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The science of exercise: Read our seven best long reads on eviden-

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Being physically active is one of the very best things we can do to keep our bodies and minds working well and free from disease. But whether you love exercise or not, sifting through the deluge of research, fads and conflicting advice can be overwhelming.

The latest New Scientist Essential Guide provides you with all the evidence-based answers to your exercise questions. To celebrate its release, we are making seven of our most popular in-depth articles that probe the science of fitness free to read until 27 March.

Whether you are looking for tips for marathon training or wondering how many steps you really need to take every day, unlock your free access to these premium articles by clicking through and registering as a user for free.

How many steps a day do you really need?

Ten-thousand steps a day has become a widely adopted target for daily physical activity. Yet did you know that this number wasn’t borne out of science, but was instead a marketing tool when the first commercial pedometer went on sale in Japan? In this article, we turn to the Hadza people in Tanzania, who live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle – and have exceptionally good cardiovascular health – to find out what we should really be aiming for. Spoiler: it isn’t 10,000.

How flexible do you really need to be?

Many people strive to touch their toes or do the splits, and we tend to think that being flexible will help with things like pain and posture. In truth, stretching can be beneficial, but probably not for the reason you think.

Why doing more exercise won’t help you burn more calories

For many of us, exercise is part and parcel of trying to maintain a healthy weight. The assumption has long been that the calories we burn off need to exceed the calories we consume through our diet if we want to lose weight. But, in recent years, work by Herman Pontzer at Duke University in North Carolina and his colleagues has revealed a startling new understanding of metabolism.

Their work suggests that people who are extremely active burn around the same calories as those who sit all day working at a desk. What’s going on, and what does it mean for our health and our waistlines?

Is running or walking better for you?

It is no secret that exercise is amazing for our health, but when it comes to the type of exercise you do, how much you do and how often, things get more complicated. Take the question of running: we know it gets the heart pumping with benefits for body and brain, but for some people, the very thought of going for a run brings discomfort and dread. In this article, we ask whether it is really necessary to pound the pavements or if a leisurely walk can do the job. Whichever camp you are in, there should be some welcome news.

Why strength training could be the best thing you do for your health

Now you have decided whether to run or walk, take a pause to read this article before you lace up your trainers. When it comes to fitness, building muscle power has long played second fiddle to aerobic exercise, perhaps because many people think lifting weights is all about building up big biceps. But strength training has some very surprising effects on our health, including improving cardiovascular fitness, and could add years to your life and protect you from some major killers. Skip it at your peril. The good news is that you don’t need to pump iron to get the boost.

How to avoid hitting the wall when running a marathon

When it comes to exercise advice, there are some phenomena where it really helps to have science on your side. One of these is hitting the wall during a race, aka “bonking” – that feeling where your legs turn to jelly and you believe you just can’t go on. We know this is the result of energy stores running low, but science can now help explain why it only happens to some people, some of the time, and offer useful tips to stop it happening to you. If you’re training for a long run, this is a must-read.

How the way you move could change the way you think and feel

Finally, let’s take a look at what exercise can do not for the body, but for the brain. The potential impacts here are far-reaching, but science journalist and author Caroline Williams has literally written the book on the powerful mental effects of activity. In this article, based on her book Move, you will discover that whatever it is that you want from your mind – more creativity, improved resilience or higher self-esteem – the evidence shows there are ways of moving the body that can help.

New Scientist’s Essential Guide No16: Exercise

For an in-depth guide to exercise, what it does to us, how much of it you need and how to make it easier to do more, check out the latest New Scientist Essential Guide, available in print and in the New Scientist app.


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