If you are really motivated to lose weight through exercise, aerobic training is likely your best bet. Researchers at Duke University looked at whether supervised aerobic exercise, resistance (strength training with weights), or a daily routine incorporating both would lead to the most weight loss. They divided a group of 234 overweight or obese adults into one of three training groups: The first group performed aerobics only (workouts on treadmills, elliptical machines and cycle ergometers – a type of stationary bike), the second group participated in resistance workouts, and the remaining group exercised using a combination of both. A total of 119 participants completed the study. Results showed that those in the aerobic group trained for an average of 133 minutes per week and lost weight; the resistance training group worked out for approximately 180 minutes per week and gained weight (they replaced fat with muscle, which is denser than fat). Participants who did both types of exercise didn’t lose as much weight as those in the aerobic group but had the largest decline in waist circumference. The study was published in the December 15, 2012 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.
How do you rate your stress level? Your answer to that question may tell you something about your risk of coronary heart disease. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centers analyzed six studies involving data on almost 120,000 participants to find out how perceived stress ranks as a predictor of heart disease. Depending on the participants’ answers to questions about how stressed they feel and how often they feel stress, the researchers assigned each one a score. The individuals' medical histories were then followed for an average of 14 years. Research showed that the participants who ranked their stress as “high” were at 27 percent increased risk of being diagnosed or hospitalized with heart disease, or had died as a result of heart disease. The researchers found that high stress was about equivalent in added risk to a 50 mg/dL increase in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, an increase in blood pressure of 2.7/1.4 mmHg or smoking five more cigarettes per day. Their advice? Anything you can do to reduce stress can help improve your future heart health. The study was published in the American Journal of Cardiology, December 15, 2012.
My take? We know that stress increases the risk of heart disease. The findings of this study are interesting because they compare the risks of stress to better known and easily quantifiable risk factors such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure and smoking. If you want to decrease the impact of stress in your life, be sure to get regular exercise and sufficient sleep. Incorporate meditation and some form of relaxation technique into your daily routine. Simple breathing exercises can be especially effective and require no special equipment, so you can use them whenever you feel anxious or upset.
A recent Q&A discussed the "quantified self" movement and measuring personal goals: Quantified Self: Your Way To Good Health? Check out the article and tell us what aspect of your life you track most closely!
Many women may be receiving medically unjustified pelvic exams, according to a new investigation from the University of California, San Francisco. The study found that many of the 521 gynecologists and obstetricians surveyed mistakenly believe that pelvic exams are important in screening for ovarian cancer. The research team noted that under current preventive care guidelines from the American Cancer Society, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, most women also no longer need annual Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. The investigators asked the participating physicians whether they would perform a pelvic exam in patients aged 18, 35, 55, and 70 years who had no symptoms of gynecologic diseases and who didn’t need a Pap test according to the professional guidelines. Nearly all of the physicians surveyed indicated that they would perform routine pelvic exams in women who had no symptoms of gynecologic problems and were at low risk for pelvic cancers. Most of the doctors surveyed said they would perform the exam on a 55-year-old woman with no ovaries, uterus or cervix – and more than half considered such an exam to be very important for that woman. Some 87 percent of the physicians said they would perform the exam on healthy 18-year-olds. ACOG recently recommended the exam not begin routinely until age 21. The article was published online on November 12, 2012 by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Dr. Weil presents five basic pillars that can help you create and maintain good health. See which ones you already practice, and which you should strive to incorporate into your life.
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Here’s one less thing to worry about as you get older: your immune system will still be as capable of shaking off bugs as that of a much younger person. A study at Canada’s McMaster University assessed the resistance of individuals under 40, between 41 and 59 and older than 60 when infected with three different viruses, including West Nile, and found that the study’s seniors demonstrated perfectly normal immune responses. Their T cells, an important class of immune cells, responded to the virus with the same vigor as T cells from the study’s younger participants, the researchers reported. Jonathan Bramson, Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator said that it had been thought that seniors were at higher risk of infections because they had fewer numbers of these immune cells or that they weren't as active, but that the study demonstrated that “the elderly are certainly capable of developing immunity to viruses.” The researchers reported that the number of virus-fighting T cells and the function of those cells “were equivalent in all three groups.” The study was published in PLOS Pathogens on December 13, 2012.
How quickly and easily you can sit down on the floor and then get up may give you a hint about how long you’ll live. A study from Brazil published in the November 1, 2012 European Journal of Preventive Cardiology looked at how adept some 2,002 men and women ages 51 to 80 were at performing these moves. We know that aerobic fitness correlates with a longer life span, but this study suggests that flexibility, muscle strength, balance and co-ordination are also important factors in determining longevity. Study leader Claudio Gil Araújo, Ph.D., explained that “if a middle-aged or older man or woman can sit and rise from the floor using just one hand – or even better without the help of a hand – they are not only in the higher quartile of musculoskeletal fitness but their survival prognosis is probably better than that of those unable to do so.” The study showed that each additional support needed to sit down on the floor and then get up - hand, forearm, knee, side of leg, or hand on the knee - was associated with a 21 percent lower chance of survival over the approximately six years of the study’s follow-up.
My take? This interesting study points up the benefits of remaining physically fit as we get older. At any age, an exercise program should contain three elements: aerobic activity (such as walking, swimming or biking) for cardiovascular fitness, resistance training to maintain muscle strength (which declines by about 15 percent per decade during one's 60s and 70s) and exercises to increase flexibility and balance, which can help prevent falls as you age - and may help you sit down on the floor and then get up with little or no support. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that seniors perform resistance training workouts at least two days a week. For flexibility, I recommend stretching classes, yoga or Pilates, a conditioning system that increases both core strength and flexibility. I also highly recommend tai chi, which promotes flexibility, balance, and good body awareness.
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