Exercise/Athletic 5

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

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