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Exercise: the natural high

Mental and emotional benefits of cardio often overlooked

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While the majority of fitness research efforts focus on the physical and health benefits of exercise, there is a growing body of work demonstrating that exercise promotes wellness and mental health.

The physical benefits of exercise are vast and varied from improved cardiovascular function and immune system boosting to disease prevention such as diabetes and obesity. The physical benefits of exercise also tend to focus on looking better: leaner waists, greater muscularity, trim thighs, etc. And often the less-visible-more-mental health benefits of exercise are taken for granted or overlooked. We become more focused on how we look and forget observing how we feel.

Nonetheless, the mental health benefits of exercise are as equally profound and in some instances are more noticeable. Exercise improves mental health by curtailing depression, promoting a positive self image and body image, which is linked to a higher self esteem.

Judith Easton, personal training director at Galter Life Center in Chicago notes, “Exercise leads to an increase in energy and to better sleep patterns, which may also explain why it is so helpful to people with depression. Low energy and poor sleep are common symptoms of depression.”

Through exercise we feel better. You don’t have to be suffering from a diagnosed mental illness to get significant mental health benefits from exercise. Well being is part of the exercise payoff.

“Physical exercise whether it is at the gym with my personal trainer or out in my garden, provides me with a certain peace of mind and tranquility like nothing else,” says Michael Faubion, one of my clients. “The act of doing something that improves your physical and mental health is tremendously rewarding.”

Another client, Kevin Nicholson, says, “I derive numerous mental health benefits from exercise.  The endorphins make you feel good, the exertion relieves built-up stress, and when I am done I have a sense of accomplishment.”

The Mayo Clinic is clear to point out that the links to mental health benefits of exercise are not as clear as physical results. Particularly, imprecise are the links between anxiety, depression and exercise.

However, according to Mayo, exercise helps mental health in many ways, which may include releasing feel-good brain chemicals like endorphins that may ease depression and curtail anxiety. Exercise can also reduce immune system chemicals that can worsen depression and increase body temperature, which may have a calming effect.

Researchers at Duke University demonstrated several years ago that exercise has anti-depressant qualities by improving brain function and stimulating the production of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals produced in the brain. Endorphins are natural opiates that are chemically similar to morphine and also act as natural pain relievers.

In addition to the physiological benefits of exercise there may be noticeable psychological and emotional benefits as well. In particular the stress-release properties to exercise can be profound and exercise can boost your self-esteem and self-confidence and allow you to feel better about your appearance.

Exercise can also be used as a positive coping mechanism toward warding off or thwarting depression and anxiety and is a healthier alternative to dwelling on how badly you feel or resorting to substances such as alcohol to make you feel better.

Other mental health benefits to exercise are better sleep habits, a higher sex drive and a more positive upbeat attitude. And while these benefits are not readily measurable, it is clear that just about everyone will feel better after exercise.

It is important to note that exercise should not be a substitute for medical advice and that before engaging in any form of exercise a physician’s permission and guidance is recommended.

So just how much exercise is enough to reap the mental health benefits of exercise? Every little bit of exertion will help. And doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day, three to five days a week can significantly improve one’s mental health and state of being.

Be sure to include some form of cardiovascular activity and consider including mindful exercise like yoga and meditation. Both according to Easton “answer the need to have down time along with the need to quiet down and look within.”

Yoga participants often say they feel more centered and calm, along with the physical benefits of stretching and building strength.

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Final score in Super Bowl LVIII: Queers 14, MAGA haters two

Here’s our own LGBTQ scoreboard for inclusivity vs. bigots

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(Super Bowl LVIII screenshot)

Even if you didn’t watch a second of the Super Bowl Sunday night, you probably already heard through friends or social media that the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in overtime, 25-22. 

And you undoubtedly learned it was a repeat performance by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his team, winning the Lombardi trophy two years in a row. And how could you have missed all the coverage of Taylor Swift and her tight end, er, her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce? 

But we kept our own LGBTQ centered scoreboard of the Big Game, awarding points for queer representation and allyship to Team Rainbow, while also making note of points scored by the haters and mad MAGA hatters whom we’ve dubbed Team Troglodyte. To us, that’s the score that really matters, and we are proud to report: WE WON!

Gay man on the field: One point for Team Rainbow

Jonathan Romero cheered with the 49ers Gold Rush team in his first Super Bowl. Romero joined the squad in 2022 and has been welcomed by his cheermates and fans. 

Despite the disappointing loss, Romero went partying after the big game with his squad at Caesars Palace. As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies of the Los Angeles Rams paved the way in 2019 as the first male cheerleaders in Super Bowl history. 

LGBTQ ally Taylor Swift makes out and dances with Travis Kelce after win: Two points for Team Rainbow 

Even if you’re turned-off by straight PDA, the MAGA crowd is even more disgusted by this pop star and her hunk, floating crazy conspiracy theories that their relationship is a plot to re-elect President Joe Biden. Progressives just aren’t that clever enough to engineer that level of musical and political machination. Swift and Kelce danced to her hits at the after-party, songs that have helped closeted fans come out. The Time Person of the Year has embraced LGBTQ rights, has been honored by GLAAD and appeared with drag performers. Maybe she can help the Chiefs acknowledge there are LGBTQ football fans?

Trump takes credit for Taylor Swift’s success because of course he did: One point for Team Troglodyte

Sigh. The truly sad part is how many people will believe this to be true. 

Anti-LGBTQ group funds billion dollar ‘He Gets Us’ Super Bowl ad campaign: One point for Team Troglodyte

A non-profit behind two commercials during the Super Bowl that rebrand Jesus for Gen Z is the main funder of a designated hate group opposing abortion and LGBTQ rights, Open Democracy reports. The report cites Christianity Today as first revealing that David Green, the billionaire co-founder of Hobby Lobby, was among the funders of the ads. They are reportedly produced by a group called The Signatry, a front for the Kansas-based Servant Foundation, which Open Democracy revealed is the main identifiable source of funding for the Alliance Defending Freedom, labeled an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And who else is in Kansas? Oh, right, the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. 

The SNL alumna takes a backseat to a talking cat in this hilarious commercial for Hellman’s Mayonnaise:

“RuPaul Drag Race” star Heidi N Closet joins Judge Judy, comedian Benito Skinner, Jury Duty’s Ronald Gladden, Grammy-winning singer Meghan Trainor and bestselling author and former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho in an ad for e.l.f., reported People.

And there were, reports the Advocate: Mountain Dew, NYX, Paramount+, Starry, Homes.com — featuring “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy across three ads, for three points  — and this year, Volkswagen portrayed a lesbian wedding! 

Gay flag football in Super Bowl spotlightOne point for Team Rainbow

The NFL hosted a group of LGBTQ youth from Las Vegas at a flag football clinic during Super Bowl week at the NFL Experience. A variety of NFL front-office executives, board members of the National Gay Flag Football League, the 49ers cheerleaders and former NFL stars Tony Richardson and Kenny Stills, according to Outsports.

Final score: Team Rainbow 14, Team Troglodyte 2! 

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Your gay guide to Super Bowl LVIII

San Francisco 49ers will play the Kansas City Chiefs

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(NFL/Los Angeles Blade graphic)

The countdown to the big day is down to just hours. And no, we’re not talking about Episode 7 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” that’s not until next Friday! No, the straights are super-hyped about the biggest game in 2024 sports, and believe it or not, there are many sports fans who also just happen to be LGBTQ who are excited to watch Super Bowl LVIII. 

That’s 58 to those of you who didn’t pay attention to Roman Numerals in grade school.

And yes, besides the commercials, the halftime show, the nachos and the adult beverages, there’s plenty of queer content to enjoy. So, whether you’re just watching for the tight pants, wondering which of the cheerleaders is secretly Sapphic, or perhaps unaware that the NFL actually does support the LGBTQ community and has had players come out, grab a beer and read on. 

Who’s Playing and When? 

The San Francisco 49ers are playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas on CBS and Paramount+ with the pre-game coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST and kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Reba McEntire (No, not Taylor Swift) is singing the National Anthem.

What About the Halftime Show?

The Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show begins at approximately 8 p.m. EST and Usher (No, not Taylor Swift) is performing. 

Meet the 49ers’ Out Gay Male Cheerleader

Jonathan Romero will be cheering with the 49ers Gold Rush team in his first Super Bowl. As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies of the Los Angeles Rams paved the way in 2019 as the first male cheerleaders in Super Bowl history, and Peron has reportedly been by Romero’s side all this week leading up to his debut. Romero joined the squad in 2022.

So Does the NFL Really Welcome Us? 

The answer is a resounding yes, as evidenced this past week at “A Night With Pride.” For the third year in a row, GLAAD teamed up with the league and big-name sponsors for a glittery gala, this time at Caesars Palace, headlined by out singer Lance Bass and performer VINCINT. Special guests included both Romero and Peron, out gay defensive lineman Carl Nassib, who retired recently, former NFL player RK Russell, Jacksonville Jaguars strength coach Kevin Maxen, sportswriter LZ Granderson, actor Angelica Ross, pro wrestler Anthony Bowens, pro snowboarder Brittany Gilman as well as GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis and many more stars.

So how inclusive is the NFL? I mean, really?

The LGBTQ sports site Outsports recently chronicled 62 current or recent NFL players, 13 owners and nine head coaches who support gay and bi athletes and the LGBTQ community, and 101 efforts at inclusion by the NFL, its teams and its players. It was ten years ago this week that Michael Sam came out as gay. Fast-forward to 2021 when Nassib came out as the first out gay active football player in NFL history. Times have changed.

Has anyone gay ever played in a Super Bowl?

The answer is yes, but none came out until after they retired. The most recent was Ryan O’Callaghan, an offensive lineman with the New England Patriots in the 2007 season. O’Callaghan also played with the Kansas City Chiefs and in 2022 predicted more players will come out. As Outsports has reported, two gay men played for the 49ers, although neither played in a Super Bowl. Running back Dave Kopay was a 49er from 1964-67 and offensive tackle Kwame Harris from 2003-2007. Those who preceded O’Callaghan were Jerry Smith (1972), Roy Simmons (1983) and Esera Tuaolo (1998.)

Has anyone LGBTQ+ ever coached in a Super Bowl?

Yes again! Katie Sowers was the first out LGBTQ coach in Super Bowl history. She was with the 49ers back then. 

Do either the Chiefs or the 49ers support LGBTQ fans? 

Check out 49ers Pride! As the Blade has reported, they have led the league in representation and the team has supported them with gender-neutral fan gear. As for the Chiefs, well, we couldn’t find anything on their website that relates to LGBTQ. 

Whomever you root for, have fun, and celebrate safely!

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What’s the queer quotient for the 2024 Summer Olympics?

Paris games to begin on July 26

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IOC Paris 2024 (Los Angeles Blade graphic)

Just 172 days remain until France hosts the Summer Games in the famed City of Light. Questions also remain about whether all the colors of the Pride flag will be inclusively illuminated when the Olympics return to Paris for the first time in a century.

The Los Angeles Blade has compiled this brief guide to the major areas of interest, with the intent to preview what queer fans can expect from this year’s event: 

  • How many out LGBTQ athletes will be representing both their countries and their identities and orientations
  • Restrictions on out transgender athletes and 
  • What the International Olympic Committee is saying — so far — about athletes displaying Pride flags and rainbow colors. 

All of this is very subject to change before July 26, the opening day of the Summer Games. 

Looking Back

At the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, 36 out athletes competed among the 2,871 entered into competition, as the Blade reported. If the LGBTQ athletes were counted as one team, they would have placed 12th in terms of medal count. 

That set a record, although the numbers couldn’t compare to the last Summer Games, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo — which were held in 2021 because of the pandemic. A historic showing in those Summer Games featured 186 out athletes, who would have ranked 11th in the medal tally if grouped together. 

Looking Ahead

Sha’Carri Richardson (NBC Sports YouTube screenshot)

Sha’Carri Richardson, the fastest woman in the world, will represent Team USA at the Summer Games. As the Blade reported last August, Richardson set a world record for the 100m by crossing the finish line in 10.65 seconds. She identifies as bisexual. 

Robbie Manson, the gay rower for New Zealand, announced he qualified for Paris last September. And, to the delight of many, has remained active on OnlyFans as well, reported Out. Manson came out in 2014. 

Emma Twigg will also be competing as a rower in Paris, defending the Olympic gold medal she won in Tokyo in 2021, according to Stuff. Twigg is gay, married to her wife, Charlotte, and together they have a son, Tommy, born in 2022. 

Campbell Harrison of Australia announced on Instagram in November that he qualified to compete in the category of rock climbing for the Summer Games. He came out as gay in 2021. 

Yulimar Rojas holds a world record in triple jump and was an Olympic champion in Tokyo and has already qualified to represent Venezuela in track and field in Paris. Rojas told Infobae she dreams of being “the first to open the gap of 16 [meters,] it’s like another galaxy.”

Kadeisha Buchanan will lead Team Canada in their defense of their Gold Medal for Women’s Soccer in her third appearance at the Games this summer, as Humber News reported. 

Quinn, the first transgender nonbinary Olympic Gold Medalist, competed as a midfielder in Canada’s soccer qualifier last September and is expected back on the pitch in Paris. 

Sadly, it looks as though Australia and Chelsea soccer star Sam Kerr is likely to miss Paris, because of a ruptured ACL. She suffered the knee injury during training three weeks ago in Morocco, reports the official Olympics website. 

Australia and Chelsea soccer star Sam Kerr (Photo courtesy of Kerr’s Instagram page)

There are several other LGBTQ athletes who are likely to qualify. Review the Official 2024 Olympics calendar of qualifiers by clicking here. The Blade will keep you posted as we learn more. 

Transgender Competitors

The International Olympic Committee decided after the last Summer Games to issue a new “Framework for Fairness” in November 2021, which basically punted decisions on inclusion to individual sports organizations. As the Blade reported in June 2022, the International Swimming Federation, once known as FINA and now World Aquatics, decided that trans athletes must have completed their medical transition before the age of 12 to avoid “unfair advantages.”

Laurel Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, was the first out trans athlete to compete at any Olympic Games. She made history in Tokyo, but her performance in the women’s +87kg category wasn’t what got her name into the record books. At 43, Hubbard was the oldest competitor at the 32nd Olympic Games, and after three unsuccessful lift attempts, her participation was reduced to an abduction that did not last more than 10 minutes. Given the new rules, she won’t be back in 2024. 

Following World Aquatics’ lead, Union Cycliste Internationale — the organizers of World Cycling in Switzerland — the Disc Golf Pro Tour, World Athletics, the British Triathlon Federation and the International Rugby League have changed or adopted new “transgender participation policies” that effectively ban trans women from competing with cisgender women. 

World Aquatics has since added a new “open category” in which anyone can compete, aimed at providing a way for trans swimmers to compete. But since only cisgender women can compete in the category that is designated for “women,” advocates for trans athletes consider that discriminatory. NCAA Division I Champion Lia Thomas has challenged World Aquatics at Court for Arbitration for Sport, as the Blade has reported.

Pride House

As has been a tradition at almost every Olympics — the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, being the most memorable exception — Paris will have a Pride House. “A space that will be open to everyone, where it will be possible to celebrate its community and its pride,” according to the official website. 

The Pride House will be set up at Parc de la Villette, “just a short distance from competition venues such as the La Chapelle Arena, Stade de France and even La Concorde,” the site explains. 

Symbols of Pride 

Beyond the Pride House and other “protected” locations in Paris, the International Olympic Committee has told the LGBTQ sports site Outsports that it is committed to ensuring all athletes “have equal opportunities to express themselves” by holding up Pride flags or other rainbow apparel in line with the recently revised wording to its Olympic Charter and updated guidelines for participants.

You can read the changes to the charter, enacted in October 2023, by clicking here. Unchanged is the fundamental principle that “the practice of sport is a human right.”

The IOC said assessments will continue to be made on a “case-by-case” basis, according to the report. 

Paralympics

The 2024 Paralympic Games are set for Aug. 28 through Sept, 8, and LGBTQ+ athletes are again expected to compete. Click here for more information about those games.

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