whether exercise may prevent dementia or simply delay it in people who would eventually develop it anyway. But when it comes to Alzheimer's, even a short delay could mean great gains in quality of life.

"Even if we are delaying [Alzheimer's disease] by several months or years, that's a significant improvement in what we know already, and a change in costs for treating health care," study author Kirk Erickson said. Delaying the condition could also ease the emotional burden and problems that come along with it, for both patients and their families, he said.

You can read an interview with Kirk Erikson here

Get more "Simple, Sensible, Scientifically-Supported" advice from us in The Real Secret (UK) or The Real Secret USA here

Posted by Lucy

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