Tag Archives: exercise - Page 2

Old People Are Feeble Only Because They’re Lazy

A study, published in September of 2011, was done to find out if the loss of muscle mass in the elderly was simply a fact of aging or just disuse, so they looked at muscles in “high level recreational athletes” or “masters athletes” and this what they found:

The preservation of muscle mass and lack of fatty infiltration in the muscles of our subjects are dramatically illustrated in Figure 1.

Adipose means "fatty", subcutaneous means "under the skin", and intramuscular is what it sounds like


The researchers looked at 40 of these “masters” athletes: ten in their 40s, ten in their 50s, and so on; five women and five men in each decade. These were amateur athletes, not professional ones, but many of them were “age-group winners for their sport,” and they trained at least four times a week. The researchers poked, prodded and measured the athletes to find out what their body was made of and what their quadriceps peak torque was (how much weight they could push with their legs). The results:

  • The athletes over 70 were fatter: higher BMI and more body fat
  • Lean muscle mass was the same across all age groups, so “chronic intense exercise preserved muscle mass”
  • The peak torque was the same for those aged 40-60 and for those aged 60-80, but lower in the second group than in the first. So strength dips a little after 60, but then stays the same.
  • “Chronic exercise is prophylactic against age-related functional decline, as exercise at any age stimulates protein synthesis and increased muscle mass and strength.”

Ergo, you don’t have to become the weak old person getting around with a walker or a Hoveround; but it does take work to not only build those muscles, but also to keep them in old age. Work that is undoubtedly worth it, because besides keeping the walker at bay, exercise also helps with heart disease, cancer, stroke and memory loss — which are 4 of the 6 leading causes of death, especially among the elderly; the other two are smoking and accidents.

From The Physician and Sports Medicine, via Neatorama

See also:

Exercise Also Prevents Migraines As Well As Drugs

Besides all the other benefits that exercise provides, a new Swedish study figured out that treating migraines with exercise is as good as anything. They split 91 women that had been diagnosed with them into three groups: one that got topiramate (the best migraine drug known), one that did relaxation therapy, and a final one that exercised. At the end of the study, all three groups had less migraines, by the same amount. In other words, all three methods were equally effective at reducing the number of attacks.

Photo by Arty Smokes


Some interesting things worth mentioning:

  • The drug did help more than relaxation and exercise with the pain — the number of attacks decreased the same amount with all three therapies, but the pain decreased more with topiramate
  • Because nothing in life is free, the drug group also experienced side effects: 33% of the women on topiramate had side effects, and 12% withdrew from the study. None of the ones in the other groups had side effects, which for topiramate includes vertigo, depression and constipation.
  • The study doesn’t seem to have included a control or placebo group. Maybe it’s just such standard practice that the university left it out of their press release, but they only mentioned the three groups with therapies, and no group that didn’t get anything. Since all three groups got fewer migraines by the same amount, it would be nice to know that it wasn’t something in the air at the university that caused their results.
  • Migraines are three times more likely in women, which is probably why all the study subjects were women. And migraine patients in general are less physically active than average.
  • There was another study in 2009 that showed that indoor cycling helped with migraines — both in number of attacks and intensity.

And finally, it’s also worth pointing out that relaxation therapy gives the same results as exercise and drugs, but on top of migraines exercise also helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, joint pain and a ton of other things — so it’s definitely the way to go.

From University of Gothenburg, via The Huffington Post and Reuters


How To Avoid Cancer

The World Cancer Research Fund has a list of recommendations that reduce the risk of cancer:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. It helps out with the healthy weight too.
  • Avoid junk food — that is, food that’s low in fiber and high in calories, which usually comes from fat and/or sugar. Also helps with the weight.
  • Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains. See a pattern here, with the weight control?
  • Don’t eat a lot of red meat
  • Stay away from processed meats, like what you’d find in a deli: bacon, ham, salami, corned beef, etc
  • Don’t eat a lot of salt, or foods with a lot of sodium — generally processed foods
  • Don’t drink a lot of alcohol
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco

So eat healthy, exercise, don’t be a drunk or a smoker, and you should also probably stay away from Chernobyl.

From The World Cancer Research Fund

Habits Of The Fat And Skinny

Harvard University has released a very comprehensive analysis of what makes people gain and lose weight. They followed 120,000 people for over a decade, and came up with some mind-blowing conclusions:

  • Eating healthy is very good
  • Exercise is also good
  • Getting enough sleep helps too

Seriously. The New York Times has a good overview of the study, although that article is misguided in that it draws the conclusion that simply eating healthy foods is the key to weight loss and that conversely, calorie counting is not helpful. It appears they didn’t hear about the nutrition professor who wanted to prove that very notion to his students, went on an 1800-calorie-per-day diet of Twinkies, and lost 27 pounds. It also seems to escape them that healthy foods are high in fiber and low in calories when compared to junk food, meaning they make us feel more full from less calories, which tends to make us not over-eat, leading to lower calorie intake.

The guy who lost 27 lbs by eating Twinkies


Just in case you didn’t know what healthy food is, the researchers divined a list from all the data:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • nuts
  • yogurt
  • peanut butter

Again, mind-blowing. The researchers were particularly surprised that yogurt was linked to a lot of weight loss, even though Yoplait figured that out way back in 2003; way to keep on the ball, Harvard. If you’re not done being shocked, here’s the list of bad foods they concluded make people fat:

  • potatoes of any kind, especially fries and chips
  • sugar, especially in soda but also desserts
  • red or processed meats
  • refined grains
  • fried foods
  • juice
  • butter

One interesting thing is the fact that juice made that list, which would be predicted by the fructose-is-the-devil theory of why sugar is bad for us. Other than that, nothing to see here: eat healthy and exercise.

From The New England Journal of Medicine, via The New York Times and Lifehacker

Burn Fat With Interval Training And Eating Healthy

This week, Livestrong has more praise for eating healthy, interval training, and metabolic resistance training. First, they make it a point to say that if you eat junk food, there’s no way you’ll lose weight. It’s just impossible for people that have jobs and lives to exercise enough to burn off the just ghastly amount of calories junk food has; for example, you probably need to run for 45 minutes to burn off a slice of pizza or a couple soda or some ice cream cake. One study showed that people who did 300 hours of cardio in a year only lost five pounds, at the rate of 60 hours per pound. That’s ten hours of cardio per day in a week, just to lose one pound. A healthy diet will help that ratio become much more reasonable.

Second, the article emphasizes the right kind of exercise to burn fat. Both interval training and metabolic resistance training have been mentioned before, but the short of it is this:

  • Interval training: get your heart rate way up, then slow it back down to rest, and repeat. If you’re running, sprint then walk and do that for the duration. This burns more fat.
  • Metabolic resistance training: switch up between working out different groups of muscles; upper body and lower body, for example. The body gets used to routines pretty fast and get efficient at it, meaning less calories get burned for doing the same exercise. But if you keep switching what you do, it can’t get efficient at any one thing and therefore burns more calories.

So there you have it: eat smart and exercise smart and the weight will come off.

Via Livestrong

Burn Fat With Weights Instead Of Cardio

We’ve heard before that if you want to be fit, lift free weights instead of — or in addition to — doing cardio like running. Livestrong this week has some more of that advice. Their reasoning:

  • More muscle means higher base metabolic rate. If you sit on the couch all day and you have 10lbs of muscle, you’ll burn less calories than if you have 15lbs of muscle.
  • Doing an hour of cardio means you burn extra calories for that one hour. Doing an hour of weight lifting means you burn extra calories for as long as you have those muscles.
  • When lifting weights, make sure they’re free weights like dumbbells and bars; these will strengthen your big visible muscles and small stabilizer ones. The weight machines in gyms on the other hand, will isolate the big muscles, leaving you more injury prone and moving like the Hulk.
  • Running a lot without having strong enough stabilizer muscles can contribute to running injuries.
  • Women should not be afraid of lifting weights: their low levels of testosterone mean bulky muscles take a LOT of work.

Photo by Fang Guo


From Livestrong

Also see Why You Should Quit Your Gym

Working Out Hungry Is Bad For You

A new study tested cyclists who worked out after eating and while fasting. It turns out they burned the same amount of fat either way, but there were two downsides to working out on an empty stomach:

  • About 10% of the burned calories came from protein, not fat, including muscle. So you actually lose more muscle by working out hungry, but you don’t burn more fat.
  • Since you’re hungry and you don’t have fuel to burn, the intensity of the workout and therefore the number of calories burned is lower on an empty stomach.

So if you’re trying to lose fat, eat something good for you before working out. Cliff bars are pretty filling energy bars that are natural and kinda good for you and come in at about 240 calories — just make sure you burn more than that working out.

Photo by Les Chatfield


Update: A particularly astute reader pointed out a possible contradiction between this study and another study from last year, which found that working out strenuously in the morning before eating breakfast (i.e., on an empty stomach) led to lower weight gain, more efficient fat burning and less insulin resistance. There are a few differences between the two studies though, namely that in the breakfast one:

  • they fed the healthy subjects a really bad high-fat diet: 50% more fat and 30% more calories than they were consuming before. The breakfast was rich in carbs and they had sports drinks during the workouts. The cyclists in this study on the other hand, were probably on a decent diet.
  • they focused on breakfast. It could be there’s something special going on right after we wake up: e.g., maybe the body has been turning fat into carbs all night to prepare fuel for the morning.
  • all of the subjects gained weight due to the awful diet, but the ones that exercised after breakfast gained a negligible amount. So it could be that they actually lost muscle mass and replaced it with fat, which would actually fit in with the cyclist study’s findings; it found that 10% of calories came from protein, and some unspecified part of that was muscle mass — that still leaves 90% that came from carbs and fat.
  • it didn’t test for hunger. Unless they hadn’t eaten in a long time, many people don’t wake up being hungry right away. In the cycling study, the group had been fasting, so they were presumably pretty hungry. It’s reasonable to assume that the body won’t signal hunger until it’s out of fuel, at which point it starts cannibalizing muscles. Therefore, if the people in the breakfast study weren’t hungry in the morning, it’s also reasonable to assume their bodies didn’t cannibalize muscle.

Perhaps one tell-tale sign is the intensity of the workout. The cyclist study found that the ones fasting didn’t have as intense of a workout. So if in the morning, you feel like you can easily have as intense of a workout before breakfast as after breakfast, then you probably have enough fuel in your system to not worry about burning muscle mass.

From The New York Times, via Lifehacker

Blueberries, Vitamins and Walking Improve Memory In The Elderly

Everyone knows that as people age, their memory fades. This is due in part to the mind just ignoring more and more events as we get older, because they’re similar to ones that happened before: at some point, all your birthday parties end up blurring together. In part, it’s also due to the neurons in the brain degrading as they age, making it harder for it to store new memories. And it’s also due to the brain shrinking as it ages — less brain mass means less room to store memories.

Photo by Kate McCarthy


But three new studies showcased in a Healthier Talk article found some ways to fight the decline of memory:

  • Blueberries have been shown to improve memory, as well as mood and to reduce blood sugar levels
  • Shots of folate, B6 and B12 slowed the rate of brain shrinkage in people over 70 by 30%
  • Walking 3x a week actually increased brain mass in the hippocampus (where memories are stored), whereas doing nothing decreased it.

In other words, nothing beats exercise. Not even blueberries and B12.

From Healthier Talk, via Lifehacker

How To Run Good

If you’ve never had a running coach, Runner’s World has the article meant for you. It spells out exactly what makes for the perfect running form, so that you can run the way the pros do:

  • Look straight forward at the horizon, not down
  • Keep your shoulders low and don’t let them creep up
  • Keeps arms bent at a right-angle, fists unclenched, and move them back-and-forth (not side-to-side)
  • Run tall — stretch out, don’t slouch
  • Calibrate your stride so that your legs should land under your body, not in front.
  • Your foot should land with the front part of the heel, and then roll into the toes and spring up
  • Running well means running quietly, so if you’re making noise, your feet are landing too hard

Via Runner’s World

More Fitness Advice From The Pros

Livestrong has a couple of good articles that add professional vetting to some of the advice that floats around the fitness ether:

  • The Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) method is very effective for weight loss; it’s weight training that alternates between upper and lower body. You still have to diet, but MRT test subjects lost 20% more fat than people who dieted and did aerobics, and 30% more than people who just dieted.
  • Lifting weights will not make you bulky, but it will develop definition and tone, as well as keep your bones strong. You have to be pretty deliberate about gaining muscle mass, so just stay away from really heavy weights and Mr. Universe magazines, and there’s little chance you’ll accidentally end up looking like Schwarzenegger. Lifting heavy weights is also not an efficient ways to burn calories.
  • It doesn’t matter when you work out: you won’t burn more calories working out in the morning, for example. Just do it when you feel best, so you have the energy to put into you workout and make it more effective.
  • Slow cardio, meaning aerobic exercise during which you can still talk — like walking, or riding a tiny bike slowly and perhaps ominously — loses effectiveness pretty quickly because your body adapts and becomes more efficient at doing the same activity by burning less calories. How do you beat it? Interval training: shorter periods of intense aerobic exercise with periods of rest in between. And your body continues to burn extra calories for 38 hours after interval training, as opposed to zero hours after slow cardio.
  • Beware of protein powder and bars that have a lot of added sugar and fat. Protein tastes pretty awful, so a lot of manufacturers have been sneaking stuff in to make it palatable– stuff that will make you fat(ter).
  • Dried fruits are pretty bad for you — eat regular fruits instead. They contain water, and no added sugar.

From Livestrong: Fact or Fiction and Does it Make You Fat?