Tag Archives: Exercise

My Ticket to Ride …

I am thrilled to report that today marks the 22nd anniversary of my retirement. On October 2 of 2000, I bade the financial world adieu and started my life as a guy who didn’t have to get up for work every morning.
I got my first job at the age of 10 sweeping the floor of a dry cleaner and continued to work till I reached 60. Although my degree is in Finance, I went into the publishing world writing and editing. I liked markets, but always knew I would write. I wrote and practiced journalism for most of my career, spending 20 years working for Reuters covering international markets and then teaching journalism at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University for several years. Because I had written about markets for 30 years, my boss at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation asked me if I would like to manage some money So, I managed $900 million in bond investments for the final five years of my working life.

No mas. I thought I would celebrate with this biking post. When I was working I used to tell my friends at the office that when I retired I was going to ride my bike on the Chicago lakefront every day. They thought that was funny. I was never more serious.
You all know how I ride my bike nearly every day year ’round here in Chicago. I do it because I love it. Period. Everything else is gravy. As you know from my numerous posts on exercise and the brain I absolutely believe that my riding aids in my still thinking straight at the ripe of age of 82. For the record, my family has five cases of Alzheimer’s on both sides – my father’s father, my father’s sister and her daughter. On my mother’s side, she and her sister.

Tony

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Leisure activities may improve seniors’ longevity – NIH

Eat less; move more; live longer … How many times have you read that on these pages? Now comes the National Institutes of Health with more of the same.

Physical activity is vital for your health. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and prevent chronic diseases ranging from heart disease to diabetes. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get a minimum of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, or at least half that amount of vigorous-intensity activity.

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Previous studies have found that a wide variety of leisure-time physical activities can provide health benefits. But these studies have largely been done in younger adults. And many did not track different levels of various types of activities.

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Diet change may return bigger heart health rewards than other lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes are known to reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes. A new study that simulated the effect of lifestyle change on future cardiovascular risks for people with high blood pressure suggests one change – adopting a heart-healthy diet – may do more than others.

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The findings predict adopting the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet would do more to cut cardiovascular events over a 10-year period than changes such as weight loss and physical activity for young and middle-aged adults with stage 1 hypertension that isn’t being treated.

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Deep dive on exercise and the heart – JACC

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) has issued a four-part focus seminar series on sports cardiology and of the impact of physical activity, cardio-respiratory fitness and exercise training on the general U.S. population and professional athletes’ cardiovascular health.

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“The field of sports cardiology is a well-established but still rapidly evolving sub-specialty,” said Jason C. Kovacic, professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of the accompanying introduction article to the focus seminar series. “Given the mounting interest in sports cardiology, its key relevance to all cardiovascular practitioners, and the knowledge explosion in this field, we felt it was particularly timely to pay special attention to this broad topic with a JACC Focus Seminar series.”

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Getting more exercise than guidelines suggest may further lower death risk – AHA

Doubling to quadrupling the minimum amount of weekly physical activity recommended for U.S. adults may substantially lower the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and other causes, new research finds.

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The study, published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, found people who followed the minimum guidelines for moderate or vigorous long-term, leisure physical activity lowered their risk of dying from any cause by as much as 21%. But adults who exercised two to four times the minimum might lower their mortality risk by as much as 31%.

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People with low BMI aren’t more active, they are just less hungry and ‘run hotter’

To date most research on obesity has focused on studying those with a high body mass index (BMI), but a research group in China is taking a different approach. In a study published July 14 in the journal Cell Metabolism, the scientists looked at individuals with a very low BMI. Their findings reveal that these individuals are actually considerably less active than people with a BMI in the normal range, contrary to speculation that they have a metabolism that makes them naturally more active. Additionally, they eat less food than those with a normal BMI.

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“We expected to find that these people are really active and to have high activity metabolic rates matched by high food intakes,” says corresponding author John Speakman, a professor at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology in China and the University of Aberdeen in the UK. “It turns out that something rather different is going on. They had lower food intakes and lower activity, as well as surprisingly higher-than-expected resting metabolic rates linked to elevated levels of their thyroid hormones.”

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Exercise benefits your liver – Tufts

A recent trial found that getting moving can improve liver health in people with obesity, even without weight loss, according to Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.

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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common condition in which excess fat accumulates in the liver, often in response to diets high in starch and sugar. NAFLD is the most common form of liver disease in the U.S. and may be present in more than 90 percent of individuals with obesity and 75 percent with overweight. According to the National Institutes of Health, people with NAFLD are at high risk of developing liver inflammation that can lead to cirrhosis (advanced scarring) and liver failure.


In this trial, 83 Japanese men with obesity participated for three months in either an aerobic exercise program (fast walking or light jogging for 90 minutes three days a week) or calorie restriction with the help of a registered dietitian. In the activity group, muscle strength increased, markers of general inflammation and oxidative stress decreased, and liver health improved, even without weight loss.

This study adds to a large body of science that physical activity, like a healthy diet, has many benefits beyond weight loss.”

The liver is not the only major organ to benefit from exercise. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).

Tony

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Walking vs bike riding … Boots, one month in …

Exactly one month ago I adopted a new dog, a 3-year old, 20 pound mixed breed named Boots, after my previous canine companion of 16 years, Gabi, passed away.

One of the major differences in the two dogs is that Gabi used the ‘puppy pads’ I put down in my apartment. So I only had to walk her three times a day, pretty much at my convenience. My new guy, Boots, doesn’t understand the pads, so I need to walk him four times a day and on a schedule which includes a first walk at 4:00 a.m.

Additionally, Boots is a high energy little guy, so our walks always amount to one mile. Gabi, on the other hand, was aging and barely able to complete a walk of just over a half mile. So, by a process of rapid calculation, I have gone from walking around 1.5 miles a day to four miles a day … every day.

Boots watching TV with me

With Gabi, I was able to ride my bike from 100 to 125 miles a week. Now, however, with my new walking schedule, I have had to cut back biking to just under 100 miles. In case you forgot, I am 82 years old. I have only had Boots since May 19, so the whole walking/biking experience remains a work in progress.

Clearly, in this situation, I had to wonder, how do the two types of exercise compare?

As I am sure you realize, walking a dog is not a high cardio experience. Our mile walks average around 30 minutes each. Keep in mind that walking is weight-bearing exercise while bike riding is not, so the walking is a plus for my skeleton, if a bit of a minus on the cardio side.

This is what the Chicago lakefront looks like at 4:00 a.m.

Another plus for walking is that it requires no equipment. I just go out. To ride my bike, I need to own a bike and keep it in good running condition. That entails logistical and financial outlays.

The following is an interesting comparison that may be relevant to you in evaluating the two. It is not so much to me.

We Love Cycling reported that Researchers from London investigated the relationship between various commuting methods and obesity risk. Data from 150,000 participants revealed that both walking and cycling showed better results than taking a car or public transport. Walking was associated with significantly reduced BMI and body fat, but to a lesser extent than cycling. The average study participant who cycled to work would weigh about 5 kg less than a similar person commuting by car.

Chicago Skyline view from the lakefront at 4:00 a.m.

So, while I prefer cycling to walking, I have cut back on it because I need to walk more. The big plus, of course, is that I have a fun new dog in my life filling the void left by Gabi’s passing. I consider myself fortunate to live on the gorgeous Chicago lakefront and love riding my bike and walking my dog there.

Lastly, I have learned that while I knew a lot about one dog, that did not necessarily translate to knowing a lot about all dogs. Boots has been teaching me that he is a very different pooch.

I would like to add two final observations as a result of our first month together. I now have total appreciation of the pleasure of simply lying down in bed at any time. Secondly, I seem to be developing the ability to go back to sleep after finishing the 4:00 a.m. walk.

I included the lakefront photos at 4:00 a.m. because I think they are beautiful. I consider myself very fortunate to live on Chicago’s lakefront.

Tony

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What about mixing intermittent fasting and exercise?

Fans of intermittent fasting say consuming fewers calories by skipping meals helps lose weight and leads to other health benefits. 

But what happens to your body when you add exercise to the mix? 

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“Finding ways to lose weight that are as simple as skipping a meal is very difficult because many people find it hard to manage their hunger while being in a caloric deficit,” Eric Williamson and Matthew Lees of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, say. “But, if they find that their hunger is well managed with intermittent fasting and they plan to exercise at the same time, then it can be an effective tool for losing fat.”

Here is what Lees and Willamson had to say about the benefits of complementing intermittent fasting with exercise. 

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What are Two Good Yoga Stretches for Cyclists?

I am rerunning this post from 2015 because I know that a lot of bike riders are just now beginning to ride again and I consider these two stretches to be superb for cyclists. I hope you agree.

I ride my bicycle virtually every day here in Chicago. Last year I averaged just over 17 miles per day for all 365 days for a total of 6350 miles for the year.

As you can imagine in a four season city like Chicago, I am not always able to ride at all, so I end up with some longer rides to compensate.

As a senior citizen riding the bike every day can sometimes stiffen up my leg muscles. I have found two wonderful stretches that do a super job of rejuvenating my legs on long rides. I usually do them after about ten miles so the muscles are warmed up. Every time I do them, I can always feel the energy flow back into my legs when I finish.

I have pictures of each stretch, but I want to explain how I do them as that makes the difference. I did yoga for years and when I stretch, I always do diaphragmatic breathing which sends lots of oxygen-rich cells down to the aching muscles.
For the first bent-knee, extended leg stretch, please do it as follows. The picture in this case isn’t perfect. Try to create a straight line from the bottom of your stretched out leg to the top of your head. Don’t bend your body and lay your head down as the cyclist in the photo is doing. With your bent leg, make sure that the knee is perpendicular to the ground. That way you have all straight lines and right angles. Once you are in the stretch breathe in through the nose for a count to five, hold it, then release it through your mouth for a count of five. Do this four or five times and then release the position gently. Assume the same position only with the legs reversed. If the right leg was stretched, now it will be the bent one. Repeat the breathing. Continue reading

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Exercise increases dopamine release in mice

Exercise increases dopamine signaling in the motor areas of mice, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.

It’s no secret exercise is good for the brain — working out can improve mood, sharpen memory, and stave off cognitive decline. Exercise even improves motor behavior in people with Parkinson’s disease, but the exact mechanism is not known. One possibility is through an increase in dopamine, a neurotransmitter needed for motor and emotional control that declines as the disease progresses.

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Bastioli et al. compared dopamine signaling in mice after 30 days of voluntary wheel running or inactivity. In the runner mice, dopamine release in the striatum (a motor area) increased in response to electrical stimulation, while there was no change in sedentary mice. The increased dopamine release remained even a week after the exercise ended. The researchers also measured increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein involved in neuron health, in the striatum of active mice. When the researchers repeated the experiments in a genetic mouse model lacking BDNF, there was no difference in dopamine release between the active and sedentary mice, suggesting BDNF catalyzes increased dopamine signaling. Future studies will examine if the relationship holds true in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease, and if exercise can improve motor outcomes. 

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What about sweating?-MSU

Since we are entering the warmer weather, I thought it would be worthwhile to consider perspiring, or sweating. We are all going to be doing it. What does it mean to the body?

It is important to stay hydrated and avoid excessive heat during the hot summer months because we lose a lot of body fluid through sweat. But does this mean you should avoid sweating at all costs? Not at all.

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People sweat for many reasons such as hot weather, nervousness, a fever, exercise, and being in a sauna. Sweating can dehydrate us, stress us out, or remind us our body is fighting an illness. In contrast, it may invigorate us on a hike or when working out in a gym. Besides, isn’t sweating what you are supposed to do in a sauna anyhow?   

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Exercise May Protect Brain Volume by Keeping Insulin and BMI Levels Low

Studies have shown that exercise helps protect brain cells. A new study looking at the mechanisms involved in this relationship suggests that the role exercise plays in maintaining insulin and body mass index levels may help protect brain volume and thus help stave off dementia. The research is published in the April 13, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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“These results may help us to understand how physical activity affects brain health, which may guide us in developing strategies to prevent or delay age-related decline in memory and thinking skills,” said study author Géraldine Poisnel, PhD, of Inserm Research Center in Caen, France. “Older adults who are physically active gain cardiovascular benefits, which may result in greater structural brain integrity.”

In contrast, researchers found that the relationship between exercise and the metabolism of glucose in the brain was not affected by insulin or body mass index (BMI) levels. Reduced glucose metabolism in the brain can been seen in people with dementia.

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Exercise – all-natural treatment to fight depression

One in 10 adults in the United States struggles with depression, and antidepressant medications are a common way to treat the condition. However, pills aren’t the only solution. Research shows that exercise is also an effective treatment. “For some people it works as well as antidepressants, although exercise alone isn’t enough for someone with severe depression,” says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

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The exercise effect

Exercising starts a biological cascade of events that results in many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report. But for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The improvement in brain function makes you feel better. “In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression,” explains Dr. Miller.

The challenge of getting started

Depression manifests physically by causing disturbed sleep, reduced energy, appetite changes, body aches, and increased pain perception, all of which can result in less motivation to exercise. It’s a hard cycle to break, but Dr. Miller says getting up and moving just a little bit will help. “Start with five minutes a day of walking or any activity you enjoy. Soon, five minutes of activity will become 10, and 10 will become 15.”

What you can do

It’s unclear how long you need to exercise, or how intensely, before nerve cell improvement begins alleviating depression symptoms. You should begin to feel better a few weeks after you begin exercising. But this is a long-term treatment, not a onetime fix. “Pick something you can sustain over time,” advises Dr. Miller. “The key is to make it something you like and something that you’ll want to keep doing.”

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Exercise shown to release protein reducing bowel cancer risk

Scientists at Newcastle University have shown that physical activity causes the cancer-fighting protein, interleukin-6 (IL-6), to be released into the bloodstream which helps repair the DNA of damaged cells.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Cancer, sheds new light on the importance of moderate activity in the fight against the life-threatening illness and could help develop treatments in the future.

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Repairing DNA

Dr Sam Orange, Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at Newcastle University, said: “Previous scientific evidence suggests that more exercise is better for reducing bowel cancer risk as the more physical activity people do, the lower their chances of getting it. Our findings support this idea.

“When exercise is repeated multiple times each week over an extended period, cancer-fighting substances – such as IL-6 – released into the bloodstream have the opportunity to interact with abnormal cells, repairing their DNA and reducing growth into cancer.”

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Middle age and weight challenges

Weight management is challenging in our “middle-age” years. Whether because of genetics, aging, hormones, lifestyle, or “life changes,” it is tough for many to lose weight and harder to keep from re-gaining it in these years, according to BeWell at Stanford Medicine.

While many men deal with similar issues, women face the additional mid-life challenge of menopause. Is mid-life weight gain inevitable, permanent, irreversible? Or are some of the factors temporary and can be better managed? To learn more, BeWell spoke with Marcia Stefanick, PhD, professor of medicine and obstetrics/gynecology at Stanford Medicine.

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Does weight gain during middle age result from aging or temporary hormonal changes?

It is challenging to tease apart age-related changes in weight and body composition from changes related to menopause. Age is certainly associated with an increase in body fat and decrease in skeletal muscle mass that the majority of women, and men, experience in middle age. There are both biological, including hormonal and lifestyle, explanations for these changes. Of course, the menopausal transition which all women undergo represents a particularly challenging period of metabolic and physiologic change.

Can you explain what actually happens during menopause, in terms of the physiological transition, and why weight gain is so commonly experienced?

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