Tag Archives: Exercise Benefits

HIIT it! – Tufts

High-Intensity Interval Training has been growing in popularity, and research supports potential benefits for all ages. 

Physical activity is integral to good health. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is more time-efficient than traditional workouts, and research has shown it has many health benefits, including improving fitness, cardiovascular health, and insulin function, and helping with weight loss.

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What is HIIT? HIIT involves performing short, vigorous bursts of activity followed by low-intensity activity or rest. This cycle is repeated for a series of sets. The high-intensity activity should get one’s heart rate up to about 70 to 90 percent of maximum. For the low-intensity period, heart rate should be about 60 to 65 percent of maximum. (A quick estimate of your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age.) On a stationary bike, for example, a HIIT workout could be 30 seconds of pedaling at maximum effort followed by two to three minutes of easy pedaling, repeated for three to five cycles. Activities and intervals can be adapted to an individual’s current fitness level. Any activity that gets one’s heart rate up, including walking/jogging, using an exercise machine, or performing jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, or squats will work.

The standard physical activity recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly for good health still stands. HIIT is a type of vigorous activity that has been recognized as a more efficient alternative to traditional moderate-intensity continuous training. With a physician’s approval, HIIT can be an option for all ages and fitness levels, including individuals who are currently sedentary, unfit, or living with a lifestyle-related disease like diabetes or high blood pressure.

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Aerobic Exercise Helps Cognitive Function in Older Adults – Study

“Preaching to the choir” – was my first reaction to this study, having published lots of posts on this very subject.

Increasing evidence shows that physical activity and exercise training may delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In aging humans, aerobic exercise training increases gray and white matter volume, enhances blood flow, and improves memory function. The ability to measure the effects of exercise on systemic biomarkers associated with risk for AD and relating them to key metabolomic alterations may further prevention, monitoring, and treatment efforts. However, systemic biomarkers that can measure exercise effects on brain function and that link to relevant metabolic responses are lacking.

To address this issue, Henriette van Praag, Ph.D., from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine and Brain Institute and Ozioma Okonkwo, Ph.D., Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their collaborators, tested the hypotheses that three specific biomarkers, which are implicated in learning and memory, would increase in older adults following exercise training and correlate with cognition and metabolomics markers of brain health. They examined myokine Cathepsin B (CTSB), brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and klotho, as well as metabolomics, which have become increasingly utilized to understand biochemical pathways that may be affected by AD.

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Tai Chi as Good as Working Out to Shrink Waistline – WebMD

Practicing the meditative, rhythmic flow of tai chi works just as well as aerobic exercise and strength training for achieving some health benefits such as reducing waist size and improving cholesterol, new findings suggest.

Results of a randomized controlled trial published online May 31 in the Annals of Internal Medicine show that people who have a tough time with some kinds of aerobic exercise may gain similar benefits from tai chi.

The study is “very impressive,” says Bavani Nadeswaran, MD, of the University of California Irvine’s Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, who was not involved in the study.

Many people have arthritis or back pain, “and aerobic exercise can be hard on them,” she says. “The good thing about exercises like tai chi and yoga is that they are low-impact.” That means that people who can’t run or get access to a pool for swimming have a viable alternative.

The study included nearly 550 adults ages 50 and up in Hong Kong who were randomly assigned to engage in tai chi, aerobic exercise with strength training, or no exercise program for 12 weeks. All had waistlines greater than 35.4 inches for men and 31.5 inches for women.

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Adolescent obesity linked to increased risk of stroke as an adult – AHA Study

Higher body mass index (BMI) — an indicator of obesity — in late adolescence is associated with a significantly higher risk of first ischemic stroke in men and women under age 50, regardless of whether they had Type 2 diabetes, a new study finds. Even BMIs in the high-normal range are associated with increased stroke risk in both men and women, according to new research published today in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association.

While rates of adolescent obesity and stroke among adults under the age of 50 years continue to rise around the world, the precise link between the two conditions is still not fully understood.

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“Adults who survive stroke earlier in life face poor functional outcomes, which can lead to unemployment, depression and anxiety,” said study co-author Gilad Twig, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., an associate professor in the Medical Corps of the Israel Defense Forces and the department of military medicine, Faculty of Medicine of The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. “The direct and indirect costs attributed to stroke prevention and care are high and expected to keep increasing since the rate of stroke continues to rise.”

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Stair climbing offers significant cardiovascular and muscular benefits for heart patients

I started writing about stair climbing several years ago when my home town of Chicago suffered an unusually bitter winter. At the time I focused on the weight-bearing aspect of the exercise as well as the cardiovascular benefits. If you are interested, you can check out the beginning of a multi-part series of posts starting with: Five Reasons Stair-climbing is good for you – Part One.

A team of researchers who studied heart patients found that stair-climbing routines, whether vigorous or moderate, provide significant cardiovascular and muscular benefits.

A team of McMaster University researchers who studied heart patients found that stair-climbing routines, whether vigorous or moderate, provide significant cardiovascular and muscular benefits.

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Managing children’s weight, blood pressure & cholesterol protects brain function mid-life

Highlights:

  • Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol and/or obesity from childhood through middle age were linked to poorer brain function by middle age.
  • These cardiovascular risk factors were linked with low memory, learning, visual processing, attention span, and reaction and movement time.
  • Strategies to prevent heart disease and stroke should begin in childhood to promote better brain health by middle age.

Managing weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in children may help protect brain function in later life, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation. This is the first study to highlight that cardiovascular risk factors accumulated from childhood through mid-life may influence poor cognitive performance at midlife.

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Previous research has indicated that nearly 1 in 5 people older than 60 have at least mild loss of brain function. Cognitive deficits are known to be linked with cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity and poor diet, as well as depression and low education level.

Many diseases that cause neurological deficits, such as Alzheimer’s, have a long preclinical phase before noticeable symptoms begin, so finding links between childhood obesity and other cardiovascular risk factors is important for cognitive health. The researchers noted that there are currently no cures for major causes of dementia, so it is important to learn how early in life cardiovascular risk factors may affect the brain.

“We can use these results to turn the focus of brain health from old age and midlife to people in younger age groups,” said the study’s first author Juuso O. Hakala, M.D., a Ph.D. student at the Research Centre of Applied and Prevention Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku, in Turku, Finland. ”Our results show active monitoring and prevention of heart disease and stroke risk factors, beginning from early childhood, can also matter greatly when it comes to brain health. Children who have adverse cardiovascular risk factors might benefit from early intervention and lifestyle modifications.”

The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study is a national, longitudinal study on cardiovascular risk from childhood to adulthood in Finland. Researchers followed the participants’ cardiovascular risk factor profiles for 31 years from childhood to adulthood. Baseline clinical examinations were conducted in 1980 on approximately 3,600 randomly selected boys and girls, ranging in ages from 3 to 18, all of whom were white. More than 2,000 of the participants, ranging in ages from 34 to 49, underwent a computerized cognitive function test in 2011. The test measured four different cognitive domains: episodic memory and associative learning; short-term working memory; reaction and movement time; and visual processing and sustained attention.

Researchers found:

  • Systolic blood pressure, total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, as well as body mass index, from childhood to midlife are associated with brain function in middle age.
  • Consistently high systolic blood pressure or high blood total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were linked to worse memory and learning by midlife when compared with lower measures.
  • Obesity from childhood to adulthood was associated with lower visual information processing speed and maintaining attention.
  • Having all three cardiovascular risk factors was linked to poorer memory and associative learning, worse visual processing, decreased attention span, and slower reaction and movement time.

These results are from observational findings, so more studies are needed to learn whether there are specific ages in childhood and/or adolescence when cardiovascular risk factors are particularly important to brain health in adulthood. Study limitations include that a definite cause-and-effect link between cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive performance cannot be determined in this type of population-based study; cognition was measured at a single point in time; and because all study participants are white, the results may not be generalizable to people from other racial or ethnic groups.

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The Joys and Benefits of Bike Riding – National Bicycle Month – May

This is my ‘better late than never’ post on National Bicycle Month.

Health Secrets of a SuperAger

There will be lots of celebrations of the bicycle in the coming three weeks because May is National Bicycle Month. As regular readers know, I ride more than 100 miles a week here in Chicago, all year ’round. So cycling is a labor of love for me.

I have tried to explain to myself first, as well as others, why I love to ride my bike. Until recently, the best I could come up with is that I feel like I am flying. Not soaring high, just flying along several feet above the bike path.

Riding on Northerly Island in Chicago Riding on Northerly Island in Chicago

I know that when I ride, I am at once totally in the moment of propelling the bike forward and at the same time I experience a very enjoyable feeling of expansion – an almost out of body sensation.

This has been wonderfully explained by former University of Chicago…

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Physical activity at work not as healthy as leisure exercise – Study

Going for a brisk walk after a long day at work may be better for your heart than getting all of your exercise on the job, according to Denise Mann writing in Health Day.

New research suggests that while current health guidelines indicate that leisure-time activity and physical activity at work are created equally when it comes to heart health benefits, this may not be the case after all.

Leisure-time exercise — whether it be taking a walk, jogging or hopping on your Peloton bike after a hard day’s work — can improve heart health, but only getting your exercise on the job seems to increase heart risks.

This is what’s known as the “physical activity paradox,” said study author Andreas Holtermann, a professor at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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“Leisure physical activity leads to fitness, improved health and well-being, but work physical activity leads to fatigue, no fitness gain, and elevated heart rate and blood pressure over the day without sufficient rest,” Holtermann said.

For the study, researchers asked close to 104,000 people (aged 20 to 100 years) from the Copenhagen General Population Study to rate their leisure-time and employment physical activity as low, moderate, high or very high.

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Why is good health so hard to achieve? – AHA

It ought to be a no-brainer, so to speak: Research has pinpointed seven ways people can achieve ideal heart and brain health. And – bonus – if Americans did those things, they also could help prevent many other chronic illnesses, According to the American Heart Association News.

But most people don’t, at least not consistently. What’s stopping them?

“Most of these steps require a great deal of self-regulation and self-control,” said Dolores Albarracin, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s not just getting one thing done, like going to get a vaccine, where you can do it and forget about it for a year.”

Volumes of research point to at least seven behaviors, called Life’s Simple 7, that can dramatically lower the burden of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range have the potential to collectively wipe out a vast majority of heart disease and stroke and prevent or delay a significant number of dementias.

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Strategies to preserve brain health – AHA

Primary care clinics can play an important role in preserving patients’ brain health using the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 as a guide, as well as addressing six other factors associated with cognitive decline, according to a new American Stroke Association/American Heart Association Scientific Statement, “A Primary Care Agenda for Brain Health.  

The statement was published in the Association’s journal Stroke. Led by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, it has been endorsed by the American Academy of Neurology as an educational tool for neurologists.

heart and brain that walk hand in hand, concept of health of walking

Preserving brain health in an aging population is a growing concern in the United States. An estimated one in five Americans 65 years and older has mild cognitive impairment, and one in seven has dementia. By 2050, the number of Americans with dementia is expected to triple, the statement authors note.

“Primary care is the right home for practice-based efforts to prevent or postpone cognitive decline. Primary care professionals are most likely to identify and monitor risk factors early and throughout the lifespan,” said the chair of the scientific statement writing group, Ronald M. Lazar, Ph.D., the Evelyn F. McKnight Endowed Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging and director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the UAB School of Medicine. “Prevention doesn’t start in older age; it exists along the health care continuum from pediatrics to adulthood. The evidence in this statement demonstrates that early attention to these factors improves later life outcomes.” 

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Key tips to a healthy lifestyle

One picture us worth a thousand words. In this case, I think the infographic counts for even more. I hope this is all old news to you and you are living it fully. As an 81 year old I can tell you that I am certainly glad to have adopted my healthy lifestyle for the past 10 years. It’s never too late. The body is an organic machine which means there is constant regeneration going on. Use it to your advantage.

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Simple, but not so easy …

Simple, but not so easy, at least for some of us …. The following infographic is from the National Institute on Aging. While it doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know, I think it is worthwhile to see these items enumerated to impress our minds – and bodies – what gives us the best chance of having a long and healthy life.

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Outdoor recreation during the pandemic linked to improved well-being for teens

A study from North Carolina State University found outdoor play and nature-based activities helped buffer some of the negative mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for adolescents.

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Researchers said the findings, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, point to outdoor play and nature-based activities as a tool to help teenagers cope with major stressors like the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as future natural disasters and other global stressors. Researchers also underscore the mental health implications of restricting outdoor recreation opportunities for adolescents, and the need to increase access to the outdoors.

“Families should be encouraged that building patterns in outdoor recreation can give kids tools to weather the storms to come,” said Kathryn Stevenson, a study co-author and assistant professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at NC State. “Things happen in life, and getting kids outside regularly is an easy way to build some mental resilience.”

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Exercise may help slow memory loss for people living with Alzheimer’s dementia – Study

Since my family has Alzheimer’s or dementia on both sides, this was one of those studies that resonated with me. Eat less; move more; live longer and think better.

Promising new research shows aerobic exercise may help slow memory loss for older adults living with Alzheimer’s dementia.

ASU Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Professor Fang Yu led a pilot randomized control trial that included 96 older adults living with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.

Participants were randomized to either a cycling (stationary bike) or stretching intervention for six months. Using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognition (ADAS-Cog) to assess cognition, the results of the trial were substantial.

The six-month change in ADAS-Cog was 1.0±4.6 (cycling) and 0.1±4.1 (stretching), which were both significantly less than the expected 3.2±6.3-point increase observed naturally with disease progression.

“Our primary finding indicates that a six-month aerobic exercise intervention significantly reduced cognitive decline in comparison to the natural course of changes for Alzheimer’s dementia. However, we didn’t find a superior effect of aerobic exercise to stretching, which is likely due to the pilot nature of our trial. We don’t have the statistical power to detect between-group differences, there was substantial social interaction effect in the stretching group, and many stretching participants did aerobic exercise on their own.” Yu said.

The findings are described in a recently published article, Cognitive Effects of Aerobic Exercise in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial, in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Yu says their results are encouraging and support the clinical relevance of promoting aerobic exercise in individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia to maintain cognition.

“Aerobic exercise has a low profile of adverse events in older adults with Alzheimer’s dementia as demonstrated by our trial,” said Yu. “Regardless of its effect on cognition, the current collective evidence on its benefits supports the use of aerobic exercise as an additional therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.”

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Exercise May Help Slow Memory Loss for People Living With Alzheimer’s Dementia

Exercise may reduce decline in global cognition in older adults with mild-to-moderate AD dementia. Aerobic exercise did not show superior cognitive effects to stretching in our pilot trial, possibly due to the lack of power. ASU Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Professor Fang Yu led a pilot randomized control trial that included 96 older adults living with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.

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Participants were randomized to either a cycling (stationary bike) or stretching intervention for six months. Using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognition (ADAS-Cog) to assess cognition, the results of the trial were substantial.

The six-month change in ADAS-Cog was 1.0±4.6 (cycling) and 0.1±4.1 (stretching), which were both significantly less than the expected 3.2±6.3-point increase observed naturally with disease progression.

“Our primary finding indicates that a six-month aerobic exercise intervention significantly reduced cognitive decline in comparison to the natural course of changes for Alzheimer’s dementia. However, we didn’t find a superior effect of aerobic exercise to stretching, which is likely due to the pilot nature of our trial. We don’t have the statistical power to detect between-group differences, there was substantial social interaction effect in the stretching group, and many stretching participants did aerobic exercise on their own.” Yu said.

The findings are described in a recently published article, Cognitive Effects of Aerobic Exercise in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial, in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Yu says their results are encouraging and support the clinical relevance of promoting aerobic exercise in individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia to maintain cognition.

“Aerobic exercise has a low profile of adverse events in older adults with Alzheimer’s dementia as demonstrated by our trial,” said Yu. “Regardless of its effect on cognition, the current collective evidence on its benefits supports the use of aerobic exercise as an additional therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.”

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Blink! The Link between Aerobic Fitness and Cognition

Although exercise is known to enhance cognitive function and improve mental health, the neurological mechanisms of this link are unknown. Now, researchers from Japan have found evidence of the missing link between aerobic fitness and cognitive function.


In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers from the University of Tsukuba revealed that spontaneous eye blink rate (sEBR), which reflects activity of the dopamine system, could be used to understand the connection between cognitive function and aerobic fitness.

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The dopaminergic system is known to be involved in physical activity and exercise, and previous researchers have proposed that exercise-induced changes in cognitive function might be mediated by activity in the dopaminergic system. However, a marker of activity in this system was needed to test this hypothesis, something the researchers at the University of Tsukuba aimed to address.

“The dopaminergic system is associated with both executive function and motivated behavior, including physical activity,” says first author of the study Ryuta Kuwamizu. “We used sEBR as a non-invasive measure of dopaminergic system function to test whether it could be the missing link between aerobic fitness and cognitive function.”

To do this, the researchers asked healthy participants to undergo a measure of sEBR, a test of cognitive function, and an aerobic fitness test. They also measured brain activity during the cognitive task using functional near-infrared spectroscopy.

“As expected, we found significant correlations between aerobic fitness, cognitive function, and sEBR,” explains Professor Hideaki Soya, senior author. “When we examined these relationships further, we found that the connection between higher aerobic fitness and enhanced cognitive function was mediated in part by dopaminergic regulation.”

Furthermore, activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (l-DLPFC) during the cognitive task was the same or lower in participants with higher sEBR compared with lower sEBR, even though those with higher sEBR appeared to have greater executive function, and thus higher neural efficiency.

“Although previous studies have indicated that aerobic fitness and cognitive function are correlated, this is the first to provide a neuromodulatory basis for this connection in humans. Our data indicate that dopamine has an essential role in linking aerobic fitness and cognition,” says first author Kuwamizu.

Given that neural efficiency in the l-DLPFC is a known characteristic of the dopaminergic system that has been observed in individuals with higher fitness and executive function, it is possible that neural efficiency in this region partially mediates the association between aerobic fitness and executive function. Furthermore, physical inactivity may be related to dopaminergic dysfunction. This information provides new directions for research regarding how fitness affects the brain, which may lead to improved exercise regimens. For instance, exercise that specifically focuses on improving dopaminergic function may particularly boost motivation, mood, and mental function.

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