Tag Archives: Physical fitness

Brawn and Brains

Children who exercise regularly have a bigger hippocampus and thus an improved memory.

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Click to see:>Physically Fit Kids Have Bigger Hippocampus

In the age of the intellect, it may not be surprising if people do not exercise regularly. What does it matter to an intellectual career if you are not in your peak physical fitness, as long as you are healthy and in reasonable shape? Recent scientific research, however, says there is a connection. Fit people tend to be better off intellectually, no matter what their age. And fitter children tend to have better brains, literally and figuratively.

Art Kramer, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, the US, has been studying the influence of exercise on brains for a long time now. Like everyone else, he has been noticing links between the mind and exercise.

Recently, he set out to measure something others have not done so far with children’s brains: how their size responds to exercise. Kramer found out something that should make all educators sit up and take notice: fit children have a bigger hippocampus in the brain and perform better on memory tests. Says Kramer, “Brain size and function improve significantly with physical fitness.”

Kramer’s was the first study that tried to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to correlate brain sizes and physical fitness. Other studies previously have shown a correlation between exercise and academic performance in children. Kramer himself had earlier shown a correlation between exercise and brain size in older people.

Exercise has been shown to be beneficial in recovery after brain radiation treatment. Exercise has been also seen to be good for treating schizophrenia, depression and other brain-related problems. The link between physical fitness and mental fitness seem to be quite strong, and also in an unexpected manner.

Recent research in neuroscience has shown a strong correlation between brain size and performance. Although it seems to contradict common sense, neuroscientists have seen a link between brain size and mental ability, on occasions even intelligence. While this may be true even for overall brain size, the link seems to be strong for parts of the brain that seem to increase volume with certain activity. Neuroscientists have been focusing on the hippocampus because it is critical to several functions like long-term memory and spatial ability.

The size of the hippocampus is seen to increase with certain activity. For example, certain areas of the region are large in experienced taxi drivers. This is not surprising because specific skills are seen to increase the size of specific areas of the brain. However, current research on exercise goes beyond skills. It is about overall fitness, and it is seen to increase the size as well as improve the function of parts of the brain.

Kramer’s studies mainly pertained to aerobic exercise, the most well-studied form of exercise. He used a tested and reliable method of determining fitness: a person’s ability to use oxygen while running on a treadmill. Those who used oxygen more efficiently are fitter. This is supposed to be the gold standard in determining physical fitness. Kramer and his team worked with 49 children, of whom the fitter ones had a 12 per cent larger hippocampus. He also made the children perform memory tests, and the fitter children also scored better on those. Those who had a bigger hippocampus also performed better.

 

In another recent study, Lesley Cottrell of the University of West Virginia analysed over two years the link between physical fitness and academic performance, from fifth grade to seventh grade. She separated the students into groups, those who maintained their fitness levels over the two-year period, those who gained and those who lost it. She then analysed their academic performance during the period. Those who maintained their fitness were the best. Those who improved on it came second, and those who lost it came third. Those who remained unfit were in the last group.

Although this study did not look at brain sizes, the study size was large enough — 725 students — to be taken seriously. It also sent home a message, one that Kramer’s study substantiated. “In these times of tight budgets, it is the budget for physical education that is cut first,” says Kramer. “We should reconsider this policy.” Fit children are seen to carry their fitness into adulthood. The American Heart Association recommends 60 minutes of physical activity for children and adults.

Neuroscientists had also looked at older people and found roughly the same correlation as in children. The brain function, as measured by its chemistry, also improved in several studies. In animals, the size of the cerebellum — a brain part that is important for maintaining balance — increased with exercise. Blood flow improved as well.

Human studies are not as thorough, but they suggest the same pattern. Neuroscientists are now trying to see how the ability to tackle physically challenging tasks can correlate with the ability to tackle mentally challenging tasks.

It is early days yet, but the message is clear: physical activity is essential for maintaining an active mental life.

Click to see : Physical Fitness Increases Brain Size in Elderly

Source :
The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Two Foods You Should Never, Ever Eat After Exercise

Did you know that what you eat directly after exercising – typically within two hours – can have a significant impact on the health benefits you reap from your exercise?

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Consuming sugar within this post-exercise window, will negatively affect both your insulin sensitivity and your human growth hormone (HGH) production.

A recent study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that eating a low-carbohydrate meal after aerobic exercise enhances your insulin sensitivity. This is highly beneficial, since impaired insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, is the underlying cause of type 2 diabetes and a significant risk factor for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

In addition, as HGH Magazine explains, consuming fructose, including that from fruit juices, within this two-hour window will decimate your natural HGH production:

“A high sugar meal after working out, or even a recovery drink (containing high sugar) after working out, will stop the benefits of exercise induced HGH. You can work out for hours, then eat a high sugar candy bar or have a high sugar energy drink, and this will shut down the synergistic benefits of HGH.

… If you miss reaching HGH release during working out, you will still receive the calorie burning benefit from the workout. However, you’ll miss the HGH “synergy bonus” of enhanced fat burning for two hours after working out.

This is an extremely important fact to remember if you want to cut body fat and shed a few pounds.

The University of Virginia research team demonstrated that carbohydrates are burned during exercise in direct proportion to the intensity of training. Fat burning is also correlated with intensity. However, the actual fat burning takes place after the workout, during the recovery.

This makes the “Synergy Window,” the 2 hour period after a workout, very important in maximizing HGH, once it’s released during exercise.

… If you are middle-age and want all the benefits from exercise induced HGH, then apply this strategy.”

Fitness expert Phil Campbell, author of Ready, Set, Go! further explains how you can maximize your HGH production by limiting sugar intake for two hours post exercise, in this article on HowToBeFit.com.

Exercising one hour a week and getting the same results as traditional strength training might sound impossible. However, University of Florida orthopedics researchers have developed a system that may do just that, and as you will read in my comment below, the kind of exercise you perform can dramatically reduce the time you spend in the gym while still getting better results than you did before.

The system created by University of Florida researchers uses eccentric (negative) resistance training, which capitalizes on the fact that the human body can support and lower weights that are too heavy to lift.

According to UF Health Science Center:

“Through a system of motors, pulleys, cams and sensors it adds weight when a person is performing a lowering motion, and removes that weight when the person is lifting. As a result, the body starts seeing loads, resistance, and forces that it doesn’t normally see”.

Other scientists have found additional clues that explain how exercise reshapes and strengthens more than just your muscles.

It changes your brain too.

In the late 1990s, researchers proved that human and animal brains produce new brain cells, and that exercise increases the process. But precisely how exercise affects the intricate workings of your brain at a cellular level remained a mystery.

However, a number of new studies have begun to identify the specific mechanisms, and have raised new questions about just how exercise reshapes your brain.

In some studies, scientists have been manipulating the levels of bone-morphogenetic protein (BMP) in the brains of mice. The more active BMP becomes, the more inactive your brain stem cells become and the fewer new brain cells you produce. Exercise reverses some of the effects of BMP.

According to the New York Times:

“BMP signaling was found to be playing a surprising, protective role for the brain’s stem cells … Without BMP signals to inhibit them, the stem cells began dividing rapidly, producing hordes of new neurons.”

Resources:

UF Health Science Center February 23, 2010

New York Times July 7, 2010

PloS One October 20, 2009; 4(10):e7506

Cell Stem Cell July 2, 2010; 7(1):78-89

Journal of Applied Physiology December 31, 2009

HGH Magazine

HowToBeFit.com

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Physical Fitness Reduces Chronic Disease Risk

Staying in shape may bolster the metabolic profiles of college students. In an epidemiological study, researchers found an association between physical fitness, body fat percentage and metabolic risk factors that are precursors to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

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Researchers tracked four biomarkers of metabolic risk — high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides and blood glucose levels.

According to Eurekalert:
Physical fitness appeared to have a greater impact on certain metabolic risk factors than body fat. Being fit correlated with lower triglycerides and higher HDL … healthy cholesterol in women and lower blood glucose levels in men.”

Even though more Americans are exercising, rates of obesity and smoking have not changed.  A survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that obesity rates remained at around 28 percent of adults, the same as in 2008.

However, 34.7 percent claimed that they engaged in regular leisure physical activity, up from 31.9 percent in 2008.

Reuters reports:
“Health experts and the U.S. government both recommend getting daily exercise — about an hour a day of moderate exercise for most adults — to keep weight off and prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

Reources:
Eurekalert June 17, 2010
Reuters June 16, 2010
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise June 2010; 42(6):1039-44

Etiquettes of Gymming

Don’t let your gym work against you. Watch out for these common pitfalls, suggests fitness expert Althea Shah.

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Like everything else, a workout also has its own set of etiquettes and rules which, if not followed, can send your regimen for a toss. Being able to drag yourself every day to the gym is good, but even more important is to have the correct know-how of the dos and don’ts while exercising. Althea Shah, fitness expert from Gold’s Gym India, Mumbai, lists the common dangers prevalent in the gym.

Out of form: All exercises are designed in a specific manner to provide optimal results. It’s common knowledge that lifting maximum weight (as per one’s capacity) during the last set of any exercise provides maximum benefit. It helps one attain ‘muscle fatigue’ which gives the ‘after-burn’ effect (calorie burn after finishing the workout). However, the worst thing that one can do is to compromise on the right ‘form’ so as to be able to lift that ‘extra’ weight.
Without the best form, workload goes waste or becomes unproductive. Those who swing weights while lifting and bend their backs during a bicep curl are at a high risk of injuries.

Lifting too much:
Never lift more than what your muscles can handle. Gradual, progressive resistance is a far more effective way to increase muscle strength. When helping somebody with his workout, align your body such that it allows you to aid the lifter, without any risk of injury.

Keep it clean: Always wipe the equipment with a gym towel before and after use as it helps prevent spread of diseases. Though there’s a lot of etiquette emphasis on wiping equipment (such as the cardio machines) after use, it is also imperative to take your health in your own hands and wipe it before use as germs could still be transferred from adjacent machines.

Don’t go barefoot: The human traffic in locker rooms, combined with absence of sunlight, creates a perfect environment for germs to flourish. Always wear footwear to avoid athlete’s foot, a fungus infection that usually starts with itchy scales and blisters between the toes. Footwear will also keep you from slipping on wet tiles.
Those frequenting jacuzzis and pools are at high risk of catching contagious skin infections such as dermatitis. Chlorine in the water kills most germs, but if it doesn’t contain enough chlorine, you could catch a hair-follicle infection which needs antibiotic treatment.

Junk the mobile: Gym is for working out. So do just that. Smsing and chatting on phone not only wastes time, but the smart ones who try to multi-task their workouts with cellphone activity are at high risk of injuries. Treadmill accidents account for more than onethird of the reported injuries, with people either tripping or falling off them. Learn to use the machine first and refrain from checking your cell phone while working out. Also, be careful not to go too close to someone lifting heavy weights. He/she might, by mistake, drop them on your feet.

Fit to size: The gym equipment is designed to accommodate a wide range of body types and sizes, so it’s imperative that you adjust it to your size. Not doing so reduces the machine’s impact on your muscle. The muscle, hence, goes partially trained, leading to sluggish contribution in muscular growth.

Don’t jerk:
When you jerk the weight, it’s likely that you’re jerking other muscle groups as well. This can lead to strain and injury. The back muscles are particularly vulnerable to such injuries. Remember: control the weight, don’t let it control you.

Right equipment:
Before using any equipment, check that there are no loose nuts or screws on the machine. If the machine rattles or works with a jerk during exercise, stop immediately. Also, check cables of weight machines to ensure they aren’t frayed or damaged, and are covered with a protection sleeve.

Source: The Times Of India

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Get Fit with this Easy Rule: Walking

The deceptively simple path to a fit body  begins with the easiest activity in the world: walking.

Every get-fit plan should start with a basic 30-minute daily walk for 30 days. It will prime your body for the muscle-toning and stamina-building exercises you need in order to go from couch potato to hot property. Cheat or skip this simple step and you run the risk of injuring yourself and falling off the fitness wagon.

First things first
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According to experts, an out-of-shape muscle is deficient in two things: tiny power house factories (called mitochondria) that generate juice for your workouts, and contractile proteins that give the muscle strength. And walking for 30 minutes a day – or for 10 minutes three times a day – for a month replenishes mitochondria and contractile proteins, so your body will be ready and able to build on your fitness routine. Find out how an “easy” walk can still help you lose weight.

Take the next step :
When you’re ready to expand your exercise program, follow these guidelines for sculpting a lean, healthy body:

– After 30 days of walking, add 10 minutes of resistance training, focusing on the large muscle groups of your body (back, abs, quads, glutes, shoulders, and hamstrings) every other day.

– The next month, add another 10 minutes of resistance training, hitting your remaining muscle groups (chest, shoulders, and arms) every other day.

Congratulations! After 90 days, you’ll be ready to pull out your cutest workout gear and showoff your fit body. Add 21 minutes of stamina-building exercise to your routine three times a week.

Source: The Times Of India

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