The Power of a Daily Bout of Exercise – NYTimes

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

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
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.

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Mother’s Exercise May Boost Baby’s Brain – NYTimes

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.

If a woman is physically active during pregnancy, she may boost the development of her unborn child’s brain, according to a heart-tugging new study of expectant mothers and their newborns. The findings bolster a growing scientific consensus that the benefits of exercise can begin to accumulate even before someone is born.

It has long been suspected that a mother-to-be’s activity — or lack of it — affects her unborn offspring, which is not surprising, given how their physiologies intertwine. Past studies have shown, for example, that a baby’s heart rate typically rises in unison with his or her exercising mother’s, as if the child were also working out. As a result, scientists believe, babies born to active mothers tend to have more robust cardiovascular systems from an early age than babies born to mothers who are more sedentary.

Whether gestational exercise similarly shapes an unborn child’s developing brain has been harder to quantify, although recent studies have been suggestive. An experiment presented this month at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in San Diego, for instance, reported that pregnant rats allowed to run on wheels throughout their pregnancies birthed pups that performed more dexterously in early childhood on a tricky memory test — having to identify unfamiliar objects in a familiar environment — than pups born to sedentary moms. These clever rats retained their cognitive advantage into adulthood (meaning, for rats, weeks later).

But this and similar experiments have involved animals, rather than people. Many of these studies also began comparing the creatures’ cognitive abilities when they were old enough to move about and respond to their world, by which time they potentially might have been shaped as much by their environment as by their time in the womb.

So to minimize these concerns, researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada recently recruited a group of local women who were in their first trimester of pregnancy. At that point, the women were almost identical in terms of lifestyle. All were healthy, young adults. None were athletes. Few had exercised regularly in the past, and none had exercised more than a day or two per week in the past year.

Then the women were randomized either to begin an exercise program, commencing in their second trimester, or to remain sedentary. The women in the exercise group were asked to work out for at least 20 minutes, three times a week, at a moderate intensity, equivalent to about a six or so on a scale of exertion from one to 10. Most of the women walked or jogged.

Every month, for the remainder of each woman’s pregnancy, she would visit the university’s exercise lab, so researchers could monitor her fitness. All of the volunteers, including those in the nonexercise group, also maintained daily activity logs.

After about six months and following the dictates of nature, the women gave birth. All, thankfully, had healthy boys or girls — which the scientists gently requested that the mothers almost immediately bring in for testing.

A baby who participated in the study.Univesite de MontrealA baby who participated in the study.

Within 12 days of birth, in fact, each of the newborns accompanied his or her mother to the lab. There, each baby was fitted with an adorable little cap containing electrodes that monitor electrical activity in the brain, settled in his or her mother’s lap, and soothed to sleep. Researchers then started a sound loop featuring a variety of low, soft sounds that recurred frequently, interspersed occasionally with more jarring, unfamiliar noises, while the baby’s brain activity was recorded.

“We know that baby’s brains respond to these kinds of sounds with a spike” in certain types of brain activity, said Elise Labonte-LeMoyne, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Montreal, who led the study and also presented her findings at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. This spike is most pronounced in immature brains, she continued, and diminishes as a newborn’s brain develops and begins processing information more efficiently. “It usually disappears altogether by the time a baby is 4 months old,” she said,

In this case, the relevant brainwave activity soared in response to the novel sounds among the children born to mothers who had remained sedentary during pregnancy. But it was noticeably blunted in the babies whose mothers had exercised. In essence, “their brains were more mature,” Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne said.

How gestational exercise can remodel an unborn child’s brain is not clear, Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne admits, since, unlike circulatory systems, a mother’s brain is not hardwired directly to that of her child. “But we suspect that when mom exercises, she generates a variety of chemicals,” including many related to brain health, which can move into her bloodstream and eventually mingle with the blood of her baby.

But that possibility is only theoretical for now. It is also unclear whether the precocious brain development seen in newborns with active mothers will linger into their later lives. Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne and her colleagues plan to retest the children on various cognitive tests once they are a year old.

But for now, the lesson is clear. “If a woman can be physically active during her pregnancy, she may give her unborn child an advantage, in terms of brain development,” Ms. Labonte-LeMoyne said. And the commitment required can be slight. “We were surprised,” she said, “by how much of an effect we saw” from barely an hour of exercise per week.

20 Fittest Foods – Men’s Fitness

Throw some of these on your grocery list if you haven’t already!

20 Fittest Foods - Men's Fitness - Page 4

by Joe Gould

5) Broccoli

31 calories per cup

Eat 2-3 half-cup servings per week

This fleshy green should be at the top of your list when it comes to vegetables. It’s rich with a healthy supply of iron, calcium, fiber, and vitamin C, meaning it’s good for the circulatory system, bones, and fighting colds. “As far as vegetables go, this is the one I try hardest to get more guys to eat,” says Niki Kubiak, R.D., a private practice nutritionist in Omaha, Neb. Brocco-phobic? Try it on the sly: Slip it into stir-fries, onto pizza, or use raw chunks as a vehicle for your favorite dip.

4) Tomatoes

83 calories per cup

Eat 4 servings per week

Yes, it’s true that tomatoes used to be called “love apples” and have a reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac. But that lore has nothing to do with why we picked the tomato as the best food for sexual health. Rather, tomatoes win their place on our chart-and their relatively high ranking overall-because of a single nutrient: lycopene.

This powerful antioxidant, which comes from the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color, may actually help fight off a number of diseases and ailments-most important for men, prostate cancer. Numerous studies show that men who have the most tomatoes and tomato-based products in their diet are less likely to develop prostate problems than men who rarely eat the stuff. And the good news for guys on the run: Tomatoes are also that rare food that’s more nutritious when cooked than when eaten raw. “Lycopene becomes more bio-available to the body after it’s been heated,” says nutritionist David Ricketts, a prostate-cancer sufferer who used his disease as the motivation for writing the cookbook Eat to Beat Prostate Cancer. “You can start off the day with a glass of tomato juice and have a tomato-based sauce a couple of times a week. However you can work it in, you’re pretty much on the way.”

3) Oatmeal

148 calories per half cup

Eat 3-4 servings per week

When it comes to eating breakfast in the morning, there’s nothing better than a bowl of oatmeal to spike your energy levels and provide you with an hours-long supply of fuel. Oatmeal is also filled with stress-fighting and immunity-boosting zinc.

If that weren’t enough to convince you to pop a bowl in the microwave, keep in mind that oatmeal can also help promote weight loss and lower your risk of heart disease. Oatmeal is filled with high levels of soluble fiber that protect your heart and arteries by trapping and expelling cholesterol, dropping levels by up to 30 points or more in some cases, says Kubiak.

The best oatmeal may not be the most convenient, however. Those flavored, single-serving packs that litter grocery-store aisles are often filled with added sugar-and therefore excess calories. Instead, stick with the big tub of instant oatmeal and add your own fruit and calorie-free sweeteners, if you need them.

2) Blueberries

41 calories per half cup

Eat 1-2 cups per week

Of all the fruit you can eat, blueberries may be the absolute best. Whether you’re getting them raw, tossed into cereal, mixed in fruit salad or a smoothie, blueberries pack more fiber, vitamins, and minerals per ounce than any other fruit in the produce aisle. Chief among those nutrients are free-radical-fighting antioxidants. Free radicals, which increase in number as you get older, travel around your body damaging cells, promoting disease, and triggering signs of premature aging. And blueberries harness the firepower to knock them out of service.

Need another reason to eat them? How about your memory? Those same antioxidants that fight disease are also effective in helping keep connections between cells in your brain and nervous system healthy, ensuring clearer, quicker thinking and the best memory possible.

1) Salmon

121 calories per 3-oz serving

Eat 3-4 servings per week

Salmon made out list for a number of reasons, but the biggest has got to be because its so densely stuffed with omega-3’s. These fatty acids are thought to slow memory loss as you age and boost heart health by regulating heart rhythms and keeping arteries and veins supple and free of blockages. While saturated fats lead to obesity, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish appear to correct and prevent obesity, according to a study published in Clinical Science.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Salmon is also an excellent source of protein. A three-ounce cooked serving contains 20 grams-making it ideal for building muscle and trimming fat. Besides helping stimulate your metabolism three to four times more than carbs or fat, protein is the absolute best food for helping fill you up, so you take in fewer calories and burn more. And that’s what being a fit food is all about.

via 20 Fittest Foods – Men’s Fitness – Page 4.

How To Breathe When Running at Runner’s World.com | Runner’s World & Running Times

Wait – this isn’t nutrition! Well I thought this was an interesing article about the other side of health – fitness. I’ve recently started yoga (in June) and have noticed that now sometimes I fly through my runs. We barely use our full lung capacity. Put them to work!

Need more air? Deep breathing can help you run longer with less effort.

By Gina Demillo Wagner;

Just before you crest a hill or reach the end of a speed interval, your lungs go into overdrive. Your breath becomes shallow and rapid. You think if only you could pull in more air, you could surge up that hill or maintain your pace. But the more your chest heaves, the more you struggle. You may even end up exhausted, bent over, gasping for air.

“Runners think about training their heart and legs, but they rarely think about training their lungs,” says Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of The Running Center in New York City. “A strong respiratory system can improve your running. It’s a simple equation: Better breathing equals more oxygen for your muscles, and that equals more endurance.”

Just as we strength-train our hamstrings and calves to improve our ability to power over hills, we can tone the muscles used for breathing. “Exercise improves the conditioning of the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen, and the intercostal muscles, which lie between the ribs and enable you to inhale and exhale,” says Everett Murphy, M.D., a runner and pulmonologist at Olathe Medical Center in Olathe, Kansas. “When you take a breath, 80 percent of the work is done by the diaphragm. If you strengthen your diaphragm, you may improve your endurance and be less likely to become fatigued.”

This was backed up by researchers from the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University in England, who recently measured fatigue levels of marathoners’ respiratory muscles and leg muscles. They found a direct link-runners whose breathing was the most strained showed the most leg weakness-and concluded in their study that the harder the respiratory muscles had to work, the more the legs would struggle in a race.

The key to preventing lung-and leg-fatigue is breathing more fully. “When you take deeper breaths, you use more air sacs in your lungs, which allows you to take in more oxygen to feed your muscles,” says David Ross, M.D., a pulmonologist at UCLA Medical Center. “When I’m running, I concentrate on taking slow and deep breaths to strengthen my diaphragm.”

Most runners, says Solkin, are “chest breathers”-not “belly breathers.” To help her clients see the difference, she has them run a mile at a pace that gets them huffing a bit. Then she has them stop and place one hand on their abdomen and one hand on their chest and watch. The lower hand should move with each breath, while the upper hand should remain relatively still (usually the opposite occurs). “Every time you breathe in, your belly should fill up like a balloon,” says Solkin (see “Breathe Right”). “And every time you breathe out, that balloon should deflate. When you chest breathe, your shoulders get tense and move up and down. That’s wasted energy-energy you should conserve for running.”

Chest breathing can be a hard habit to break-especially while you’re preoccupied with keeping pace or calculating splits. One way to make the switch easier is to work on belly breathing when you’re not running, and the skill will eventually carry over to your running. To make this happen, some elite runners turn to Pilates, a program originally developed as a rehabilitation program for World War I soldiers. Pilates aims to increase flexibility, strengthen the core, and improve breathing (see “Breath Enhancers”). “I try to do Pilates twice a week,” says 2004 Olympic marathoner Colleen de Reuck. “It stretches my intercostal muscles and lengthens my spine, which helps my breathing and my running.”

“My athletes tell me ‘my form is better, I’m not working so hard,'” says Pat Guyton, a Pilates instructor who teaches elite runners in Boulder, Colorado. “They mention less effort in the lungs-they’re able to run farther before fatigue sets in.”

via How To Breathe When Running at Runner’s World.com | Runner’s World & Running Times.

Watching your salt? Check the ingredients in your chicken!

20120731-183434.jpgSomething I wasn’t aware of until a couple of years ago was just made very visibly apparent.

Sometimes brands will ‘plump’ up chicken breasts by injecting saline solution. Once I found out about this practice I always have made a point to buy my frozen chicken at Trader Joe’s, but grabbed a bag at Costco when I had run out the other day.

I was marinating some chicken breast when I noticed all of these holes. Kinda creepy, isn’t it?

For more information, here’s a great article from Cooking Light –

The Hidden Sodium in Chicken

One chicken breast could eat up 20% of your sodium limit—before you even start to cook.

Chicken

  • NONENHANCED POULTRY (per 4 ounces raw)
    Sodium:
     45 to 70mg
    Fine print says: “Contains 1 to 5% retained water.” (This is water that may be absorbed during the chilling process; it’s not injected, and no salt is added.)   ENHANCED POULTRY (per 4 ounces raw)
    Sodium: 330 to 440mg
    Fine print says: “Enhanced with up to 15% chicken broth, salt, and carrageenan.”

“As American as boneless, skinless chicken breast” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “American as apple pie,” but it’s far more appropriate: We eat an average of 87 pounds of chicken per year, up 81% from 48 pounds in 1980. This makes the plumping practice in poultry processing even more troubling.

About one-third of the fresh chicken found in supermarket meat cases has been synthetically saturated with a mix of water, salt, and other additives via needle injections and high-pressure vacuum tumbling. The process is designed to make naturally lean poultry meat juicier and more tender. A 4-ounce serving of what the industry calls “enhanced” poultry can contain as much as 440mg sodium. That’s nearly one-fifth of the current 2,300mg daily sodium allotment—from a source you’d never suspect.

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Way to Burn Calories in the City

Way to Burn Calories in the City.

I know I usually focus on nutrition, but fitness is the other half of the puzzle. I try to workout everyday – usually a jog, bike ride around the park or to an errand, pilates, yoga or weight training. And for me this article hits close to home. Both times I’ve moved to NYC I immediately dropped 5 pounds from all of the walking.

  • Take the stairs: No need to schedule time on the Stairmaster, take advantage of the real deal! Instead of using the elevator to go a few floors up, use the stairs. As tempting as escalators may look, do the moving yourself. You’d be surprised by all the leg-toning opportunities.
  • Bike around town: Spending 20-30 minutes on your bike will burn off your morning breakfast, and chances are that is just about the time it takes to get to work! Use your bike the next time you run errands to avoid the hassle of parking and save yourself the headache of traffic. Worried about the safety of your bike? Follow these tips in properly locking up your wheels.
  • Avoid shortcuts: You may have mastered the quickest way to get from point A to point B in your city (like those secret alleys) but stick to the main path. Going the longer route will have you walking more, thus burning more. It might take a little extra time, but it won’t be that bad when you start to see results.
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