Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category
Just do 30 seconds of each, at an intensity that is uncomfortable. Explanation (and link to research) here.
Interesting that fat plays in some respects the role of an endocrine gland. Edyta Zielinska reports in The Scientist:
The small protein aP2, thought to only be involved in shuttling lipids throughout fat cells, is actually excreted outside the cell where it acts as a long range signaling molecule or hormone, controlling glucose levels, according to new research published this week (May 7) in Cell Metabolism. The findings suggest a new target for treating obesity-related diabetes.
“It was surprising to find that a critical hormone playing a pathological role in diabetes turned out to be the secreted form of aP2, which for decades has been considered a protein that resides inside the fat cells,” senior author Gökhan Hotamisligil from Harvard School of Public Health said in press release.
The protein aP2 occurs in the blood of obese individuals at much higher levels than in lean individuals, although it is also secreted by fat tissues during times of fasting. To test whether the protein controls glucose retention, the researchers first increased the levels of aP2 in normal mice and saw that the animals were less capable of controlling their glucose levels. When the team performed the reverse experiment, reducing aP2 in obese mice to the levels seen in lean mice using an antibody against the protein, glucose metabolism appeared more similar to that of lean mice.
The group hopes that the antibody could help treat diabetes and have licensed the technology to the biopharmaceutical company Union Chimique Belge in Belgium for development.
I’m very pleased and proud to report that The Youngest Grandson, now aged just over 10 months, very much likes sardines as finger food. Excellent choice: high in protein, calcium, and omega-3, plus very low on the food chain (so no accumulation of toxins—cf. tuna, swordfish, mackerel).
It will take a while, but I’m starting to feel desperate for exercise—that is the state I apparently must reach before doing any. A 45-minute walk on Thursday from here to Lover’s Point seemed good on Thursday. Friday I did a shorter walk—to my ISP to turn in my old modem and buy a new one. Today I set out for Lover’s Point again, but this time the walk took only about 35 minutes: I’ll have to walk a little farther to reach 45 minutes. But it’s a pleasant walk, along the rocky shore.
I have found that it’s surprisingly easy to postpone a walk from day to day, but today—after yesterday’s beautiful day—I was determined to start, so I walked from here to Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove, about a 45-minute round trip. Not bad, and walking along the shore is nice. But now to keep it up.
My friend Jack in Amsterdam forwards a link on what we can learn about lifestyles and health from the Cuban experience. Jeremy Laurence reports in The Independent:
A country whose citizens collectively succeeded in losing weight and increasing their level of physical activity saw their health improve and death rates plunge.
In a unique natural experiment, researchers have observed how a nation that lost an average of 5kg per head over five years contributed to a halving of the death rate from diabetes and a one third reduction in deaths from heart disease.
The natural experiment occurred in Cuba which was plunged into crisis in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its experience demonstrates what could be achieved elsewhere if the same changes could be brought about, without an economic crisis.
Food and fuel were in short supply in Cuba from 1990 resulting in millions going hungry and having to abandon their vehicles and walk.
Cars and buses virtually disappeared from the roads as fuel supplies dried up, and farmers had to abandon motorised machines and work the fields manually. The Government issued one million bicycles to keep the population on the move.
Between 1990 and 1995, the average Cuban consumed fewer calories than they expended each day, leading to an average weight loss of 5kg.
Deaths from diabetes began to fall in 1996, five years after the start of the weight loss period, and remained low for six years. Deaths from heart disease and stroke which had been declining slowly since 1980 suddenly went into free fall from 1996.
By the late 1990s, however, Cuba was beginning to recover and as the economy grew so did waistlines. Levels of physical activity fell.
The consequences were seen in a surging prevalence of diabetes and rising rates of heart disease and stroke which, by the mid-2000s were back to their pre-crisis levels. . .
Continue reading. There’s a nifty graphic at the link.
Tara Haelle has an interesting article in Scientific American, rerun in Salon:
New evidence is confirming that the environment kids live in has a greater impact than factors such as genetics, insufficient physical activity or other elements in efforts to control child obesity. Three new studies, published in the April 8 Pediatrics, land on the import of the ‘nurture’ side of the equation and focus on specific circumstances in children’s or teen’s lives that potentially contribute to unhealthy bulk.
In three decades child and adolescent obesity has tripled in the U.S., and estimates from 2010 classify more than a third of children and teens as overweight or obese. Obesity puts these kids at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, and bone or joint problems. The variables responsible are thought to range from too little exercise to too many soft drinks. Now it seems that blaming Pepsi or too little PE might neglect the bigger picture.
“We are raising our children in a world that is vastly different than it was 40 or 50 years ago,” says Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity doctor and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa. “Childhood obesity is a disease of the environment. It’s a natural consequence of normal kids with normal genes being raised in unhealthy, abnormal environments.” The environmental factors in these studies range from the seemingly minor, such as kids’ plate sizes, to bigger challenges, such as school schedules that may keep teens from getting sufficient sleep. But they are part of an even longer list: the ubiquity of fast food, changes in technology, fewer home-cooked meals, more food advertising, an explosion of low-cost processed foods and increasing sugary drink serving sizes (pdf) as well as easy access to unhealthy snacks in vending machines, at sports games and in nearly every setting children inhabit—these are just a handful of environmental factors research has linked to increasing obesity, and researchers are starting to pick apart which among them play bigger or lesser roles in making kids supersized.
Size matters in “obesogenic environments”
In one of the three new studies dishware size made a big difference. Researchers studied 42 second-graders in which the children alternately used child-size 18.4-centimeter (7.25-inch) diameter plates with 237-milliliter (8-ounce) bowls or adult-size 26-centimeter (10.25-inch) diameter plates with 473-milliliter (16-ounce) bowls. Doubling the size of the dishware, the researchers found, increased the amount of food kids served themselves in a buffet-style lunch line by an average of 90 calories. They ate about 43 percent of those extra calories, on average.
Although kids can typically adjust their energy intake by regulating their food, Temple University public health professor Jennifer Fisher says, their surroundings and options may change that equation for kids in the same way that it does in adults. “This notion that children are immune to the environment is somewhat misguided,” says Fisher, who headed up the study. “To promote self-regulation, you have to constrain the environment in a way that makes the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Fisher says much recent research in nutrition has focused on the “obesogenic” environments of today’s society: a dietary environment offering widespread access to highly palatable foods in large portion sizes. “If we look at adult studies on dieting and weight loss, we know that the prospect of maintaining self-control in this environment is fairly grim,” Fisher says. “I think most scientists believe our bodies have evolved to pretty staunchly defend hunger and prevent weight loss, and maybe are not so sensitive in preventing overconsumption.”
Link between obesity and screen time
Overconsumption might be a key component in the link between obesity and screen time, too, according to another of the new studies. Although past research already had linked increased TV time to widening waistlines, this study dug deeper. Ninety-one 13- to 15-year-olds filled out diaries for TV, video games and computer use during a one-week period. About four to seven times a day the teens were paged to record what they were paying the most attention to at that particular moment, followed by activities receiving their second- and third-most attention. “Kids live in a multitasking world,” says Harvard Medical School pediatrics professor David Bickham, lead author of the screen-time study. “We’re trying to assess their technology use when they’re using different forms of technology at once.”
Bickham says three theories have been floated for the link between screen time and obesity: food advertising, unconscious eating and displacement—that is, the idea that the media use replaces physical activity. His team’s findings lent more support to . . .
I’m looking at this Cool Tool. Yes, yes. I know that I have carefully assembled, dusted, and sold exercise bikes in the past, but this one has a couple of advantages: the work surface and a small footprint (smaller than the recumbent exercise bike that was my last effort).
If only one could know in advance which equipment would become clothes racks. I have had two Nordic Tracks, the first of which I had simply used up. The second I sold as part of the move. Although there were stretches when I didn’t use the Nordic Track, there were also stretches where I used it regularly and in fact enjoyed it. But: enormous footprint.
The problem is, of course, that I mostly sit during the day: blogging, reading, or watching movies. Not good. OTOH, I’m not sure how much I would use the desk at the link. Difficult. The ratings on Amazon are encouraging.
And it is, in fact, a Cool Tool—and I imagine that there are a jillion of these. I am not smart-phoned, so that’s an entire product category I can safely ignore.
UPDATE: After reflection, the remarks below have been revised and extended.
Habits are first cobwebs, then cables, as the saying goes, and the transition from cobweb to cable takes time and consistency, but after four weeks (or 30 days, your choice), a habit is commonly taken to be well established. True cablehood probably takes longer, but 30 consecutive successful days lays a good foundation.
The problem is the consistency part. It’s quite easy to skip a day—just one day—early on, and since you skipped that day, the next day is harder, so maybe restart come Monday… and so it goes.
I have some habits I definitely need to establish. Since giving up Pilates, my primary form of physical exercise has been keyboarding, which obviously is not quite enough. A 45-minute walk daily would be better. (It is some help that my new domicile is on the second floor.)
A long time ago, I signed up at HabitForge.com, and after getting a couple of “come back” emails, I thought I would give it another go. When you enter a habit you want to work on, a drop down list of suggestions appears—obviously, a lot of people want to work on the same habits. I picked up “brush teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once”—why not, and my flossing’s not been what it should be. And I added “45 minute walk daily” and “small lunch and small dinner” to the list, plus “make and follow a daily plan”.
That’s four habits, a reasonably small number. I’m in the second full day, and it seems effective. Somehow, the goal of clicking “I’ve already succeeded” once I’ve accomplished the daily task is quite specific and finite. Whereas (say) a walk is of a kind of indefinite size/time and thus somewhat intimidating, clicking “I’ve already succeeded” is not, and it becomes quickly something the client very much wants to do. So the focus shifts from the walk (both extent and extended action being difficult to picture in the imagination) to the click (very specific and brief and can readily be pictured): I thus see the walk as something to get out of the way so I can click “Succeed” and add another step in the sequence. Same with meals, brushing, and planning: each one is not that big a deal, and by getting them done on consecutive days (which is actually pretty easy), I get to click. Missing a day is severely penalized, with the severity increasing pretty much in line with strength of habit.
And so the habit grows. Worth a look, definitely. (If you miss a day, I assume the arrow goes back to zero—and I’m not testing that.)
My one requested enhancement: each click, instead of simply advancing an arrow one step around a circle (21 days) should work like this:
Clicking “success” suspends a thread from a beam; if there were already 3 threads there, those are first braided into a string and the new thread then added; if the new string makes 3 strings present, those are first braided into a cord and then the new thread is added; if the new cord makes 3 cords present, they are first braided into a rope and then the new thread is added; if the new rope makes 4 ropes, those are first braided into a cable, and then a new thread is added; if the new cable makes 3 cables, the three are braided into a supercable, and a “You win!!” message of some sort flashes. Because success is self-reported, and thus easy to fake, the prize must be of low monetary value. My suggestion: Restart the game but the winner (the guy who made it all the way without missing a single day—for that would restart the game with a bonus of n threads, when the nth restart begins: a small bonus, just to pull them into the next cycle; for some, the bonus will in time be substantial—probably a prize is due the person who achieves number of consecutive restarts = “rope” (or “cable”).
If a day is missed, the beam is cleared, and you start again, with a click of “success” suspending n threads from the beam (braidings as needed) where n is the number of consecutive restarts.
1 Thread = 1 consecutive successful completion
1 String = (3+1) consecutive successful completions since the string is not braided until the next consecutive successful completion: the idea is that in order to see the little “prize” (of watching the braiding), you have to get 1 step into the next cycle: a sunk cost. And since the Sunk Cost Fallacy is frightfully common, this keeps them going: “I don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve made!” and/or “Only two more days to the next braiding!”, which you think on every third day.
1 Cord = (9+1) consecutive successful completions, for the same reason.
1 Rope = (27+1) ditto
1 Cable = (81+1) ditto
1 Super-cable = (243+1) ditto
One expects VERY few to achieve Super-Cable, but the existence of so many levels encourages the client to strive hard not to miss a day because s/he is going to beat the previous record. Thus the encouragement continues long beyond the initial 28-day period: they can keep going, and the further they go, the more determined they become not to miss a day and product a somewhat progressive restart.
So it’s kind of a game, and it also reflects in the strengthening bond how the habit becomes increasingly stronger. And the ultimate level is far enough away that achieving it will be rare, but not so far as to be impossible (as, effectively, (729+1) would be), but also avoids the Super-Super Cable. It starts to sound too much like “Final complete corrected file with the added records and Residual-indicator reset – Try 1″.
I suggest the display show:
a. Highest level ever achieved
b. Number of Restarts achieved
c. A glowing emblem with a number n atop it, n being the number of Super-Cables achieved. Thus players will be encouraged to continue to get some brass on the wall.
How far he’s come from the most recent Restart is shown by the thread/string/cord/etc. display. I encourage no arabic numeral count be shown because the larger number grows intimidating: you really are in the position of Allied troops on the slog through Europe in WWII: you keep going until you are killed. The same thing with bomber crews. Sure, they got to return home after 25 successful missions (did not have to be consecutive, thank God) But seeing the thread/string/etc. display grow, the client feels that s/he is building something, and the creative impetus provides substantial motivation. Thus the images pull the client along, but the numbers would push him/her down.
Feel free to suggest the above device if you try HabitForge, and it’s worth trying if you have a habit you want to establish. Working on one habit is free—and in general, one should not try too many habits at a time. Four is probably stretching it.
Here’s one: yoga balls instead of chairs. Kathy Matheson reports for Associated Press:
In 11 years of teaching, ditching students’ desk chairs in favor of yogaballs is one of the best decisions Robbi Giuliano thinks she ever made.
Replacing stationary seats with inflatable bouncers has raised productivity in her fifth-graders atWesttown-Thornbury Elementary School, making students better able to focus on lessons while improving their balance and core strength, she said.
“I have more attentive children,” Giuliano said. “I’m able to get a lot done with them because they’re sitting on yoga balls.”
The giant rubber spheres, also called stability balls, come in different sizes, colors and degrees of firmness. By making the sitter work to stay balanced, the balls force muscle engagement and increased blood flow, leading to more alertness.
The exercise gear is part a larger effort to modernize schools based on research linking physical activity with better learning, said John Kilbourne, a professor of movement science at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.
Traditional classroom setups are being challenged as teachers nationwide experiment with yoga balls, footrests and standing desks, which give children outlets to fidget without disrupting class.
“It’s the future of education,” Kilbourne said.
Stability balls, frequently used in yoga, Pilates and physical therapy, have even begun appearing in offices in the wake of recent studies stressing the dangers of sedentary work environments.
The balls first began to surface in schools as aids for kids with attention problems or autism, said Michelle Rowe, executive director of the Kinney Center for Autism at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. The equipment has since gone mainstream. . .
Ominous, I would say. Kate Yandell reports in The Scientist:
Being born to an obese father is associated with epigenetic abnormalities, according to a study published in BMC Medicine yesterday (February 6). Children with obese fathers have different epigenetic markings on the gene for insulin-type growth factor 2 (IGF2)—which is important during fetal growth and development—than children with fathers of normal weight.
“During pregnancy, the mother has to be careful what she eats and drinks, et cetera, but in general, not much is published about the effects of the father,” said lead author Adelheid Soubry, a molecular biologist at Duke University, who suspects that the more than 2 months it takes for sperm to mature are an important window of paternal influence.
Scientists have shown in human studies that some diseases are linked to parents’ environments prior to their children’s birth, but “this is one of the first papers that shows a true epigenetic shift,” said University of Washington biologist Michael Skinner, who was not involved in the study.
The link between parental condition and the epigenetics and health of children is not entirely new. A 2010 Nature paper showed that male rats on a high-fat diet fathered pups that were at elevated risk of developing diabetes, possibly because of epigenetic changes. And a 2008 study showed that Dutch children born during a winter of famine during World War II had different IGF2 methylation than their siblings not born during the famine.
Inspired by these findings, Soubry and her colleagues analyzed umbilical cord blood from 79 babies born in 2005 and 2006 to mothers enrolled in the Newborn Epigenetic STudy (NEST) at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. Participating mothers filled out a detailed questionnaire, including information about the height and weight of their children’s fathers.
Children with obese fathers were likely to have . .
Edyta Zielinska writes in The Scientist:
Nearly 500 million adults worldwide are obese—close to 10 percent of men and 14 percent of women, an incidence twice as high as in 1980, according to the World Health Organization. Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 30 or greater, has been linked with higher rates of serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. But an obesity drug hasn’t been approved in the United States since 1999.
The regulatory environment for this class of drugs remains extremely tough following high-profile failures in the 1990s. For example, the infamous fen-phen drug combo caused life-threatening side effects and became one of a number of approved drugs removed from the market because of health concerns. “Obesity is the toughest market to get into,” says Praful Mehta, a senior analyst from IHS Global Ltd., a market research company. This is in part because obesity is not an immediately life-threatening disease, so side effects that are acceptable for the treatment of diseases like cancer are unacceptable when treating obesity.
Despite these odds, Lou Tartaglia decided that now was the perfect time to start a company to target obesity. A scientist turned venture capitalist, Tartaglia is betting on the newest science in this area: brown-fat biology. Unlike white fat cells, which get their name from the excess lipids they store and whose relatively few mitochondria transfer energy from the lipids and sugars to the energy-storing molecule ATP, brown fat cells’ many mitochondria contain an “uncoupling protein” that allows them instead to release the energy from sugars and lipids as heat—to warm hibernating animals, for example. Researchers think that by increasing the numbers of brown fat cells in adults, or by activating those that already exist, they will be able to help people burn calories, shedding extra pounds as a result. In contrast to previous efforts that tried to curb food cravings via compounds that acted on the central nervous system, brown-fat therapies would attack the problem by increasing energy expenditure, even while at rest. In addition, activating brown fat cells could help diabetic patients improve blood glucose control by increasing sensitivity to insulin.
With research findings continuing to endorse brown fat as a promising target for tackling obesity, Tartaglia and his colleagues decided to make the commercial leap. In December 2011, with $34 million in financing from Third Rock Ventures, where Tartaglia is a partner, they launched Ember Therapeutics in hopes of leveraging the work from the labs of its scientific founders and advisors, such as Bruce Spiegelman, whose lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discovered a hormone called irisin that appears to make white fat behave like its brown counterpart. “We’ve tied up the real A-team in brown fat in one company,” says Tartaglia.
And Ember isn’t the only company trying to capitalize on the growing promise of brown-fat therapies. Several other companies—both large and small—have also jumped onto the brown-fat bandwagon over the last few years. Still, the obstacles in this area are many, from the scientific to the regulatory, and it remains to be seen whether this new target can deliver on the excitement that it has been generating.
Brown fat, found only in . . .
It’s clear that typing is insufficient as exercise, so today I went for my walk. Not quite 45 minutes, but tomorrow I’ll extend it by a couple of blocks and that should do it. I’m in chapter 9 of the second part of Don Quixote, so he hasn’t quite set out on the third sally.
The secret for me seems to be to go for the walk at a specific time: when the clock hits the time, I hit the door, stopping whatever I’m doing and making the walk the top priority. That is how I get it done.
I also need to add some mat exercises, but I’ll stick with just the walk for a week.
What I saw on the walk—and next time I take my camera: First, in someone’s yard they had planted an artichoke and let it go ahead and flower. Very striking: an intensely blue giant thistle.
Second, as I walked up the street I disturbed one of the small (almost tiny) deer that make Pacific Grove their home. This was a buck, with a very nice set of antlers. As I approached, on the same side of the street, he abandoned his nibbling of the shrubbery and walked slowly into the middle of the street and turned to watch me.