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Washington Post’s history of the treadmill

8 Feb

Sunday’s Washington Post tells the story of the treadmill. Fifty million Americans uses treadmills, but I was surprised that so many seem to hate it.

As the weather turns colder, Jen Forman will do what she’s always done to get her runs in: She’ll go to her treadmill in her home, press start and run until she’s done.

And she will hate every moment of it.

I think treadmill time is a great opportunity to learn. I use it to practice foreign languages and listen to podcasts.

Dr. Mirkin: “Sitting Will Not Harm Vigorous Exercisers”

11 Nov

From Dr. Mirkin’s eZine:

Asking people to stand at work, rather than sit, is not good advice because standing-without-moving is no better than sitting, and will make you too tired to exercise vigorously when you are finished working. If you are a vigorous exerciser, standing all day will slow your recovery from your exercise program.

The highly-publicized studies that showed sitting is harmful for exercisers were flawed because they failed to separate casual exercisers from vigorous exercisers. No one has shown that standing up instead of sitting confers any special health benefits, and standing without moving around can cause additional problems such as varicose veins and swollen feet. Contracting muscles circulate extra blood to strengthen your heart and draw sugar from the bloodstream to lower high blood sugar levels. This does not happen when you just stand in one position without moving your muscles

I am not completely convinced, but I think he raises a good point about the failure of the study to consider individual differences in fitness as a confounding variable.



How good is your exercise tracker?

13 Feb

The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a rigorous comparison of several popular exercise trackers:


With the exception of the Nike Fuelband most of the trackers did fairly good job of measuring steps. However, the Digi-walker SW-200 , a less expensive dedicated pedometer, out performed many of the smartphone apps.

I have been very happy with my Omron pedometer. For me, the only drawback is the inability to sync it to statistical software.

But overall, the message seems to be that most exercise trackers will give you a reasonable approximation of how much you exercise.

For more discussion of these findings see this interesting post by Ernesto Ramirez at The Quantified Self.



Treadmill Running Reverses Cognitive Declines

5 Feb

A paper from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:

“Purpose: This study investigated the effect of treadmill running on cognitive declines in the early and advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in 3xTg-AD mice.

Methods: At 4 months of age, 3xTg-AD mice (N=24) were assigned to control (AD+CON, n=12) or exercise (AD+EX, n=12) group. At 24 months of age, 3xTg-AD mice (N=16) were assigned to AD+CON (n=8) or AD+EX (n=8) group. The AD+EX mice were subjected to treadmill running for 12-week. At each pathologic stage, the background strain mice were included as wild type control (WT+CON, n=8-12).

Results: At the early stage of AD, 3xTg-AD mice had impaired short- and long-term memory based on Morris water maze along with higher cortical A[beta] deposition, higher hippocampal and cortical tau pathology, and lower hippocampal and cortical PSD-95 and synaptophysin. A 12-week treadmill running reversed the impaired cognitive declines and significantly improved the tau pathology along with suppression of the decreased PSD-95 and synaptophysin in the hippocampus and cortex. At the advanced stage of AD, 3xTg-AD mice had impaired short- and long-term memory along with higher levels of A[beta] deposition, soluble A[beta]1-40 and A[beta]1-42, tau pathology, and lower levels of BDNF, PSD-95 and synaptophysin in the hippocampus and cortex. A 12-week treadmill running reversed the impaired cognitive declines and significantly improved the A[beta] and tau pathology along with suppression of the decreased synaptic proteins and BDNF in the hippocampus and cortex.

Conclusion: The current findings suggest that treadmill running provides a non-pharmacologic means to combat cognitive declines due to AD pathology.”



Cardboard standing desk!

15 Oct

I think this is brilliant.


Physicians should prescribe walking

5 Jun

One of the components of my memory improvement plan (to be discussed in my upcoming book) is studying while walking. Even without the cognitive component daily walking has important health benefits, described in the video below:



I walk for an hour every morning, either on my treadmill or outside. I wear a pedometer (more accurate than a fitbit or a smartphone pedometer)  and aim for a total 10,000 steps everyday. A hour of planned walking usually gives me between 6,500 and 7,000 steps, a good start towards the 10,000 goal.

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Seth Roberts on learning while walking

29 Oct

Another interesting post by Seth Roberts about the effects of walking on studying:

“A Chinese friend of mine learned about my discovery that it was much easier to study Chinese while walking on a treadmill than sitting. This led her to buy a treadmill. She began to study English (e.g., GRE vocabulary words) while walking on the treadmill. “It worked very well,” she told me. She found that if she studied words while walking, she could remember them four days later. If she studied them sitting down, she could remember them only a day later”

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