Tag Archives: exercise

Sedentary Lifestyle? Exercise Isn’t Helping

A some­what sedent­ary life­style com­bined with reg­u­lar exer­cise is turn­ing us into what physiolo­gists are call­ing ‘act­ive couch potatoes’–and that exer­cise, no mat­ter how vigour­ous, does­n’t appear to be coun­ter­act­ing the neg­at­ive effects of that sedent­ary life­style.

In rats, this life­style was found to pro­duce “unhealthy cel­lu­lar changes in their muscles” and increase insulin res­ist­ance and fatty acid levels in their blood. In con­clu­sion: a mostly sedent­ary life­style is bad for us, regard­less of exer­cise habits.

[Stud­ies have shown] that, to no one’s sur­prise, the men who sat the most had the greatest risk of heart prob­lems. Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watch­ing TV and sit­ting in their cars (as pas­sen­gers or as drivers) had a 64 per­cent great­er chance of dying from heart dis­ease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. What was unex­pec­ted was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart prob­lems also exer­cised. Quite a few of them said they did so reg­u­larly and led act­ive life­styles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of tele­vi­sions for hours, and their risk of heart dis­ease soared, des­pite the exer­cise. Their workouts did not coun­ter­act the ill effects of sit­ting. […]

Dec­ades ago, before the advent of com­puters, plasma TVs and Room­bas, people spent more time com­plet­ing ‘light-intens­ity activ­it­ies’ […] Nowadays, few of us accu­mu­late much light-intens­ity activ­ity. We’ve replaced those hours with sit­ting.

The physiolo­gic­al con­sequences are only slowly being untangled. […] Sci­ent­ists believe the changes are caused by a lack of mus­cu­lar con­trac­tions. If you sit for long hours, you exper­i­ence no ‘iso­met­ric con­trac­tion of the anti­grav­ity (pos­tur­al) muscles’. […] Your muscles, unused for hours at a time, change in subtle fash­ion, and as a res­ult, your risk for heart dis­ease, dia­betes and oth­er dis­eases can rise.

via Waxy

The Effectiveness of Social Support on Exercise Goals

Inform­ing our friends and fam­ily of our res­ol­u­tions in hope that the social sup­port will encour­age us is an effect­ive tactic–as long as these people ‘check-in’ on our pro­gress at semi-reg­u­lar inter­vals.

That’s the con­clu­sion from a study where three groups of people had their exer­cise goals tracked under one of three con­di­tions: a reg­u­lar phone call from an exer­cise instruct­or, a reg­u­lar auto­mated call from a machine, and a con­trol group receiv­ing no calls.

The res­ults showed that hav­ing to report your pro­gress toward a goal drastic­ally increases the amount of effort under­taken–espe­cially when it’s a human check­ing-in on your pro­gress.

The caller, wheth­er human or com­puter, asked the par­ti­cipants to recite the amount of exer­cise they per­formed dur­ing the past week. Par­ti­cipants were then con­grat­u­lated on any exer­cise per­formed, and asked how the level might be increased in the week ahead. When lapses occurred […] the goal was to impress upon par­ti­cipants the import­ance of resum­ing the workout as soon as pos­sible. All ques­tions were designed to encour­age rather than to scold.

After 12 months, par­ti­cipants receiv­ing calls from a live per­son were exer­cising, as a mean, about 178 minutes a week, above gov­ern­ment recom­mend­a­tions for 150 minutes a week. That rep­res­en­ted a 78% jump from about 100 minutes a week at the start of the study. Exer­cise levels for the group receiv­ing com­pu­ter­ized calls doubled to 157 minutes a week. A con­trol group of par­ti­cipants, who received no phone calls, exer­cised 118 minutes a week, up 28% from the study’s start. […]

Some stud­ies by oth­er research­ers have sug­ges­ted that after eight weeks of reg­u­lar exer­cising many people can settle into a long-term habit of work­ing out.

The art­icle also cites a study on how meet­ing in groups to dis­cuss exer­cising goals (group-coun­sel­ing) showed a quad­rupling of exer­cise levels after three months and an even great­er jump at nine months (long after the group-coun­sel­ing ses­sions ended in month three). By con­trast, “the exer­cise level of a con­trol group rose dur­ing the study peri­od but at nine months had returned to near-baseline levels”.

via Nudge

More on the Cognitive Benefits of Moderate Exercise

“There is over­whelm­ing evid­ence that exer­cise pro­duces large cog­nit­ive gains and helps fight demen­tia”, says the Har­vard Uni­ver­sity psy­cho­lo­gist John Ratey, author of the 2008 book on the sub­ject, Spark.

While Ratey pro­pounds the “very clear” link between exer­cise and men­tal acu­ity, say­ing that even mod­er­ate exer­cise pushes back cog­nit­ive decline by “any­where from 10 to 15 years”, the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health are more cau­tious:

Look­ing at redu­cing the risk of “cog­nit­ive decline in older adults,” [the NIH] wrote: “Pre­lim­in­ary evid­ence sug­gests a bene­fi­cial asso­ci­ation of phys­ic­al activ­ity and a range of leis­ure activ­it­ies (e.g., club mem­ber­ship, reli­gious ser­vices, paint­ing, garden­ing) with the pre­ser­va­tion of cog­nit­ive func­tion.” A few small stud­ies showed that “increased phys­ic­al activ­ity may help main­tain or improve cog­nit­ive func­tion in nor­mal adults”.

I’ve writ­ten before about the extens­ive cog­nit­ive bene­fits of exer­cise, but as Noah Gray (via) says, “it nev­er hurts to rein­force the mes­sage”.

Assorted Health and Fitness Tips from a Veteran Trainer

After years as a train­er, Mike O’Don­nell com­piles and shares an extens­ive list of health and fit­ness tips.

As Jason said, there’s “a lot of good (and ques­tion­able) stuff in this list”. Here are my favour­ites:

  • Diet is 85% of where res­ults come from… for muscle and fat loss. Many don’t focus here enough.
  • If you eat whole foods that have been around for 1000s of years, you prob­ably don’t have to worry about count­ing cal­or­ies.
  • The eat low-fat advice was the biggest health dis­aster in the last 30 years.
  • The smartest train­er I know does not have a web­site or best selling ebook… as he is too busy train­ing real cli­ents. (Related.)
  • If you want to get bet­ter at run­ning… you run… at bik­ing… you bike… at a sport… you play that sport.
  • There is no one right way for any­thing… as 20 dif­fer­ent ways can get you res­ults.
  • Res­ults are just the simple yet import­ant things done on a con­sist­ent basis.
  • All diets fail over the long run….but life­style changes last.
  • The best thing any­one can do for their health/results is to just try new thing­s… see how their body adapts and respond­s… and learn how to take total con­trol no mat­ter life may throw at them in the future.

via Kot­tke

Sports Drinks and Dehydration

More for the par­ents of ath­let­ic chil­dren, this art­icle from The New York TimesWell blog still con­tains some use­ful all-round advice on hydra­tion dur­ing exer­cise. In the com­ments the author also links to this urine col­our test for dehyd­ra­tion.

When [exer­cising chil­dren] were offered grape-flavored water, they vol­un­tar­ily drank 44.5 per­cent more than when the water was unflavored. And when the drink included 6 per­cent car­bo­hydrates and elec­tro­lytes — when, in oth­er words, it was a sports drink — they eagerly downed 91 per­cent more than when offered water alone. Does this mean that par­ents […] should be stock­ing their refri­ger­at­ors with [sports drinks]? The answer is a qual­i­fied ‘yes.’ […]

But that ‘yes’ has clear and defin­able limits. “Sports drinks are only appro­pri­ate in the con­text of sports, and I mean ser­i­ous sports,” emphas­izes Nancy Clark, a registered dieti­cian and sports nutri­tion­ist in Boston, who often works with young ath­letes. If, how­ever, your 12-year-old or older ath­lete has begun com­pet­ing at a more intense level, espe­cially if he or she par­ti­cip­ates in mul­tiple prac­tices or com­pet­i­tions in a single day dur­ing the sum­mer, “sports drinks are appro­pri­ate,” Clark says.

So not you or I after our daily workout, basic­ally. The art­icle also con­tains this recipe for mak­ing your own sports drink:

1/4 cup sug­ar
1/4 tea­spoon salt
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup orange juice
2 table­spoons lem­on juice
3 1/2 cups cold water

(Dis­solve the sug­ar and salt in the hot water then add the remain­ing ingredi­ents. Approx. 50 cal­or­ies and 110 mg of sodi­um per 8 ounces.)

via Life­hack­er