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Researchers from the University of Ottawa and the University of Rochester asked college students to focus over a ten-day period on increasing either meaning (for example, pursuing excellence and personal growth, practicing gratitude, showing kindness toward others, engaging in introspection) or amusement and pleasure (sleeping more, watching television, shopping, eating sweets). They found that the students who focused on pleasurable activities felt an immediate boost in happiness over the first ten days, but only those who focused on meaningful activities experienced a sustained increase over the subsequent three weeks. Pursuing meaningful activities, the researchers concluded, “was generally related to elevating experience.”

How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym – Personal Growth – Medium

A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that college students who went from not exercising at all to even a modest program (just two to three gym visits per week) reported a decrease in stress, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, an increase in healthy eating and maintenance of household chores, and better spending and study habits. In addition to these real-life improvements, after two months of regular exercise, the students also performed better on laboratory tests of self-control. This led the researchers to speculate that exercise had a powerful impact on the students’ “capacity for self-regulation.” In laypeople’s terms, pushing through the discomfort associated with exercise — saying “yes” when their bodies and minds were telling them to say “no” — taught the students to stay cool, calm, and collected in the face of difficulty, whether that meant better managing stress, drinking less, or studying more.

Resistance Exercise Reduces Seizure Occurrence, Attenuates Memory Deficits and Restores BDNF Signaling in Rats with Chronic Epilepsy. - PubMed - NCBI

ats with epilepsy showed an increase in IGF-1 levels which were restored to control levels by resistance exercise. BDNF levels and ERK and mTOR activation were decreased in rats with epilepsy and resistance exercise restored these to control levels. In conclusion, resistance exercise reduced seizure occurrence and mitigated memory deficits in rats with epilepsy. These resistance exercise-induced beneficial effects can be related to changes in IGF-1 and BDNF levels and its signaling protein activation. Our findings indicate that the resistance exercise might be included as complementary therapeutic strategy for epilepsy treatment.

Modest physical activity associated with improvement in markers, data suggests -- ScienceDaily

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) sought to examine the relationship of physical activity and inactivity, to insulin resistance and biomarkers of inflammation. Participants were asked to wear accelerometers during the day to estimate the amount of physical activity, as well as time spent being less active ("sedentary time"). These measurements were then compared to chemical markers of insulin resistance, inflammation and metabolism found in blood. They found that increased levels of physical activity (below what is required for weight loss) were associated with decreased insulin resistance as well as biomarkers of inflammation. The researchers also demonstrated that among individuals who spent more time sedentary, their blood contained higher levels of leptin, a chemical produced in fatty tissue that causes satiety, and FABP4 (fatty acid binding protein 4), a protein involved in the transport of fat molecules.

How aerobic exercise enhances neuroplasticity in the brain

A brief but intense period of aerobic exercise immediately reduces GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA play an important role in regulating the brain’s capacity to undergo change or neuroplasticity. We observed reduced excitability of GABA-mediated networks in the motor cortex, which may explain findings from previous studies where enhanced neuroplasticity is observed after aerobic exercise. Our findings may have implications for individuals after stroke, where GABA is a promising target for promoting neuroplasticity to promote recovery of motor function.

Brief Intense Stair Climbing Improves Cardiorespiratory Fitn... : Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

Previous studies have reported that ascending stairs for 30–70 min each week for 8 wk can improve CRF (3,4,20,24). The total time spent ascending and descending stairs in the present study was much lower amounting to ≤9 min·wk−1, with only ~3 min of ascending stairs each week. When the time required to complete warm-up and cooldown is included, the total time commitment amounts to 30 min·wk−1. Because of the influence of perceived “lack of time” and lack of access to specialized facilities on physical activity participation (35), it is important to identify time-efficient exercise protocols that do not require special equipment.

One 20 minute exercise session reduces key inflammatory protein 5%.

[…]This activation process during exercise produces immunological responses, which include the production of many cytokines, or proteins, one of which is TNF -- a key regulator of local and systemic inflammation that also helps boost immune responses. "Our study found one session of about 20 minutes of moderate treadmill exercise resulted in a five percent decrease in the number of stimulated immune cells producing TNF," said Hong.[…]

Association of Leisure Time Physical Activity With Risk for Mortality | Cardiology | JAMA Internal Medicine | The JAMA Network

All-cause mortality risk was approximately 30% lower in active vs inactive adults, including “weekend warrior” respondents who performed the recommended amount of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity from 1 or 2 sessions per week, insufficiently active respondents who performed less than the recommended amount from 1 or 2 sessions per week, and regularly active respondents who performed the recommended amount from 3 or more sessions per week.

Physical activity, even in small amounts, benefits both physical and psychological well-being | University of Cambridge

For the new study, data on physical activity was passively gathered from smartphone accelerometers, and participants were also sent a short survey at two random intervals throughout the day which asked questions about their emotional state. Users reported their emotional state on a grid, based on how positive or negative, and how energetic or sleepy, they were feeling. Users were also asked a handful of questions about how their mood compared to normal. The activity data was then averaged over the course of the day, so while the researchers could not pinpoint what participants were doing at any given time, they found that participants who had higher levels of activity throughout the day reported a more positive emotional state. “Our data show that happy people are more active in general,” said the paper’s senior author Dr Jason Rentfrow, from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology and a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College. “However, our analyses also indicated that periods of physical activity led to increased positive mood, regardless of individuals’ baseline happiness. There have been many studies about the positive psychological effects of exercise, but what we’ve found is that in order to be happier, you don’t have to go out and run a marathon – all you’ve really got to do is periodically engage in slight physical activity throughout the day.” “Most of us don’t keep track of all of our movements during the day,” said study co-author Dr Gillian Sandstrom from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. “A person might track whether they went for a walk or went to the gym, but when asked, most of them probably wouldn’t remember walking from the desk to the photocopier, or from the car to the office door.”

Stop running, start sobbing

Participants reported to the lab on Monday following their regular workout and completed a series of questionnaires, and these same questionnaires were completed at the same time of day on the next 4 d. The dependent variables consisted of state and trait anxiety (STAI), and tension, depression, anger, vigor, fatigue, confusion, and overall mood (POMS). Increases in total mood disturbance, state anxiety, tension, depression, and confusion across days were significant (P < 0.05), and vigor decreased. The pattern of increasing mood disturbance with exercise deprivation was followed by mood improvement to baseline levels when exercise was resumed. We concluded that a brief period of exercise deprivation in habitual exercisers results in mood disturbance within 24-48 h.

Health Hacks for the Holidays

Make your exercise commitment small enough so that there is no way you can’t fit it in.

How physical exercise aids in stroke recovery: Engaging in voluntary physical exercise helps protects the brain it from the damaging effects of a stroke, shown in mice -- ScienceDaily

In order to do this, Kalogeraki and her co-authors used a standard test to assess the brain's 'plasticity' -- its ability to change the way it activates in response to an experience. When the visual input of one eye is compromised for a couple of days, then the part of the brain that processes visual information gets preferentially activated by the other, open eye. The brain's ability to change eye dominance (called ocular dominance plasticity) is age-related, being most pronounced in juvenile animals and completely absent in older mice that have been raised without any stimulation. As well as confirming existing knowledge about the anti-aging effects of voluntary physical exercise -- older mice that exercised retained the ability to change eye dominance in comparison to those that didn't -- the study also revealed some exciting new findings. Those mice that had free-access to a running wheel were able to maintain ocular dominance plasticity after suffering a stroke, compared to those that didn't. "We found that mice with free access to a running wheel throughout their life preserved a more juvenile brain into adulthood and were able to prevent the negative effects of a stroke," reveals Kalogeraki. That was not all -- in addition, the researchers observed that exercise could even be used therapeutically after suffering a stroke. "We also found that mice with no previous access to a running wheel showed an equally positive recovery if voluntary exercise started after a stroke had occurred," adds Dr. Justyna Pielecka-Fortuna, co-author of the study.

Exercising to avoid the flu? It’s all about the sweet spot - The Globe and Mail

a 2011 study of 1,002 adults by Dr. David Nieman at Appalachian State University found that those who exercised five or more days a week were 43 per cent less likely to develop upper respiratory tract infections during the fall and winter than those who exercised once a week or less.

Want To Exercise More? Get Yourself Some Competition. | Annenberg School for Communication

Imagine you’re a CEO trying to get your employees to exercise. Most health incentive programs have an array of tools — pamphlets, websites, pedometers, coaching, team activities, step challenges, money — but what actually motivates people?[…]A new study to be published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports […]found these efforts should hone in on one area: Competition.

Spinning Goes to the Movies at ImaxShift - The New York Times

“Your legs are burning and you are sweating, but you are focused on this beautiful scene in front of you that you are so enraptured by,” she said. It helped that she found herself cycling through scenes of places she had visited in person. “You are transported to another world, driving through the streets of Paris or going up a hill in Dubai.”

How Exercise May Turn White Fat Into Brown

Exercise may aid in weight control and help to fend off diabetes by improving the ability of fat cells to burn calories, a new study reports. It may do this in part by boosting levels of a hormone called irisin, which is produced during exercise and which may help to turn ordinary white fat into much more metabolically active brown fat, the findings suggest.

After Just 10 Days of Rest, Brain Benefits of Exercise Diminish - The New York Times

After 10 days of being sedentary, the erstwhile runners returned to the lab to repeat the earlier tests, including the M.R.I. scan of their brains. The results showed striking changes in blood flow now. Much less blood streamed to most of the areas in the runners’ brains, and the flow declined significantly to both the left and right lobes of the hippocampus.

Do You Feel Dumber When You Stop Running?

Lie in bed for 20 days, one classic bed-rest study found, and your aerobic fitness will drop by 28 percent. Other effects like impaired glucose tolerance start after as little as 10 days.

Use it or lose it: UMD study shows that stopping exercise decreases brain blood flow | EurekAlert! Science News

Dr. Smith and colleagues measured the velocity of blood flow in brain with an MRI scan while they were still following their regular training routine (at peak fitness) and again after 10 days of no exercise. They found that resting cerebral blood flow significantly decreased in eight brain regions, including the areas of the left and right hippocampus and several regions known to be part of the brain's "default mode network" - a neural network known to deteriorate quickly with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. This information adds to the growing scientific understanding of the impact of physical activity on cognitive health.

The Hunger in Our Heads

In fact, the researchers calculated that the exercisers consumed about 25 fewer calories than they did during their baseline session. The nonexercisers, however, consumed about 100 calories more.

Why is exercise hard? | Harvard Magazine

This tension between activity and rest, he says, plays out in human physiological and anatomical systems that “evolved to require stimuli from physical activity to adjust capacity to demand.” Muscles become bigger and more powerful with use, for example. With disuse, they atrophy. Bone deposition and repair mechanisms likewise require the presence of mechanical stimulation, such as running. The absence of such stimuli can eventually lead to a risk of osteoporosis. “In the circulatory system,” Lieberman continues, “vigorous activity stimulates expansion of peripheral circulation,” improves the heart’s ability to pump blood, “and increases arterial elasticity.” Without exercise, arteries stiffen, the heart pumps less blood, and metabolism slows. All of this “downregulation” of biological systems evolved to conserve energy whenever possible.

Research shows certain genes, in healthy environments, can lengthen lifespan -- ScienceDaily

The researchers found that the dopamine D2 receptor gene (D2R) significantly influences lifespan, body weight and locomotor activity, but only when combined with an enriched environment that included social interaction, sensory and cognitive stimulation and, most critically, exercise.

Exercise strengthens your nerves too

Unsurprisingly, the elite masters athletes’ legs were much stronger than the legs of the other volunteers, by an average of about 25 percent. The athletes had about 14 percent more total muscle mass than the control group. More interesting to the researchers, the athletes also had almost 30 percent more motor units in their leg muscle tissue, and these units were functioning better than those of people in the sedentary group. In the control group, many of the electrical messages from the motor neuron to the muscle showed signs of “jitter and jiggle,” which are actual scientific terms for signals that stutter and degrade before reaching the muscle fiber. Such weak signaling often indicates a motor neuron that is approaching death. In essence, the sedentary elderly people had fewer motor units in their muscles, and more of the units that remained seemed to be feeling their age than in the athletes’ legs.

Aerobic fitness may protect liver against chronic alcohol use: Higher metabolism from aerobic activity could prevent liver inflammation -- ScienceDaily

"As expected, we found that fatty deposits were greater in the livers of the chronic alcohol group," said Ibdah, who also serves as director of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the MU School of Medicine. "However, chronic alcohol ingestion did not cause significant inflammation in the liver. Higher physical activity levels seemed to protect against the metabolic dysfunction that eventually leads to irreversible liver damage." Ibdah's team also found that chronic alcohol ingestion caused no discernable increase in free fatty acids, triglycerides, insulin or glucose in the blood of the group exposed to alcohol as compared to the control group.

Why your muscles get less sore as you stick with your gym routine: Unexpected immune system cells may help repair muscles -- ScienceDaily

"T-cells, up until recently, were not thought to enter healthy skeletal muscle," said lead author and grad student Michael Deyhle. "We hadn't planned on measuring them because there's no evidence that T-cells play a role in infiltrating damaged muscle tissue. It's very exciting." The presence of the T-cells suggests that muscles become more effective at recruiting immune cells following a second bout of exercise and that these cells may facilitate accelerated repair. In other words, the muscle seems to remember the damaging insult and reacts similarly to when the immune system responds to antigens--toxins, bacteria or viruses. The group was also surprised to find inflammation actually increased after the second round of exercise. Hyldahl, his students and many physiologists have long thought inflammation goes down after the second bout of exercise, contributing to that "less sore" effect. Instead, the slightly enhanced inflammatory response suggests inflammation itself probably does not worsen exercise-induced muscle damage. "Many people think inflammation is a bad thing," Deyhle said. "But our data suggest when inflammation is properly regulated it is a normal and healthy process the body uses to heal itself." Adds Hyldahl: "Some people take anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen and Aspirin after a workout, but our study shows it may not actually be effective. The inflammation may not be directly causing the pain, since we see that muscle soreness is reduced concurrent with increases in inflammation."

To Prevent Back Pain, Orthotics Are Out, Exercise Is In - The New York Times

Educational efforts by themselves showed essentially zero ability to prevent a recurrence of back pain, the researchers found. Back belts and orthotics likewise were almost completely ineffective, leaving people who employed either of those methods very prone to experiencing more back pain within a year. But exercise programs, either with or without additional educational elements, proved to be potent preventatives, the researchers found. In fact, “the size of the protective effect” from exercise “was quite large,” said Chris Maher, a professor at the George Institute, who oversaw the new review. “Exercise combined with education reduced the risk of an episode of low back pain in the next year by 45 percent. In other words, it almost halved the risk.”