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Archive for the ‘Working out’ Category

Should we be exercising… less?

This might sound crazy to you, but in the quest for weight loss, some of us may be exercising too much. How can that be, you might be asking, since so few people actually exercise? Let me ask you this; for those of you who regularly go to the gym, do you know anyone that you see there every day on the treadmill not getting any thinner? I know I do. There is a new research study out this month that suggests that some people may be struggling to lose weight because they are actually exercising too much!

The study was conducted by the University of Copenhagen and followed the weight loss efforts of overweight but otherwise healthy men in their 20s and 30s. The men were broken up into 3 groups; no exercise, 30 minutes daily and 60 minutes daily. They were told to keep their eating habits constant throughout the duration of the 13 week study. Afterwards, they were weighed, and as expected the group that did not change their diet or exercise habits lost no weight. The 60 minute group lost around 5 pounds on average, so they were mildly successful. However, the 30 minute group lost 7 pounds on average, which was significantly more than the researchers were expecting. How could this be?

One hypothesis is the compensatory eating effect. Those who worked out an hour each day felt exhausted afterwards and may have had an increased drive to eat in order to compensate for the large number of calories burned. The 30 minute group most likely didn’t perceive the effort to be all that hard, and may actually have kept their calorie intake constant. The second and more interesting hypothesis (I think) is the amount of other activity they did during the day. The 60 minute group usually felt pretty wiped out from their workout and spent most of their free time sitting; they took the elevator instead of the stairs and sat on the couch after work instead of tackling some chores. The 30 minute group actually reported feeling energized from their workout and they moved around significantly more during the day.

I loved this study because it actually made sense in my own life. When I was in college I ran both track and cross country. During the cross country season, I ran more miles during the week, and therefore always felt like I was burning a ton of calories. I definitely reduced my other activity and ate as many brownies as my heart desired and looking back at pictures, I was always a little heavier during cross country season.

How much do you exercise? Have you ever felt frustrated that you’re exercising so much and yet not losing weight?

-Sara

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Getting Motivated

For those of us who struggle to exercise daily (or at least semi-daily), finding the right motivation is key. When my alarm goes off at 5:45 every morning, I need a really good reason to get out of bed; if not, I’m hitting the snooze and exercising tomorrow.

As an exercise physiologist, I’d like to think that the most current research is what motivates people to exercise. There are dozens of studies that tout the benefits of regular physical activity on reducing chronic disease; with just 30 minutes a day, you lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and even depression. That should be enough to make us want to move around, right?

Unfortunately, the research would suggest otherwise. According to a study done by Ingledew and Markland, exercisers tended to stick with a program much longer if their reason for working out was related to social interactions and those who were exercising for appearance didn’t last very long. Researchers have also found that when we perceive benefits to be either intangible or in the distant future, we aren’t very motivated. Just knowing that when you’re 75, your cholesterol will be lower doesn’t seem to be a potent motivator for getting off the couch.

So what do we do? There’s a great article on nytimes right now that suggests we will exercise much more often if we think about how it makes us feel, rather than how it makes us look, and if we think about how it affects us today, rather than how it will affect us 10 years from now. If yo look forward to your evening walk, thinking about how it helps you de-stress and how nice it will feel to be outside, you’ll be more likely to go than if you try to guilt yourself into going. Thinking about exercise as a punishment will always leave a bad taste and it will be a dreaded item to check off the to-do list.

I exercise for a couple of reasons; some noble, some not so much. Some days I look forward to my run; I feel fit and thin and it sounds like a fun thing to do. Other days, I force myself to go because I’m training for a race, or honestly, because I had an extra piece of chocolate cake the day before. But, what gets me out of bed in the morning at 5:45 is thinking how good I’ll feel for the rest of the day. If I tell myself, “it’s just 30 minutes. Then think what you’ll have accomplished before 7 am,” I’ll  get right up.

What motivates you to exercise?

Should I Workout When I’m Sick?

I’m writing this post to you wiped out on the couch with a wicked case of strep throat. I had no idea a sore throat could hurt so badly! Have you guys ever had strep throat? If you haven’t, count yourselves incredibly lucky and if you have, I feel your pain! It’s terrible!

If you’re someone who works out most days of the week, during cold and flu season, you may want to know, “Should I work-out when I’m sick?” Or, if you’re more like me, “Should I feel guilty for not working out when I’m sick?” I should tell you that it’s Sunday and I haven’t run since Thursday. One, because I’ve been on antibiotics for strep and on strict orders from the doctor to rest, and two, I just didn’t want to. 🙂

If you’re debating illness and exercise, you need to ask youself two questions; how sick am I and how much exercise am I doing?

How sick are you?

Let me first say that if you are contagious, please don’t go to the gym! You’re not being tough, you’re being a jerk. It’s bad enough that you’re sick, but sweating in out in the gym means your spreading your germs to dozens of exercisers. Don’t do it!Secondly, if you have a fever, the flu, or some other condition which makes the trip from the couch to the fridge an arduous journey, you are officially too sick to exercise.

However, if it’s just a persisent cold, a runny nose, or a cough, you may want to think about it. Research has shown that moderate exercise may boost the immune system and actually may help you fight the cold, especially if you are a regular exerciser to begin with.

How much exercise are we talking about?

Most all of the research that shows a positive relationship between immune function and exercise refers only to moderate exercise, not vigorous or long-duration exercise. What counts as moderate? If you are doing cardio, you should only exercise 20-40 minutes, and you should be able to talk to your neighbor the whole time. If you’re lifting, don’t do any sets to failure and go for volume rather than max strength (think 2 sets of 20 reps rather than 4 sets of 5 reps).

If you feel like a cold is coming on, let me encourage you to keep your exercise moderate, and don’t go for that long run this week. While moderate exercise may help you get over that cold, extreme or intense exercise could actually make you more susceptible to an infection.

Bottom Line: If you have strep throat, stay home! But, if you just have a cold, get your butt out the door and go for a 30  minute brisk walk.

Do you guys exercise when you’re sick?

-Sara

To Stretch or Not?

Please let me apologize for our extended hiatus! I’ve been teaching like a crazy person all summer, Kevin has been working tons of overtime, and unfortunately the blog had to go on the backburner for a bit. But, now it’s almost fall and we should have plenty of time for our blog. Hooray! 🙂

One great thing that happened this summer was that a friend of mine guest lectured in one of my classes, and I learned a ton! He is a certified strength and conditioning coach, has a PhD in Exercise Physiology, and is an accomplished powerlifter. He knows a ton about weight lifting and I was thrilled to have him give a three hour lecture (plus, it meant I didn’t have to lecture that day).

The coolest thing I learned was how much convincing research there is about stretching; mostly, it’s stupid. Shocked? I was. Every team I’ve ever been on has started every practice by stretching. For those of you who work out, how many of you feel that you need to stretch before you start? It’s just good common sense, right? If you care at all about athletic performance, apparently not.

A study done at LSU looked at the effects of static stretching on sprint performance. The athletes stretched for 15 minutes (think bending down and reaching for your toes for 30 seconds at a time), and then did a 20 meter sprint as fast as possible. They compared the running time without stretching and interestingly, all the runners were significantly slower after stretching. The researchers even asked the runners which trial they thought was fastest, and every runner said they felt faster and more confidant on the stretching trial. But they were slower!

The same effect was found in endurance running as well. So why do we continue to stretch? For most of us, it’s habit. Our coaches told us to do it, our friends do it, and we’ve been doing it for years, but is it any good? What about injuries? For the longest time, I continued to stretch because I was afraid that if I didn’t, I’d  get injured. The research is mostly…inconclusive. (Here’s a link to a nice review article if you are nerdy like me) The problem is that stretching decreases the elasticity of a muscle, making it more compliant. Think about stretching a rubber band around a chair and leaving it for awhile. Not so stretchy. If you need to do a powerful, fast sport, you need all the elasticity you can get, and reducing elasticity can actually lead to injury. Even  low- intensity activity requires muscle elasticity, and while it probably doesn’t increase injury, it certainly doesn’t prevent it.

However, don’t take all this to mean you shouldn’t do any kind of warm-up before exercising. A slow jog and some dynamix stretching is wonderfully effective. Think leg swings, high knees, and butt-kicks to get you started.

Do you guys stretch before you exercise? What do you do and do you swear by it?

-Sara

It’s Hot! Preventing Heat Related Illness

Well it’s not quite June 21st but with record highs across the country, summer is here. With that summer heat comes a whole slew of potential heat-related illnesses: hyponatremia, heat stroke and heat exhaustion,  all of which are serious and can be life threating. As an EMT, I have treated all of these, and as a Marine I suffered most of these and have seen them all many, many times. I’m going to throw at you some signs and symptoms as well as some quick tips to avoid them.

Hyponatremia: everyone really knows about dehydration, but few people have ever really heard of hyponatremia. What is it exactly? Hyponatremia is a metabolic condition in which there is not enough sodium (salt) in the body fluids outside the cells. In simple terms, you drank so much water you have flushed your system of needed nutrients. This can happen when you consume large quantities of water without eating regularly and with no other food inbetween meals. Although it is more common in endurance athletes, everybody is at risk. A person suffering from this will appear intoxicated, woozy and stumbling and possibly even slurred speech and disorientation. If you believe that you or someone around you is suffering from this call 911. This is really dangerous, so sit them down in the shade and give nothing to drink. You can avoid this by eating regularly, salt food to taste, and I always had sunflower seeds as a snack. They’re high in sodium and will help prevent this from happening. Also try drinking a little Gatorade with your water.

Heat exhaustion: this happens when your body isn’t able to regulate temperature. We all have experienced this before. This is not good, but that serious however it can lead to more serious things. How it happens is your outside without taking brakes and without continually hydrating. Signs and symptoms include light headedness, cramps, cool clammy skin and just overall exhaustion. Treatment is get out of the sun, get inside, and hydrate. To avoid this,  for every 30-45 minutes of work you do outside take a 10 minute break where you resupply what you have lost with water and a snack.

Heat Stroke: this is the most serious of heat injuries. Eventually you are baking yourself! In particularly your brain! Defined as a body temperature of greater than 40.6 °C (105.1 °F) due to environmental heat exposure with lack of thermoregulation.  Your body sits naturally around 98.6, but when you’re dehydrated and have been working out in the sun your internal temp will raise sharply. Your body combats this by sweating which cools off your body. However if you have pushed yourself for a long duration of exercise, your body will not have sufficient fluids to sweat and your internal temp starts to rise. Signs and symptoms are hot, red and dry skin. It is also common for the person to become unconscious. The treatment for this is call 911, move to shade, remove all tight fitting clothing and douse with water. If you have ice available put in their arm pits, under their neck and in the groin region. You want to place it here because these are 4 places where the body can lose the most amount of heat as quickly as possible. I cannot stress the urgency of calling 911 with this one; brain damage can set in very quickly and is permanent.  The elderly and young are particularly susceptible to this. Avoid sugary sodas and drink plenty of water before during and after exercise.

With summer comes many outdoor activities and a desire to get out and exercise. Take into consideration the dangers of heat and make sure to prevent them!

Kevin

7 Quick Takes from ACSM

Last post about the conference, I promise! 🙂

Since I spent last week at the National American College of Sports Medicine Conference, I thought you all might like to learn a little bit about some of the latest research that’s being discussed! Rather than elaborate on for several blogs, I thought I’d give you the top 7 things I learned at the conference. Let me know if you want any more information!

1. Sanjay Gupta is quite good-looking up close. 🙂 Just had to throw that in there! (Sorry honey) Dr. Gupta came to the conference to speak about health and social media, and though he seemed to be a bit confused about who his audience was ( he thought most of us were medical doctors instead of researchers), he really was entertaining to listen to. He spoke about changing behaviors and how as a society it’s important that we reward healthy choices. The photo below is Dr. Sanja Gupta, Dr. Lustig and Diana Nyad.

2. Diana Nyad is phenomenal! If you don’t recognize the name, she is the 60+yr old woman who made a serious attempt last year at swimming from Cuba to Florida. She spoke about living life to the fullest, having big dreams and focusing on what really matters. While she didn’t present any research or novel ideas, her energy and passion were incredibly contagious. After listening to her speak, Kevin and I went on an 8 mile run. If you ever have a change to hear her speak, don’t pass it up!

3. Learned a new catch-phrase: 5,2,1,almost none. Have you guys heard about this? It’s a quick way to help parents keep their kids healthy without making things too complicated. Every day kids should have 5 servings of veggies/fruits, less than 2 hours of total screen time, at least 1 hour of activity (for kids, playing counts as exercise!), and almost no sugar. While this catch-phrase is technically aimed at kids, if we all lived by these simple rules, we would be much healthier!

4. The old manta “a calorie is a calorie” is most definitely on its way out. I had the interesting pleasure of hearing Dr. Robert Lustig speak about obesity and sugar. If you haven’t seen his youtube video, you should check it out. He gave a 90 minute lecture on the evils of sugar and crazily enough, the video has gone viral. Dr. Lustig has gotten so much attention in part because of the tenacity and bluntness with which he speaks. He has no problem calling sugar “evil” or calling people “fat” right to their faces. While his views are definitely controversial, he does make a very interesting case for the negative effects of sugar and warns that regardless of calorie content, sugar is harmful and can lead to weight gain. This link is from 60 minutes is has both Dr. Lustig and Dr. Sanjay Gupta this is the same information they shared with us at the conferance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXhKQEdIDa0

5. I learned a little more about high fructose corn syrup; one group of researchers put mice on a high fructose diet and monitored their insulin sensitivity (if you have low sensitivity, you are at risk for diabetes). The high fructose diet significantly lowered insulin sensitivity (bad), but when the mice were put on a regular exercise routine, their insulin sensitivity went back to normal.

6. For those with diabetes, another group of researchers tracked insulin sensitivity 48 hours after a single exercise session and found that just one bout of exercise improves sensitivity for at least 24 hours. The effect doesn’t last much longer than that, which is why diabetes are recommended to exercise 5-7 days a week if they can.

7. Lastly, the research I presented! I found that the flavonoid quercetin, found in fruits and veggies with dark red colors, may help alleviate fatigue induced by chemotherapy. Almost everyone who has cancer and undergoes cancer treatment reports a significant, debilitating fatigue, and I hypothesized that inflammation might play a role. Quercetin is a natural anti-inflammatory, and when fed to mice at regular intervals, the mice experience less fatigue following chemotherapy treatment.

Hope you learned something!

-Sara

Changing the Way We Think About Exercise

If I mention the words “exercise program,” what comes to mind? Do you think about joining a gym, sweating it out in a spinning class or maybe training for a marathon? Most people associate exercise with something hard, sweaty and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. I came across this article in the New York Times about a new book written by Gretchen Reynolds, one of their columnists. I loved her idea so much, I thought I’d tell you about it. Her book is called “The First 20 Minutes” and details the most current research about how long and how hard we should exercise.

She clearly defines how much exercise is required for health, as compared to how much exercise we need to become more fit (faster, stronger, more competitive). “The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in the first 20 minutes of being active.” Reynolds explains.

Without being evangelical, I wanted people to understand that this is a book about how little exercise you can do in order to get lots and lots of health benefits. Two-thirds of Americans get no exercise at all. If one of those people gets up and moves around for 20 minutes, they are going to get a huge number of health benefits, and everything beyond that 20 minutes is, to some degree, gravy.”

I’ve seen this so much in research; just walking 20 minutes a day lowers your risk (by quite a bit) for not only heart disease and diabetes, but cancer and depression as well. Our bodies were just made to move around during the day, and our health benefits tremendously when we do. When encouraged to exercise, I think most people feel pressure to join a gym, lift weights or start running, and perhaps it seems either too expensive, too time consuming or just too hard. Reynolds disagrees with that idea, “If people want to be healthier and prolong their life span, all they really need to do is go for a walk. It’s the single easiest thing anyone can do. There are some people who honestly can’t walk, so I would say to those people to try to go to the local Y.M.C.A. and swim.” Walking is so easy and so cheap, and the best part is that you don’t have to get 20 minutes in all at once. Plenty of research supports the fact that if you walk 10 minutes in the morning, and 10 in the evening, you still reap the same benefits.

Reynolds also discusses the importance of moving around during the day, and not going too long without standing up. For more information on the dangers of sitting, check out one of our previous posts.

Others who aren’t big proponents of exercise feel that they put in plenty of time at the gym, but don’t lose much weight right away, and think it isn’t worth their time. “I think a lot of people look to exercise to help them lose weight, and when they don’t lose weight immediately with exercise, they quit. They return to the couch, and they basically never move again. What is lost in that is that fitness is almost certainly more important than fatness,” says Reynolds. Exercise, especially moderate exercise, may not lead to large weight loss if not coupled with a reduced calorie diet. I think so many people struggle here because you feel so great about all that exercise you just did, and then you drink a 200 calorie Gatorade, completely negating the caloric deficit.

I loved this quote:

If someone starts an exercise program and improves his fitness, even if he doesn’t lose an ounce, he will generally have a longer life and a much healthier life. It would be nice if people would look at exercise as a way to make themselves feel better and live longer and not necessarily as a way to make themselves skinnier.”

How do you view exercise? Is it a way to stay thin, a way to be healthy, or both?

-Sara

 

 

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