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91-year-old gymnast

19 Jul

So what’s your excuse?

A self-experiment with isometric exercise

28 Jun

When I was kid, isometric exercise was very popular and I have wondered why they fell out of popularity.

Here Justin Timmer describes his self-experiment with isometrics.

What did you do?
For four week, I was “squeezing” (isometric contractions) my muscles four times a day. I trained my right leg, abdominals, and right chest and arm.

How did you do it?
During every quiet moment during the day I contracted my muscles as long and hard as possible. I quantified my progress by completing maximum repetitions on a fitness machine every week.

What did I learn?
I learned that in four weeks I almost doubled my force on the right side of my body. But I also learned that this training was going too fast, I got a lot of issues with little unexplained pains in my legs, and rising fluids whenever I contracted my abdominals. Overall I learnt this was a very effective training that was very easy to implement in my daily life.

Oh No! Now it’s 15,000 steps!

31 Mar

I’ve been on the 10,000 steps a day program for years (only 8,813 so far today, I’ll need to get up and get moving after I post this). Now I read in the Times, that the real goal should be 15,000 steps:

. . . precisely how much exercise might be needed in order to avoid heart disease has remained very much in question. The threshold of 10,000 daily steps, incorporated as a goal into many activity monitors today, has not been scientifically validated as a way to lessen disease risk.

They cite a study published in The International Journal of Obesity, here is the abstract:

The relationship between metabolic risk and time spent sitting, standing and stepping has not been well established. The present study aimed to determine associations of objectively measured time spent siting, standing and stepping, with coronary heart disease (CHD) risk.
METHODS:
A cross-sectional study of healthy non-smoking Glasgow postal workers, n=111 (55 office workers, 5 women, and 56 walking/delivery workers, 10 women), who wore activPAL physical activity monitors for 7 days. Cardiovascular risks were assessed by metabolic syndrome categorisation and 10-year PROCAM (prospective cardiovascular Munster) risk.
RESULTS:
Mean (s.d.) age was 40 (8) years, body mass index 26.9 (3.9) kg m-2 and waist circumference 95.4 (11.9) cm. Mean (s.d.) high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) 1.33 (0.31), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol 3.11 (0.87), triglycerides 1.23 (0.64) mmol l-1 and 10-year PROCAM risk 1.8 (1.7)%. The participants spent mean (s.d.) 9.1 (1.8) h per day sedentary, 7.6 (1.2) h per day sleeping, 3.9 (1.1) h per day standing and 3.3 (0.9) h per day stepping, accumulating 14 708 (4984) steps per day in 61 (25) sit-to-stand transitions per day. In univariate regressions-adjusting for age, sex, family history of CHD, shift worked, job type and socioeconomic status-waist circumference (P=0.005), fasting triglycerides (P=0.002), HDL cholesterol (P=0.001) and PROCAM risk (P=0.047) were detrimentally associated with sedentary time. These associations remained significant after further adjustment for sleep, standing and stepping in stepwise regression models. However, after further adjustment for waist circumference, the associations were not significant. Compared with those without the metabolic syndrome, participants with the metabolic syndrome were significantly less active-fewer steps, shorter stepping duration and longer time sitting. Those with no metabolic syndrome features walked >15 000 steps per day or spent >7 h per day upright.
CONCLUSIONS:
Longer time spent in sedentary posture is significantly associated with higher CHD risk and larger waist circumference.

“Prevention may prove the best way to manage the dementia epidemic”

20 Mar

So argues this important piece in Scientific American (sorry, it’s behind a paywall). So far drugs that target Alzheimer’s have been disappointing. Our best evidence suggests that lifestyle interventions (exercise, improvements in diet, and cognitive engagement) really do help.

Improvement at any age

15 Mar

This interesting piece in The New York Times argues:

When athletes train consistently, recover smartly and get a little lucky, there’s no physiological reason their bodies should fall off a cliff in their 30s.

(…)

From following physiology literature and spending time around late-career elite athletes, I was already well aware that old dogs can both learn new tricks and slow the rate at which they lose old ones.

105 amateur cyclist is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds

17 Feb

Another amazing story from The New York Times about the capacities of an aging athlete:

At the age of 105, the French amateur cyclist and world-record holder Robert Marchand is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds — and appears to be getting even fitter as he ages, according to a revelatory new study of his physiology.

You can read the research paper here.

Cognitive benefits of midlife exercise

16 Jan

From The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, “Midlife Physical Activity and Cognition Later in Life: A Prospective Twin Study.” Here is the abstract:

Background: Physical activity has been associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline but the nature of this association remains obscure. Objective: To study associations between midlife physical activity and cognition in old age for a prospective cohort of Finnish twins. Methods: Physical activity in the Finnish Twin Cohort was assessed using questionnaire responses collected in 1975 and 1981. After a mean follow-up of 25.1 years, the subjects’ (n = 3050; mean age 74.2; range 66–97) cognition was evaluated with a validated telephone interview. Both participation in vigorous physical activity, and the volume of physical activity, divided into quintiles, were used as predictors of cognitive impairment. Metrics collected by TELE were used to categorize participants as: cognitively impaired, suffering mild cognitive impairment, or cognitively healthy. Results: Participation in vigorous physical activity compared to non-participation for both 1975 and 1981 was associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment in individual-based analyses (fully adjusted OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.35–0.73). Pairwise analyses yielded similar but statistically non-significant associations. In terms of the volume of physical activity, the most active quintile of individuals (OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.46–1.04) had a reduced risk of cognitive decline compared with the most sedentary quintile in the fully adjusted model although no clear dose-response was found. Conclusion: Vigorous midlife physical activity was associated with less cognitive impairment but without a clear dose-response association between the volume of physical activity and cognition.

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