Regular exercise, stress can both make a big difference in lupus

Daily activity appears to cut kidney damage from inflammation -- and stress does the opposite

September 13, 2017

Ohio State University

Waking up in the morning with the joint pain, swelling and stiffness that accompanies lupus doesn't exactly inspire a workout. But research in mice and a related pilot study in humans are showing how regular activity and stress reduction could lead to better health in the long run.

 

But research in mice and a related pilot study in humans are showing how regular activity and stress reduction could lead to better health in the long run.

 

In the mouse model of lupus, researchers from The Ohio State University found that moderate exercise (45 minutes of treadmill walking per day) significantly decreased inflammatory damage to the kidneys. While 88 percent of non-exercised mice had severe damage, only 45 percent of the treadmill-exercised animals did.

 

And the researchers think they know why: Several biomarkers known to drive inflammation plummeted in the exercise group.

 

To take the research a step further, the team wanted to see what happened to those same biomarkers in lupus mice exposed to a well-established animal model of repeated social disruption known to induce psychological stress -- in particular, daily encounters with a stronger "bully" mouse.

 

The results were almost exactly the opposite -- the inflammatory markers shot up, which caused substantial kidney damage in the mice.

 

"If we observe similar results in human studies, this could mean that stress reduction and a daily regimen of physical therapy should be considered as interventional strategies to be used alongside current medical treatment," said study senior author Nicholas Young, a research scientist in rheumatology and immunology at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center.

 

"We may have started to characterize an effective way to reduce inflammation and help people with lupus aside from conventional drug therapy," he said.

 

Previous studies have supported the idea that physical activity is good for lupus patients, but hard scientific evidence explaining why has been scarce, he said.

 

Because of that, daily moderate exercise and stress management often aren't strongly emphasized in the care of lupus patients because their roles in controlling inflammation aren't well understood, Young said.

 

"What you hear a lot from patients is that they're hurting and they don't want to get out of bed in the morning and don't feel like exercising," Young said. "One of the largest hurdles to get over is that it may not seem intuitive that movement will make you feel better, but it does."

 

The study conducted in mice appeared in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.

 

To see if these results might apply to humans, Young's research team enrolled a group of lupus patients into a daily tai chi program in a small pilot study. The classes focused on both moderate exercise and stress reduction. Initial results show a significant decrease in some of the same inflammatory biomarkers identified in the mouse experiments and provided enough supporting evidence that the researchers are seeking funding for a larger human trial, Young said.

 

The preliminary results of the tai chi intervention, called the Stress Moderation Impacting Lupus with Exercise (SMILE) study, were published in the abstract supplement for the annual European League Against Rheumatism conference in June and will be presented at the American College of Rheumatology meeting in November.

 

"We've shown on a molecular level that both exercise and stress can impact inflammation by regulation of the immune system, which may provide a unique opportunity to help people suffering from the chronic inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases like lupus," Young said.

 

"If we find consistent benefits in a large group of people with lupus and can standardize a specific regimen, you could almost imagine a prescription for exercise and stress reduction."

 

Young said that the research findings prompt him to wonder about the potential for similar exercise-induced inflammatory changes in other diseases that affect the joints, including arthritis and gout. Ongoing work in his laboratory will be examining these conditions as well, he said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170913192955.htm

Light activity every day keeps disability at bay

April 30, 2014

Science Daily/Northwestern University

Pushing a shopping cart or a vacuum doesn't take a lot of effort, but enough of this sort of light physical activity every day can help people with or at risk of knee arthritis avoid developing disabilities as they age, according to a new study. It is known that the more time people spend in moderate or vigorous activities, the less likely they are to develop disability, but this is the first study to show that spending more time in light activities can help prevent disability, too.

 

It is known that the more time people spend in moderate or vigorous activities, the less likely they are to develop disability, but this is the first study to show that spending more time in light activities can help prevent disability, too.

 

"Our findings provide encouragement for adults who may not be candidates to increase physical activity intensity due to health limitations," said Dorothy Dunlop, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Even among those who did almost no moderate activity, the more light activity they did, the less likely they were to develop disability."

 

Results of the study were published April 29 in the British Medical Journal.

 

The scientists identified a group of almost 1,700 adults, ages 45 to 79, from the Osteoarthritis Initiative study who were free of disability but were at elevated risk for developing it because they had knee osteoarthritis or other risk factors for knee osteoarthritis, such as obesity.

 

Knee osteoarthritis commonly leads to disability, preventing people from engaging in activities essential to independent living and quality of life, such as dressing, bathing, walking across a room or making telephone calls, managing money and grocery shopping. Two-thirds of obese adults are expected to develop knee osteoarthritis during their lifetime.

 

To track the amount and intensity of physical activity these at-risk people engaged in every day, scientists had them wear an accelerometer during waking hours for about a week. The device is worn around the hip and measures the intensity of movement. The data collected reveals how much time is spent in vigorous, moderate or light activities.

 

Two years after collecting the results from the accelerometer, participants were surveyed and asked about the development of disabilities. As expected, more time spent in moderate or vigorous activity was associated with lower reports of disabilities, but researchers were pleased to find that greater time spent in light intensity activities also was related to fewer disabilities, even after accounting for time spent in moderate activities.

 

Those who spent more than four hours per day doing light physical activity had more than a 30 percent reduction in the risk for developing disability compared to those spending only three hours a day in light activity (the least average number of hours collected in the study).

 

The findings controlled for time spent in moderate or vigorous physical activity and other predictors of disability, both demographic and health factors.

 

"We were delighted to see that more time spent during the day, simply moving your body, even at a light intensity, may reduce disability," Dunlop said. "Now people with health problems or physical limitations, who cannot increase the intensity of their activity, have a starting place in the effort to stay independent."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140430121116.htm

Physical activity keeps hippocampus healthy those at risk for Alzheimer's disease

April 23, 2014

Science Daily/University of Maryland

A study of older adults at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease shows that moderate physical activity may protect brain health and stave off shrinkage of the hippocampus- the brain region responsible for memory and spatial orientation that is attacked first in Alzheimer's disease. Dr. J. Carson Smith, a kinesiology researcher in the University of Maryland School of Public Health who conducted the study, says that while all of us will lose some brain volume as we age, those with an increased genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease typically show greater hippocampal atrophy over time. The findings are published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

 

"The good news is that being physically active may offer protection from the neurodegeneration associated with genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Smith suggests. "We found that physical activity has the potential to preserve the volume of the hippocampus in those with increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, which means we can possibly delay cognitive decline and the onset of dementia symptoms in these individuals. Physical activity interventions may be especially potent and important for this group."

 

Dr. Smith and colleagues, including Dr. Stephen Rao from the Cleveland Clinic, tracked four groups of healthy older adults ages 65-89, who had normal cognitive abilities, over an 18-month period and measured the volume of their hippocampus (using structural magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI) at the beginning and end of that time period. The groups were classified both for low or high Alzheimer's risk (based on the absence or presence of the apolipoprotein E epsilon 4 allele) and for low or high physical activity levels.

 

Of all four groups studied, only those at high genetic risk for Alzheimer's who did not exercise experienced a decrease in hippocampal volume (3%) over the 18-month period. All other groups, including those at high risk for Alzheimer's but who were physically active, maintained the volume of their hippocampus.

 

"This is the first study to look at how physical activity may impact the loss of hippocampal volume in people at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease," says Dr. Kirk Erickson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. "There are no other treatments shown to preserve hippocampal volume in those that may develop Alzheimer's disease. This study has tremendous implications for how we may intervene, prior to the development of any dementia symptoms, in older adults who are at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease."

 

Individuals were classified as high risk for Alzheimer's if a DNA test identified the presence of a genetic marker -- having one or both of the apolipoprotein E-epsilon 4 allele (APOE-e4 allele) on chromosome 19 -- which increases the risk of developing the disease. Physical activity levels were measured using a standardized survey, with low activity being two or fewer days/week of low intensity activity, and high activity being three or more days/week of moderate to vigorous activity.

 

"We know that the majority of people who carry the APOE-e4 allele will show substantial cognitive decline with age and may develop Alzheimer's disease, but many will not. So, there is reason to believe that there are other genetic and lifestyle factors at work," Dr. Smith says. "Our study provides additional evidence that exercise plays a protective role against cognitive decline and suggests the need for future research to investigate how physical activity may interact with genetics and decrease Alzheimer's risk."

 

Dr. Smith has previously shown that a walking exercise intervention for patients with mild cognitive decline improved cognitive function by improving the efficiency of brain activity associated with memory. He is planning to conduct a prescribed exercise intervention in a population of healthy older adults with genetic and other risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and to measure the impact on hippocampal volume and brain function.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423102746.htm

 

Regular aerobic exercise boosts memory area of brain in older women

April 8, 2014

Science Daily/BMJ-British Medical Journal

Regular aerobic exercise seems to boost the size of the area of the brain (hippocampus) involved in verbal memory and learning among women whose intellectual capacity has been affected by age, indicates a small study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

 

The hippocampus has become a focus of interest in dementia research because it is the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning, but it is very sensitive to the effects of aging and neurological damage.

 

The researchers tested the impact of different types of exercise on the hippocampal volume of 86 women who said they had mild memory problems, known as mild cognitive impairment -- and a common risk factor for dementia.

 

All the women were aged between 70 and 80 years old and were living independently at home.

 

Roughly equal numbers of them were assigned to either twice weekly hour long sessions of aerobic training (brisk walking); or resistance training, such as lunges, squats, and weights; or balance and muscle toning exercises, for a period of six months.

 

The size of their hippocampus was assessed at the start and the end of the six month period by means of an MRI scan, and their verbal memory and learning capacity was assessed before and afterward using a validated test (RAVLT).

 

Only 29 of the women had before and after MRI scans, but the results showed that the total volume of the hippocampus in the group who had completed the full six months of aerobic training was significantly larger than that of those who had lasted the course doing balance and muscle toning exercises.

 

No such difference in hippocampal volume was seen in those doing resistance training compared with the balance and muscle toning group.

 

However, despite an earlier finding in the same sample of women that aerobic exercise improved verbal memory, there was some evidence to suggest that an increase in hippocampal volume was associated with poorer verbal memory.

 

This suggests that the relationship between brain volume and cognitive performance is complex, and requires further research, say the authors.

 

But at the very least, aerobic exercise seems to be able to slow the shrinkage of the hippocampus and maintain the volume in a group of women who are at risk of developing dementia, they say.

 

And they recommend regular aerobic exercise to stave off mild cognitive decline, which is especially important, given the mounting evidence showing that regular exercise is good for cognitive function and overall brain health, and the rising toll of dementia.

 

Worldwide, one new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds, with the number of those afflicted set to rise to more than 115 million by 2050, they point out.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140408213545.htm

Running, cardio activities in young adulthood preserves thinking in middle age

April 2, 2014

Science Daily/American Academy of Neurology (AAN)

 

Young adults who run or participate in other cardio fitness activities may preserve their memory and thinking skills in middle age, according to a new study published in the April 2, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Middle age was defined as ages 43 to 55.

"Many studies show the benefits to the brain of good heart health," said study author David R. Jacobs, Jr, PhD, with the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. "This is one more important study that should remind young adults of the brain health benefits of cardio fitness activities such as running, swimming, biking or cardio fitness classes."

Cardiorespiratory fitness is a measure of how well your body transports oxygen to your muscles, and how well your muscles are able to absorb the oxygen during exercise.

For the study, 2,747 healthy people with an average age of 25 underwent treadmill tests the first year of the study and then again 20 years later. Cognitive tests taken 25 years after the start of the study measured verbal memory, psychomotor speed (the relationship between thinking skills and physical movement) and executive function.

For the treadmill test, which was similar to a cardiovascular stress test, participants walked or ran as the speed and incline increased until they could not continue or had symptoms such as shortness of breath. At the first test, participants lasted an average of 10 minutes on the treadmill. Twenty years later, that number decreased by an average of 2.9 minutes. For every additional minute people completed on the treadmill at the first test, they recalled 0.12 more words correctly on the memory test of 15 words and correctly replaced 0.92 more numbers with meaningless symbols in the test of psychomotor speed 25 years later, even after adjusting for other factors such as smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol.

People who had smaller decreases in their time completed on the treadmill test 20 years later were more likely to perform better on the executive function test than those who had bigger decreases. Specifically, they were better able to correctly state ink color (for example, for the word "yellow" written in green ink, the correct answer was "green").

"These changes were significant, and while they may be modest, they were larger than the effect from one year of aging," Jacobs said. "Other studies in older individuals have shown that these tests are among the strongest predictors of developing dementia in the future. One study showed that every additional word remembered on the memory test was associated with an 18-percent decrease in the risk of developing dementia after 10 years."

"These findings are likely to help us earlier identify and consequently prevent or treat those at high risk of developing dementia," Jacobs said.

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402162333.htm

Positive memories of exercise spur future workouts

March 17, 2014

Science Daily/University of New Hampshire

Getting motivated to exercise can be a challenge, but new research shows that simply remembering a positive memory about exercise may be just what it takes to get on the treadmill. This is the first study to explore how positive memories can influence future workouts, and underscores the power of memory's directive influence in a new domain with practical applications: exercise behaviors.

 

"This study underscores the power of memory's directive influence in a new domain with practical applications: exercise behaviors. These results provide the first experimental evidence that autobiographical memory activation can be an effective tool in motivating individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles," researchers Mathew Biondolillo, a doctoral student in psychology at UNH, and David Pillemer, Dr. Samuel E. Paul Professor of Developmental Psychology at UNH wrote.

 

The new research is presented in the recent article "Using memories to motivate future behavior: An experimental exercise intervention," in the journal Memory.

 

The researchers examined the effects of remembering past exercise experience on college students' subsequent exercise intentions and behaviors. Researchers asked about 150 students to recall either a positive or negative memory that would increase their motivation to exercise; other students were not asked to recall a motivational memory (the control group). The researchers then surveyed the students one week later to see if they reported an increase in exercise.

 

The researchers found that students who remembered a positive exercise memory reported significantly higher levels of subsequent exercise than those who were not asked to recall a memory about exercise. The researchers also found that students who were asked to recall a negative exercise memory also reported exercising more than the control group, although less than the group that recalled a positive exercise memory.

 

"Without explicit direction or encouragement, our sample of college students, amidst the innumerable distractions afforded by life at a large, public university, increased their reported exercise activities from their habitual levels," the researchers said.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140317095837.htm

Lower IQ and poorer fitness in teen years increase risk of early-onset dementia

March 10, 2014

Science Daily/University of Gothenburg

 

Men who at the age of 18 years have poorer cardiovascular fitness and/or a lower IQ more often suffer from dementia before the age of 60. This is shown in a recent study encompassing more than one million Swedish men.

In several extensive studies, researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy of Gothenburg University have previously analyzed Swedish men's conscription results and were able to show a correlation between cardiovascular fitness as a teenager and health problems in later life.

Increased risk for early-onset dementia

In their latest study, based on data from 1.1 million young Swedish men, the Gothenburg researcher team shows that those with poorer cardiovascular fitness and/or lower IQ in their teenage years more often suffer from early-onset dementia.

"Previous studies have shown the correlation between cardiovascular fitness and the risk of dementia in old age. Now, for the first time, we can show that the increased risk also applies to early-onset dementia and its precursors," says Sahlgrenska Academy researcher Jenny Nyberg, who headed the study.

Controlled for other risk factors

Expressed in figures, the study shows that men who when conscripted had poorer cardiovascular fitness were 2.5 times more likely to develop early-onset dementia later in life. A lower IQ entailed a 4 times greater risk, and a combination of both poor cardiovascular fitness and low IQ entailed a 7 times greater risk of early-onset dementia.

The increased risk remained even when controlled for other risk factors, such as heredity, medical history, and social-economic circumstances.

Fitness strengthens the brain

"We already knew that physical and cognitive exercise reduces the risk of neurological disease. Physical exercise increases nerve cell complexity and function and even generation of new nerve cells in the adult brain, which strengthens our mental and physiological functions. In other words, good cardiovascular fitness makes the brain more resistant to damage and disease," says Prof. Georg Kuhn, senior author of the study.

Overlooked group

People who develop early-onset dementia are often of working age and can have children still living at home, which means the consequences for both the sufferers and their families are even more serious. Despite this, patients with early-onset dementia are a relatively overlooked group.

"This makes it important to initiate more research into how physical and mental exercise can affect the prevalence of different types of dementia. Perhaps exercise can be used as both a prophylactic and a treatment for those in the risk zone for early-onset dementia," says Nyberg.

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140310102208.htm

Self-rated physical fitness in midlife an indicator of dementia risk

February 26, 2014

Science Daily/Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland)

How would you rate your own physical fitness? Is it good, satisfactory or maybe even poor? Surprisingly, your answer may reveal your future risk of getting dementia. A recent collaborative study from Finland, involving the follow-up of 3,559 adults for 30 years, has found that a simple question about self-rated physical fitness in midlife may reveal individuals who are at an increased risk of developing dementia. Those who reported poor self-rated physical fitness in midlife, at the mean age of 50 years, were four times more likely to get dementia during the next three decades compared to those with good self-rated physical fitness.

 

"Chronic conditions independently increase the dementia risk. Furthermore, if a person additionally feels that his or her physical fitness is poor, the risk is even higher. In terms of dementia prevention, maintaining good physical fitness seems to be especially important for people with chronic diseases," Kulmala says.

 

Poor self-rated fitness is known to be affected by lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, poor mental wellbeing, lack of social connections, lower education, high body mass index and smoking. Perceived poor physical fitness therefore integrates several unfavourable aspects of lifestyle that have all been previously linked to increased dementia risk.

 

"The perception of poor physical fitness is most likely affected by different factors for different people. Therefore, I would encourage those who rate their fitness as poor to think about the factors behind this perception. Increasing physical and social activity, making better dietary choices or quitting smoking, for example, could change the rating into more positive. Individual choices that make you feel physically better may substantially decrease your future risk of developing dementia," Kulmala says.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140226074825.htm

Train like an Olympian: Six things we can learn from elite athletes

February 12, 2014

Science Daily/Saint Louis University Medical Center

Everyone should have the experience of training for and accomplishing a physical goal, says a physical therapy professor.

 

"The Olympics symbolize the chance for all of us to push the boundaries of human potential," said Chris Sebelski, assistant professor of physical therapy at Saint Louis University. "As I tell my students, if you want to compete at a high level, mimic the strategies of those at the top."

 

1. Set a Goal and Break it Down

Olympic-level athletes train for their next gold medal as a part of a four-year process. After setting a goal to medal or set a world record, athletes and their coaches will break the process down into tasks and time periods with smaller goals that mark progress along the way, Sebelski says.

 

For instance, if you're training to get in shape for a cross-country hiking trip, you might aim to walk three miles a day for the first two weeks and build up to ten miles a day by the end of ten weeks. Break it down, and you'll find that a goal that seems unreachable is obtainable.

 

2. Cross-train

Olympians may be unrivaled within their skill-set, but they use other skills along the way.

 

Cross-training reduces risks of overtraining and helps avoid injury. It also enhances muscle performance and stimulates the mind so you don't become bored by too much repetition.

 

Cross-training is also useful to prepare for sports you can't practice every day. If you're planning a ski vacation and your goal is to graduate from blue runs to black diamonds, don't be discouraged because you live far from the mountains. In the months before the big trip, prepare by going to the gym, focusing on lower extremity strength training, balance activities and cardio workouts, like the elliptical machine. All of these activities will help you get the most from your ski trip.

 

3. Workout with Others

Olympic athletes don't train alone and they don't train only with those at the same skill level. Not only will you find that the spirit of competition and encouragement will keep your motivation high, but there are also training benefits to working out with others who compete at different levels.

 

If you're a runner, mix it up and run with different people. Partner with someone slower than your normal pace, and on that day, you'll stay out longer and practice endurance. Another day, run with someone faster than your average pace and experience a more intense cardio workout.

 

4. Create a Team

Olympic athletes are under no illusions that they can do it on their own, and you shouldn't be either.

 

"While we're enamored by the idea of an Olympic athlete as a hero, we forget that that person is standing on shoulders of so many other people. It takes a village to put one Olympian in front of the world," said Sebelski. "We shouldn't forget that we need those resources, too."

 

Think about the people who can help you accomplish your goal. You might find that you'll benefit from working with a trainer, a nutritionist, a physical therapist or a physician. Recognize that help is available in all different forms and find what works best for you. It might be a face-to-face session with a trainer, a nutrition class, or an online chat room of like-minded people.

 

5. Find your Motivation

You may feel silly rocking out to your iPod at the gym, but remember that Olympians use lots of techniques to manage their emotions. This year, for example, several athletes reported using yoga, meditation, and even watching their favorite TV shows to calm themselves prior to an event and also to pump themselves up for competition.

 

Take a page from their playbook and embrace your inspiration. You can feed your passion by finding the method that motivates you most, whether it's music, visualizing success or a pep talk from your coach.

 

6. Put on an Olympic Attitude

For most of us, our jobs, families and personal commitments mean we can't devote as many waking hours to training as a world champion might. But you can adopt the mentality of an Olympian during the time you set aside for training, approaching that hour with the single-minded focus of a full-time athlete. The results will be encouraging, Sebelski says.

 

"Train for a couple of weeks with focus and discipline, and lo and behold, you'll be surprised by what you can do," Sebelski said.

 

Sebelski says that the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from striving to improve upon your personal best is something everyone can experience.

 

"It's been said that running a marathon is now everyman's Everest. But that's true for every sport," Sebelski said. "You can train for the Sunday night bowling league, if that's your passion. The bowling championship may be your Olympics.

 

"Regardless of the scale of your goal, you should have the experience, at least once, of training for and accomplishing a physical goal you set for yourself. Crossing that finish line is a feeling unlike any other."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140212144522.htm

Impact of repetitive heading in soccer needs more research, say experts

February 10, 2014

Science Daily/St. Michael's Hospital

Soccer is the most-popular and fastest-growing sport in the world and, like many contact sports, players are at risk of suffering concussions from collisions on the field.

 

But researchers warned in a paper published today that not enough attention has been given to the unique aspect of soccer -- the purposeful use of the head to control the ball -- and the long-term consequences of repetitive heading.

 

The literature review by Dr. Tom Schweizer, director of the Neuroscience Research Program of St. Michael's Hospital, was published in the journal Brain Injury.

 

More than 265 million people play soccer worldwide, including 27 million in North America. Due to the nature of the sport, players are particularly vulnerable to head and neck injuries. Most are caused by unintentional or unexpected contact, such as when a player collides with teammates, opponents or the playing surface.

 

There is significant concern in the sporting and medical worlds about the potential long-term cognitive and behavioral consequences for athletes who suffer acute or repeat concussions or multiple "sub-concussive" head impacts -- blows to the head not causing symptoms of concussions.

 

"The practice of heading, which might occur thousands of times over a player's career, carries unknown risks, but may uniquely contribute to cognitive decline or impairment in the short- or long-term," said Dr. Schweizer, a neuroscientist. "Thus, soccer players present a unique opportunity to study whether cumulative sub-concussive impacts affect cognitive functioning, similar to that of concussions."

 

Examining research papers that studied the incidence of concussion in soccer, he found that concussions accounted for 5.8 per cent to 8.6 per cent of total injuries sustained during games. One study found that 62.7 per cent of varsity soccer players had suffered symptoms of a concussion during their playing careers, yet only 19.2 per cent realized it. Another found that 81.8 per cent of athletes who had suffered a concussion had experienced two or more and that players with a history of concussion had a 3.15 times greater odds of sustaining another one than those who had never had a concussion. One study found concussions sustained during soccer accounted for 15 per cent of the total number of concussions in all sports. In particular, girls' soccer accounted for 8.2 per cent of sports-related concussions, the second highest sport after football.

 

Research papers that looked at the mechanism of injury found 41.1 per cent of concussions resulted from contact by an elbow, arm or hand to the head. One found that 58.3 per cent of concussions occurred during a heading duel. More females suffered concussions from player-to-surface and player-to-ball contact than males who had more player-to-player contact than females.

 

Defensemen and goalkeepers are at greatest risk of suffering a concussion, the study found. Dr. Schweizer said that for goalkeepers, the risk decreases as they get older and become more aware of where they are at any given time in relation to the goal posts. He said padding goal posts might be one way to reduce concussions in younger players who don't have such a developed sense of spatial relations.

 

Studies on the long-term effects of heading found greater memory, planning and perceptual deficits in forwards and defenders, players who execute more headers. One study found professional players reporting the highest prevalence of heading during their careers did poorest in tests of verbal and visual memory as well as attention. Another found older or retired soccer players were significantly impaired in conceptual thinking, reaction time and concentration. The few studies that used advanced imaging techniques found physical changes to the brains in players who had concussions.

 

Monica Maher, a co-author and University of Toronto master's degree student in neuroscience, said the researchers wanted to emphasize possible injury prevention methods.

 

"Use of protective headgear, limiting heading exposure or stressing proper heading technique in younger children and increasing concussion education are all suggestions to perhaps decrease the incidence of head injury and their subsequent effects in the long run," she said.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140210114538.htm

Strobe Glasses Improve Hockey Players' Performance

Dec. 13, 2013 —

Science Daily/Duke University

Professional hockey players who trained with special eyewear that only allowed them to see action intermittently showed significant improvement in practice drills, according to a Duke University study with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes.

 

"From a sports perspective, you want to know if something is going to be an actual, viable training tool," said Stephen Mitroff, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. "If players train with it, will they likely get the benefits? Our previous work showed that stroboscopic training affected vision and attention, and here we explored if those changes can benefit sports performance."

 

Players who trained with the strobe eyewear experienced an 18 percent performance improvement in a series of on-ice skill tests. A control group showed no change.

 

The athletes were randomly divided into a five-player control group that completed normal training and a six-player strobe group that wore the eyewear once daily during normal training. Each group completed a performance assessment before and after training. Forwards were asked to perform a task that involved difficult skating before taking shots on goal, and defensemen were asked to skate in a circle before completing long passes.

 

"That 18-percent improvement for on-ice skills for professional players is huge," Mitroff said. "This is a dramatic improvement observed in professional athletes."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131213201152.htm

Need inspiration? Let’s get physical!

December 2, 2013

Science Daily/Leiden, Universiteit

People who exercise regularly are better at creative thinking. This is the outcome of research by a cognitive psychologist, as outlined in a recently published article.

 

Taking a stroll

We know that authors like Søren Kierkegaard, Henry James en Thomas Mann used to take a stroll before they sat down behind their writing desk. Apparently, this helped them to get new ideas and insights. But is it possible to prove scientifically that physical exercise makes creative thinking easier?

 

Divergent and convergent

To find this out, Colzato investigated whether regular exercise may promote the two main ingredients of creativity: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking means to think up as many solutions as possible for a certain problem. Convergent thinking leads to one single correct solution for a given problem.

 

Thinking tasks

The psychologist gave thinking tasks to two groups of test persons: people who do physical exercise at least four times a week -- i.e. cycling -- and people who do not exercise on a regular basis. The first assignment was a so-called alternate uses test, in which the participants had to note down all the possible uses for a pen. This was followed by a remote associates task: the test persons were presented with three non-related words, like 'time', 'hair' and 'stretch', and had to come up with the common link, which in this case was 'long'.

 

Healthy body = sound mind

On the remote associates task, people from the group of frequent exercisers appeared to outperform those who did not exercise regularly. Colzato: 'We think that phsysical movement is good for the ability to think flexibly, but only if the body is used to being active. Otherwise a large part of the energy intended for creative thinking goes to the movement itself.' Colzato believes that these results support the famous classical idea of a 'sound mind in a healthy body': 'Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways.'

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202082418.htm

Aerobic Fitness, Hormones Predict Recognition Memory in Young Adults

Dec. 2, 2013

Science Daily/Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM)

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found further evidence that exercise may be beneficial for brain health and cognition. The findings, which are currently available online in Behavioural Brain Research, suggest that certain hormones, which are increased during exercise, may help improve memory.

 

Hormones called growth factors are thought to mediate the relationship between exercise and brain health. The hippocampus, a region of the brain crucial for learning and memory, is thought to be uniquely affected by these hormones.

 

The growth factors brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), have been implicated in the link between exercise and hippocampal function. BDNF, for example, acts on the nervous system to help regulate communication between existing brain cells (neurons) and stimulate the growth and maturation of new hippocampal neurons and blood vessels.

 

In this study, the researchers recruited healthy young adults, in whom they measured blood hormone levels together with performance on a recognition memory task and aerobic fitness. The researchers were thus able to correlate the blood hormone levels with aerobic fitness, and subsequently whether there was any effect on memory function.

 

According to the researchers, BDNF and aerobic fitness predicted memory in an interactive manner, suggesting that at low fitness BDNF levels negatively predicted expected memory accuracy. Conversely, at high fitness resting BDNF levels positively predicted recognition memory. There also was a strong association between IGF-1 and aerobic fitness; however there was no complementary link between IGF-1 and memory function.

 

"We will be continuing this line of research by testing if memory improves following an exercise training program in both young and geriatric adults, and by adding brain imaging techniques," explained Karin Schon, PhD, assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM, who served as the study's principal investigator.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202162204.htm

Circadian Timing May Give Edge to West Coast NFL Teams in Night Games

Nov. 27, 2013

Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine

A new analysis of National Football League results suggests that the body's natural circadian timing gives a performance advantage to West Coast teams when they play East Coast teams at night.

 

According to the authors, biological rhythms can determine specific times at which peak performance is likely to occur. Previous studies have shown that elements of athletic performance peak in the late afternoon based on intrinsic circadian factors. Therefore, these night games may provide West Coast teams with an athletic advantage by allowing their players to compete at a body clock time that is closer to their athletic peak than their opponents.

 

"Applying principles of sleep physiology to competitive sports has the clear potential to yield a significant and natural athletic performance advantage," said Smith. "So if you are an athlete looking for a natural performance advantage, or if you just want to improve your health, talk with your doctor about your sleep."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131127115357.htm

Moderate exercise not only treats, but prevents depression

October 28, 2013

Science Daily/University of Toronto

Physical activity is being increasingly recognized as an effective tool to treat depression. PhD candidate George Mammen's review published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has taken the connection one step further, finding that moderate exercise can actually prevent episodes of depression in the long term.

 

This is the first longitudinal review to focus exclusively on the role that exercise plays in maintaining good mental health and preventing the onset of depression later in life.

 

Mammen -- who is supervised by Professor Guy Faulkner, a co-author of the review -- analyzed over 26 years' worth of research findings to discover that even low levels of physical activity (walking and gardening for 20-30 minutes a day) can ward off depression in people of all age groups.

 

Mammen's findings come at a time when mental health experts want to expand their approach beyond treating depression with costly prescription medication. "We need a prevention strategy now more than ever," he says. "Our health system is taxed. We need to shift focus and look for ways to fend off depression from the start."

 

Mammen acknowledges that other factors influence a person's likelihood of experiencing depression, including their genetic makeup. But he says that the scope of research he assessed demonstrates that regardless of individual predispositions, there's a clear take-away for everyone. "It's definitely worth taking note that if you're currently active, you should sustain it. If you're not physically active, you should initiate the habit. This review shows promising evidence that the impact of being active goes far beyond the physical."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028163003.htm

Working to the beat

October 16, 2013

Science Daily/Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and other research facilities have contributed significantly towards a first explanation for the development of music. Contrary to what was previously suspected, music does not simply distract us when physically working hard by making the work seem a lot easier, but actually the music reduces the effort. This new insight permits on the one hand a conclusion to man's historical development of music, and on the other hand provides an important impulse for the expansion of the therapeutical use of music.

 

Certain genres of music like Blues and Gospel are, in their formation, directly linked to hard physical work. When the slaves toiled in the cotton fields, they sang. When chained prisoners chipped stones in the quarries, they sang, and incorporated the sounds of work into their music. When sportsmen and women want to achieve peak performance they often let themselves be driven by music and occasionally also fans singing and chanting.

 

It has been suspected for a long time now that there must be a correlation between music and bodily exertion, but such a connection with music making has not yet been researched in more depth from a neuroscientific perspective. Up until now we assumed that being active with music would relieve the severely stressed from the self awareness of one's own body -- proprioception -- so that the bodily response to the stress would be simply less clearly perceived. Scientist Tom Fritz is dubious about this simple explanation: "Does this effect of music actually result from the distraction of proprioceptive reactions?"

 

To be able to clarify the question, the scientists developed series of tests in which three different fitness machines were used. In one of the first tests, there were always three participants using the fitness equipment and at the same time passively listening to music. In the second condition, the researchers had prepared the machines so that once the participants began to use them, music would start. During their training, participants would thereby make music interactively. During all conditions the scientists measured metabolic data such as oxygen intake and changes to muscle tension, and they questioned the participants about their sense of exertion.

 

The questioning revealed that the majority of the participants felt the strain less severely while they were producing the music. Coincidently, the measurements revealed that during the music making the muscles used less energy and were therefore more effective physiologically. "This implies that the developed technology is more favourable as a new athletic sports technology, presumably because more emotionally driven motor control occurs with the musical ecstasy," says scientist Thomas Fritz.

 

The trial therefore showed that the participants perceived the exertions at a higher output to be less, and in doing so they still had a more effective muscle activity. "These findings are a breakthrough because they decisively help to understand the therapeutic power of music," explains Thomas Fritz. "What is more, we believe that this insight has an important consequence in how we view the role of music in the creation of human society. Let's consider the fact that a variety of rituals are associated with music. A down-modulating effect of musical activity on exertion could be a yet undiscovered reason for the development of music in humans: Making music makes physical exertion less exhausting."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131016112613.htm

 

Scientists identify protein linking exercise to brain health

October 10, 2013

Science Daily/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

A protein that is increased by endurance exercise has been isolated and given to non-exercising mice, in which it turned on genes that promote brain health and encourage the growth of new nerves involved in learning and memory, report scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.

 

The findings, reported in the journal Cell Metabolism, help explain the well-known capacity of endurance exercise to improve cognitive function, particularly in older people. If the protein can be made in a stable form and developed into a drug, it might lead to improved therapies for cognitive decline in older people and slow the toll of neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, according to the investigators.

 

"What is exciting is that a natural substance can be given in the bloodstream that can mimic some of the effects of endurance exercise on the brain," said Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, of Dana-Farber and HMS. He is co-senior author of the publication with Michael E. Greenberg, PhD, chair of neurobiology at HMS.

 

The Spiegelman group previously reported that the protein, called FNDC5, is produced by muscular exertion and is released into the bloodstream as a variant called irisin. In the new research, endurance exercise -- mice voluntarily running on a wheel for 30 days -- increased the activity of a metabolic regulatory molecule, PGC-1α, in muscles, which spurred a rise in FNDC5 protein. The increase of FNDC5 in turn boosted the expression of a brain-health protein, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic protein) in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory.

 

It has been found that exercise stimulates BDNF in the hippocampus, one of only two areas of the adult brain that can generate new nerve cells. BDNF promotes development of new nerves and synapses -- connections between nerves that allow learning and memory to be stored -- and helps preserve the survival of brain cells.

 

How exercise raises BDNF activity in the brain wasn't known; the new findings linking exercise, PGC-1α, FNDC5 and BDNF provide a molecular pathway for the effect, although Spiegelman and his colleagues suggest there are probably others.

 

Having shown that FNDC5 is a molecular link between exercise and increased BDNF in the brain, the scientists asked whether artificially increasing FNDC5 in the absence of exercise would have the same effect. They used a harmless virus to deliver the protein to mice through the bloodstream, in hopes the FNDC5 could reach the brain and raise BDNF activity. Seven days later, they examined the mouse brains and observed a significant increase in BDNF in the hippocampus.

 

"Perhaps the most exciting result overall is that peripheral deliver of FNDC5 with adenoviral vectors is sufficient to induce central expression of Bdnf and other genes with potential neuroprotective functions or those involved in learning and memory," the authors said. Spiegelman cautioned that further research is needed to determine whether giving FNDC5 actually improves cognitive function in the animals. The scientists also aren't sure whether the protein that got into the brain is FNDC5 itself, or irisin, or perhaps another variant of the protein.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131010204803.htm

 

Exercise is no quick cure for insomnia

August 15, 2013

Science Daily/Northwestern University

Exercise is a common prescription for insomnia. But spending 45 minutes on the treadmill one day won't translate into better sleep that night, according to new Northwestern Medicine® research.

 

"If you have insomnia you won't exercise yourself into sleep right away," said lead study author Kelly Glazer Baron, a clinical psychologist and director of the behavioral sleep program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It's a long-term relationship. You have to keep at it and not get discouraged."

 

This is the first long-term study to show aerobic exercise during the day does not result in improved sleep that same night when people have existing sleep problems. Most studies on the daily effects of exercise and sleep have been done with healthy sleepers.

 

The study also showed people exercise less following nights with worse sleep.

 

"Sleeping poorly doesn't change your aerobic capacity, but it changes people's perception of their exertion," Baron said. "They feel more exhausted."

 

The study will be published August 15 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Baron conducted the study with coauthor Kathryn Reid, research associate professor of neurology at Feinberg and senior author Phyllis Zee, M.D., the Benjamin and Virginia T. Boshes Professor of Neurology at Feinberg and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

 

"This new study shows exercise and sleep affect each other in both directions: regular long-term exercise is good for sleep but poor sleep can also lead to less exercise. So in the end, sleep still trumps everything as far as health is concerned," Zee said.

 

Baron decided to analyze the daily effect of exercise after hearing her patients with insomnia complain the exercise she recommended didn't help them right away.

 

"They'd say, 'I exercised so hard yesterday and didn't sleep at all,'" Baron said. "The prevailing thought is that exercise improves sleep, but I thought it probably wasn't that simple for people with insomnia."

 

Why does it take time for exercise to impact sleep?

 

"Patients with insomnia have a heightened level of brain activity and it takes time to re-establish a more normal level that can facilitate sleep," Zee said. "Rather than medications, which can induce sleep quickly, exercise may be a healthier way to improve sleep because it could address the underlying problem."

 

The study participants were older women, who have the highest prevalence of insomnia. Exercise is an optimum approach to promote sleep in an older population because drugs can cause memory impairment and falls.

 

Baron thinks the results also could apply to men because there is no evidence of gender differences in behavioral treatments for insomnia.

 

For the study, Baron performed an analysis of data from a 2010 clinical trial (by the same group of Northwestern researchers on the current paper) that demonstrated the ability of aerobic exercise to improve sleep, mood and vitality over a 16-week period in middle-age-to-older adults with insomnia. She and colleagues examined the daily sleep data from 11 women ages 57 to 70.

 

The key message is that people with sleep disturbances have to be persistent with exercise.

 

"People have to realize that even if they don't want to exercise, that's the time they need to dig in their heels and get themselves out there," Baron said. "Write a note on your mirror that says 'Just Do It!' It will help in the long run."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815084841.htm

Exercise may be the best medicine for Alzheimer's disease

July 30, 2013

Science Daily/University of Maryland

Regular, moderate exercise could improve memory and cognitive function in those at risk for Alzheimer's disease in a way no drug can. Scientists studied the effects of exercise on a group of older adults with mild cognitive impairment and found that brain activity associated with memory, measured by neuroimaging, improved after 12 weeks of a moderate exercise program.

 

New research out of the University of Maryland School of Public Health shows that exercise may improve cognitive function in those at risk for Alzheimer's by improving the efficiency of brain activity associated with memory. Memory loss leading to Alzheimer's disease is one of the greatest fears among older Americans. While some memory loss is normal and to be expected as we age, a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, signals more substantial memory loss and a greater risk for Alzheimer's, for which there currently is no cure.

 

The study, led by Dr. J. Carson Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, provides new hope for those diagnosed with MCI. It is the first to show that an exercise intervention with older adults with mild cognitive impairment (average age 78) improved not only memory recall, but also brain function, as measured by functional neuroimaging (via fMRI). The findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

 

"We found that after 12 weeks of being on a moderate exercise program, study participants improved their neural efficiency -- basically they were using fewer neural resources to perform the same memory task," says Dr. Smith. "No study has shown that a drug can do what we showed is possible with exercise."

 

Recommended Daily Activity: Good for the Body, Good for the Brain

 

Two groups of physically inactive older adults (ranging from 60-88 years old) were put on a 12-week exercise program that focused on regular treadmill walking and was guided by a personal trainer. Both groups -- one which included adults with MCI and the other with healthy brain function -- improved their cardiovascular fitness by about ten percent at the end of the intervention. More notably, both groups also improved their memory performance and showed enhanced neural efficiency while engaged in memory retrieval tasks.

 

The good news is that these results were achieved with a dose of exercise consistent with the physical activity recommendations for older adults. These guidelines urge moderate intensity exercise (activity that increases your heart rate and makes you sweat, but isn't so strenuous that you can't hold a conversation while doing it) on most days for a weekly total of 150 minutes.

 

Measuring Exercise's Impact on Brain Health and Memory

 

One of the first observable symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is the inability to remember familiar names. Smith and colleagues had study participants identify famous names and measured their brain activation while engaged in correctly recognizing a name -- e.g., Frank Sinatra, or other celebrities well known to adults born in the 1930s and 40s. "The task gives us the ability to see what is going on in the brain when there is a correct memory performance," Smith explains.

 

Tests and imaging were performed both before and after the 12-week exercise intervention. Brain scans taken after the exercise intervention showed a significant decrease in the intensity of brain activation in eleven brain regions while participants correctly identified famous names. The brain regions with improved efficiency corresponded to those involved in the pathology of Alzheimer's disease, including the precuneus region, the temporal lobe, and the parahippocampal gyrus.

 

The exercise intervention was also effective in improving word recall via a "list learning task," i.e., when people were read a list of 15 words and asked to remember and repeat as many words as possible on five consecutive attempts, and again after a distraction of being given another list of words.

 

"People with MCI are on a very sharp decline in their memory function, so being able to improve their recall is a very big step in the right direction," Smith states.

 

The results of Smith's study suggest that exercise may reduce the need for over-activation of the brain to correctly remember something. That is encouraging news for those who are looking for something they can do to help preserve brain function.

 

Dr. Smith has plans for a larger study that would include more participants, including those who are healthy but have a genetic risk for Alzheimer's, and follow them for a longer time period with exercise in comparison to other types of treatments. He and his team hope to learn more about the impact of exercise on brain function and whether it could delay the onset or progression of Alzheimer's disease.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130730123249.htm

 

Exercise can reduce stroke risk

July 18, 2013

Science Daily/University of Alabama at Birmingham

A new study from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is one of the first to study the relationship between exercise and stroke in a large biracial cohort of men and women in the United States. The findings are published in the American Heart Association Journal Stroke.

 

Using 27,000 stroke-free blacks and whites ages 45 and older in the United States from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study cohort, researchers examined the association of self-reported physical activity with incident of stroke.

 

Participants were classified at baseline as being in active (i.e., no workouts in a typical week), moderately active (workouts one to three times per week) or vigorously active (workouts more than four times per week), and they were followed for an average of 5.7 years.

 

The results showed that physical inactivity was reported by 33 percent of participants and was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of stroke. Those who reported they exercised at least four times a week were less likely to experience a stroke or mini-stroke. Among men, only those who exercised four or more times a week had a lower stroke risk. Among women, the relationship between stroke and frequency of activity was less clear.

 

"The protective effect of intense physical activity may be through its impact on traditional risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes," explained Virginia Howard, Ph.D., UAB professor of epidemiology and senior study author.

 

"These findings confirm past results of studies done in only men or only women in limited geographical areas," Howard said. "By using the REGARDS cohort, our study was able to use a larger and more diverse population to show that participating in regular physical activity is associated with lower stroke risk."

 

Howard added that stroke is preventable, and physical activity is a major modifiable risk factor for stroke. "This should be emphasized more in routine physician check-ups, along with general education on the proven health benefits of regular physical activity on other stroke-risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity," Howard said.

 

Study limitations highlighted include that the results are based on self-reported levels of physical activity, and self-reported data may not be a reflection of the truth. Also, investigators did not have data on the type or duration of the exercise in which people engaged, nor the number of sessions. Howard suggested future studies should consider different ways to measure physical activity through: use of more questions; devices such as accelerometers and heart monitors that can provide more objective data; and capturing information on other dimensions of physical activity such as frequency, intensity and duration.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130718130456.htm

 

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