Americans Shirking Exercise

A new government study has found that about 80 percent of Americans aren’t getting nearly enough exercise, potentially setting themselves up for health worries later in life, reports USA Today. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people ages 18 to 64 get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week—walking at a brisk pace, for example—or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running or swimming. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities, such as weightlifting or push-ups, at least twice a week. But only 23 percent of adults are meeting those guidelines. Researchers found that a person’s sex, home state, and finances affected how much exercise they got. Nationally, some 19 percent of women and 27 percent of men hit the target. Residents of Mississippi were the least likely to work out, with about 14 percent meeting the guidelines, and Coloradans the most, at 33 (Read More)

Seniors Getting Pumped

A study examined “the effect of 26 weeks of low-load high-repetition resistance training (BodyPumpTM) on maximal strength, gait speed, balance and self-reported health status in healthy, active middle-aged and older adults.”   This study divided seniors (over 55 years) into two groups, a control group and a group that “trained twice per week for 26 weeks.” At the end of the trial, researchers concluded that “low- load high-repetition resistance training in the form of BodyPumpTM is effective at improving maximal strength, gait speed and some aspects of standing balance in adults over 55 years. The training was well tolerated by the majority of participants.”    

Leg Movement Key for Brain Health

Using your legs in weight-bearing exercise is critical for brain health, new research shows. Researchers found that moving the large muscles in the legs, through activities such as walking, climbing stairs, and running, triggers the production of stem cells in the brain—helping that critical organ to renew itself. “We are meant to be active: to walk, run, crouch to sit, and use our leg muscles to lift things,” study author Raffaella Adami tells MedicalNewsToday.com. For the study, researchers immobilized the hind legs of a group of mice for 28 days, then examined a specific area of their brains known as the subventricular zone. They found the neural stem cell activity of the mice had plummeted by 70 percent. Declines in oxygen levels associated with reduced physical activity also altered the rodents’ metabolism. These findings may explain why the health of people who are bedridden often deteriorates rapidly. In addition to the (Read More)

Walk Faster, Live Longer

If you want to add a few extra years to your life, try picking up the pace. That’s the advice of an international team of researchers who found that people’s walking speed is linked to their risk of dying early from heart disease and other causes. The scientists analyzed data provided by more than 50,000 Britons, who reported their typical walking speed (slow, average, fairly brisk, or fast) and other health metrics for nine years—during which time 3,617 of the respondents died. Compared with slowpokes, fast and average walkers had roughly a 20 percent lower risk of premature death, and a similar reduction in risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, reports MarketWatch.com. Upping the pace was even more beneficial for older walkers. Average-pace walkers ages 60 and over experienced a 46 percent reduction in risk of death from heart disease, and fast-pace walkers a 53 percent drop. To get the maximum (Read More)

Yoga’s Brain Boost

Yoga and meditation are becoming increasingly mainstream activities in the U.S., and new research helps explain why. Daily sessions of either practice can have dramatic effects on brain function. Scientists asked 31 healthy people to engage in 25 minutes of hatha yoga, mindfulness meditation, and quiet reading in random order. Mental tasks completed before and after each session found that yoga and meditation led to greater improvements in the participants’ energy level, mood, executive function, and ability to control thoughts and emotions. “Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation both focus the brain’s conscious processing power on a limited number of targets, like breathing and posing, and also reduce processing of nonessential information,” the study’s co-author, Peter Hall, tells ScienceDaily.com. That mental training, he said, apparently enables people “to focus more easily on what they choose to attend to in everyday life.” In addition to the physical aspect of brain health, our New (Read More)

How to Slow Brain Aging

Rigorous exercise may do more than protect the heart, trim the waistline, and keep bones strong. New research suggests strenuous physical activity can slow brain aging by as much as 10 years, the Los Angeles Times reports. Scientists followed 876 older adults for five years, tracking their physical activity and testing their memory and thinking skills. MRI scans also enabled researchers to assess their brain health. Repeat tests conducted five years later revealed the participants’ brain function was closely tied to how physically active they were. Those who opted for moderate to strenuous exercise, such as running and aerobics, had the highest scores and lowest risk for memory loss and decline in executive function. Less intense activities, including walking and yoga, produced only modest benefits. The brains of those who were sedentary, on the other hand, looked a decade older than the brains of their very active peers. They also had higher (Read More)

Exercise Stops Brain Shrinkage

After people turn 40, their brain shrinks by about 5 percent every 10 years. But new research suggests aerobic exercise could have a protective effect, slowing this age-related deterioration and keeping the mind sharp over time. To investigate the effects of exercise on the hippocampus, a brain region essential for creating and storing memories, an international team of researchers analyzed 14 previous studies, involving 737 people between ages 24 and 76. Some of the participants were healthy; others suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, depression, or schizophrenia. The researchers split the subjects into two groups—people who engaged in various fitness regimens for up to two years and those who didn’t exercise—and compared scans of their brains. They found that aerobic activity appeared to dramatically increase the size of the left region of the hippocampus. “When you exercise, you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor,” lead author Joseph Firth from Western Sydney (Read More)

Exercise Slows Aging

Exercise dramatically slows the aging process, helping people look and feel decades younger, new research suggests. British scientists compared a group of 125 avid cyclists between 55 and 79 years old with a group of inactive older people and younger adults in their 20’s and 30’s. They found those who routinely biked long distances had more muscle mass, less body fat, and healthier cholesterol levels than their sedentary peers. The cyclists also had the memory, balance, and immune system function of the adults roughly half their age. As people grow older, their bodies make fewer and fewer T cells, which help protect against infection. Researchers found, however, that the active older adults were still making as many T cells as the people in their 20’s, potentially reducing their risk for infections, cancer, and auto-immune diseases, NBCNews.com reports. With people living longer, study author Janet Lord says, exercise can help keep you healthy (Read More)

Aerobic Exercise Prevents Heart Aging

There is hope for middle-aged couch potatoes, reports Time.com. Years of inactivity can take a significant toll on the heart, but new research suggests that a spell of regular aerobic exercise can make up for decades of sitting. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center recruited 53 people between 45 and 64 who were healthy but led a sedentary lifestyle. Some of the volunteers were placed on an aerobic exercise regimen involving several 30-minute sessions each week—one high-intensity, two to three that were lighter, and one for strength training—as well as an hour of tennis, cycling, running, dancing, or brisk walking. The remaining volunteers were given a “casual” program consisting of balance training, yoga, or weight lifting three times a week. After two years, those who completed at least four aerobic workouts each week were not only markedly fitter, with an 18 percent improvement in their oxygen intake, but (Read More)

Run for your Life

Running for a couple of hours each week could reduce the risk of early death by nearly 40 percent. After analyzing existing evidence on the link between exercise and longevity, researchers calculated that one hour of running—even at a slow pace—lengthens life expectancy by seven hours. This adds up over time; people who run regularly tend to live about three years longer than their non-running peers, the study found. Co-author Duck-chul Lee cautions that these gains “are not infinite”—life expectancy improvements plateau after about four hours of running a week.