While it’s not possible or practical for everyone, training for and completing a marathon significantly improves the health of a new runner’s arteries, a study suggests. For the study, researchers from Barts and University College London analysed 138 novice runners attempting the London Marathon. Following six months of training, the runners’ arteries were seen to regain some youthful elasticity, something which should reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the runners’ blood pressure fell by as much as if they had been prescribed medication. Interestingly, those who were the least fit before the training appeared to afford the most health benefits. The best news is that the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, says smaller amounts of aerobic exercise are likely to have a similar effect, meaning people don’t necessarily need to train for a marathon to benefit. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Metin Avkiran, an Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “The benefits of exercise are undeniable. Keeping active reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and cuts your chances of an early death.” According to NHS England guidelines, every week, adults should do a minimum of either: 150 minutes moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, doubles tennis or cycling 75 minutes vigorous exercise, such as running, football or rugby It’s also important to do strengthening activities - such as push-ups, sit-ups or lifting and carrying - at least twice a week.
If you’re over 40, just 10 minutes of leisurely activity each week could lower your risk of death from multiple causes. That’s the key finding from a recently published study by researchers from China and the United States. According to the study involving 88,140 US adults, even low-level physical activity, such as gardening, can help people live longer lives. Publishing their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers said that even people who spend just a short time each week being physically active have a lower risk of death due to cancer, cardiovascular issues and all-cause mortality. However, participating in more vigorous types of exercise, including running and cycling, affords even greater health benefits. Unlike people who were physically inactive, those who undertook between 10 and 59 minutes of moderate, leisurely exercise each week had an 18% lower risk of death from all causes. Those who were physically active for a little longer (between 150 and 299 minutes per week) had a 31% lower risk of all-cause death. Undertaking over 1,500 minutes of physical activity on a weekly basis resulted in a 46% decrease in overall mortality risk. Furthermore, individuals who opted for more vigorous exercise instead of lighter physical activity had a much lower mortality risk still.
Strength training exercises benefit the heart more than aerobic activities, such as walking and cycling, new research suggests. The survey of more than 4,000 American adults found that static exercise, like lifting weights, is more effective at reducing the risk of heart disease than cardiovascular exercise. Specifically, while undertaking both static and dynamic exercise was associated with a 30% to 70% reduction of cardiovascular risk factors, the link was strongest for younger individuals who did static exercises. Nevertheless, any amount of exercise brings benefits and doing both static and dynamic types is still better than focussing on just one kind, the researchers from St. George's University in St. George's, Grenada said. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Maia P. Smith, assistant professor at the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at St. George's University, said: “Both strength training and aerobic activity appeared to be heart healthy, even in small amounts, at the population level.” Current American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend that American adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity every week. The same guidelines also stipulate that said activity should be spread across the week and not completed in just one or two days. Are you doing enough physical activity each week? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
What’s the fittest country in the world? Would you have any idea if you were asked? Even hazard a guess? Hint: It’s a country in Africa. According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report, Uganda is the world’s most physically active country. Published in the medical journal The Lancet, the study findings are from a compilation of surveys completed in 168 countries. Just 5.5% of Ugandans do not do enough physical activity. People living in Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania and Togo are also getting plenty of exercise, too. In comparison, people living in Kuwait (the least active nation) have far more sedentary lifestyles, with 67% of the population not active enough. The report highlights a distinct divide between the levels of physical activity in poorer countries vs. wealthier countries. People in poorer nations are more likely to walk to work and/or have jobs that see them being physically active throughout the day. Recommended exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds Here’s what the UK’s NHS recommends: At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as cycling or brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (such as running or a game of tennis) every week Strength exercises that work all the major muscles at least two days per week Long periods of sitting should be broken up with light activity Are you getting enough physical activity? Could a small lifestyle change enable you to? [Related reading: Open-plan offices could improve health, reduce stress]
A large-scale study has found that just 45 minutes of physical exercise three to five times a week can improve mental wellbeing. [Related reading: People who abstain from alcohol in middle age may have higher risk of dementia] According to the US study of 1.2 million people, people who exercised regularly had fewer “bad days” a month than their non-exercising counterparts. Furthermore, while activities such as cycling, aerobics and team sports had the greatest positive impact, all types of physical activity, including things like doing household chores and looking after kids, were found to improve mental health. Moreover, people who had previously been diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression were found to afford the greatest benefits. The optimal routine identified by the researchers was being physically active for 30 to 60 minutes every second day. More interesting is the researchers’ finding that too much exercise can have a negative impact. Dr Adam Chekroud, study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, said: "Previously, people have believed that the more exercise you do, the better your mental health, but our study suggests that this is not the case. "Doing exercise more than 23 times a month, or exercising for longer than 90-minute sessions is associated with worse mental health." The findings of the study are published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal.
Whether cycling has a negative impact on a man’s sexual health and/or urinary function has been the subject of several studies over the years. But now new research suggests that the sexual and urinary health of cyclists is comparable to that of runners and swimmers, and that the benefits of cycling “far outweigh the risks.” According to the authors of the new research, previous studies that looked at how cycling affects men’s sexual and urinary health lacked comparison groups. Benjamin Breyer, lead investigator from the University of California-San Francisco's urology department, said: "Cycling provides tremendous cardiovascular benefits and is low impact on joints. "The health benefits enjoyed by cyclists who ride safely will far out weight health risks." However, the study did show that cyclists had a greater chance of experiencing genital numbness, but that this could be significantly reduced by standing up while cycling for more than 20% of the time. The researchers are now interested in planning future work that looks at whether genital numbness is a possible predictor for future health problems.
Despite this year’s Tour de France still fresh in our minds, the focus of the cycling world has already turned to next year’s event now that the official route map has been revealed. The big reveal, which happened last week on Facebook, started with the official tour map below being posted. This led to a subsequent internet frenzy which saw the route details spread like wildfire. With the official route map now available, competitors can now start shaping their training to ensure they stand the best chance possible in the competition – which some people are describing as potentially one of the most exciting ever. Next year’s race seemingly favours competitors who enjoy uphill climbs, with a series of gruelling mountain-top finishes and some very short, brutal climbs. The other most notable feature, or lack of for that matter, is that there will be just 14 kilometres of individual time-trialling next year. The race is sure to be a spectacle that is not to be missed. After all, where else can cyclists tackle the beautiful mountains of the Pyrenees before experiencing the majesty of the Alps in one event? The 2015 Tour de France is scheduled to start on July 4 from Utrecht in the Netherlands and its competitors will cover a total distance of over 3,000 kilometres. So if you’re in France with us for any medical treatment in July next year, be sure to set some time aside in your timetable to witness, what is surely going to be, one of the most exciting tours ever.
What’s the one sporting event that springs to mind when you think of France? Le Tour de France – right? Thought so! Le Tour de France is world renowned. It’s by far the greatest cycling event, if not sporting event, in the calendar year, for its test of endurance, stamina, fitness and both physical and mental ability. And whilst the 2014 event starts in the UK, there’s no better place to see it than in its home country of France. The atmosphere, excitement and sheer thrill of watching around 200 cyclists whizz past is most definitely worth the trip. Starting in Yorkshire on Saturday 5th July, Stage 1 and Stage 2 remain in the UK. Stage 3 starts in Cambridge before heading over to France, with Stage 21 finishing in Paris on Sunday 27th July. Covering a total distance of 3,656 kilometres and tackling 5 hill stages and 6 mountain stages, 5 of those with altitude finishes, it’s no wonder it’s seen as the world’s greatest endurance race. So don’t just be one of the 3 billion people watching it through a TV screen, come to France and experience this momentous event live. See you there! Photo credit: Le Tour De France FB Page