It’s true, even in Texas, where researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have found that among nearly 20,000 adults in their mid to late 40s, the most fit had a 37 percent lower risk of having a stroke after 65, compared with the least fit. HealthDay reports that the researchers analyzed 1999-2009 data from a study conducted by the Cooper Institute in Dallas, and used treadmill tests to measure heart and lung exercise capacity when participants were 45 to 50. What to do? The researchers recommend an exercise routine that includes aerobic exercise (such as jogging, swimming, walking or biking), plus strengthening exercise (such as free weights or strength-training machines).
Here’s the story: Researchers at McMaster University put 40 young men on a diet with 40 percent of the dietary energy they would normally consume, and also had them suffer through a month of hard exercise. As Science Daily reports, while all of the 40 were on a low calorie diet, half of the group was given more protein than the other half. The bottom line? All of the participants, by virtue of the demanding six-days-a-week exercise routines, got stronger, fitter, and generally were in much better shape, and neither group lost any muscle. But the higher protein group had a greater muscle gain, about 2.5 pounds, despite the lack of energy in their diet. The high-protein group also lost more weight–about 10.5 pounds compared to eight pounds for the low protein group. And no, the researchers do not recommend that anyone cut their calorie count by 40 percent.
Communication between the brain and the quadriceps is different in people who train by running long distances. That’s right; it’s quicker. We know this because a University of Kansas news release reports that researchers at the school measured muscle responses of five people who regularly run long distances, five who regularly lift weights and five sedentary who regularly do neither. The endurance trainers had taken part in a running program for at least three years, ran an average of 61 miles a week, and did not do any resistance training. The resistance trainers had consistently taken part in a weight-training program for at least four years. They took part in resistance training four to eight hours per week and reported doing at least one repetition of a back squat of twice their body mass. One reported doing a squat of 1.5 times his or her body weight, but none did aerobic activity such as swimming, jogging or cycling. The sedentary participants did not do any structured physical exercise for three years prior to the study. The researchers measured submaximal contraction and total force by having participants extend their leg, then exert more force, attempting to achieve from 40 to 70 percent of total force, which they could see represented in real time on a computer screen. Ready? The envelope please…The researchers found that the quadriceps muscle fibers of the endurance trainers were able to fire more rapidly than the strength trainers or the sedentary group. Why? More research is needed.
You live where? Florida? Yikes! That puts you in the bottom half of pack, when judged on time spent exercising per week. According to the Wall Street Journal’s state by state chart, compiled with 2014 data from the workout app MapMyFitness, Florida is number 32 on the state list, with an average workout of 62.3 minutes. For the record, about 43 percent of that time is spent running, 38 percent walking, and 18 percent cycling. That’s a long way from number one California, with an averate of 87.4 minutes, with 41 percent running, 40 percent walking, and 14 percent cycling. The Journal reports that the national average is 73.2 minutes of exercise a week, less than half the 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When it comes to running, Massachusetts takes with the title, with 37.5 minutes a week. See the big picture here.
It may be a little harder to breathe, but think how much better you’d look. Research conducted at the University of Navarra in Spain recently studied the health of 9,300 Spanish university graduates who were not overweight or obese at the start of the study. HealthDay reports that the subjects were divided into three groups based on their homes’ altitude: below 407 feet (low); 407 to 1496 feet (medium); and above 1496 feet (high). Ready? The envelope please…. After 8.5 years, the researchers found that, after accounting for other factors, such as diet and physical activity, study participants who lived at high a those who lived at high altitudes were 13 percent less likely to become overweight or obese than those who lived at low altitudes. HealthDay points out that while the study did find an association between altitude and weight, it wasn’t designed to show that living at a certain altitude can actually cause changes in weight.
Why do some people get fitter than others who do the same amount of exercise? The short answer, according to the New York Times health writer Gretchen Reynolds, is genes. Reynolds reports on research conducted at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, where scientists created two strains of rats that would or would not respond well to working out. The two types of rats were given identical treadmill workouts, which continued for two months. Unsurprisingly, Reynolds reports, the rats bred to respond well to running had increased the distance that they could run before tiring by about 40 percent, while, surprisingly, the other rats lost about two percent of their endurance. What’s up with that? When the researchers looked at the hearts of the rats, they found that the left ventricle of the “high responding” rats had grown bigger and stronger. And the others? Their hearts looked like they did before the exercise routine began. The researchers are convinced, as Reynolds says, that if hearts don’t adapt to the demands of exercise, then workouts will sap bodies, not strengthen them. When do we get to the gene part? Right now. When the researchers looked at the gene expression in the animals’ heart cells, they found more than 360 genes that were operating differently in the two groups of animals. The genes were calling the shots, and yes, humans have the same genes in our hearts.
First, the numbers: 13,949 men were given a treadmill test to determine cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). During an average 6.5 years, 1,310 of them were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 200 with lung cancer and 181 men with colorectal cancer. Researchers found that men with a high CRF in midlife had a 55 percent lower risk of lung cancer and a 44 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer compared to men with low CRF. And now the bad news: the same association was not seen between midlife CRF and prostate cancer. Why? Science Daily reports that the researchers don’t really know, but they speculate men with high CRF may be more prone to undergo preventive screenings and therefore have a greater opportunity to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Wait, there’s more: The study also found that high CRF in midlife was associated with a 32 percent lower risk for cancer death among men who developed lung, colorectal or prostate cancer at Medicare age compared with men with low CRF.
It turns out exercise isn’t just good for you: it’s also good for your spouse, which is also probably good for you. Futurity reports that researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed health and exercise data from 3,261 couples on visits that were six years apart. The envelope please…. The researchers found that when a wife met the American Heart Association’s recommended levels of exercise at the first appointment, her husband was 70 percent more likely to meet those levels six years later than those whose wives were less physically active. When a husband met recommended exercise levels, his wife was 40 percent more likely to meet the levels at the time of the followup. The American Heart Association recommends that adults exercise at moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorously for at least 75 minutes a week. Forty-five percent of husbands and 33 percent of wives in the study group met the recommendations at the first visit.
How much exercise does it take to cut the risk of early death? Not much, according to a study by researchers at the University of Cambridge. A news release reports that researchers at the school are convinced that a brisk 20-minute walk a day could do the trick. The researchers analyzed data from 334,161 men and women, measuring height, weight and waist circumference, and self-assessed levels of physical activity. A followup study done 12 years later found that the greatest reduction in risk of premature death occurred in the comparison between inactive and moderately inactive groups, and that doing exercise equivalent to just a 20-minute brisk walk each day – burning between 90 and 110 calories – can reduce the risk of premature death by between 16 to 30 percent. The impact was greatest for people of normal weight.
OK, maybe its not eternal youth, but it’s definitely prolonged youth. Gretchen Reynolds reports in the New York Times on research conducted at King’s College in London that compared the vitality of serious recreational cyclists to that of people the same age who are much less active. The recruits for the research project were 85 men and 41 women between 55 and 79 who bicycle regularly and had what’s described as “a high degree of fitness.” Reynolds reports that each volunteer was given an array of physical and cognitive tests to determine endurance capacity, muscular mass and strength, pedaling power, metabolic health, balance, memory function, bone density and reflexes. They also took a so-called Timed Up and Go test, requiring them to stand up from a chair without using his or her arms, walk about 10 feet, returns and sits. Ready? The envelope please….Reynolds tells us that “on almost all measures, their physical functioning remained fairly stable across the decades and was much closer to that of young adults than of people their age. As a group, even the oldest cyclists had younger people’s levels of balance, reflexes, metabolic health and memory ability.” Wait, there’s more: Their Up and Go results were “well within the norm reported for healthy young adults.”