Tag Archives: fitness

Even a 3-second workout every day can make you fitter and stronger

Doctors and scientists are quick to point out that working out, even just for brief periods of time, can be very helpful for your health. But in a new study, a team of researchers really took that to the extreme: they wanted to see whether even just a few seconds of working out a day can make a difference. It did.

The team from the Edith Cowan University in Australia and the Niigata University of Health and Welfare in Japan recruited a group of healthy university students. They split them into two: 39 students performed a bicep curl at maximum effort for 3 seconds a day, 5 days a week, over 4 weeks. Meanwhile, 13 other students did not exercise over the same period.

The workout group performed three different bicep curl variations: isometric (with the weight parallel to the ground), concentric (raising the weight), and eccentric (lowering the weight). They worked out with a special resistance machine. Overall, over the course of the four weeks, they worked out for just 60 seconds — but the results were visible.

The researchers measured the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), a common measure of muscle strength before and after the regimen. Surprisingly, the students in the workout group exhibited a notable change, while for the control group, there was no difference.

The workout group exhibited improvements for all types of bicep variations (12.8% for concentric strength, 10.2% for isometric strength, and 12.2% for eccentric strength). Overall, the muscle strength improved by 11.5%. However, when they looked at other measures of strength, the results were less impressive.

The study authors note that the 3-second eccentric MVC of the elbow flexors performed increased isometric, concentric, and eccentric MVC torque by more than 10%. “It was concluded that the daily 3-second eccentric MVC over 20 days produced more potent effects than isometric or concentric MVC on neuromuscular adaptations,” the researchers write in the study.

The muscle thickness did not increase significantly, the researchers write, which was in line with what they were expecting. In addition, the study’s sample size was small, which is an important limitation. Nevertheless, the results are important and are an indication that even short (very short) workout training sessions can make a difference.

The results are expected to be particularly significant for beginners, people who have never really worked out or haven’t worked out for a while. It could also help fight muscle degradation in old age. Furthermore, researchers say the same effect could be observed in other muscle groups, though there is a need for further studies to confirm this.

The study was published in the journal Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

Dogs really help people stay fit, new study shows

As if dogs weren’t precious enough, they also help with our fitness — new research shows that dog owners are 400% more likely to meet recommended physical activity guidelines.

Dog owners were found to walk their dogs for a median 7.0 times per week (range 0–32), covering a median total of 220.0mins per week.

The fact that dog owners tend to do more exercise shouldn’t really surprise anyone — whether you like it or not, you have to go walk the dog. However, previous research mostly focused on a single household member, and it’s not exactly clear whether time spent dog walking replaces other physical activity. In the latest study, researchers analyzed just what kind of a difference having a dog really makes — fitness-wise.

Carri Westgarth and colleagues from the University of Liverpool assessed the self-reported physical activity of 385 households in the, UK (191 dog owning adults, 455 non-dog owning adults and 46 children). Researchers also tracked 28 adults with an accelerometer, to have a confirmation for the total physical activity.

They found that dog owners walk more frequently and for longer periods than non-dog owners — and this activity doesn’t replace other physical activities. In other words, it’s simply extra physical activity. Researchers were able to confirm the health-enhancing potential of dog ownership.

“Evidence suggests dog ownership is associated with lower risk of death, and a lower risk of cardiovascular conditions at least in single-person households, where the participant may be more highly obligated to dog walk,” the study reads.

For many people, this could be the difference between healthy and unhealthy levels of exercise. Researchers recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week. However, less than 50% of adults in the USA actually achieve this. England fares a bit better, but still, only 66% of men and 58% of women achieve this bare minimum goal. This study found that dog owners were four times more likely to achieve this goal. Furthermore, the benefits extend to all household members involved in dog-walking.

The results are so positive that researchers actually call for policy to support more dog ownership, considering the health benefits associated with it.

“Dog ownership is associated with more recreational walking and considerably greater odds of meeting physical activity guidelines. Policies regarding public spaces and housing should support dog ownership due to physical activity benefts,” the team writes.

So if you’re struggling to lose weight or be physically active, there’s a woofing solution to that.

The study “Dog owners are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than people without a dog: An investigation of the association between dog ownership and physical activity levels in a UK community” has been published in Scientific Reports.


Staying fit is a great way to stave off dementia

A new study has found that women with high physical fitness are 90% less likely to develop dementia, compared to women who were moderately fit.

Image credits: Ayo Ogunseinde / Unsplash.

Although it might seem counterintuitive, dementia and physical activity are strongly intertwined. Study after study has found that staying physically fit greatly reduces the chances of developing dementia later in life. A new study strongly confirms this idea, reporting that women who are physically fit are much less likely do develop dementia — and when they do, they develop it much later in life (on average, at age 90, compared to age 79 for moderately fit women).

“These findings are exciting because it’s possible that improving people’s cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia,” said study author Helena Hörder, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Gothenburg, Sweden. “However, this study does not show cause and effect between cardiovascular fitness and dementia, it only shows an association. More research is needed to see if improved fitness could have a positive effect on the risk of dementia and also to look at when during a lifetime a high fitness level is most important.”

The study recruited 191 women volunteers, average age 50. They had the women carry out a physical test (bicycle exercise) to measure their peak cardiovascular capacity. The average peak workload was 103 watts, and c for high fitness was considered to be 120 watts — 40 women were able to meet this criterion. Another 93 women were in the medium fitness category, while 59 women were in the low fitness category, defined as peak workload below 80 watts (or unable to complete the test due to high blood pressure or other physical problems). The women were then followed for 44 years, being tested for dementia 6 times. Here are the results:

Among the women who had to stop the exercise test due to problems, 45 percent developed dementia decades later.

“This indicates that negative cardiovascular processes may be happening in midlife that could increase the risk of dementia much later in life,” Hörder said.

The results show a very strong correlation between physical activity and dementia onset. However, there are three main drawbacks to this study.

First of all, while the study was carried out over a long period of time, 191 is a fairly low sample size. Also, all of the participants were Swedish, so there’s no guarantee that findings carry out for other populations. Lastly, their fitness level was measured only once, and there’s a reasonable chance it might have changed (either for the better or for the worse) over the course of the study.

But even so, this is more and more evidence indicating that staying fit does wonders for your brain, and is one of the best things you can do to avoid the onset of dementia. Conversely, obesity correlates positively with dementia.

The study was published in the March 14, 2018, online issue of Neurology.

Researchers at Max Planck developed a new fitness technology called Jymmin makes us less sensitive to pain. Credit: Max Planck Institute For Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

Jymmin combines working out with music, makes people feel less pain

Good news for all of us! Whether or not you’re enjoying exercising, scientists have developed new technology that makes working out more enjoyable than ever. The new study also found that it makes us more resistant to pain.

Researchers at Max Planck developed a new fitness technology called Jymmin makes us less sensitive to pain. Credit: Max Planck Institute For Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

Researchers at Max Planck developed a new fitness technology called Jymmin that makes us less sensitive to pain. Credit: Max Planck Institute For Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

Researchers at Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) developed a new way of working out: they altered fitness machines to produce musical sounds during use. Scientists discovered that this novel approach, which they call Jymmin, increases pain threshold and makes people less sensitive to discomfort.

“We found that Jymmin increases the pain threshold. On average, participants were able to tolerate ten percent more pain from just ten minutes of exercise on our Jymmin machines, some of them even up to fifty percent”, said Thomas Fritz, head of research group Music Evoked Brain Plasticity at MPI CBS, in a press statement.

How do these machines work?

Scientists paired music composition software with sensors attached to the fitness machines. While exercising, the sensors captured and then transmitted signals to the software, which played back an accompaniment from each fitness machine. Basically, the researchers modified steppers and abdominal trainers to become our own musical instruments, so you can get really creative while working out.

Researchers discovered that, after Jymmin, participants were able to immerse their arms in ice water of 1°C (33.8°F) for five seconds longer compared to a conventional exercise session.

Scientists believe that the pain resistance experienced by the participants is due to the increased release of endorphins. Apparently, if music composition and physical activity are combined, endorphins are flushed into our systems in a more efficient way.

Researchers divided all 22 participants according to how they rated pain and discovered that participants with the highest pain threshold benefitted the most from this training method. Maybe this happens because these participants already release endorphins more effectively in comparison to those who are more pain sensitive.

“There are several possible applications for Jymmin that can be derived from these findings. Patients simply reach their pain threshold later,” Fritz added.

Jymmin could do wonders in treating chronic or acute pain. It could also be used as support in rehabilitation clinics by enabling more efficient training.

Scientists tested top swimmers in South Korea and the results were remarkable: athletes who warmed up using Jymmin machines were faster than those using conventional methods. In a pilot test, five of six athletes swam faster than in previous runs.

Previous studies showed that Jymmin has many positive effects on our well-being. They revealed that personal mood and motivation improved, and even the music produced while Jymmin was perceived as pleasant.

Scientific reference: Thomas H. Fritz, Daniel L. Bowling, Oliver Contier, Joshua Grant, Lydia Schneider, Annette Lederer, Felicia Höer, Eric Busch, Arno Villringer. Musical Agency during Physical Exercise Decreases PainFrontiers in Psychology, 2018; 8 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02312.

Poor fitness leads to poor brain health, new study finds

Yet another study has found that exercise is a great way to improve brain health, and might evendin be a key tool in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Brain imaging shows yellow and reddish pixels representing areas where the functionality of white matter is associated with higher fitness levels. The images are based on cumulative data from patients in a study showing potential links between physical fitness and deterioration of white matter. Image credits: UT Southwestern.

Mens sana in corpore sano — the Latin phrase which can be literally translated as “a healthy mind in a healthy body” — was used in ancient times to indicate the importance of keeping both the body and the mind active and healthy. Ancient Romans believed that physical exercise is an important part of mental wellbeing and boy, were they right!

A growing number of studies is indicating that keeping the body fit helps the mind and conversely, neglecting physical activity can be detrimental. In this case, research from UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute suggests that the lower the fitness level, the faster the deterioration of vital nerve fibers in the brain.

“This research supports the hypothesis that improving people’s fitness may improve their brain health and slow down the aging process,” said Dr. Kan Ding, the neurologist from the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute that authored the study.

The study focused on white matter — areas of the central nervous system (CNS) that are mainly made up of a type of axons (nerve fibers). Unlike most studies, which have participants estimate their own fitness, this one measured it directly, by analyzing the maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max). Researchers also used participants’ brain imaging to measure the functionality of each patient’s white matter, in addition to filling out memory and other cognitive tests.

Taking all these things together, Ding and colleagues were able to establish a correlation between brain health and overall levels of fitness, finding that people who were fitter also had healthier white matter.

“Evidence suggests that what is bad for your heart is bad for your brain. We need studies like this to find out how the two are intertwined and hopefully find the right formula to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Rong Zhang of UT Southwestern, who oversees the clinical trial associated with this study.

However, there are still many questions to be answered. For instance, what is the mechanism through which physical activity keeps the brain healthy, and what levels of fitness are required to sufficiently stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia? Those are all questions to be answered in future studies.

Journal References: Ding et al. Cardiorespiratory Fitness and White Matter Neuronal Fiber Integrity in Mild Cognitive Impairment. DOI: 10.3233/JAD-170415

Toy astronaut.

Long-term exposure to mictrogravity can lower physical fitness down by half

Life in space may be really bad news for our bodies, a new study has found. Long-term exposure to microgravity environments seems to inhibit our circulatory system’s ability to shuttle oxygen around, leading to a dramatic reduction in the ability of long-term astronauts to perform physical activity.

Toy astronaut.

Image credits Carlos Augusto.

Bad news if you planned on going to space and impressing the missus with your jar-opening skills on touchdown — you probably won’t have any left. A new paper from the Kansas State University shows that long-term exposure to space-like conditions reduces an astronaut’s capacity to exercise by a dramatic 30 to 50 percent. They propose this observed reduction in physical capacity is caused by faulty oxygen transport in microgravity. And, worryingly enough, the effect is seen even in astronauts who maintain a high fitness regime through exercise on missions.


A research team led by NASA kinesiologist Carl Ade took data recorded on a group of nine male and female astronauts who had spent roughly six months aboard the ISS. Each one of the astronauts had comprehensive measurements taken before a mission to assess their physical fitness.

The team was particularly interested in the numbers for oxygen uptake, cardiac output, and hemoglobin concentration and saturation (hemoglobin is the substance red blood cells use to bind and carry oxygen), as they quantified how effective each astronaut’s circulatory system was at getting oxygen to muscle mitochondria.

During their missions, each astronaut conformed to an aerobic and resistance training regimen designed by NASA. It included moderate and high-intensity training on an exercise bicycle or treadmill for four to six days each week, as well as upper and lower-body resistance training six days per week. Which is a lot more exercise than most of us can boast. Despite this, when the astronauts retook the physical tests two days after returning to Earth, their figures had dropped dramatically.

The team reports that by comparing the before and after data, they found a 30 to 50 % decrease in maximal oxygen (the maximum rate of oxygen consumed during exercise, a key indicator of cardiorespiratory health). After about 90 days down on Earth, the astronauts managed to regain more than 97% of their initial level of fitness. The inability to get back to full fitness capacity probably stems from an altered function of the lungs caused by long exposure to microgravity, the team notes.

“It is a dramatic decrease,” Ade in a press release. “When your cardiovascular function decreases, your aerobic exercise capacity goes down. You can’t perform physically challenging activities anymore. While earlier studies suggest that this happens because of changes in heart function, our data suggests that there are some things happening at the level of the heart, but also at the level of the microcirculation within capillaries.”

Their theory is that microgravity alters the way red blood cells interact with capillaries (the tiny ends of blood vessels), but more research is needed to clearly define the answer.

The findings raise some more warning signs in regards to our plans for deep space missions and outer-worldly colonization. After spending a few months in transit and exposed to microgravity, we can expect would-be colonists to suffer a significant decrease in their ability to perform physical tasks. In the case of an astronaut on Mars, for example, this means he or she may simply lack the ability to perform the intense manual labor required in setting up a colony by the time they get there.

At least we do have some time on our hands before we reach Mars to try and find some solutions to this problem.

The paper “Decreases in maximal oxygen uptake following long-duration spaceflight: Role of convective and diffusive O2 transport mechanisms” has been published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.


Owning a dog will make you healthier

While a dog’s psychological value to its owner is very much attested, helping cure loneliness and such, a recent study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, finds that people who own and walk a dog are 34 percent more likely to meet federal benchmarks for physical activity.

“Walking is the most accessible form of physical activity available to people,” says Matthew Reeves, professor of epidemiology at Michigan State University.

“What we wanted to know was if dog owners who walked their dogs were getting more physical activity or if the dog-walking was simply a substitute for other forms of activity.”

The study states that, obviously enough, people who own and walk a dog reach a higher walking amount as  opposed to another that doesn’t own a dog, but what researchers found interesting enough is that dog walkers are physically more active, generally walking about an hour longer per week than people who owned dogs but did not walk them.

“Obviously you would expect dog walkers to walk more, but we found people who walked their dog also had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activities,” Reeves says.

“There appears to be a strong link between owning and walking a dog and achieving higher levels of physical activity, even after accounting for the actual dog walking.”

Walking is deemed the most easy and accessible form of exercise by fitness specialists, and you’d be imagined how much good 20 minutes worth walks a day can do for the mind, body and spirit. The study analyzed the amount of leisure-time physical activity a person gets, including sports participation, exercise conditioning, and recreational activities such as walking, dancing, and gardening. According to Public health benchmarks 150 minutes of such activities are warranted each each.

“There is no magic bullet in getting people to reach those benchmarks,” Reeves says, “but owning and walking a dog has a measurable impact.”

Well it seems that owning and walking a dog (if you’re one of those people who just let their pupps in the yard all day long, shame on you) is really recommended, so if you can afford the responsibility of getting a dog, you shouldn’t think too long about the decision.

“The findings suggest public health campaigns that promote the responsible ownership of a dog along with the promotion of dog walking may represent a logical opportunity to increase physical activity,” Reeves says.