Archive for the tag - research

Run More, Live Longer.

John JeffersonWith more than 600 muscles in the human body, one thing is clear: We are meant to move! And thanks to a new study published in the American College of Cardiology, we’re learning how important movement – and running, in particular – is to a longer life.

Over the course of 15 years, researchers examined more than 55,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 to determine whether or not there’s a relationship between running and longevity. During the study, 3,413 participants died including 1,217 deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease.

By crunching the data, researchers discovered that runners have an overall 30% lower risk of death from all causes. When it comes to cardiovascular disease, runners were 45% less likely to die compared to non-runners. On average, runners lived an astounding three years longer than non runners. Individuals benefited from running regardless of age, sex, body mass index, health conditions, smoking or alcohol use.

Moreover, researchers found that even slow or less frequent runners still enjoyed benefits. Runners who ran less than one hour per week experienced the same mortality benefits as runners who ran more than three hours. In other words, more running isn’t necessarily better from the perspective of longevity.

If you want to live longer, it’s time to get off your computer or away from your smartphone. Give yourself the free and wonderful gift of a good run.

Not Motivated to Workout? Blame Your Genes.

fitness-and-weight-loss-motivation-for-menAll of us understand the importance of exercise. And yet, the motivation to workout varies dramatically from individual to individual and from gym bunny to couch potato. Can these discrepancies be explained entirely by environmental factors, or is there something else at play – like genetics?

Last year, an article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition set out to answer that question. In the study, researchers examined daily physical activity and sedentary behavior over a large group of fraternal and identical twins. After crunching the data, researchers determined that up to half of the variance in physical activity was explained by genetic factors. In other words, innate biological processes might be driving some of our daily physical activity.

But this research shouldn’t serve as an excuse for inactivity. For one, more research is needed and there’s a lot we still don’t understand. Second, blaming your mom or your dad for bad genes won’t get you anywhere.

Even if you lack motivation and/or are predisposed to a more sedentary lifestyle, your fate hasn’t been sealed. Sure, additional structure and support can help – but you still have the power to make decisions for yourself and to work towards fitness goals. Don’t make excuses; understand your challenges, implement solutions and make results.

Eating Healthy is More Affordable Than You Think.

Healthy-Snacks-Looking-DeliciousA common excuse for eating unhealthy foods is that the more nutritious options are too expensive.

As I’ve said before, the excuse is untrue; it’s a myth. It’s totally possible to eat healthy without spending a lot of money. In fact, I even made a video about it.

A new study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest take things a step further. According to the study, fruits and vegetables are not only more nutritious than packaged snacks and side dishes, but also more affordable.

For the study, 20 snacks and 19 side dishes were analyzed. After the numbers were crunched, the study found that the average price per fruit or vegetable snack was $0.34. The price per unhealthy packaged snack was nearly double at $0.67. The nutritious vegetable side dishes averaged $0.27 while packaged side dishes averaged $0.31.

Some examples from the study:

  • Half-cup of apple: $0.26 / One Fruit by the Foot: $0.45
  • Half-cup of grapes: $0.46 / Package of M&M candies: $0.75
  • Half-cup of sweet potato: $0.31 / Stovetop stuffing: $0.38
  • Half-cup of sliced cucumber: $0.14 / An ounce of Lay’s Potato Chips: $0.27

In other words, this study challenges the notion that eating healthy is expensive. In fact, the opposite is often true. And since most Americans aren’t getting their recommended servings of fruits or vegetables, all of us would be well served – in the waistline and the wallet – to replace some unhealthy packaged foods with healthier alternatives.

Unhealthy foods also come with a hidden, long-term cost. For instance, medical expenses. Obesity accounts for 21% of U.S. healthcare costs. In fact, obese people incur annual medical costs that are $2,741 higher than non-obese people.

Of course, to be fair, fruits and vegetables often have a shorter shelf life than packaged options like M&M candies or potato chips. But remember that frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option – and are often cheaper and even more nutrient dense (as they’re picked and frozen at the peak of freshness). If you want the fruits and veggies to last longer, buy frozen!

Does this study jive with your own person experience? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

Is Hot Yoga Safe?

09-015779311It’s getting hot in herre!

And that’s exactly the case for hot yoga aficionados. For a hot-style yoga class, yogis endure temperatures of 90 – 105 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels above 40%. By the end of the session, participants are literally dripping in sweat – and it’s made many people wonder about safety. Does hot yoga result in dehydration, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke?

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) enlisted the help of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse to get some answers.

For the June 2013 study, researchers recruited 20 healthy participants ages 19 – 44. After establishing baseline fitness levels, each participant swallowed a core body temperature sensor and then experienced a 60-minute yoga class at 70 degrees. Throughout the class, temperature readings, heart rate and perceived exertion levels were recorded.

Within 24 hours, participants then experienced a hot-style yoga class at 92 degrees and with more humidity. The same poses and same yoga instructor were used – and temperature, heart rate and exertion levels were again recorded.

Though the participants sweated much more during hot yoga, body temperature and heart rate levels remained the same. Though the participants’ vital signs were nearly the same, the hot yoga class was perceived to be more challenging. According to fitness guidelines, the intensity would still be categorized as light exercise.

The bottom line: Hot-style yoga is not dangerous. For heat-related complications to be imminent, internal body temperatures must exceed 104 degrees – and no participants came close to that threshold. However, participants must be mindful to stay hydrated before, during and after the class.

Have you ever tried hot yoga? Do you love it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Study: Health Benefits of Taking Stairs Similar to Going to Gym?

130129100118-largeResearchers from Oregon State University studied 6,000 American adults and found that a generally active lifestyle (rather than structured exercise at the gym) can be just as beneficial in improving health outcomes – including preventing metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Instead of exercising at the gym, participants found ways to make movement a part of their daily life. For example, participants could take the stairs instead of an elevator. Or walk somewhere nearby instead of driving. Use a push lawn mower instead of a sitting mower. Pace around or do jumping jacks during a commercial break.

According to Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study, these simple additions of movement have a large and measurable effect on overall health:

We encourage people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available. For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone, use this opportunity to get in some activity by pacing around while talking… People get it in their minds, if I don’t get that 30 minutes, I might as well not exercise at all. Our results really challenge that perception and give people meaningful, realistic options for meeting the physical activity guidelines.

In fact, researchers found that 43% of the people who participated in these short bouts of movement were able to meet the government’s guidelines for recommended exercise – compared to 10% of Americans, overall.

This news is especially exciting for the many people who claim that there isn’t enough time to exercise. Everyone can make a few seconds or a few minutes to include more movement in those activities that we’d be doing anyway. And because those extra minutes translate to real improvements in overall health, there’s real reason to do so.

Does Exercising Before Breakfast Burn More Fat?

morning-exercise-fat-burnThe annoying thing about research articles is that they sometimes contradict each other. It doesn’t happen often – but when it does, the discrepancies tend to be pretty frustrating.

A few years back, I came across a study published in Strength and Conditioning which concluded that the body burns the same amount of fat regardless of hunger. Moreover, the report also found that you’re more likely to lose muscle when exercising in a depleted state. In other words, exercising before breakfast after a full night of fasting isn’t beneficial.

Today, I came across a study that has concluded just the opposite. According to researchers from Northumbria University, exercisers can burn 20% more fat when exercising before breakfast on an empty stomach. One researcher noted:

Exercise increases the total amount of energy we expend and a greater proportion of this energy comes from existing fat if the exercise is performed after an overnight fast.

So who are we to believe?

Personally, I’ve found that exercising on an empty stomach limits my performance. If I’m hungry and feeling depleted, I’m not able to push myself in the same way – and thus the intensity of my exercise suffers. Even if exercising on an empty stomach provides a slight advantage in terms of fat burned, I’m quite certain this benefit is outweighed by my lackluster performance.

I know that contradictory research can be a point of frustration. But let’s remember that there are some things about which everyone is in agreement – like that regular exercise is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. My advice would be to not get too caught up in the tiny details. Whether you exercise before breakfast, after breakfast or anytime thereafter, what really matters is that you are exercising.

Period.

New Study: Look Forward to Old Age.

Lots to be happy about. More than 25 years ago, John Jolliff and Des Smith were the first gay couple to legally tie the knot in a civil union in New Zealand.

A new study, led by Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, analyzed lifestyle and health patterns in more than 10,000 people in the UK and United States.

The study had many interesting findings. For one, it found that people become happier as the move into older age – despite their deteriorating bodies and any weight gain. Researchers hypothesize that happiness levels follow something of a “U” curve, bottoming out in the mid-40s. After that, for whatever reasons, people tend to get much happier.

It’s unclear why this increase in happiness happens. Maybe older people have better coping mechanisms for dealing with hardship? Maybe older folks they put less pressure on themselves to perform in professional settings? Or maybe, with age, we learn not to sweat the small stuff. Whatever the reason, old populations have much higher happiness levels than their middle-aged counterparts.

The study also looked at exercise – and there was an interesting divide between American men and women. For women, low levels of physical exercise didn’t seem to affect mental well-being. For men, on the other hand, a lack of exercise had a large negative impact on their mental quality of life. But before women discount exercise entirely, it’s worth noting that the physical benefits of exercise – for both sexes – are substantial.

In addition, the study looked at the variable of sleep. Participants that slept, on average, between six and eight hours tended to have better physical and mental health scores than participants who slept less than six or more than eight.

Lastly, researchers found that wealthier US participants reported better mental and physical quality of life. This wasn’t true for UK participants. Researchers speculate that this may be due to universal health care in the UK – which could have a leveling factor.

What’s the takeaway? Look forward to old age, exercise and sleep well.

Were you surprised by any of the findings? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Manage Emotional Eating.

Emotional eaters reach for food not when they’re hungry, but rather in reaction to what they’re feeling. Emotional eating may be triggered by sadness, anger, anxiousness or any other feeling – and food is used as the pacifier or cooping mechanism.

When we talk about reducing mindless snacking and controlling the amount of food we eat, it’s common to hear tips about hiding unhealthy foods or storing them outside of reach. And while these tips are helpful, they’re treating the symptoms and not the actual problem.

A new study by UCSF researchers, published online in the Journal of Obesity, looks at the relationship between mindful eating, stress reduction techniques and overeating. While the study was conducted only with women, I’m sure that men can learn from the findings as well.

The participants were divided into to groups. The first group was the control. The second group underwent a series of classes to help the women better manage their stress and understand their eating habits. The women learned meditation techniques and how to be more aware of their eating by recognizing bodily sensations like hunger, fullness and taste satisfaction.

Not only did the second group of women who received the training decrease their stress (researchers were able to measure drops in the stress hormone cortisol), but they also lost the most weight.

The lead researcher reported:

In this study we were trying to cultivate people’s ability to pay attention to their sensations of hunger, fullness and taste satisfaction as a guide for limiting how much they eat. We tried to reduce eating in response to emotions or external cues that typically drive overeating behavior.

She went on to note that additional research is still needed.

But this study does point to the importance of managing the triggers that lead to overeating – rather than just trying to reduce the eating itself. It’s certainly food for thought.