Contrary to some opinions, and to the findings of a well-known 2014 study published in the journal Science suggesting that running made mice forget things, a new study has found that there is no connection between running and the loss of memories. A news release from researchers at Texas A&M reports that researchers at the school did basically the same experiment as the 2014 study, but they used rats instead of mice, because rats are more like humans physiologically. This time, the researchers found that rats who ran further had much greater neurogenesis in their hippocampus (growth of new neurons in the part of the brain that holds memories), and all rats who had access to a wheel (and therefore ran at least some), had greater neurogenesis than the sedentary group. On an average, they ran about 48 miles in four weeks, and neuron formation doubled in the hippocampus of these animals. They also found that despite differing levels of increased neurogenesis, both moderate runners and brisk runners (those who ran further than average) showed the same ability as the sedentary runners to recall the task they learned before they began to exercise. This means even a large amount of running (akin to people who perform significant amount of exercise on a daily basis) doesn’t interfere with the recall of memory.
When it comes to strengthening bones, running has it over cycling, according to researchers at the Istituto Ortopedico Galeazzi in Milan. Science Daily reports that the scientists measured two vital bone constituents as well as hormones associated with energy regulation in two groups of athletes: endurance cyclists and marathon runners. Here’s where it gets complicated: the researchers found that ultramarathon runners had higher levels of glucagon (indicating a greater demand for energy) and lower levels of leptin and insulin when finishing the race. The falling levels of insulin were linked to similarly falling levels of both osteocalcin and P1NP ( related to bone health)– suggesting that athletes may be diverting energy from bone formation to power the high-energy demands of their metabolism. But wait. The ultramarathon runners had higher P1NP levels at rest compared to controls, suggesting that they may divert energy from bones during racing but have a net gain in bone health in the long-term. Confused? Here’s a quote from Giovanni Lombardi, lead author of the study: “The every-day man and woman need to exercise moderately to maintain health. However, our findings suggest that those at risk of weaker bones might want to take up running rather than swimming or cycling.”
Want to know how to avoid some running injuries? Step lightly. That’s the advice coming through New York Times health columnist Gretchen Reynold’s report on research conducted at Harvard Medical School. The researchers followed 249 female runners –all heel-strikers– for two years, recording their injuries and trying to correlate injuries with their impact loads, meaning the force with which their feet hit the ground. Reynolds tells us that during the two-year period, more than 100 runners were injured badly enough to seek medical advice, and 40 others had minor injuries. Then there were the 21 runners who had no injuries. In fact, those 21 runners reported that they had never had a running-related injury. What’s up with that? When the researchers looked further, they found that the never injured runners, as a group, landed more lightly than those runner who had been injured. OK, what to do? Reynolds passes on advice from the study’s lead author: to land more lightly, try taking smaller strides, landing closer to the mid-foot; and/or try increasing your cadence.
For years, the Wall Street Journal tells us, most marathoners thought it wise to limit the number of races run per year to two. Now, however, comes a new school of thought that suggests that running more could be just fine, and good for your finish time. The paper reports that so far in 2015, 15.8 precent of marathon finishers in races tracked by the Active Network ran more than one marathon this year, compared with just 2.3 percent in 2010. Marathon Maniacs, the Journal reports, a Tacoma, Wash.-based club that requires members to complete two marathons within 16 days or three marathons within 90 days now has nearly 12,000 members and is gaining roughly 1,000 a year. The big question is how long does it take to recover from a competitive 26-mile run. To answer the question, the Journal cites a Danish study from 2007 that tested muscle capacity before and after a marathon, and found that five days after the race it remained 12 percent lower than before the competition. It also points us to a 2011 study of 22 ultramarathoners before and after a 100-mile race showed that both their strength and the biological characteristics of their muscles returned to normal within 16 days. The Journal reports that the change of mind has some qualifiers: people are are not in top physical shape, and even those with joint problems, should minimize the number of races run.
Itchy eyes and sniffles no doubt seem insignificant to someone who’s pushing her body to run 26 miles, but researchers at Northumbria University are convinced that it’s a mistake for marathoners to ignore such symptoms. Why? Because, they warn, allergies that manifest themselves in itchy eyes and runny noses can lead to exercise induced asthma and inflammations of the airways. ScienceDaily reports on research involving 150 runners in the London marathon, 61 percent of whom reported nose and eye allergy symptoms. Blood tests revealed that 35 percent of those runners were suffering from an allergy and 14 percent were allergic to tree pollen. Only 8 percent were taking allergy medication. That, the researchers say, is a disturbingly low number. For runners who suspect that they have allergies, the researchers have the following advice:
- Consider using a corticosteroid nasal spray or a non-sedating antihistamine as a preventative measure. But be aware that it can take up to two weeks for the treatment to work fully (and avoid taking non-sedating antihistamines around competitions).
- Know your training and competition environment. Find out about typical pollen counts for the location and time of year. Tree pollen for example is usually released in the spring, grass pollen in late spring and early summer, and weed pollens in late summer into autumn.
- Try to minimize exposure to pollens by running when the pollen count is low (cooler and cloudy days are associated with lower pollen counts compared to warmer, drier days). Shower and wash your hair after outside exercise to get rid of residual pollen. Change your clothing and rinse your nose with salt-water washes after exercise.
- Remember that asthmatic athletes take medication regularly and according to instruction. Talk to your GP about whether you might need additional medication or to change your medication if you are training or competing in high pollen or in polluted environments.
It’s not true, as is often said, that people (yes, women) with wide hips make lousy runners. Now comes a researcher at Boston University whose research suggests that wide-hipsters can run just as well as narrow-hipsters. A BU Research story reports that scientists at the school recruited 38 undergraduate men and women, and had them walk and run on a treadmill while gauging how hard they were working by measuring their oxygen consumption. The runners’ motion was tracked by eight cameras trained on infrared markers attached to the participants’ hips, knees, ankles, thighs, and shanks, and the researchers estimated the subjects’ hip width using the results from the infrared trackers. The researchers expected to find that people with wider hips run and walk less efficiently than those with narrow ones, but that wasn’t what they found. In fact, they found no connection at all between hip width and efficiency: wide-hipped runners moved just as well as their narrow-hipped peers.
Why do women like long distance runners? Don’t ask a woman; ask a biological anthropologist, specifically, a biological anthropologist at the University of Cambridge, where researchers think the reason is deep in our past: better runners make better hunters, and better hunters are nicer people. A University of Cambridge news release reports that researchers at the school studied marathon runners, using finger length as a marker for hormone exposure, and found that people who experienced higher testosterone in the womb are also better at distance running – a correlation particularly strong in men, although also present in women. So what? The researchers believe that the finding demonstrates that males with greater “reproductive potential” from an evolutionary standpoint are better distance runners and suggests that females may have selected for such athletic endurance when mating during our hunter-gatherer past, perhaps because ‘persistence hunting’ – exhausting prey by tirelessly tracking it – was a vital way to get food. Wait, there’s more. Because previous studies have shown that those exposed to more prenatal testosterone have a longer ring finger (4th digit) in comparison to their index finger (2nd digit), the researchers analyzed 542 runners (439 men; 103 women) at the Robin Hood half marathon in Nottingham by photocopying hands and taking run times and other key details just after runners crossed the line. The envelope please…They found that the 10 percent of men with the most masculine digit ratios were, on average, 24 minutes and 33 seconds faster than the 10 percent of men with the least masculine digit ratios. The correlation was also found in women, but was much more pronounced in men, suggesting a stronger evolutionary selection in men for running ability. The 10 percent of women with the most masculine digit ratios were, on average, 11 minutes and 59 seconds faster than the 10 percent with the least masculine.
Yes, Virginia, jogging is good for your health, but it may be possible in the case of jogging to have too much of a good thing. A new Danish study that followed 1,100 healthy joggers and 413 sedentary people for more than 12 years suggests that people least likely to die are those who jog 1 to 2.4 hours per week, with no more than three running days per week. HealthDay reports that the study found that strenuous joggers, –those who jogged at the fastest pace, were as likely to die during that time period as the sedentary non-joggers. Wait, there’s more, and it’s confusing: HealthDay also mentions another study, conducted at Iowa State University and involving 13,000 runners, that found a lower risk of death for joggers with the highest running time and frequency — nearly three hours a week and at least six times a week — compared with non-runners. What does it all mean? More research is needed.
It’s true that this study didn’t find an association between running and getting Alzheimer’s, but that’s because the researchers didn’t look for one. What they did look for was an association between running and death from Alzheimer’s, and they found a big one: people who ran more than 15.3 miles a week had a 40 percent risk reduction in death from Alzheimer’s, and those who ran between 7.7 and 15.3 miles had a 25 percent risk reduction. Wait, there’s more: walking far enough to expend the energy equivalent of 15.3-mile run was also linked with risk reduction. How do they know? Because researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory studied data from 153,000 runners and walkers who have been participating in the National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Studies, following the runners for an average of 12 years and tracking the number who died of Alzheimer’s disease. Read more from HealthDay.
No, it’s not funny. Running, or playing many active sports, is hard on women with large breasts. Men know this how? Because women like Caren Chesler have the forthrightness to write about the women’s issue in the New York Times. Chesler (38DD) writes from experience, and with humor, about a problem that many women athletes face whenever they take the field. And the sportswear industry is not helpful. Chesler reports that when a large-breasted friend searched for a bra that she could wear while running, she was advised by a salesperson to find another form of exercise. Wrong answer. Chesler notes that one problem, chafing, can sometimes be improved with a lubricant, like Bodyglide, applied in the spots where the skin and fabric rub together. “But,” she writes, “for well-endowed athletes, a lubricant can compound the problem by creating additional moisture. When you have large breasts, moisture in the fold under your breasts can lead to yeasty rashes.” In the end, Chesler offers a few solutions and small hope. “Perhaps one day” she writes, “a sports apparel maker will come up with the perfect sports bra for well-endowed athletes. Until then, I will just keep taping and binding and applying a couple of well-placed bandages. And, it helps to know that I’m not alone, that there is a sisterhood of large-breasted women like me out there who still find ways to run, skate, twist and tackle. Because for now, that may be the strongest support I’m going to find.” Read more from Caren Chesler in the New York Times.