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Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category


Going for Quality Workouts

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Expanding the variety while focusing on the quality of your fitness regimen is more important than adding on extra hours in the gym according to new research recently published in the The Journal of Applied Physiology. The study was authored by Paul J. Arciero DPE, the director of the Human Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory at Skidmore College.
 
The sixteen-week study included fifty-seven participants, 36 women and 21 men, between the ages of 35 and 57 years old. The participants were obese or overweight and exercised less than 60 minutes each week. Participants were then randomly separated into three groups. One group was sedentary throughout the study, one group did intense resistance training four times per week, while the third group’s training sessions included resistance, interval sprints, stretching, and endurance exercises. All included the same amount of whey protein in their nutrition regimens.
 
At the end of the study all participants demonstrated a decrease in body fat, which is attributed to the addition of the whey protein to their diets. However, the group that followed the varied, multidimensional regimen had significantly more health improvements than the other two groups — the largest reduction in body weight, total fat and abdominal fat mass, smaller waist circumference, healthier blood glucose levels, and the largest increase in lean body mass.
 
This study indicates why you round out your fitness routine with:
 
• Resistance exercise or strength training to increase the strength and mass of muscles, bone strength and metabolism.
 
• Sprint interval workouts help build endurance, increase your anaerobic threshold and burn more calories and fat both during and after your workout.
 
• Stretching exercises increase flexibility and improve the range of motion of joints.
 
• Endurance, or aerobic, exercise increases your breathing and heart rate, keeping your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy while improving overall fitness.
 
A well-rounded exercise regimen can help you maintain interest in your fitness program while preventing injuries that can occur from overuse of the same muscles. Combine the four basic types of exercise in your fitness regimen; you’ll notice the difference … and feel it!
 
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The Big D

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Seventy-five percent of teens and adults in the United States have deficiencies of vitamin D, known as the “Sunshine Vitamin.” This is a stunning increase in the rates of vitamin D deficiency from forty-five percent between 1988 and 1994. At the same time, new research indicates that these deficiencies in vitamin D raise the risks for a broad spectrum of disease – including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
 
Vitamin D is known to promote calcium absorption, is required for bone growth, prevents rickets in children and — with calcium — helps protect older adults from osteoporosis. Insufficient vitamin D causes bones to become thin, brittle, or misshapen. It also modulates cell growth, neuromuscular and immune functions, and reduces inflammation.
 
The new research, which appeared in the journal BMJ, is authored by a team of scientists from Harvard, Oxford and other universities found that adults with low levels of vitamin D have a 35 percent higher risk of death from heart disease, and a 14 percent greater likelihood of death from cancer. The scientists also found that approximately 13 percent of all deaths in the United States, and 9 percent in Europe, are linked to to low vitamin D levels. In another new study, researchers at Stanford and several universities also concluded there is evidence that high vitamin D levels protect against diabetes, stroke, hypertension and many illnesses.
 
Vitamin D is known as the the sunshine nutrient because is produced in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. However, be sure to maintain a moderate amount of sun exposure to avoid the risk of skin aging and skin cancer. Vitamin D can also be be included in the diet with a small array of foods.
 
Add vitamin D to your nutritional regimen with:
 
• Cod liver oil: 1 tablespoon gives 1,360 IU of you daily needs
• Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
• Canned tuna or sardines
• Mushrooms
• Egg yolks
• Fortified dairy products
• Swiss Cheese
 
Keep in mind, blood levels of vitamin D are lowered by smoking, obesity and inflammation. Moderate sun, vitamin D-rich foods and a healthy lifestyle are your best bet!
 
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Heat Up Those Creative Juices

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We’ve often stressed that exercise and walking improve cognitive skills, both immediately and in the longer term. We already know that; we take a long walks to ‘get rid of the cobwebs’ after long work sessions, when we’re emotionally worn down or have a difficult problems to solve. Many studies support the idea that walking boosts brain health … now we know that boost includes the creative thought functions too!
 
New research demonstrates a clear correlation between walking and creative thinking. In a series of experiments, researchers from Stanford University in California compared levels of creativity in people while they were walking and while they were sitting. The study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, found another great reason for walking as part of a well-rounded fitness regimen. It boosts your creativity!
 
Researchers from Stanford University conducted a series of four experiments that included 176 participants. The group was comprised of college students and other adults who walked or sat in outdoor and indoor environments. Participants were also asked to complete their walking and sitting sessions using a specific mix of walking and sitting. During the sessions, participants were engaged in tasks that are used to measure the creative thought process. The tasks all focused on divergent thinking creativity — coming up with ideas by thinking of multiple possible solutions – in three experiments. Answers were rated by originality and usefulness. The walkers ranked higher on divergent thinking creativity than when they were sitting! In one indoor experiment, the participants walked on a treadmill and scored an average of 60% higher on divergent thinking creativity than when they were sitting!
 
A fourth experiment tested a more complex type of creativity in which participants respond to simple cues with complex analogies. The study found that 100% of the participants walking outdoors came up with at least one high-quality complex analogy, compared with thinking of 50% high-quality complex analogies when they were sitting indoors!
 
Researchers are not sure exactly why a casual walk has such a strong effect on the creative thinking process, but you can add this to your list of reasons to take a walk.
 
Take a walk, you’ll be healthier, happier and more creative!
 
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Fitness Pays Off!

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
It’s spring and many of us are striving for our personal peak in physical fitness. Whether we want to look better, to feel better, or to fulfill a personal goal, the fact is, exercise effects a lot more than our waistlines!
 
Boosts Immunity. It is believed that physical activity may help clear the the lungs of bacteria and remove cancer-causing cells by increasing waste output. In also increases the activity rate of the antibodies and white blood cells as they travel throughout the body. Finally, the temporary rise of body temperature may actually prevent the growth of bacteria, allowing you to fight infections more efficiently.
 
Reduces Stress. Recently scientists from Princeton were trying to understand how exercise reduces anxiety while at the same time creating ‘excitable neurons’ in the hippocampus, the part of the brain helps direct thinking and emotional responses. They conducted a study that divided mice into two groups, one group was placed in a sedentary environment while the other group were given the opportunity to run on a wheel and be physically active. After six weeks, the running mice were more confident and willing to explore new areas. At the end of the study, all the mice were restricted from physical activity, then were placed in a stressful situation to which they all responded with distress. However, the mice that had ample physical activity quickly calmed down and were markedly less anxious than the mice that had been sedentary for six weeks, supporting the idea that exercise offers both short- and long-term benefits!
 
Promotes Healthy Sleep Patterns. Sleep does more than keep you feeling refreshed! A number of studies indicate that lack of sleep increases your risk of developing serious physical problems, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease! Exercise can help there, too. A four-month long study from Northwestern University of sedentary adults suffering from insomnia found that participants slept better at the end of the four month period where moderate exercise was introduced into their lifestyles. In another study, people who exercised regularly for 10 weeks found that they slept better.
 
Improves Thought Process. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh followed more than 600 people, aged 70 years and older. During the study, participants logged their daily physical, mental and social activities for three years. Scientist then ran image scans of the brain. They found that the subjects who engaged in the most physical exercise demonstrated less shrinkage or damage to the brain’s white matter — which is comprised of nerve fibers that form the connections between the nerve cells and the fatty substance myelin which protects protects those fibers. Research from New Zealand indicated that that exercise improves the general brain processes of planning, memory and reasoning for everyone — young or old!
 
Many studies show that exercise improves your body image and lifts your general sense of well being … if that’s not enough to get you going … you will look better in those shorts!
 
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Spring: A Season for Renewal

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
It’s been a long, hard winter but finally spring has arrived! Soon we’ll be shedding our heavy winter clothes and embracing the lush, green growth of trees and gardens , and the warming air that greets us each morning. Neighbors we haven’t seen all winter will be out working in their yards, walking or jogging, and soon fresh spring produce will arrive at the grocer’s. It’s a great time of year to renew your health resolutions or make a new commitment to a healthy life!
 
After long months spent indoors, it can be a big challenge to adopt a major fitness program, especially if you have a busy schedule. Ease into it!
 
• Choose an activity you will enjoy!
 
• If your schedule makes it difficult to set aside a 30 minute block of time, try three 10-minute workouts or walks.
 
• Walk or bike to work or to the local store.
Wear a pedometer to keep track of the number of steps you take and and set a goal to increase the amount you walk. A Harvard study found that taking six thousand steps a day is correlated with a lower death rate in men.
 
• Park your car a distance from your destination and walk.
 
• Use stairs instead of the elevator.
 
• Take a walk at lunch with coworkers.
 
• Join an office or community sports league.
 
If you’re hungry when you get home from your fitness outing, try a handful of nuts! A study from Loma Linda University found that participants eating a diet that has majority of fat coming from almonds resulted in significantly higher loss of body and abdominal fat in 24 weeks than participants who ate the same amount of calories with more carbs and less fat. Other nuts to add to your diet include Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts.
 
You’ll probably be thirsty too! Drink plenty of water; researchers in Germany found that drinking two cups of cold water can boost metabolic rate by 30 percent! If you have a taste for something different try green tea, its primary ingredient – epigallocatechin gallate – reduces the effect of the enzyme that normally breaks down norepinephrine. That keeps the metabolic rate up, and you burn more calories throughout the day. Black tea also aids fat loss. A study conducted by University College in London found that drinking black tea regularly can reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that encourages fat storage around the midsection.
 
Make physical activity a regular part of your day and you’ll begin to notice some positive changes, whether it’s weight loss, a smaller waist or a new, fuller sense of well-being.
 
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Brain Power

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We know that exercise makes us feel better and ‘clears the mind’ and recent studies have pointed out the benefits of exercise on mental stresses and work. Now, new research shows not only does obesity harm the brain, exercise may actually reverse those negative effects!
 
Extensive research has indicated that sedentary, obese animals have lower memory and learning skills when compared to active, normal-weight animals. Recently, scientists have been trying to find out how excess weight affects the brain. Until recently, we thought that the brain was protected from excess weight … after all, it contains no fat cells. But the research shows that obesity actually weakens the protection of the brain, allowing substances manufactured by fat cells to enter the brain.
 
Additional research published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that as lab mice gained excess weight, larger doses interleukin 1, a substance know to cause inflammation, was found in their brains. Additionally, the mice had very low levels of a biochemical that helps support healthy synapse function. Researchers felt the results strongly indicated that fat cells were the main cause of the mice’s cognitive decline in the study. The good news from new research is that simply introducing exercise into the mice’s regimen gives substantial protection the bad effects of a sedentary lifestyle on the brain!
 
This research adds on to what we already know:
 
• Those extra pounds may weaken the brain’s sensitivity to the pleasure we get from sugary and fatty foods, leading people to eat more for the same amount of pleasure. Research on animals found that eating foods with high fat and sugar content reduced responses to dopamine, known as the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter.
 
• The orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain tasked with impulse control, appears shrunken in obese children compared to those of children with normal weight. More research needs to be done, but some researchers believe this may be a response to changes in the immune system caused by obesity.
 
• A study published in the Annals of Neurology found that the belly fat that shows up as you enter middle age is actually associated with a decrease in total brain volume! Researchers believe that belly fat, or visceral fat may contribute to a reduction of brain size.
 
• A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that may impair memory. The study included 8,745 women ages 65 to 79 and found that each 1 point increase in an woman’s body mass index (BMI) was corresponded to a 1 point decrease on a 100 point memory test.
 
Strong findings that should spur us all to get off the couch.. get started now! Why wait for spring to be a lean, mean, thinking machine!
 
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More News on Memory and Exercise

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Numerous studies have been conducted in the past 10 years focusing on exercise and memory, creating a consensus about the positive effect of exercise on brain functions. Still, details have been missing, and many questions remain. When is the best time to exercise? Is a more strenuous workout more beneficial? How long do the gains last? Three studies in particular demonstrate the benefits of exercise to learning and retaining that ability throughout your life.
 
The latest study, published this week by PLOS One, included eighty-one healthy, German-speaking women, who were randomly divided into three groups. Members of all groups listened to lists of German words with their Polish equivalents through headphones for 30 minutes, with instructions to memorize the Polish word. One group listened after sitting for 30 minutes, the second group rode a stationary bicycle at a mild rate for 30 minutes before sitting down to listen to the German/Polish words, while the third group also rode a bicycle at a low intensity for 30 minutes, but listened to the word lists while riding the bike.
 
The participants were tested two days after hearing the lists. While all women could recall some words, the women who had ridden bicycles while listening to the German/Polish words performed best while the women who exercised before the tasks did slightly better than the women who had not exercised at all before listening to the list.
 
Another study asked 11 female students to read difficult chapters from a textbook on different days. One day while sitting quietly and, on the other day, during strenuous workout on an elliptical machine for 30 minutes. The students were tested on the material they’d just read immediately after reading it, and retested the next day.
 
These test scores were actually worse on the memory tests taken right after reading during a high-intensity workout than the test scores taken after they’d been sitting quietly and studying. Interestingly, when retested the following day, there were no differences in their scores, whether they exercised or sat quietly when reading the chapter.
 
Researchers concluded that exercising during learning was significantly more effective than exercising beforehand or not at all. However, that beneficial impact seems to depend on the intensity of the workout with light-intensity exercise leading to significant benefits. It’s believed that higher-intensity exercise may use more of the brain’s resources during the workout, leaving fewer resources to recall functions, which could explain lower testing immediately after strenuous exercise.
 
In a third study, a group of people 50 to 85 years old with and without memory deficits viewed pleasant images followed by a six-minute workout at 70% of their maximum capacity on a stationary bicycle. Another group viewed the pictures but did not ride the bike afterwards. One hour later, all participants were given a recall test on the images they viewed. Results showed a striking enhancement of memory in the group that exercised compared with subjects who did not ride the bike.
 
Much more research is being done on this important subject, but one thing is sure … an active body supports an active brain!
 
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Snow Shoveling Reminder

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We’re entering the end of the winter season, but there is the possibility for more snow. Remember these important pointers from the American Heart Association for snow shoveling safety!
 
• Take breaks. Frequent rest breaks during shoveling will help avoid overstressing your heart. Pay attention to how your feel.
 
• Don’t eat a heavy meal before or soon after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart.
 
• Use a smaller shovel. Lifting heavy snow can cause sharp rises in blood pressure, instead, lift smaller amounts more times and push the snow when possible.
 
• Pay attention to heart attack warning signs. Minutes matter! Fast action saves lives!
 
• Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol increases a person’s sensation feeling of warmth and can lead you to underestimate the extra strain their your body is under.
 
• Avoid hypothermia. Heart failure is the primary cause of death from hypothermia. Dress in layers of warm clothing, that will trap air between the layers and form a protective insulation. Wear a hat!
 
The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, but women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms. If you experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain, seek medical help immediately!
 
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Recharge While You Sleep

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
It’s not surprising that eighty percent of Americans suffer from long-term lack of sleep. When faced with overwork, stress, and tight schedules, sleep is often the first victim of the time budget. Be careful, the results can be harmful to long-term health and reduce your ability to manage day-to-day tasks!
 
New research from the University of Rochester’s medical school shines a new light on the vital role sleep plays in our overall well-being. This research, recently published in the journal Science, found that sleep plays an important role in our brain’s physiological maintenance. Simply put, it cleans out the trash that has accumulated during the day.
 
Our brains do not use the lymphatic system – the body’s waste removal method. It maintains it’s own system that works with the brain’s blood circulation system and uses cerebral spinal fluid to wash away waste. Additionally, study of mice shows that the brain’s cells shrink during sleep by as much as 60 percent, allowing cerebral spinal fluid flow easily between the cells and flush away waste. This leads researchers to believe that the brain probably has two functional states – processing information while we are awake and cleaning away the material that neurons generate during their normal activity while sleeping.
 
‘Giving your brain time to clean up’ may not spur you to improve your sleep habits, but there are plenty of proven benefits to a healthy sleep routine.
 
• Sharper Memory: Lack of sleep disturbs a person’s ability to focus, learn and consolidate a memory, making it difficult for that information to be recalled at a future date.
 
• Longer Lifespan: According to an article published in the journal SLEEP, researchers studied 21,000 twins for 22 years and found that if people slept less than 7 hours a night or more than 8 hours a night, they had an increased risk of death.
 
• Lower Inflammation Risks: Researchers surveyed 525 middle-aged adults and found that those who reported six or fewer hours of sleep had higher levels of inflammatory markers. C-reactive protein levels were approximately 25 percent higher than adults who slept between six and nine hours.
 
• Improved Performance: A study from Stanford University found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.
 
• Help Maintaining a Healthy Weight: The Nurses’ Health Study followed roughly 60,000 women for 16 years. At the beginning of the study, all of the women were healthy, and none were obese. After 16 years, women who slept 5 hours or less per night had a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese and had 30 percent higher risk of gaining 30 pounds over the course of the study compared to women who slept at least 7 hours each night.
 
Let your brain get to work on it’s other job … and get a good night’s sleep!

 
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