Battling cancer with exercise, nutrition and mental health – LA Times

Battling cancer with exercise, nutrition and mental health - LA Times

The healing power of exercise

Before Gabriela Dow’s cancer diagnosis, her schedule, which involved juggling professional commitments with motherhood, left little time for working out. But when her oncologist recommended that she exercise during treatment, she started walking. “I learned early on that moving made me feel so much better, especially before the tiredness really set in,” says Dow.

Experts lay groundwork for higher produce consumption to take root

Not only does exercise make people feel better, fitness is correlated with mortality, says Dr. Arash Asher, director of Cancer Survivorship and Rehabilitation at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “There have been oodles of studies that show exercise is good for breast cancer patients. It reduces fatigue, it’s good for the bones and it decreases anxiety. But there also seems to be a much lower recurrence rate for people who get moderate amounts of exercise per week.”

Research shows that exercise also reduces recurrence rates of other types of cancer, including colorectal, prostate and ovarian cancers. The protective benefit may be manifold: physical activity reduces inflammatory chemicals, body fat and insulin sensitivity, all of which may fuel cancer progression and recurrence.

The caveat, says Asher, is that while moderate exercise is beneficial, intense exercise may actually suppress immunity in the short term. “The answer is that it needs to be tailored for each person.”



Quality-of-life care may help cancer patients live longer, feel better



Cancer rehab may also include “prehabilitation”: targeted exercises designed to optimize a treatment’s outcome that patients can do before the treatment begins. For example, preoperative lung cancer patients may do breathing exercises, such as blowing up balloons, prostrate cancer patients may do pelvic floor exercises and neck cancer patients may do swallowing exercises.

via Battling cancer with exercise, nutrition and mental health – LA Times.


I’m a Strong, Fit Yoga Teacher—and I Still Get Insecure About My Belly | Women’s Health Magazine

I love doing this teacher’s videos on yogaglo. She’s fun, works hard as hell, but also slips in some good messages without sounding overly corny. So I was impressed when I saw her article about body issues.


Five years ago, I auditioned for a yoga video. A few weeks later, the DVD producer called me to tell me that she couldn’t hire me—even though she thought I was the most qualified for the job—because I had a tire around my waist. I listened as she rattled off the many reasons why I would never be “camera-ready” and sucked back tears as I let her drag me across the coals, only to burst into sobs the second I pressed “end” on the phone.

I had never let someone freely body bash me like that. I’m fully aware that I don’t look like a 5’10″ ripped fitness model, that I’ve never had a six-pack. My body leans toward the softer side, even for someone who sweats daily and dedicates herself to regular physical activities.

via I’m a Strong, Fit Yoga Teacher—and I Still Get Insecure About My Belly | Women’s Health Magazine.

One Twin Exercises, the Other Doesn’t –

…”Some past studies had found that older identical twins whose workout habits had diverged over the years tended to age differently, with greater risks of poor health and early death among the sedentary twin.

But no studies had looked at young twins and the impacts of different exercise routines on their health. So for the new study, which was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers at the University of Jyvaskyla and other institutions in Finland turned to that country’s extensive FinnTwin16 database, which contained twins’ answers to questionnaires about their health and medical conditions, beginning when the pairs were 16 and repeated every few years afterward.

The researchers were looking for young adult identical twins in their early- to mid-20s whose exercise habits had substantially diverged after they had left their childhood homes. These twins were not easy to find. Most of the pairs had maintained remarkably similar exercise routines, despite living apart.

But eventually the researchers homed in on 10 pairs of male identical twins, one of whom regularly exercised, while the other did not, usually because of work or family pressures, the researchers determined.

The dissimilarities in their exercise routines had mostly begun within the past three years, according to their questionnaires.

The scientists invited these twins into the lab and measured each young man’s endurance capacity, body composition and insulin sensitivity, to determine their fitness and metabolic health. The scientists also scanned each twin’s brain.

Then they compared the twins’ results.

It turned out that these genetically identical twins looked surprisingly different beneath the skin and skull. The sedentary twins had lower endurance capacities, higher body fat percentages, and signs of insulin resistance, signaling the onset of metabolic problems. (Interestingly, the twins tended to have very similar diets, whatever their workout routines, so food choices were unlikely to have contributed to health differences.)

The twins’ brains also were unalike. The active twins had significantly more grey matter than the sedentary twins, especially in areas of the brain involved in motor control and coordination.

via One Twin Exercises, the Other Doesn’t –

Why Your Workout Should Be High-Intensity –

Many people with chronic health problems resign themselves to lives of modest activity or no activity at all, thinking vigorous exercise is unsafe or that they lack the stamina for it. But recent studies are proving just the opposite.

They are showing that high-intensity exercise may be even better than regular aerobic activities for many patients with conditions like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, pulmonary disease, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease.

The studies strongly suggest that a more demanding but more efficient and often more enjoyable form of exercise known as high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is not only safe for most patients but more effective at preventing or reversing the deficits associated with many chronic ailments.

Although once reserved for athletes seeking a competitive advantage and for healthy people wanting to burn more body fat, HIIT is now being studied as a treatment that is sometimes as effective as medication for many people with chronic health problems.

Researchers have found that repeatedly pushing the body close to its exercise limits for very brief periods, interspersed with periods of rest, is more effective than continuous moderate activity at improving cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic and mechanical functions.

Instead of continuous movement for 20 or more minutes, as is typical for exercise walkers, joggers and cyclists, HIIT usually involves 30 to 60 seconds of exercise near the peak of a person’s ability, followed by a comparable recovery period of easy activity, with the sequence repeated for a total of about 20 minutes three times a week.

“We know that exercise is good for people at risk of chronic disease, but people tend not to exercise,” said Jonathan P. Little, a specialist in exercise physiology at the University of British Columbia at Okanagan. Yet he and other researchers report that study participants find interval training more enjoyable than continuous aerobic exercise, making it more likely that people will continue it on their own.

Various activities can be adapted to interval training, including cycling, swimming, walking and jogging, especially on a machine like a stationary bike or treadmill. But HIIT is possible indoors and out, for example by alternating sprints with more moderate exercise.

The intensity is tailored to an individual’s starting ability. “The high-intensity component is set at 80 to 90 percent of the person’s maximum aerobic capacity,” Dr. Little said

via Why Your Workout Should Be High-Intensity –

Gut bacteria diversity improves with exercise, study shows – Medical News Today

Exercise is held up as one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. It burns calories, it is good for your heart and it can make you happier. Its benefits do not end there, though; new research has found that exercise also boosts the diversity of bacteria found in the gut, which can have positive long-term health implications.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract – the stomach and intestines – is home to a complex community of bacteria referred to as the gut microbiota.

The gut microbiota contributes to the metabolism and the development of the immune system, and previous research has linked changes in its composition with conditions such as diabetes, GI diseases and obesity.

Reduced variation in microbiota has been associated with these health problems, while increased diversity has been linked to a favorable metabolic profile and immune system response.

Diet has already been found to be key in influencing the gut microbiota. Other areas of modern lifestyle have also been found to affect the microbiota population, but the degree to which these do is not clear.

The study, carried out by a team of researchers based in Ireland and published in Gut, is the first to specifically examine the link between exercise and its impact on gut microbiota.

As extremes of exercise are often associated with extremes of diet, the researchers focused their study on a group of athletes. They analyzed fecal and blood samples from 40 professional rugby players during their preseason training program in order to assess the range of their gut microbiota.

Two control groups were also assessed; one group matched with the athletes by size with a comparable body mass index (BMI), and one group matched by age but with lower BMI scores.

Each participant in the study completed a food frequency questionnaire and answered questions about their normal levels of physical activity. The questionnaire detailed how much and how often they had eaten different food items over the preceding 4 weeks.

Exercise found to boost gut microbiota diversity

The results found that the athletes had a significantly wider range of gut microbiota than the men in the comparison groups, and in particular the control group containing men with a high BMI.

Athletes running
Athletes undergoing a rigorous training program were found to have a high diversity of gut bacteria.

The athletes also had better metabolic profiles than the men with a high BMI and much higher proportions of Akkermansiaceae, a type of bacteria that is known to be linked with lower rates of obesity and associated metabolic disorders.

The dietary analysis found that the athletes ate more of all of the food groups than the control participants. Protein accounted for more of their energy intake (22%) than the comparison groups (15-16%), and they also ate more fruits and vegetables and fewer snacks.

The authors say their findings indicate that exercise is another important factor in the relationship between microbiota, host immunity and host metabolism, with diet playing an important role.

They say that in future research, intervention-based studies to tease apart the relationship between lifestyle changes and the microbiota will be important and provide further insights into optimal therapies to influence the gut microbiota and its relationship with health and disease.

In a linked editorial, Dr. Georgina Hold, of the Institute of Medical Sciences, Aberdeen University, emphasizes the importance of investigating how different lifestyle changes can affect the bacteria in the GI tract:

“By being able to identify the impact of such activities, we can aim to reproduce the positive impacts through manipulation of the gut microbiota.

As life expectancy continues to increase, it is important that we understand how best to maintain good health. Never has this been more relevant than in respect of our resident microbiota. Understanding the complex relationship among what we choose to eat, activity levels and gut microbiota richness is essential.”

“Developing new ways to manipulate the beneficial properties of our microbiota by finding ways to integrate health-promoting properties into modern living should be the goal,” she concludes.via Gut bacteria diversity improves with exercise, study shows – Medical News Today.

Fitness Crazed –

SAN FRANCISCO — I’M no scientist, but I sure like reading about science. I’m always looking through newspapers for the latest research about saturated fat and whether it’s still bad for you, or if maybe sugar is poison.

So when I found myself 40, fat and weak, I paid special attention to exercise science articles, in the hopes of getting strong. I found stories about cutting-edge studies that claimed you should do intense, brief workouts instead of long ones.

I hired personal trainers certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine in a training methodology “founded on scientific, evidence-based research.” They taught me to avoid cave man barbell lifts like squats in favor of tricky new exercises on wobble boards and big inflatable balls to stimulate my body’s core.

I learned about the science of muscle confusion — central to infomercial workouts like P90X, from It’s a little hard to understand, but the idea seems to be that you change routines constantly, so that your muscles continue to adapt.

I had fun doing these workouts. Sometimes, when I stood naked in front of the mirror, I thought I looked better. Mostly, though, I looked the same. I mentioned this to an excellent trainer named Callum Weeks, in San Francisco. Mr. Weeks suggested that I focus on one aspect of fitness for a while, maybe strength. So I poked around Amazon and found “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training,” written by Mark Rippetoe, a gym owner in Wichita Falls, Tex.

The program sounded like an unscientific joke. It called for exactly three workouts per week, built around five old-fashioned lifts: the squat, dead lift, power clean, bench press and standing press. But the black-and-white photographs were so poorly shot, and the people in them were so clearly not fitness models, that it seemed legit.

The book came in the mail and then I went to the gym and, per Mr. Rippetoe’s instructions, did three sets of five reps in the squat, dead lift and standing press. Then I went home and drank milk. Two days later, I did three sets of five in the squat and the bench press. I repeated this basic pattern, alternating the dead lift with the power clean, for a year, adding a little more weight to the bar in every lift, during every session.

via Fitness Crazed –

Run When You’re 25 For A Sharper Brain When You’re 45 : Shots – Health News : NPR


April 02, 2014 4:14 PM ET

If you’re in your 20s, you might work out because it’s fun, or because it makes you look better. But here’s another reason to hit the gym or go for a jog — exercising now may help preserve your memory and cognition later in life.

Researchers figured this out by following 2,700 men and women for 25 years as part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study.

Teenagers and young adults who did better on treadmill tests tended to do better on memory and problem solving tests in middle age, researchers found. That’s even after they accounted for unhealthful things like smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Young people don’t always consider how their lifestyle might affect them 25 years down the road, says David Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health and one of researchers behind the study.

We already know that regular exercise helps stave off things like obesity and heart disease. And earlier studies have found that older adults who exercise are more likely to remain mentally sharp. But this study is one of the first to look at how exercise in young adulthood affects cognition.

The researchers don’t know why exactly cardiovascular exercise helps preserve brain function. But they suspect it’s because a healthy heart is better at pumping blood and oxygen to the brain.

“Things that would be good for the heart are probably going to be good for the brain,” Jacobs says.

The effects on memory in this study were fairly small. On average, the least fit participants were able to remember seven out of 15 words in a memory test; the fittest participants were able to remember eight.

The researchers also had participants read out the names of colors printed in different colored ink to test executive function, and replace a series of numbers with symbols to gauge how well participants could coordinate their thinking with their actions. The fittest participants were on average four seconds quicker to read out the correct colors on the executive function test, and they were able to more accurately substitute symbols for numbers.

Jacobs realizes that doesn’t sound impressive. “If a person can remember one more word on a list, so what?” he says. But an even a slightly sharper mind could give people an edge in their careers and ultimately in their quality of life, he says.

The findings were published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

But what if you’re past 50, and you didn’t exercise when you were younger? Jacobs says there’s no need to freak out. And there’s no need to start training for a marathon right away, either.

However, Jacobs says, being active in middle age will very likely benefit your brain, no matter how buff you were in college. Study participants who were more fit in middle age than in their 20s had slightly better cognition than participants who weren’t active in middle age.

“If you have not done everything exactly right — and that’s pretty much everybody — you can make changes later in life,” he says.

via Run When You’re 25 For A Sharper Brain When You’re 45 : Shots – Health News : NPR.

Ask Well: Exercises to Strengthen Bones –

What are good exercises to prevent osteoporosis?

What specific weight bearing or weight lifting exercises increase bone density in the spine?


In general, activities that involve impacts with the earth, such as running and jumping, are the most effective way to improve bone health, according to Dr. Jon Tobias, a professor of rheumatology at the University of Bristol who studies bone health. They create ground-reaction forces that move through your bones and stimulate them to “remodel” themselves and add density, he said. They also entail strong muscular contractions that tug at and slightly bend attached bones, redoubling the stimulating effects of the exercise.

Sprinting and hopping are the most obvious and well-studied examples of high-impact exercises. In one recent study, women ages 25 to 50 who leaped like fleas at least 10 times in a row, twice per day for four months, significantly increased the density of their hipbones. In another, more elaborate experiment from 2006, women who hopped and also lifted weights improved the density of their spines by about 2 percent compared to a control group, especially if the weight training targeted both the upper body and the legs. Women whose weight training focused only on the legs did not gain as much density in their spines.

Interestingly, weight training on its own does not seem to be an effective way to improve bone density. A 2005 study of adult female athletes, for instance, found that those participating in the highest-impact sports, including volleyball, hurdling, squash, soccer and speed skating, had denser bones than those competing in weight lifting. But the weight lifters did have healthier bones than those in the no-impact sports of bicycling and swimming,

Thankfully for those of us reluctant to take up speed skating or hurdling later in life, the amount of pounding required to stimulate bone remodeling in older people is probably less than it is for the young. Walking may be sufficient, if it’s speedy. In the large-scale Nurses’ Health Study of more than 60,000 postmenopausal women, those who walked briskly at least four times per week were at much lower risk of hip fractures (an indirect but practical indicator of bone health) than the women who walked less often, more slowly, or not at all.

Had the walkers occasionally jigged backwards and sideways, all the better. So-called odd impacts, created when you move in a direction other than straight ahead, can initiate remodeling throughout the hipbone and spine in older people, a few recent studies suggest.

So, too, may shaking up the bones by standing on a whole-body vibration platform, available nowadays at many health clubs. In a 2013 study, 28 postmenopausal women were randomized to use a vibration platform for five minutes, three times a week, or not to shake and pulsate. After six months, the vibrating women had 2 percent more spinal bone, while the control group had lost about half a percent. Not all studies to date of vibration training show bone benefits, but none have found harms, so you might investigate the option if, because of your health, balance or natural sense of dignity, you do not hop.

via Ask Well: Exercises to Strengthen Bones –

How Inactivity Changes the Brain –

A number of studies have shown that exercise can remodel the brain by prompting the creation of new brain cells and inducing other changes. Now it appears that inactivity, too, can remodel the brain, according to a notable new report.

The study, which was conducted in rats but likely has implications for people too, the researchers say, found that being sedentary changes the shape of certain neurons in ways that significantly affect not just the brain but the heart as well. The findings may help to explain, in part, why a sedentary lifestyle is so bad for us.

Until about 20 years ago, most scientists believed that the brain’s structure was fixed by adulthood, that you couldn’t create new brain cells, alter the shape of those that existed or in any other way change your mind physically after adolescence.

But in the years since, neurological studies have established that the brain retains plasticity, or the capacity to be reshaped, throughout our lifetimes. Exercise appears to be particularly adept at remodeling the brain, studies showed.

But little has been known about whether inactivity likewise alters the structure of the brain and, if so, what the consequences might be.

So for a study recently published in The Journal of Comparative Neurology, scientists at Wayne State University School of Medicine and other institutions gathered a dozen rats. They settled half of them in cages with running wheels and let the animals run at will. Rats like running, and these animals were soon covering about three miles a day on their wheels.

The other rats were housed in cages without wheels and remained sedentary.

After almost three months of resting or running, the animals were injected with a special dye that colors certain neurons in the brain. In this case, the scientists wanted to mark neurons in the animals’ rostral ventrolateral medulla, an obscure portion of the brain that controls breathing and other unconscious activities central to our existence.

The rostral ventrolateral medulla commands the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which among other things controls blood pressure on a minute-by-minute basis by altering blood-vessel constriction. Although most of the science related to the rostral ventrolateral medulla has been completed using animals, imaging studies in people suggest that we have the same brain region and it functions similarly.

A well-regulated sympathetic nervous system correctly directs blood vessels to widen or contract as needed and blood to flow, so that you can, say, scurry away from a predator or rise from your office chair without fainting. But an overly responsive sympathetic nervous system is problematic, said Patrick Mueller, an associate professor of physiology at Wayne State University who oversaw the new study. Recent science shows that “overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system contributes to cardiovascular disease,” he said, by stimulating blood vessels to constrict too much, too little or too often, leading to high blood pressure and cardiovascular damage.

The sympathetic nervous system will respond erratically and dangerously, scientists theorize, if it is receiving too many and possibly garbled messages from neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla.

And, as it turned out, when the scientists looked inside the brains of their rats after the animals had been active or sedentary for about 12 weeks, they found noticeable differences between the two groups in the shape of some of the neurons in that region of the brain.

Using a computerized digitizing program to recreate the inside of the animals’ brains, the scientists established that the neurons in the brains of the running rats were still shaped much as they had been at the start of the study and were functioning normally.

But many of the neurons in the brains of the sedentary rats had sprouted far more new tentacle-like arms known as branches. Branches connect healthy neurons into the nervous system. But these neurons now had more branches than normal neurons would have, making them more sensitive to stimuli and apt to zap scattershot messages into the nervous system.

In effect, these neurons had changed in ways that made them likely to overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system, potentially increasing blood pressure and contributing to the development of heart disease.

This finding is important because it adds to our understanding of how, at a cellular level, inactivity increases the risk of heart disease, Dr. Mueller said. But even more intriguing, the results underscore that inactivity can change the structure and functioning of the brain, just as activity does.

Of course, rats are not people, and this is a small, short-term study. But already one takeaway is that not moving has wide-ranging physiological effects. In upcoming presentations, Dr. Mueller said, he plans to show slides of the different rat neurons and, echoing the old anti-drug message, point out that “‘this is your brain.’ And this is your brain on the couch.”

via How Inactivity Changes the Brain –

The Power of a Daily Bout of Exercise – NYTimes

This is a really interesting article. Go workout tomorrow everyone!

This week marks the start of the annual eat-too-much and move-too-little holiday season, with its attendant declining health and surging regrets. But a well-timed new study suggests that a daily bout of exercise should erase or lessen many of the injurious effects, even if you otherwise lounge all day on the couch and load up on pie.

To undertake this valuable experiment, which was published online in The Journal of Physiology, scientists at the University of Bath in England rounded up a group of 26 healthy young men. All exercised regularly. None were obese. Baseline health assessments, including biopsies of fat tissue, confirmed that each had normal metabolisms and blood sugar control, with no symptoms of incipient diabetes.

The scientists then asked their volunteers to impair their laudable health by doing a lot of sitting and gorging themselves.

Energy surplus is the technical name for those occasions when people consume more energy, in the form of calories, than they burn. If unchecked, energy surplus contributes, as we all know, to a variety of poor health outcomes, including insulin resistance — often the first step toward diabetes — and other metabolic problems.

Overeating and inactivity can each, on its own, produce an energy surplus. Together, their ill effects are exacerbated, often in a very short period of time. Earlier studies have found that even a few days of inactivity and overeating spark detrimental changes in previously healthy bodies.

Some of these experiments have also concluded that exercise blunts the ill effects of these behaviors, in large part, it has been assumed, by reducing the energy surplus. It burns some of the excess calories. But a few scientists have suspected that exercise might do more; it might have physiological effects that extend beyond just incinerating surplus energy.

To test that possibility, of course, it would be necessary to maintain an energy surplus, even with exercise. So that is what the University of Bath researchers decided to do.

Their method was simple. They randomly divided their volunteers into two groups, one of which was assigned to run every day at a moderately intense pace on a treadmill for 45 minutes. The other group did not exercise.

Meanwhile, the men in both groups were told to generally stop moving so much, decreasing the number of steps that they took each day from more than 10,000 on average to fewer than 4,000, as gauged by pedometers. The exercising group’s treadmill workouts were not included in their step counts. Except when they were running, they were as inactive as the other group.

Both groups also were directed to start substantially overeating. The group that was not exercising increased their daily caloric intake by 50 percent, compared with what it had been before, while the exercising group consumed almost 75 percent more calories than previously, with the additional 25 percent replacing the energy burned during training.

Over all, the two groups’ net daily energy surplus was the same.

The experiment continued for seven days. Then both groups returned to the lab for additional testing, including new insulin measurements and another biopsy of fat tissue.

The results were striking. After only a week, the young men who had not exercised displayed a significant and unhealthy decline in their blood sugar control, and, equally worrying, their biopsied fat cells seemed to have developed a malicious streak. Those cells, examined using sophisticated genetic testing techniques, were now overexpressing various genes that may contribute to unhealthy metabolic changes and underexpressing other genes potentially important for a well-functioning metabolism.

But the volunteers who had exercised once a day, despite comparable energy surpluses, were not similarly afflicted. Their blood sugar control remained robust, and their fat cells exhibited far fewer of the potentially undesirable alterations in gene expression than among the sedentary men.

“Exercise seemed to completely cancel out many of the changes induced by overfeeding and reduced activity,” said Dylan Thompson, a professor of health sciences at the University of Bath and senior author of the study. And where it did not countermand the impacts, he continued, it “softened” them, leaving the exercise group “better off than the nonexercise group,” despite engaging in equivalently insalubrious behavior.

From a scientific standpoint, this finding intimates that the metabolic effects of overeating and inactivity are multifaceted, Dr. Thompson said, with an energy surplus sparking genetic as well as other physiological changes. But just how exercise countermands those effects is impossible to say based on the new experiment, he added. Differences in how each group’s metabolism utilized fats and carbohydrates could play a role, he said, as could the release of certain molecules from exercising muscles, which only occurred among the men who ran.

Of more pressing interest, though, is the study’s practical message that “if you are facing a period of overconsumption and inactivity” — also known as the holidays — “a daily bout of exercise will prevent many of the negative changes, at least in the short term,” Dr. Thompson said. Of course, his study involved young, fit men and a relatively prolonged period of exercise. But the findings likely apply, he said, to other groups, like older adults and women, and perhaps to lesser amounts of training. That’s a possibility worth embracing as the pie servings accumulate.