Category Archives: Exercise

Sweat – Don’t Forget: Exercise Breaks Improve Learning

It is becoming clearer to me with every day that passes – exercise is the key to a better life. Everyone understands the first level – that our bodies crave movement. But new research continues to unearth fresh benefits for our bodies globally. Every aspect of our life and being tends to benefit from exercise. Just scroll back through this blog at the last 10 posts and you will find one after the other example of this.

New research from a team of scientists at McMaster University suggests that brief exercise breaks during lectures can help university students focus their attention, retain information and improve overall learning.

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While the benefits of exercise are well-known for school-aged children, this is the first study to examine the benefits for adult students. The findings are published online in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.

For the study, researchers examined three groups of first-year Introductory Psychology students, who were tasked with watching a 50-minute online lecture. One cohort performed a series of brief, calisthenic exercises at regular breaks during the lecture, another took breaks but played a video game, and a final group did not take any break. Continue reading

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Physical Activity May Influence the Health of Future Offspring

It just keeps getting better. The mantra of my blog is eat less; move more; live longer. That has always referred to yourself, present and future, mind and body. Now comes a fascinating study from Germany that suggests that the exercise you do today may well influence the health of your future offspring. What could be better than that?

Physical and mental exercise is not only beneficial for your own brain, but can also affect the learning ability of future offspring – at least in mice. This particular form of inheritance is mediated by certain RNA molecules that influence gene activity. These molecules accumulate in both the brain and germ cells following physical and mental activity.

Prof. André Fischer and colleagues from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Göttingen and Munich and the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) report these findings in the journal Cell Reports.

 

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It is known that physical activity and cognitive training also improve learning ability in humans. However, it is not so easy to study in humans whether learning ability can be inherited epigenetically. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

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Sitting is Bad for Your Brain, Not Just Your Heart or Metabolism

It’s been a couple of years now since I first learned the dangers of prolonged sitting. Someone even called ‘sitting the new smoking.‘ I thought that might have been excessive – might have been. However, this new information from UCLA researchers certainly adds resonance to the problem for seniors.

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Sitting too much is linked to changes in a section of the brain that is critical for memory, according to a preliminary study by UCLA researchers of middle-aged and older adults.

Studies show that too much sitting, like smoking, increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature death. Researchers at UCLA wanted to see how sedentary behavior influences brain health, especially regions of the brain that are critical to memory formation.

METHOD

UCLA researchers recruited 35 people ages 45 to 75 and asked about their physical activity levels and the average number of hours per day they spent sitting over the previous week. Each person had a high-resolution MRI scan, which provides a detailed look at the medial temporal lobe, or MTL, a brain region involved in the formation of new memories.

The researchers found that sedentary behavior is a significant predictor of thinning of the MTL and that physical activity, even at high levels, is insufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods.

This study does not prove that too much sitting causes thinner brain structures, but instead that more hours spent sitting are associated with thinner regions, researchers said. In addition, the researchers focused on the hours spent sitting, but did not ask participants if they took breaks during this time.

The researchers next hope to follow a group of people for a longer duration to determine if sitting causes the thinning and what role gender, race, and weight might play in brain health related to sitting.

IMPACT

MTL thinning can be a precursor to cognitive decline and dementia in middle-aged and older adults. Reducing sedentary behavior may be a possible target for interventions designed to improve brain health in people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers said.

Please check out my Page – Do you know the dangers of too much sitting? for more details on the common practice.

Tony

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Diet, exercise and brain training counter cognitive decline

This is wonderful news. I love everything about it. My blog is based on exactly these principles. Eat intelligently and get your exercise and your brain will benefit in your declining years. Well done!

A comprehensive program providing older people at risk of dementia with healthy eating guidance, exercise, brain training, and management of metabolic and vascular risk factors appears to slow down cognitive decline, according to the first ever randomized controlled trial of its kind, published in The Lancet.

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In the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) study, researchers led by Professor Miia Kivipelto from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, and University of Eastern Finland, assessed the effects on brain function of a comprehensive intervention aimed at addressing some of the most important risk factors for age-related dementia, such as high body-mass index and heart health. Continue reading

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Exercise trumps genetics when it comes to heart disease

This is a case of the more the merrier as far as I am concerned. Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog. And here, we have fresh research extolling the virtues of exercise in preventing heart disease.

Exercise, especially cardio fitness, could outweigh genetics when it comes to heart disease, according to new research.

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The study, published in the journal Circulation, showed strength and cardiorespiratory fitness lowered the risk for heart disease across the board – whether people were categorized with low, intermediate or high genetic risk.

“Genes don’t have to determine destiny,” said Dr. Erik Ingelsson, lead study author and professor of medicine at Stanford University. “You can impact your risk by being more fit.”

I can’t say it enough times – take responsibility for your health. Don’t be blaming problems on your genes.

The study examined 482,702 people in England, Scotland and Wales who participated in the UK Biobank, an international research project that recruited participants between ages 40 and 69 years old from 2006 to 2010. Researchers followed those who didn’t have any signs of heart disease for about a decade. They tracked activity and exercise through questionnaires, grip strength measurements and other tests.

“It’s was a very consistent pattern for all of these different measures,” according to Ingelsson, who said he believes it is the largest such study. “All were associated with lower risk of disease in the future.”

Researchers specifically investigated the genetic profiles for those at highest risk for coronary heart disease and a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, or AFib. Those at the highest risk who also had the highest levels of cardiorespiratory fitness – conducted through oxygen and effort measurements on a stationary bicycle – cut their coronary heart disease risk by 49 percent and their AFib risk by 60 percent.

The research is important – and timely, said Dr. Russell Pate, a professor in the University of South Carolina’s Department of Exercise Science in the Arnold School of Public Health.

“They’ve demonstrated that physical activity and fitness were associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease outcomes across a continuum of persons,” Pate said. “For the public, that’s an important message. You can’t eliminate genetic risk, but you can absolutely attenuate the effects.”

Pate just finished a term on a committee that writes the federal Physical Activity Guidelines. The group’s advisory report was released last month and will be the foundation for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ policy recommendations on how physical activity can promote health and reduce the risk of disease. The advisory group’s recommendations have a chapter emphasizing the importance of exercise with people who have chronic conditions.

The latest research is “added ammunition in making the case that promotion of physical activity deserves a prominent place in public health,” Pate said.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, though there are proven ways to lower risk. People often hear about risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess weight. Now, the expanding field of genetics can provide more information, Pate said.

“We’re in a new era in terms of people being able to know their risk status,” he said. “We can now provide information at a new and higher level.”

Ingelsson and the study authors suggested it could lead to individualized strength-training and aerobic programs to help people counteract their genetic risk for heart disease.

But one important question to answer, and a potential future area of study, Ingelsson said, is whether that knowledge truly is power. If we know that lifestyle choices like exercise could offset our genetic risk for disease, how likely are we to start that healthier lifestyle?

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April is ‘Move More Month’ – AHA

As much as I work on promoting movement – exercise – here, it seems only fair to point out that April is the American Heart Association’s Move More Month.

According to the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2018 Update, only 22 percent of American adults meet the federal physical activity recommendations for aerobic and muscle strengthening activity, and one in three adults report participating in no leisure time activity at all!

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This is an ‘oldie but goodie’ shot of my dog and me riding on Northerly Island in Chicago. Exercise is easy when you find something you like doing.

While most people know exercise should be part of their daily routine, many don’t realize just how easy it is to add physical activity to everyday activities. Not everyone has hours to spend in the gym, or even 30 minutes to take a walk every day. It’s time to help people feel good about what they’re already doing, while also providing some new and creative ways to sneak in even more daily movement. Continue reading

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6 Steps to sharpen your brain – Harvard

At the risk of repeating myself I have had three cases of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease in my family. They occurred on both my mother’s and father’s side, so I am totally paying attention to anything that might help to preserve my cognitive powers. I turned 78 in January. Here is Harvard Healthbeat on the subject.

Everyone has the occasional “senior moment.” Maybe you’ve gone into the kitchen and can’t remember why, or can’t recall a familiar name during a conversation. Memory lapses can occur at any age, but aging alone is generally not a cause of cognitive decline. When significant memory loss occurs among older people, it is generally not due to aging but to organic disorders, brain injury, or neurological illness.

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Studies have shown that you can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia with some basic good health habits:

  • staying physically active
  • getting enough sleep
  • not smoking
  • having good social connections
  • limiting alcohol to one drink a day
  • eating a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats.

Certain health conditions that can impair cognitive skills include diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, depression, and hypothyroidism. If you have any of these health issues, you can help protect your memory by following your doctor’s advice carefully.

Memory changes can be frustrating, but the good news is that, thanks to decades of research, you can learn how to get your mind active. There are various strategies we can use to protect and improve memory. Here are several you might try.

1. Keep learning

A higher level of education is associated with better mental functioning in old age. Experts think that advanced education may help keep memory strong by getting a person into the habit of being mentally active. Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. Many people have jobs that keep them mentally active, but pursuing a hobby, learning a new skill, or volunteering for a project at work that involves a skill you don’t usually use can function the same way and help improve memory. Continue reading

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Exercise helps overcome negative effects of stress – Study

I have written numerous times about using deep breathing to combat stress. Turns out that a recent study from Brigham Young University says that exercise helps to combat negative effects of stress.

The study, newly published in the journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, finds that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

 

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“Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress,” said study senior author Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at BYU.

“The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise,” Edwards said. “Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise. It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.”

To see the paper online, click here. Ten undergraduate BYU students served as co-authors on the paper, included David Marriott, who began the project for his undergraduate honor’s thesis. First author Roxanne Miller graduated in December with her Ph.D. and the research was part of her dissertation.

“Even though we will never be able to completely remove stress from our lives, it is nice to know that we can go out and do cardiovascular exercise for 20 minutes a day to help keep the stress from overwhelming our brains,” Miller said.

To read further on the benefits of exercise and the brain check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).

 

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Smoking, diet, exercise and cancer – USA Today

Thanks to USA Today for this superb graphic presentation of statistics from the American Cancer Society. On its face, it seems good news that smoking has declined. However, stopping a bad habit isn’t the same as having good healthy ones. It seems that as folks dropped their cigarettes, they picked up their snacking and overeating activities.

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Please check out my Page – How many ways does smoking harm you? for more details on this destructive habit.

Also, My Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) is  worth looking in to.

I recommend reading the following – Obesity is common, serious and costly – CDC. To read more on obesity, type O B E S I T Y into the SEARCH Box at the right.

Tony

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Boosting enzyme may help improve blood flow, fitness in elderly

Herewith the latest development in our battle with Father Time. At 78-years-old, this is the kind of information that keeps me on the edge of my seat.

As people age, their blood-vessel density and blood flow decrease, which is why it’s harder to maintain muscle mass after 40 and endurance in the later decades, even with exercise. This vascular decline is also one of the major causes of age-related diseases, such as frailty or hypertension. However, little is known about the underlying cause or how to stop it.

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Now, in a new study published this week in Cell, a team of researchers from Penn Medicine and other institutions have shown for the first time how a well-studied enzyme called SIRT1 declines in the blood vessels with age and that restoring it reverses the effects of vascular aging. After receiving a supplement called NAD+ precursor nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), older mice had the number of capillaries and capillary density found in much younger mice, and improved endurance by up to 80 percent. The collaborative study also involves researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“This study tells us that the loss of SIRT1 is a primary reason why our ability to exercise and receive its benefits diminish as we age,” said co-senior author Zoltan Pierre Arany, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We also show that when we bring the enzyme back into the blood vessels, vascular health improves dramatically: The old blood vessel tree [cluster of capillaries] in the older mice is turned into a young vessel tree, one that looks like it’s been exercising for a while, just by turning on this enzyme. That’s the most powerful aspect of the study.” Continue reading

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My lost weekend …

I am just finishing up the remains of a lost weekend. You may not remember the book and/or movie of that name about an alcoholic. I do. I was a little kid when the movie came out in the 1940’s and had the bad luck to be brought to see it with my mother. It was way beyond my pay grade at the time and I remember having nightmares about a bat flying through a hole in a wall and bleeding. Anyway, my current lost weekend has nothing to do with alcohol.

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Friday started out normal, I got up early and rode my bike, then breakfasted with my girlfriend and took the dog for her walk. I had to bring her in for her semiannual physical checkup as she is a 12-year-old senior canine.

After the vet visit I brought her home, fixed lunch and then walked the pooch again. It was now nearly 1:00 PM, time for another bike ride. My back was sore, though, so I thought I would lie on the floor with my feet up on a chair for five minutes or so to relieve my back pain. I learned this position in a yoga class years ago and it works very well. I assumed the position and relaxed. The next thing I knew, I was waking up and it was 1:25 PM. I had slept almost a half hour in the middle of the day!

Upon rising I also became aware that I was still very tired and certainly did not have the energy to take the bike out. So, I took off my cycling outfit and went to bed to rest. I fell asleep again and didn’t wake up till 4:30 PM. Wow. Two things struck me immediately, I still felt tired and I had to get up to walk the pooch again.

With great difficulty, I roused my non-responsive body and put some clothes on. I live in a high rise building and found myself leaning on the elevator wall to support myself on the ride downstairs.

Mercifully, the dog didn’t want to do much walking and we returned home in short order.

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Can Exercise Help Me Learn?

“Exercise helps you to learn on three levels: first, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus,” so says Spark, the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Author John J. Ratey, M.D., is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Besides, Spark, he also wrote A User’s Guide to the Brain among other books.

The hippocampus plays a major role in the consolidation of information from long term memory and short term memory. So, clearly, exercise plays an important role for seniors who are concerned about their memory failing in their latter years.

One distinction needs to be made here. You can’t learn difficult material while you are exercising because blood is shunted away from the prefrontal cortex and this hampers your executive function. Dr. Ratey quotes a study of college students who were working out on treadmills and exercise bikes at a high rate. They performed poorly on tests of complex learning. “However blood flow shifts back almost immediately after you finish exercising, and this is the perfect time to focus on a project that demands sharp thinking and complex analysis.”

He enumerates an experiment that was done on 40 adults aged 50 to 64. They were asked to do one 35 minute treadmill session at either 60 percent or 70 percent of maximum heart rate. Afterwards, they were asked to list alternative uses for common objects, like a newspaper. It is used for reading, but can be used to wrap fish, line a bird cage, etc. Half of the group watched a movie and the other half exercised. They were tested three times, before the session, immediately after the session and then 20 minutes later. The results of the movie watchers showed no change, but the runners improved their processing speed and cognitive flexibility after just one session. “Cognitive flexibility is an important executive function that reflects our ability to shift thinking and to produce a steady flow of creative thoughts and answers as opposed to a regurgitation of the usual responses. The trait correlates with high performance levels in intellectually demanding jobs.” The doctor recommends going for a short, intense run at lunchtime ahead of an important brain-storming session at work.

spark-book I have enjoyed Dr. Ratey’s book and recommend it to readers of the blog. You can get a look at the book on the Amazon website and purchase it from there if you like it.

As regular readers know, I lost an aunt to Alzheimer’s and my mother suffered from dementia in her final years. I am a total believer in this exercise-learning hypothesis. If I don’t ride my bike every day, I manage a five mile walk, climb 30 flights of stairs, or take a trip to the health club. I ain’t sittin’ around doin’ nothin’.

I have repeated the phrase, Use it or Lose it time and again in this blog. In this case, using the body promotes healthy mental processes as well as good physical results.

Tony

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A Lifetime of Regular Exercise Slows Down Aging

Regular readers know that I ride my bike pretty much daily here in Chicago and my 78th birthday occurred in January. I wrote about my physical condition then, but I have to tell you that finding this study was like a wonderful belated birthday present.

According to researchers, older adults who exercised for most of their lives showed signs of slowed down aging. The study reports those who actively cycled into older age had lower cholesterol levels and better immune systems than those who did not partake in regular exercise.

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Here I am with my trusty riding companion, Gabi, who just turned 12 in December.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London have found that staying active keeps the body young and healthy.

The researchers set out to assess the health of older adults who had exercised most of their adult lives to see if this could slow down aging. Continue reading

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Spring Forward and Change Your Clocks

At 2:00 o’clock tomorrow morning you need to set your clock one hour ahead – spring forward – to participate in Daylight Savings Time. Some explanations for this practice include to help the harvest for farmers by providing more daylight working hours.

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Actually, you are springing forward, but I couldn’t resist this wonderful pun.

 

But, what does it mean to the rest of us non-agrarian folks?

Well, tomorrow morning if you are on a schedule, like catching an airplane or something, you lost an hour of sleep, so you may be somewhat sleep-deprived the rest of the day. It being Sunday, maybe you just slept in. If that is the case, you will start your day an hour later, but otherwise, no harm, no foul.

Later, however, we all will experience the magic of moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the afternoon – Daylight Savings. If you want to enjoy the outdoors, you now have an extra hour of daylight to do so. Continue reading

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Can coffee improve your workout? The science of caffeine and exercise

I confess I love coffee. I drink it every morning and after meals when I eat out. Mostly I consume decaf as I have read some horrifying studies on caffeine addiction and caffeine headaches. Also, I really don’t like to add chemicals to my system if I can help it. Here is an interesting study of the effect of caffeine and coffee on workouts from Medical Xpress.

Caffeine is one of the most researched substances reported to help athletes perform better and train longer and harder. As a result, professional and amateur sportspeople often take it as a performance-enhancing “ergogenic” aids for a wide range of activities. These include intermittent exercise such as football and racket sports, endurance exercise such as running and cycling, and resistance exercise such as weightlifting.

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But while most research looks at the effects of pure caffeine consumed as tablets with water, in the real world most people get their caffeine from coffee, energy drinks or other products like special gels or chewing gum. So will drinking a cup of joe before your workout actually make a difference? The answer could depend as much on your genes as what kind of coffee you’re drinking.

Scientists think caffeine affects the body chemical adenosine, which normally promotes sleep and suppresses arousal. Caffeine ties up the receptors in the brain that detect adenosine and so makes it more alert. Continue reading

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Heart attacks often follow dramatic changes in outdoor temperature

As regular readers know I pretty much ride my bike every day here in Chicago. I say ‘pretty much’ because several  years ago, my doctor told me that I shouldn’t be doing my big rides in high temperatures. I said that I felt I was in great shape and my body could handle it. She answered that she said the same thing to her 40-year-old patients. Extreme heat puts the body under special stress and it is not wise to actively exercise in those conditions.

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Here I am riding with my dog in the annual Bike the Drive ride in Chicago down Lake Shore Drive. As a Memorial Day ride, the temps rarely hit high extremes.

Now, it seems that now only high temp extremes, but also large intra-day changes can be damaging, according to a study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session. It states that large day-to-day swings in temperature were associated with significantly more heart attacks in a study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session.

Regarding extreme weather events, Hedvig Andersson, MD, a cardiology researcher at the University of Michigan and the study’s lead author, said, “Our study suggests that such fluctuations in outdoor temperature could potentially lead to an increased number of heart attacks and affect global cardiac health in the future.”

There is a large body of evidence showing that outdoor temperature affects the rate of heart attacks, with cold weather bringing the highest risk, but most previous studies have focused on overall daily temperatures. This new study is among the first to examine associations with sudden temperature changes. Continue reading

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