Category: Exercise

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Medical Xpress

Physical activity may leave the brain more open to change

December 7, 2015
Artistic representation of the take home messages in Lunghi and Sale: “A cycling lane for brain rewiring,” which is that physical activity (such as cycling) is associated with increased brain plasticity. Credit: Dafne Lunghi Art

Learning, memory, and brain repair depend on the ability of our neurons to change with experience. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on December 7 have evidence from a small study in people that exercise may enhance this essential plasticity of the adult brain.

The findings focused on the come as hopeful news for people with conditions including amblyopia (sometimes called ), , and more, the researchers say.

“We provide the first demonstration that moderate levels of physical activity enhance neuroplasticity in the visual cortex of adult humans,” says Claudia Lunghi of the University of Pisa in Italy.

“By showing that moderate levels of physical activity can boost the plastic potential of the adult visual cortex, our results pave the way to the development of non-invasive therapeutic strategies exploiting the intrinsic plasticity in adult subjects,” she adds.

The plastic potential of the cerebral cortex is greatest early in life, when the developing brain is molded by experience. Brain plasticity is generally thought to decline with age. This decline in the brain’s flexibility over time is especially pronounced in the sensory brain, which displays far less plasticity in adults than in younger people.


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science alert


Finally, a good excuse for all your annoying foot-tapping.

25 SEP 2015

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, we have some bad news for you: sitting down for the majority of the day is bad for you. And we’re talking really, life-shorteningly, scientifically verified bad for you. But a new study of more than 12,000 women in the UK suggests that by fidgeting in our seats, we might be able to counteract some of those harmful health impacts – without having to go out and invest in a standing desk.

The research followed women aged between 37 and 78 over a 12-year period, and collected information on their diets, exercise regimes, health, and, on a scale from one to 10, how much they fidgeted. The results showed that the women who sat for 7 hours a day or more were 30 percent more likely to die during the study than their more active peers – but not if they were rampant fidgeters.

The study was only based on women self-rating the amount that they fidget while sitting down, so it’s definitely not conclusive, because it’s highly likely that many people would classify themselves as habitual fidgeters when they barely move, and vice versa. But this is the first study of its kind, and the results are interesting enough to prompt further research into the link between fidgeting and the damage of sitting.


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I Am Happier, Heavier

Posted: 01/06/2014 10:08 am


Rachel Oh Uiginn Estapa

It’s not insane to believe that once you lose weight, life gets better.

For years, I heard stories from those who have shed pounds, recharged their lives, never felt better, and speak so confidently that once the weight was gone, they became the person they were meant to be: a thin and happy one.

I do not doubt their happiness when they share their story, but I also don’t believe that by losing weight, they have some superior knowledge about happiness that us heavier-folk don’t. How do I know this? I’ve been fat and thinner. And I’ve been at my happiest, heavier.

End of high school and into college, I was BIG and used to decline attending parties because I didn’t remotely have anything cute to wear, so I hid behind sarcasm and baggy shirts. And dating-wise… wait, WHAT dating life?

Midway through my freshman year of college I joined Weight Watchers and the gym, becoming obsessed with both. Within seven months, I lost 55 pounds, fit into a size ten and even felt sexy for about fifteen minutes!

But as the scale dipped lower and the compliments on my weight-loss wore off, something else emerged: I felt exhausted, disappointed and still unhappy.

“Ugh, I just can’t keep this up…” I recall saying to myself after a Weight Watchers meeting, of which was my lowest weigh-in ever. I felt defeated and broken that after all my effort, not much beyond the scale changed.


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The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 12/12/2013 8:54 am EST

There’s not much we could do without our muscles — swallow, breathe, move at all. Yet despite how essential muscles are to our survival, there’s still a lot we don’t know about them and how they work. Here are six fun facts you may not have known about your muscles.
There isn’t just ONE strongest muscle in your body.


You’ve probably heard that your tongue is the strongest muscle, and while it is certainly impressive — with its “combination of elasticity and forcefulness” — LiveScience explains that there are too many different ways to measure strength to crown any one muscle strongest. The calf muscle, for example, is actually the muscle that exerts the most force, while the jaw muscle exerts the most pressure. And the gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the human body.
Muscles grow while you sleep.

muscles sleep
All that work you put in at the gym pays off after you hit the hay. In the deep and restorative stages of sleep, the muscles relax and blood flow to the muscles increase. Hormones that fuel muscle development are released and tissues grow and repair, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Without enough deep sleep, don’t expect to see results at the gym.
Muscles make 85 percent of your body heat.


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June 06, 2013 4:18 PM
Your brain will appreciate even a modest improvement in stroke risk factors.

Your brain will appreciate even a modest improvement in stroke risk factors.

This is not one of those posts that is going to beat you up for doing a crummy job exercising, eating better and all the other things you’re failing to do to ward off death.

Instead, this post is here to say that if you improve one thing just one teeny bit, it’s going to lower your risk of having a . So pick something, and stick to it.

Stroke, which happens when a blood vessel bursts or is blocked in the brain, is a leading cause of death and disability.

Scientists looked at seven factors known to affect stroke risk: cigarette smoking, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, physical activity and diet.

Most Americans aren’t doing so well on these. And most of us, knowing we’re supposed to be doing better on them all, just sigh and reach for the remote.

So the scientists dug into a large study that tracked 30,239 people to see how much improvement it takes to prevent stroke. The people were all over age 45 at the start, and the study lasted from 2003 to 2007.

The good news is it doesn’t take much to make a difference. Each risk factor for stroke was scored from 0 to 2, with 0 being crummy, 1 kind of OK, and 2 terrific. Even a one-point improvement in the total score across all seven factors significantly reduced stroke risk. Each improvement of a point on the 14-point scale meant an 8 percent reduction in stroke.


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Eric Miller / Reuters file

Steve Tannen wears heavy clothing to protect himself against freezing wind chills as he practices for an upcoming bike race in Minneapolis. His city ranks No. 1 for fitness, according to the American College of Sports Medicine

Minneapolis, with its many parks, playgrounds and recreation centers, ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for fitness and Washington D.C. ranks a close second, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

Detroit and Oklahoma City come in at 49th and 50th according to the American College of Sports Medicine.  And a second survey released Wednesday finds Minnesota also leads in senior health. The two studies show Americans sure can’t blame climate for their couch potato tendencies – and they point to a fairly simple solution for living a long and healthy life: exercise.

“We asked if we have a built environment that supports exercise, does the population exercise? And the answer is yes,” says Walter Thompson, a professor at Georgia State University who chairs the advisory board for the College’s  American Fitness Index.

The findings demonstrate that Americans can’t use weather as an excuse to be couch potatoes. “Minnesotans sure could use that as an excuse, but they don’t,” Thompson said in a telephone interview. It’s the third year in a row that Minneapolis has ranked No. 1 in the survey.

“What Minneapolis does so well – they are firm believers in the ‘if you build it, they will come’ attitude,” Thompson says. “They spend a lot of money on their parks. They spend $227 per capita on their parks.”

And that’s even knowing that snow is going to put the parks out of commission for many days of the year.

“They have five baseball diamonds per 10,000 inhabitants,” Thompson added. There are many dog parks, golf courses and playgrounds, as well as indoor recrreation centers with running tracks, basketball courts and gyms. “They make their parks inviting, they make their parks safe,” he added.

“So you can see they put their money where it needs to be to create the healthy environment.”

In contrast, Oklahoma City spends just $62 per capita on its parks. “That translates to fewer baseball diamonds, (fewer) parks, (fewer) playgrounds,” Thompson says.

“If you don’t provide the environment for people to exercise in, that is going to translate to lower personal health indicators,” Thompson said. And the states with lowest fitness levels have more people with diabetes, with obesity, and a higher percentage who smoke, he said.

For the study, the ACSM worked with the Indiana University School of Family Medicine using U.S. Census data, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, The Trust for the Public Land City Park Facts and data.

The CDC survey asked people how much they had exercised in the past month – the best way there is to estimate fitness without actually watching people, Thompson says.

Public policies are vital, says Thompson, who lives in Atlanta, ranked 21st in the survey. In 2008, Atlanta’s city government closed 22 recreation centers to save money. In 2010, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed started to reopen them. “He’s just about done it,” Thompson says. Atlanta ranked 14th in the index in 2008, fell to 15th in 2009 and 18th by 2011.

The findings fit right in with another survey – this one looking at senior health.  Again, Minnesota ranks at the top.

“Minnesota ranks first for senior health, followed by Vermont (2), New Hampshire (3), Massachusetts (4) and Iowa (5),” the  United Health Foundation says in its America’s Health Rankings Senior Report.

“The five least healthy states for senior health include Mississippi (50), followed by Oklahoma (49), Louisiana (48), West Virginia (47) and Arkansas (46).

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Published on Jan 31, 2013
Dr. Jonny Bowden discusses the role exercise and eating play in weight loss. He says the thought of exercising more and eating less is too simple. He describes how much more we’re learning about the topic and how that might lead to different ways of looking at weight loss.

Published on Jan 31, 2013
There are so many things wrong with the diets people use to try and lose weight. Dr. Jonny Bowden discusses some of the biggest mistakes people make in their diet and daily routine that may hinder them in their weight loss goals.


Aerobic Exercise Trumps Resistance Training for Weight and Fat Loss

Science Daily


The study, which appears Dec. 15, 2012, in the Journal of Applied Physiology, is the largest randomized trial to analyze changes in body composition from the three modes of exercise in overweight or obese adults without diabetes.

Aerobic exercise — including walking, running, and swimming — has been proven to be an effective way to lose weight. However, recent guidelines have suggested that resistance training, which includes weight lifting to build and maintain muscle mass, may also help with weight loss by increasing a person’s resting metabolic rate. Research has demonstrated health benefits for resistance training, such as improving glucose control, but studies on the effects of resistance training on fat mass have been inconclusive.

“Given that approximately two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight due to excess body fat, we want to offer clear, evidence-based exercise recommendations that will truly help people lose weight and body fat,” said Leslie H. Willis, MS, an exercise physiologist at Duke Medicine and the study’s lead author.

Researchers enrolled 234 overweight or obese adults in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three exercise training groups: resistance training (three days per week of weight lifting, three sets per day, 8-12 repetitions per set), aerobic training (approximately 12 miles per week), or aerobic plus resistance training (three days a week, three set per day, 8-12 repetitions per set for resistance training, plus approximately 12 miles per week of aerobic exercise).

The exercise sessions were supervised in order to accurately measure adherence among participants. Data from 119 people who completed the study and had complete body composition data were analyzed to determine the effectiveness of each exercise regimen.

The groups assigned to aerobic training and aerobic plus resistance training lost more weight than those who did just resistance training. The resistance training group actually gained weight due to an increase in lean body mass.

Aerobic exercise was also a more efficient method of exercise for losing body fat. The aerobic exercise group spent an average of 133 minutes a week training and lost weight, while the resistance training group spent approximately 180 minutes exercising a week without shedding pounds.

The combination exercise group, while requiring double the time commitment, provided a mixed result. The regimen helped participants lose weight and fat mass, but did not significantly reduce body mass nor fat mass over aerobic training alone. This group did notice the largest decrease in waist circumference, which may be attributed to the amount of time participants spent exercising.

Resting metabolic rate, which determines how many calories are burned while at rest, was not directly measured in this study. While theories suggest that resistance training can improve resting metabolic rates and therefore aid in weight loss, in this study, resistance training did not significantly decrease fat mass nor body weight irrespective of any change in resting metabolic rate that might have occurred.

“No one type of exercise will be best for every health benefit,” Willis added. “However, it might be time to reconsider the conventional wisdom that resistance training alone can induce changes in body mass or fat mass due to an increase in metabolism, as our study found no change.”

Duke researchers added that exercise recommendations are age-specific. For older adults experiencing muscle atrophy, studies have found resistance training to be beneficial. However, younger, healthy adults or those looking to lose weight would see better results doing aerobic training.

“Balancing time commitments against health benefits, our study suggests that aerobic exercise is the best option for reducing fat mass and body mass,” said Cris A. Slentz, PhD, a Duke exercise physiologist and study co-author. “It’s not that resistance training isn’t good for you; it’s just not very good at burning fat.”

In addition to Willis and Slentz, Duke study authors include Lori A. Bateman, Lucy W. Piner, Connie W. Bales, and William E. Kraus. East Carolina University study authors include A. Tamlyn Shields and Joseph A. Houmard.

The study was funded with a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (2R01-HL057354).

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Duke University Medical Center.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. L. H. Willis, C. A. Slentz, L. A. Bateman, A. T. Shields, L. W. Piner, C. W. Bales, J. A. Houmard, W. E. Kraus. Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2012; 113 (12): 1831 DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01370.2011