At Georgia State University, a study of 13 college students found that caffeine ingestion increased voluntary muscle strength in normal muscle but not in injured muscle.
The students received either caffeine or placebo in a double-blind study during four day test periods.
When their muscles had been slightly injured in a session of 50 eccentric contractions by the knee extensors, caffeine did not increase voluntary muscle strength and did not overcome excitation-contraction-coupling failure.
However, in normal muscle, caffeine significantly increased muscle strength by 10.4% through increased muscle activation (Park ND, Caffeines Enhancement of Maximal Voluntary Strength and Activation in Uninjured but Not Injured Muscle, International Journal of Sport Nutrition And Exercise Metabolism, December 2008).
Fitness News: Intermittent Or Continuous Exercise?
We all know we need a lot of exercise to stay healthy. Strength, balance, aerobic, stretching, and rhythmic exercises are all important.
But very few people can afford to spend several hours continuously exercising. So how can we find the time to attend to our body's needs?
A new fitness news animal study has found that intermittent exercise may provide greater health benefits than continuous exercise.
Animals were fed either regular laboratory chow or a high-fat version of their chow for six months.
They were divided into an additional three groups: either sedentary, continuous exercise, or intermittent exercise.
The continuous exercise group swam 90 minutes daily. The intermittent exercise group swam three 30 minute sessions daily. The sedentary group had no access to exercise.
At the end of the study, it was found that intermittent exercise was more efficient at reducing the unhealthy effects of a high-fat diet and lack of exercise (sedentary).
The animals on intermittent exercise had better blood lipids, lower food intake, reduced weight gain, less abdominal fat, and less nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (Sene-Fiorese M, Efficiency of intermittent exercise on adiposity and fatty liver in rats fed with high-fat diet, Obesity Silver Spring, July 2008).
While this fitness news study is considered preliminary, sports exercise researchers are finding that very short bursts of intense exercise may have health benefits that compare to longer continuous sessions.
In any case, take every opportunity to add a variety of exercises to your life for general health, even if only a few minutes at a time.
Fitness News: Community Tai Chi Effective
Many fitness news studies have shown that practicing Tai Chi can help reduce falls in seniors and increase their functional independence.
A new study funded by the Centers for Disease Control has developed and implemented a community-based project offering Tai Chi for seniors.
Researchers provided training and program materials to coordinate the Tai Chi experts and local administrators, as well as evaluate results in pilot programs for Oregon senior centers. Seniors participated in 1 hour classes twice a week for 12 weeks.
The programs proved to be successful, with high participant reach and satisfaction (Li F, Tai Chi: moving for better balance -- development of a community-based falls prevention program, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, May 2008).
Health benefits included significant improvements in balance, functional independence, and a reduction in falls.
Falls are a major cause of disability in seniors, leading to increased public health burdens.
Oregon State officials are planning on expanding this low-cost Tai Chi program.
Learn more about the benefits of exercise here
Fitness News: Walking For The Elderly And The Masai
Two new studies report on the benefits of regular walking for the elderly as well as the Masai in Tanzania.
The first study compared a walking exercise program for adults over age 60 with a nutritional education program conducted through the University of Georgia by Dr. Moore-Harrison.
For four months, the exercise group met three times a week, starting with a 10 minute walk and increasing to 40 minute walks.
They increased their peak aerobic capacity by 19% and reduced their risk of disability from 66% to 25%, a 41% improvement. They also said they enjoyed their walks and the opportunity to meet new people.
The nutrition education group also met three times a week for four months, but experienced a slight increase in their risk of physical disability.
The second fitness news study looked at the influence of lifestyle on the health of the Masai.
For decades, researchers have noticed that the Masai eat a diet that is very high in saturated fats, yet have very low risk of cardiovascular disease. Scientists speculated that their cardiovascular health was genetically determined.
Now, a study examined three groups of Tanzanian men and women, the Masai, local farmers, and local city dwellers.
They confirmed that despite a high animal fat diet, the Masai had low cardiovascular disease risk as measured by belly fat, or waist measurement, low body weight (BMI), lower blood pressure, and healthy blood lipids compared to the other two groups.
The association appeared to be daily physical activity rather than genetics.
The Masai expended 2565 kilocalories per day over their basal requirements, while the farmers only used 1500 kcal/day and people in the city only used 891 kcal/day (Mbalilaki JA, Daily energy expenditure and cardiovascular risk in Masai, rural and urban Bantu Tanzanians, British Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2008).
The energy expenditure of the Masai would be the equivalent of walking 20 kilometers or 12.4 miles every day of the year.
Fitness News: Sedentary Is Bad, Right?
You've been hearing about the health benefits of staying fit your whole life.
And daily exercise just makes common sense--move it or lose it, right?
Now a new study takes this common sense information even further.
This study supports the claims that reduced daily exercise can actually cause the risk factors for chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Scientists in Copenhagen studied two groups of healthy non-exercising men.
They asked the moderately active men to reduce their daily walking steps from 6000 daily to 1400 steps daily for three weeks. They asked the active men to reduce their steps from 10000 daily to 1400 daily for 2 weeks. Participants were instructed to use cars, escalators and other motorized transportation to reduce walking.
At the end of the study, participants had higher levels of blood glucose and fat. Clearing glucose and fat from the blood was also prolonged, increasing the risk of developing diabetes or chronic cardiovascular diseases.
Participants also accumulated more abdominal fat or belly fat in just two weeks with reduced walking (Olsen RH, Metabolic responses to reduced daily steps in healthy nonexercising men, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 2008).
So put on that pedometer, get a cup of green tea if appropriate, and start walking as soon as you can.
Fitness News: Older Women Have To Work Harder
As if we didn't know.
Women start with less muscle and more fat than men. With aging, women lose muscle more slowly than men. But older men can build new muscle much more easily than older women.
While most studies comparing men and women have used young or middle-ages subjects, a new study compared men and women between age 65 and 80 years old.
They verified that older women could keep existing muscle better than older men. But after eating a balanced liquid meal, men were much more effective at building new muscle tissue (Smith GI, Differences in muscle protein synthesis and anabolic signaling in the postabsorptive state and in response to food in 65-80 year old men and women, PLoS ONE, March 2008).
Researchers recommend that older women make sure they eat optimal amounts of lean protein daily and use appropriate resistance exercises to maintain as much muscle tissue as possible.
Maintaining exercise fitness levels is extremely important for the elderly to avoid the risk of falling. Half of the elderly who have a serious fall die within two years.
While exercise must be a life-long daily habit for everyone, people over the age of 50 must work harder to maintain their fitness programs to avoid muscle loss.
Fitness News: Never Too Old For Exercise?
Elderly people can benefit from regular exercise even after habitual sedentary living.
Researchers from Tufts University Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging are studying groups of people over the age of 70.
In one study they worked with a group of sedentary people age 70-89 who had cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and physical limitations while walking or climbing stairs.
They created a moderate exercise program including walking, resistance and strength building, flexibility, and balance training.
While tracking this group, researchers found that the longer the elderly participants adhered to the fitness program, the greater their physical improvements (Fielding RA, Activity adherence and physical function in older adults with functional limitations, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, November 2007).
In an update in the Journal of Gerontology Series A 2008, Dr. Fielding revealed that those participants that reported exercising at least 150 minutes per week showed the greatest improvement during tests of cardiovascular endurance, strength, balance, and gait speed.
Learn more about maintaining exercise fitness here.
Fitness News: Year-round Exercise Is A Must
Exercise fitness is an all-season, every day healthy habit.
Many people in developed nations decrease their exercise during the week, during the fall and winter, or with work pressures. In time, these lapses become seasonal habits.
But how easy is it to recover when spring arrives?
A new study finds that it is much harder for most people to get back in shape after a break.
Researchers compared 17,280 men and 5970 women who decreased their running distances over a 7.7 year period with 4632 men and 1953 women who had increased their running distances over the same period of time.
Those who stopped running completely gained four times as much weight as those who only lowered their running distance slightly--from 25 miles a week to 20 miles a week.
Once people had gained weight after a break, they had to increase their distances back to 20 miles a week for men and 10 miles a week for women before they could lose their weight gain (Williams PT, Asymmetric weight gain and loss from increasing and decreasing exercise, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, February, 2008).
Prevention is still the best cure, and for exercise, that means every day.
Fitness News: Preventing Strokes With Exercise
How's your cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF)?
If you're in the top 25% of CRF fitness, you may lower your risk of strokes up to 40% for men and 43% for women.
A new study examined over 60,000 people, age 18 to 100, who were part of the Cooper Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study in Dallas, Texas.
CRF fitness was measured using a treadmill to reach maximum aerobic capacity.
Data from 1970 to 2001 showed that high levels of fitness lowered the risk of stroke independent of smoking, body mass index (BMI), family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or alcohol intake (Hooker S, American Stroke Association International Conference, 2008).
Strokes are still the third leading cause of death in the United States, with over 780,000 strokes annually and over 150,000 deaths.
Every one should learn the warning signs of a stroke.
Fitness News: Guys Gotta Workout
It's not just about 6-pack abs.
It's about life and death.
Exercise fitness is now a strong predictor of all-cause mortality.
A new study tested 6749 African-American black men and 8911 Caucasian white men at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Washington, D. C.
The men were all over age 50 and were followed for an average of 7.5 years.
Out of all the clinical and exercise test variables, the lowest capacity for exercise was the strongest predictor for death during the study.
Men who had the greatest capacity for exercise as measured on treadmills had 70% less risk of dying during the 7.5 year follow-up study than men with the lowest capacity for exercise.
The results were the same for both black men and white men, and were true regardless of pre-existing cardiovascular disease (Kokkinos P, Circulation, 2008).
But staying alive is not all you get from pumped-up workouts--here's more fitness program benefits.
Men with health conditions should work with their health care providers or certified personal trainers prior to beginning a new exercise program.
Fitness News: Get Fit With PDAs
PDAs, or personal digital assistants, are a very useful technology that help people keep track of their lives.
Now they could help people keep their exercise commitment.
An 8-week study gave specially programmed PDAs to sedentary people over age 50. A control group received written fitness handouts.
The PDAs were programmed with questions like Where are you now? and What barriers did you face in doing your physical activity routine?
The PDAs beeped in the afternoon and evening. If the beep was ignored, it continued to beep three more times at 30 minute intervals.
Almost half the people responded only after the fourth beep, and considered the beep reminders helpful and positive.
The special program also allowed the participants to set their own goals, record their progress, and get feedback on how well they were meeting their goals.
At the end of 8 weeks, the PDA group had averaged five hours of physical activity a week and the control group only two hours of activity (King AC, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2008).
These results using automated computer calls were almost as effective as personal trainers in increasing daily exercise.
Cell phones with larger screens like the iPhone could also be useful with programs that help track physical activity and calorie goals.
Fitness News: Couch Potatoes And Rapid Aging
Which benefit of regular exercise is most important to you?
Lower rates of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower type 2 diabetes, less cancer, less risk of osteoporosis?
Or just accepting that daily exercise is a necessary part of your healthy weight management program?
Here's a new benefit if you are interested in anti-aging.
Researchers examined 2401 pairs of white male and female twins including the telomere length of their leukocyte DNA. Telomeres are nucleotide sequences at the end of chromosomes that shorten with age.
The researchers found a significant relationship between telomere length and physical activity, even after adjusting for smoking, body mass index (BMI), socioeconomic status, and work related activity.
The most active people in the study with an average of about 30 minutes physical activity daily or 199 minutes weekly had telomere lengths comparable to people 10 years younger. People with low levels of exercise and physical activity (16 minutes per week) had about 200 less nucleotides than people with the highest activity levels (Cherkas LF, Archives Internal Medicine, 2008). Telomere nucleotides drop off at the average rate of 21 per year.
There are both physical and psychological fitness program benefits from daily exercise. Most guidelines recommend 30 minutes exercise daily.
Couch potatoes can add years to their lives by getting off that couch or recliner. Put some exercise equipment in front of the TV, take daily walks in good weather, play some music and start dancing, go to the kitchen and make some green tea to take with you to the gym.
Unless you have a health condition that prohibits exercise, get your 30 minutes daily exercise as if your life depended on it.
Here's more anti-aging diet news.
Fitness News: Counting Calories Improves Muscles
Our bodies need daily exercise to keep our muscles strong and healthy. But people who are aging may experience an additional loss of muscle mass and strength called sarcopenia.
Now researchers have observed that an anti-aging diet using calorie restriction helps protect against muscle loss from age-related sarcopenia.
Two cellular factors that seem to have a primary association with sarcopenia are mitochondrial health and cellular signaling systems related to apoptosis or muscle cell death.
Both calorie restriction with optimal nutrition and a daily fitness program seem to help prevent malfunction with mitochondria and apoptotic cellular signaling. The result is greater preservation of muscle mass.
For aging humans, this could mean more mobility and self-sufficiency for a longer period of time.
These reviewed studies are considered preliminary (Marzetti E, Free Radical Biology Medicine, 2008).
Here's more fitness program benefits.
Fitness News: Saving Your Brain
A cerebrovascular stroke is one of the most debilitating health conditions. Strokes occur suddenly and seem unpredictable. Whether they are mini strokes or massive hemorrhagic strokes that create paralysis, they will damage your brain and can kill you.
One of the risk factors for strokes is increasing age. But now there's good news for people over 40.
A new study followed 13,615 people between the ages of 40 and 79 in the United Kingdom for up to 12 years.
Researchers adjusted for age, sex, socio-economic class, BMI, high blood pressure, blood cholesterol, diabetes, prior physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption.
Then researchers tracked basic physical capacity as measured by climbing stairs, bending, lifting, kneeling, and carrying groceries.
The results showed that people who scored in the top 25% of basic physical capacity had 50% fewer strokes during the 12 year study (Myint P, Neurology, 2007).
So, if you're over age 40, start looking for ways to increase your physical fitness and activity safely.
First, consult with your doctor if you have restricting health conditions. If appropriate, look for stairs, carry your own groceries, start a walking program, take community exercise classes, and check out other fitness programs.
The sooner you start, the easier it is, and you may improve your chances of saving your brain.
Fitness News: Exercise And High Blood Pressure
A new study of over 27,000 U. S. women analyzed the relationships between weekly exercise, cardiovascular risk factors, and the development of heart disease or stroke.
The women averaged 55 years in age (range 45 to 90 years old) and were followed for an 11 year period.
Weekly exercise was separated into high levels at more than five hours of moderately intense activity like brisk walking, moderate levels at two to five hours weekly, low levels at one to two hours weekly, and a control group at less than one hour weekly.
Heart disease risk factors tracked blood pressure, inflammatory and hemostatic factors like fibrinogen, c-reactive protein, and intracellular adhesion molecule 1, as well as their blood lipid profile, BMI, glucose control, kidney function, and homocysteine.
Results showed that women who exercised the most every week had 40% less chance of developing heart disease or stroke compared to those who exercised the least.
In addition, higher levels of exercise reduced high blood pressure which contributed a 27% less chance of developing heart disease or stroke.
One interesting finding was that the higher levels of exercise also reduced inflammatory and hemostatic biomarkers which was associated with a 33% less risk of heart disease or stroke (Mora S, Circulation, 2007).
All in all, this study gives women a lot more reasons to get out those walking shoes and start a daily exercise program.
Fitness News: Is Your Heart Feelin' Good?
Are you getting your cardio exercise?
Working up a sweat every day to keep your heart healthy?
You might want to make sure you get those endorphins flowing too.
A new study has shown that without naturally produced endorphin activity, there may be less benefit for the heart.
Researchers tested rats under vigorous exercise conditions and have shown that exercise increased endorphins and prevented heart damage.
Then they blocked the endorphins by blocking the natural opioid receptors and found that there was no longer any prevention of heart damage (Dickson EW, American Journal Physiol Heart Circ Physiol, 2007).
Without natural endorphins flowing, the exercise did not help protect the heart from damage.
So, how do we keep our endorphins active during exercise?
Endorphins, similar to morphine or opium, are produced naturally in the body. They are responsible for "runner's high" among athletes.
One way is to train appropriately for your own body over time until you get to "runner's high" capacity.
Another possibility is to add music to exercise. If the whole experience of exercising feels good, you've probably activated your endorphins. And listening to the music you love is a great way to get there.
So, make your exercise fun or soothing. As long as you're feelin' good, you may be giving your heart extra protection.
Fitness News: Even A Little Exercise Could Help You Through The Holidays
With the holidays coming up, many people can't find the time to maintain their regular exercise schedule.
So, do you lose a lot of benefits if you drop back to three days a week for a short period of time instead of the recommended five days a week?
One study suggests that you might be all right.
Researchers in Ireland divided a small group of sedentary adults into three groups. One group (control) made no changes, one group performed brisk walking for five 30-minute sessions a week, and one group performed brisk walking for only three 30-minute sessions a week.
After three months, both exercise groups had approximately the same amount of improvement in systolic blood pressure and waist/hip reduction. The no-exercise control group had no improvements.
But the five day a week group showed one advantage. They had significant lowering of diastolic blood pressure (Tully M, Journal Epidemiology and Community Health, 2007). This meant that more frequent exercise helped strengthen their cardiovascular system even during the rest period between heartbeats.
While the researchers recommend further studies, it seems that people might retain some benefits during periods of less frequent exercise.
Just remember to get back to recommended daily movement and exercise levels as soon as possible.
Fitness News: The Power Of Exercise
Researchers reviewing the power of exercise tell us...
Exercise helps the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
Exercise is a part of prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, strokes, brain and spinal cord injuries, and other neurological disorders.
Exercise is a part of prevention and treatment of depression and age-related cognitive loss.
Exercise is a part of prevention and treatment of stress-related high blood pressure, heart disease, and immune system health.
Exercise is a part of prevention and treatment of obesity and cancer (Dishman R, Obesity, 2006).
Add calorie control, regular doctor check-ups, some good music, and green tea, of course, and you've done quite a lot for your health and your future.
Fitness News: Tai Chi For The Immune System?
Tai chi, also called Taiji is an exercise system using gentle rhythmic movements with weight shifting, coordination, and extremity range of motion. It was developed in China around 700 years ago.
Practitioners report both physical and mental improvements. It can be combined with meditation practices for additional stress reduction.
Now there is a study of older adults showing that five months of Tai chi helps the immune system respond better to influenza vaccines.
Researchers tested a small group of older adults before and after five months of tai chi exercises and noticed improvements in their influenza antibody response after the exercises (Yang Y, American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2007).
This study is still considered preliminary, but many Tai chi studies have shown positive improvements in other health concerns such as balance, and well-being for geriatric populations.
Geriatric populations can have a lowered antibody formation after a flu vaccine due to age-related impairments in the immune system, leaving them more vulnerable to life-threatening infection in spite of flu shots.
Fitness News: It's Easier Than You Think
Think you don't have time for exercise?
Now there's a study that gives us a hopeful alternative to those long hours in the gym.
Researchers wanted to compare brief high-intensity workouts to extended moderate workouts.
They tested college students during a total of six cycling workouts spread out over two weeks (three sessions per week).
One group performed moderate level cycling for 90 to 120 minutes per session. The second group performed bursts of all-out cycling.
Each burst lasted 30 seconds followed by a four minute recovery period. The second group performed a total of only four to six bursts with recovery periods for their whole workout for a total of two to three minutes cycling in each 18 to 27 minutes per workout.
That's right. Two to three minutes actual exercise compared to 90-120 minutes actual exercise.
The total training time (including the mandatory recovery periods) for the two week testing period was 2.5 hours compared to 10.5 hours.
Both groups showed similar improvements in performance and muscle improvements (Gibala M, Journal of Physiology, 2007).
Adding healthy habits like regular exercise or drinking green tea to your daily lifestyle may seem complicated or time-consuming at first. But the more you learn, the easier it gets.
Please check with your licensed health care provider before beginning a new health program.
Fitness News: Pump Up Your Brain With Exercise
Researchers at the University of California Irvine recently reviewed the effects of exercise on brain function.
Direct benefits include enhanced learning and memory, protection of existing nerve cells while improving production of new nerve cells, and protection from debilitating psychological depression.
Indirectly, exercise can help protect against brain damage from diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease (Cotman CW, Trends Neuroscience, 2007).
Green tea may also help your health in these areas, including exercise fitness.
What a great package!
Exercise gives you top to bottom protection.
Exercise plus green tea gives you top to bottom protection, and inside-out protection.
Let's go for it!
Fitness News: Couch Potatoes Have Higher Heart Disease Risk
Researchers reviewed data on 19,125 men, age 20 to 70, whose health was followed during a 16 year period.
Men who had physical activity levels lower than the equivalent of four to five 30-minute walks weekly had twice the risk of heart disease than men who were more active (Katzmarzyk P, Circulation, 2005).
Daily physical activity can be as simple as walking, doing tai chi, or as challenging as preparing for the Tour de France.
The important parts are that it is regular, almost always 30 minutes a day, and enjoyable.
Remember, when it comes to your body, you have to move it or lose it.
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This page was last updated by Sharon Jones.
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