Friday, January 18, 2008

Fitness News You Can Use

This has been sitting in my in-box for a while now, obviously. Still, the info is useful.

December 15, 2007
Exercise ETC's Review of Exercise Related Research
Compiled by Chris Marino, MS, CSCS Director of Education, Exercise ETC

Fitness More Important than Weight-Loss

Can a person be both fit and fat simultaneously? This question has generated quite the controversy among medical and fitness professionals. On one hand, obesity has been linked to increased incidence of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer indicating the need for emphasis on weight reduction. On the other hand, increased physical fitness may buffer some of the disease-generating characteristics associated with obesity thus leading to improved longevity. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concurs with the latter as researchers determined a stronger link between fitness and reduced mortality regardless of body weight.

The research group, led by esteemed exercise epidemiologist, Dr. Steven Blair, evaluated the relationship of body fat, fitness and longevity in 2,603 men and women aged 60 and older. Participants were tracked for an average of 12 years each. Fitness was assessed by a maximal exercise test, and adiposity was assessed by body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and percent body fat.

In the end, people who were more fit were more than 50 percent less likely to die when compared to less fit people, regardless of weight. In essence, this study supports the idea that it is better to be overweight and fit, than normal-weight and unfit. Also, those who were more fit had a lower incidence of cardiovascular risk factors that included high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Unfortunately, the focus of many physicians is to use exercise as a tool that is used to reduce bodyweight. This emphasis on weight-reduction may prohibit people from becoming more physically active for the sake of fitness, an approach that may actually increase exercise adherence. The authors recommend that Americans start focusing on little steps to become more physically active and reduce the perception of exercise for the purpose of weight loss.

Sui, X., et al (2007) Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Adiposity as Mortality Predictors in Older Adults. Journal of the American Medical Association, 298(21):2507-2516.

Older Adults Have a NEED for SPEED!

There is new motivation to push grandma & grandpa to walk a little faster. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported that older adults who increase their walking speed can increase their lifespan.

Prior observational studies have shown that factors such as disease, chronic pain, poor vision, low physical activity, depression and body mass issues are negatively associated with walking speed, but none have explored the link between mortality.

In this study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh sought to predict a relationship between improvement in health and physical function over the course of 1-year and 8-year survival statistics. They collected six measures of health & function every 3 months for one-year. Participants were classified as having "improved," "transiently improved" or "never improved" for each of the six measures.

Upon follow-up at 8 years, gait speed was the only factor significantly linked to survival. Older adults who "improved" walking speed were 50% more likely to be alive at 8 years compared to those who "never improved."

Unfortunately, this study only sheds light on the relationship between gait speed and dying, because there was no intervention or documentation to help us understand how people increased their walking speed in that first year. Regardless, the results of this study and the future research it stimulates could provide direction for the development of an objective tool to predict the mortality risk in older adults.

Hardy, S.E., et al (2007) Improvement in Usual Gait Speed Predicts Better Survival in Older Adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 55(11): 1727-1734.

Who Really Uses Anabolic Steroids?

Last week, the Mitchell Report changed the game of baseball forever by fingering over 80 professional baseball players who may have used anabolic steroids or other illegal performance enhancing substances. Interestingly, just months earlier a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition revealed that anabolic steroid use in competitive athletics may not be the real problem.

Nearly 2000 men were recruited from various strength training and supplement Internet sites, e-mails and print media to complete an anonymous web-survey to determine the real motivation and characteristics of anabolic steroid users in America. The results WILL surprise you.

The typical user is NOT the high school-age male or female athlete. In fact, only 6% of those surveyed reported being motivated by sports or bodybuilding.

Researchers identified the most common characteristics of anabolic steroid users as: Caucasian (88%), having a college education (74%), "white"-collar employment, average age of 31 years (range was 18-76), and having above-average income ($60K-$80K). Surprisingly, only 11% of respondents reported participating in any form of organized sport.

Instead of achievement being the primary motivator, most claimed increases in muscle, strength or physical attractiveness to be the main reason for using anabolic steroids.

Although a significant reduction in use of steroids by high school students has been reported (down 35% between 2002 and 2005), there is a new concern as the average age of first use was ~25 in this cohort.

Due to the media attention given to sports scandals, popular belief is that anabolic steroids are only a problem for athletes. As such, the majority of efforts to curb steroid abuse has focused on young male athletes, and has not addressed the main population of users. This perception must change if illegal steroid use is to be curbed in our society.

Cohen, J. et al. (2007) A league of their own: demographics, motivations and patterns of use of 1,955 male adult non-medical anabolic steroid users in the United States. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 4:12

Using a Pedometer Effective at Increasing Physical Activity

Looking to give the gift of life this holiday season? A simple, inexpensive pedometer that measures the number of steps you take might be a great option. A recent review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that pedometers are an effective tool for increasing physical activity and health.

The review encompassed 26 mostly observational studies of pedometer use. Data was obtained by searching a variety of medical journals through scientific search-engines.

Studies have shown pedometers to effectively increase the overall distance walked per day by more than 1 mile; increasing steps taken by between 2200 and 2500 daily. Overall, physical activity has been shown to increase by nearly 27% through the use of pedometers. Adherence was best when study participants were given a "step goal," for example 10,000 steps per day.

Pedometer users saw improvements in systolic blood pressure of ~4mmHg. Researchers note that a 2-mm reduction in SBP is linked to a 10% decrease in stroke mortality and 7% decrease in death due to vascular conditions. Reductions were more significant with higher baselines and a greater change in # steps per day. Body-mass index was also positively affected in pedometer users, with more significant reductions associated with older age and a step goal.

The use of the pedometer as a motivational tool seems promising, and appears more beneficial to those who are most sedentary. Americans have an inherent desire for objectivity, or as the authors explained, "A quest for numbers." Having the capability of visualizing progress and success is important for exercise adherence.

A good pedometer can be purchased for as little as $15. Most exercise experts recommend "the simpler, the better."

Bravata, D.M., et al (2007) Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health. Journal of the American Medical Association. 298(19): 2296-2304.

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