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Just 10 minutes of gardening each week could lower your risk of death

21/03/2019

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.

Your ability to do push-ups may predict your cardiovascular risk

26/02/2019

How many push-ups (also known as press-ups) can you do? Do you even know? Do you even care? Well maybe you should… That’s because a new study has found that a man’s ability to do push-ups may be a good indicator of their cardiovascular risk. The findings of the study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, may enable physicians to assess cardiovascular risk more easily and more cost effectively. Simply put, the more push-ups a man can do, the lower his cardiovascular risk and vice versa. Speaking about the findings of the study, first author Justin Yang, M.D. said: "Our findings provide evidence that push-up capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting.” For the study, researchers measured both the push-up capacity and the submaximal treadmill exercise tolerance of each participant at the beginning. Yearly physical exams and medical questionnaires were then used to gather relevant data. The researchers found that participants who were able to complete over 40 push-ups to begin with had a 96% lower cardiovascular risk than those who could only complete 10 or fewer push-ups. It is still unknown whether the findings of the study also apply to women and men who are older, younger and/or less physically fit than the participants. That’s the study involved 1,104 active male fire fighters with a mean age of 39.6 and mean BMI of 28.7.

The seven dementia risk factors: How many are you aware of?

07/02/2019

A new study has revealed that half of UK adults cannot name a single dementia risk factor. If asked, how many could you name? The study by Alzheimer's Research UK found that just 1% of UK adults could name the seven known dementia risk or protective factors. Heavy drinking, smoking, genetics, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes are the six dementia risk factors, while physical exercise is a protective factor. According to the study, more than half of UK adults know someone with dementia, yet only half also recognised that the disease is a cause of death. Furthermore, a fifth of people quizzed for the report incorrectly said that dementia is an inevitable part of getting old. Right now, there are more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and that number is expected to top one million by 2025. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for around two-thirds of all cases. Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It is a sad truth that more people are affected by dementia than ever before and half of us now know someone with the condition. Yet despite growing dementia awareness, we must work harder to improve understanding of the diseases that cause it.” You can read the full Alzheimer’s Research UK report here: https://www.dementiastatistics.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Dementia-Attitudes-Monitor-Wave-1-Report.pdf#zoom=100

Less sitting, more moving tied to longer life

31/01/2019

People who have sedentary jobs could significantly boost their lifespans by taking short, regular movement breaks, a new study has found. It’s no secret that individuals who spend a lot of time sitting down are more likely to develop certain adverse health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, as well as having increased risk of osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, colon cancer and high blood pressure. However, just a small amount of exercise, the study suggests, could lower the risk of early death. According to the research – the findings of which are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine – individuals who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of early death. For example, workers who had a movement break (involving some low-intensity exercise) every 30 minutes had a 17% lower risk of death than their counterparts who did not have any breaks. Moreover, individuals who broke up periods of sitting every 30 minutes with moderate- to high-intensity exercise lowered their risk of early death by 35%. Speaking about the findings of the research, Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and study lead, said: “If you have a job or lifestyle that involves a lot of sitting, you can lower your risk of early death by moving more often, for as long as you want and as your ability allows — whether that means taking an hour-long high-intensity spin class or choosing lower-intensity activities, like walking.”

Study finds popular fitness trackers overestimate calories burned

29/01/2019

Do you use a fitness tracker to monitor your levels of physical activity and keep an eye on how many calories you’re burning from day to day? If you do, you could be relying on overestimated information, according to the findings of a new study. Researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales found that many popular fitness trackers often overestimate the number of calories burned while walking by over 50%. In fact, all products tested by the research team ranging between £20 and £80 in price were inaccurate during walking and running tests. Surprisingly, some fitness trackers gave polarising results. For example, the Fitbit Charge 2, the best-selling fitness tracker on the market, scored very well when it came to estimating calories burned while running, underestimating by just 4%. However, when measuring walking, the same device overestimated calories burnt by more than 50%. Other less expensive devices, namely the Letscom HR and the Letsfit – significantly underestimated the number of calories burned while running by 33% and 40% respectively. However, both were more accurate than the Fitbit Charge 2 in estimating calories burned while walking, overestimating by 15.7% and just 2% respectively. One of the researchers, Dr Rhys Thatcher, said that while fitness trackers can be great as motivational tools, people need to be cautious in the data they provide. “If you want to know the exact number of calories that you are burning during an exercise session then it doesn't matter which device you use, you have to interpret the data with some caution,” he said.  

Stair-climbing ‘exercise snacks’ can boost cardiorespiratory health

24/01/2019

Most people understand the important role exercise plays in maintaining and boosting your health. But expensive gym memberships coupled with the busy lives many people lead mean that getting enough exercise is often a non-starter due to the associated expenses and/or a lack of time. The good news though is that new research shows stair climbing, at short intervals that last just a few minutes throughout the day, can improve cardiorespiratory health. For the study, researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, led by Martin Gibala, Ph.D., observed two groups of sedentary youngsters. One group climbed three flights of stairs three times a day and had recovery sessions of between one and four hours in between, while the other group did not exercise. At the end of the study period, the cardiorespiratory health of both groups was assessed. The group that performed the stair climbing each day had higher cardiorespiratory fitness than the group that did no exercise. Moreover, the stair climbers were also found to be stronger at the end of the intervention. Jonathan Little, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada, and study co-author, said: “We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that the stair snacking approach was also effective. “Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary.” So there you have it. You can boost your cardiorespiratory health by simply adding ‘exercise snacks’ into your daily routine.

Mediterranean diet Linked to healthy brain aging

03/01/2019

The New Year is here and for many that means attempting to stick to one or a bunch of resolutions. Eating more healthily, doing more exercise and quitting smoking will be at the top of the list for many people. If one of your goals for 2019 is eating more healthily, perhaps you should consider following a Mediterranean diet. While it varies depending on where you go, a Mediterranean diet, in a nutshell, is one that incorporates all of the healthy eating habits of people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain - so more vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, grains, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. And less meat and dairy foods. As well as being linked with better health, including a healthier heart, a Mediterranean diet also promotes healthy brain aging, according to new research. A recent study involving 116 healthy adults aged 65–75 years, conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, found that participants who ate a Mediterranean diet performed better in memory, general intelligence, and executive function tests. “Our study suggests that diet and nutrition moderate the association between network efficiency and cognitive performance,” said Aron Barbey, a psychology professor at The University of Illinois.

Could blocking a single gene be the key to curing obesity?

05/12/2018

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is a “global epidemic” that must be tackled if we are to prevent its ill effects. In the United States, nearly 40% of adults and 18.5% of children aged 2 to 19 are obese. Obesity is a major risk factor for type-2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. That’s why finding effective ways to treat the condition is paramount. But now scientists say they are on the verge of creating a pill that could make obesity a thing of the past - without the need for diet and exercise. Sounds too good to be true, right? Nevertheless, the team at Flinders University in South Australia say that they key to curbing obesity could lie in a single gene known as RCAN1. The team found that when RCAN1 was removed in mice and they were then fed a high fat diet, they did not gain weight. In fact, they could eat as much food as they wanted over a prolonged period of time, the researchers say. Damien Keating, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Flinders, and leader of the research team, said blocking RCAN1 allows the body to transform unhealthy white fat into calorie-burning brown fat. Stunning pictures of the mice used for the trial highlight the difference when RCAN1 was blocked and when it wasn’t. The results of the research are published in the journal EMBO Reports.

Strength training better for the heart than aerobic exercise, study finds

20/11/2018

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]

WHO report reveals world’s fittest country

18/09/2018

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]

Too much exercise can negatively impact mental health - study

14/08/2018

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.

Night owls face more health risks than early risers

15/05/2018

Are you a night owl or a morning person? A new study suggests that it could make a big difference to your health and it’s not good news for late risers. According to the paper authored by Dr Kristen Knutson and Professor Malcolm von Schantz, of Northwestern University (Chicago) and the University of Surrey (UK) respectively, night owls have an increased risk of early death, psychological disorders and respiratory illness than people who are, so to speak, up with the lark. The paper backs up previous research that suggests people who regularly go to bed late are more likely to suffer ill health. Over a six-year period, night owls were found to have a 10% greater risk of death than larks, according to the paper. This finding held true even after adjusting for expected health problems in people who go to bed late, such as metabolic dysfunction and heart disease. Using data extracted from the UK Biobank, a data store containing medical and genetic information relating to some 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 from across the UK, the researchers were able to determine the effect a lack of sleep has on individuals. While night owls often make up for their lack of sleep during the week by staying in bed longer at weekends – referred to as “social jet lag” - it is seemingly not enough to combat the potential health problems they face. Commenting on the findings of the research, Dr Knutson said that “night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies. They shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8am shift. Make work shifts match people’s chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts.” Being a night owl was also associated with psychological stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, eating at the wrong time, and drug or alcohol use. So, if you're someone who regularly goes to bed late and doesn't get enough sleep during the week, maybe it's time to change your habits.

Large study finds link between brain injuries at a young age and dementia later in life

12/04/2018

People who suffer brain injuries have an increased risk of developing dementia in later life, a new study has found. The large study of 2.8 million people found individuals who had at least one traumatic brain injury were 24% more likely to develop dementia than those who hadn’t. Interestingly, the risk was found to be greatest in people who had the brain injury while still in their 20s. These individuals were found to be 63% more likely to suffer from dementia in later life. However, despite the findings of the study, independent experts have said that other lifestyle factors, such as smoking and a lack of exercise, are actually more important. According to Dr Doug Brown, chief policy and research officer at Alzheimer's Society, these risk factors “are much easier for all of us to do something about". Nevertheless, the research does show a correlation between brain injuries and dementia. Jesse Fann, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, said: "Our analysis raises some very important issues, in particular that efforts to prevent traumatic brain injury, especially in younger people, may be inadequate considering the huge and growing burden of dementia and the prevalence of TBI worldwide." TBI is the term used to describe a concussion.

Older cyclists have the immune systems of 20-year-olds

13/03/2018

Older individuals who do lots of exercise can prevent their immune systems from declining and protect themselves against infection, scientists say. For the research, scientists from King’s College London followed 125 long-distance cyclists, some of who were in their 80s. They found that some had the immune systems of much, much younger individuals. For example, Prof Norman Lazarus, 82, of King's College London, who co-authored the research and took part in it, was found to have the immune system of a 20-year-old. "If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system,” he said. Speaking about the research, Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham and co-author, said people’s immune systems decline at a rate of about 2-3% a year from the age of 20. That’s why older individuals are more susceptible to infections, rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer. Because the cyclists were found to have the immune systems of much younger people, they have added protection against conditions that tend to affect older individuals. Furthermore, the researchers believe that physically active, older individuals respond better to vaccines, meaning they are also better protected against influenza. The good news is that you don’t need to be a competitive cyclist to reap the benefits. Just being more active and puffing yourself out from time to time can help.

Exercise can help middle-aged people reverse heart risk

09/01/2018

While many people will be using the start of the New Year to kick-start certain lifestyle changes in an attempt to become “healthier”, there are some who might think it’s too late based on their age. However, a new study has revealed that it’s often not too late for many who want to improve their fitness. In fact, with exercise, even individuals who are into their late middle age can reduce or even reverse the risk of heart failure caused by years of sedentary living. But there’s a slight catch – it requires at least two years of aerobic exercise four to five days a week. According to the study, which was published in the journal Circulation, individuals aged 45-64 who followed an aerobic exercise routine for two years showed an 18% improvement in their maximum oxygen intake while exercising and a more than 25% improvement in "plasticity" in the left ventricular muscle of the heart, compared to their counterparts who didn’t follow such an exercise regime. The take-home message of the research is that exercise needs to be part of a person’s daily routine, like teeth brushing. Dr Richard Siow, vice-dean for the faculty of life sciences and medicine at King's College London, said: "I think that's a very important take-home message for those of us who may have a doom and gloom view there's nothing we can do about it. Yes there is, we can start by getting off the couch to have a more active lifestyle."

More exercise could be the key to quitting smoking

02/01/2018

It’s January 2 and for many people that means it’s time to start thinking about those New Year’s resolutions. The inevitable over-indulgence during the festive period will have triggered many of us to consider eating more healthily and exercising more this year, while others will be looking to give up smoking. The problem is that nicotine is a very addictive drug and many people struggle to give up cigarettes easily. But new research shows how exercising may reduce tobacco withdrawal symptoms. So, if you’re planning to try and quit, exercise could be the answer. Irritability, trouble sleeping and even depression are all withdrawal symptoms associated with giving up smoking. However, it’s been shown that exercise can reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. In fact, some older studies have discovered that even 10 minutes of exercise can immediately reduce the effects of tobacco cravings. A team from St George's, University of London, led by Dr. Alexis Bailey, a senior lecturer in neuropharmacology, found that mice addicted to nicotine who undertook two or 24 hours a day wheel running displayed a significant reduction of withdrawal symptom severity compared with the sedentary group. Furthermore, in the group of mice that exercised, researchers were able to see an increase in the activity of alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine, a type of nicotine brain receptor. Most startling of all was the fact just two hours of exercise daily had as much effect on relieving the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal as exercising continuously for 24 hours. SO, if you really want to crack your smoking habit and give up this year, maybe more exercise could be the key to your success.

Indulgent grandparents could be damaging their grandchildren's health

16/11/2017

It’s natural for grandparents to dote on their grandchildren and give them sweet treats whenever they see them. But new research suggests this and other influences could have a negative impact on their grandchildren’s health. For the research, the team from the University of Glasgow analysed 56 different studies which included data from 18 countries, including the UK, US, China and Japan. They focused on the influence of grandparents who were significant in their grandchildren’s lives, but who weren’t necessarily primary caregivers. Three areas of influence were considered: diet and weight, physical activity and smoking. When it came to their grandchildren’s diet and weight, grandparents were found to have an adverse impact, with many studies highlighting how they feed their grandchildren high-sugar or high-fat foods - often in the guise of a treat. The researchers also found that grandchildren were perceived to get too little exercise while under the supervision of their grandparents. However, this did depend on whether the grandparents were physically active themselves or not. Furthermore, smoking around grandchildren became an area of conflict between parents and grandparents, with the latter often smoking while their grandchildren were present, even though they had been asked not to. Talking about the findings of the study, lead researcher Dr Stephanie Chambers said: "While the results of this review are clear that behaviour such as exposure to smoking and regularly treating children increases cancer risks as children grow into adulthood, it is also clear from the evidence that these risks are unintentional. "Given that many parents now rely on grandparents for care, the mixed messages about health that children might be getting is perhaps an important discussion that needs to be had."

Less than 2 hours of walking per week may ‘considerably prolong life’

19/10/2017

We all know that regular exercise should be a part of our weekly routine, but finding the time and motivation is often difficult. But what if just a little bit of walking had the ability to considerably prolong your life? Would you make time then? A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that even as little as two hours of walking a week, compared with no physical activity at all, correlated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality. In other words, even levels of walking that do not meet government-issued guidelines still provide significant benefits and lower the risk of premature death by a considerable amount. Moreover, the study also found that going beyond government exercise guidelines was linked with a 20% decrease in mortality risk. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr. Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., strategic director of the Cancer Prevention Study-3 for the American Cancer Society (ACS), said: “Walking," she continued, "has been described as the 'perfect exercise' because it is simple, free, convenient, doesn't require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age.” So, the next time you have a short journey to make and providing the weather is good and you’re feeling up to it, why not walk?

Over-65s not doing enough strength training, finds study

05/10/2017

It’s a natural reaction to want to lend a helping hand when you see an older individual carrying something that looks heavy. And while it’s absolutely the right gesture and something many of us will continue do without thinking, research suggests that strength exercises are actually highly beneficial for older people. According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), nearly a quarter of over-65s don’t do any strength exercises. As a result, they are putting themselves at risk of falls and other forms of ill health. Simple, yet important tasks, like gardening, vacuuming and carrying the shopping can help older people live healthier, longer lives. Current NHS guidelines advise that people should do at least two strengthening sessions per week. However, a survey carried out on behalf of the CSP found that nearly a quarter of over-65s are doing none whatsoever. Almost one in five people said they didn't know how to strength train, while a similar number said they simply didn't want to. Prof Karen Middleton, chief executive of the CSP, says that not everyone has to become weaker and frailer as they get older. "Research shows getting stronger brings a whole host of health benefits so it is incredibly important that people don't overlook strengthening when being active." So the next time you offer to carry an older person’s shopping and they insist that they’d rather do it themselves, remember, you could be helping them live a longer and healthier life.

Even one hour of exercise per week could prevent depression

03/10/2017

Depression affects around 6.7% of US adults every year. On a global level, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 300 million people are currently living with the disorder. When it comes to treatment, medication, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy or a combination of these approaches is usually used. But new research adds weight to the argument for regular exercise as a depression treatment. Australia-based non-profit group Black Dog Institute conducted an analysis of data collected from 33,908 Norwegian adults who were followed over an 11-year period. Publishing their results in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the team, led by Prof. Samuel Harvey from the Black Dog Institute, found that not only does a little exercise bring substantial benefits, but a lack of exercise actually contributes to depression. Individuals who didn’t undertake any physical activity were found to be 44% more likely to develop depression than those who did just 1 or 2 hours per week. As a result, the authors concluded that approximately 12% of depression cases could have been prevented if the individual did at least 1 hour of exercise per week. "We've known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventive potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression,” said Prof. Harvey.

Just 60 seconds of jogging per day could boost women's bone health

20/07/2017

While many people think that getting fit involves hours spent in the gym each week, a new study suggests just one minute of jogging each day is enough to boost women’s bone health. Researchers found women who performed “high-intensity, weight-bearing activity” 60 to 120 seconds a day had 4% better bone health than those who didn’t. Furthermore, those that did slightly more exercise benefitted exponentially. For example, women who did more than two minutes had 6% better bone health. The researchers said that a slow jog for post-menopausal women and a medium-paced run for pre-menopausal women was enough to provide health boosts. Publishing their findings in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Leicester, both in the United Kingdom, said there was a clear link between exercise and bone health. For their study, the researchers used data obtained from wrist monitors worn by more than 2,500 women for a week. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bone to become weak and brittle. While bone tissue is constantly broken down and replaced in healthy people, new bone production does not keep pace with the removal of old bone in individuals with osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that there are around 54 million people living with osteoporosis and low bone mass in the United States alone.

Vaccine that lowers cholesterol could prevent heart disease

20/06/2017

A vaccine that helps lower cholesterol will now be trialled on humans following successful studies in mice. Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna will now test the safety of their experimental treatment – which stops fatty deposits clogging the arteries – on 72 volunteers. If the trials are successful, the vaccine would offer an alternative for people who currently take pills on a daily basis to reduce their risk of angina, stroke and heart attack. Writing about their cholesterol-lowering vaccine in the European Heart Journal, Dr Guenther Staffler and colleagues from The Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research say it will take many more years of tests before it is known whether the treatment is safe and effective in humans. In studies of mice, the treatment cut low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by as much as 50% over 12 months and appeared to stop the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. Regardless of whether the vaccine becomes available in the future, the researchers were keen to stress that it should not be seen as an excuse for people to avoid exercise and eat lots of high-fat food. Nevertheless, the treatment could be useful for individuals who have high cholesterol due to an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia.

Risk of chronic disease increases with just 14 days of physical inactivity

23/05/2017

While the association between a lack of exercise and an increased risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, is well-established, new research shows that just 14 days of physical inactivity can increase a person's risk such conditions. A study by the University of Liverpool found that young, healthy adults who switched from moderate-to-vigorous activity and then to near-sedentary behaviour for just 14 days experienced metabolic changes that could raise their risk of chronic disease and even premature death. Presenting their findings at the European Congress on Obesity 2017 in Portugal, Study leader Dr. Dan Cuthbertson and colleagues said that reducing physical activity for just 14 days led to a loss of skeletal muscle mass in the participants. However, the reduction of physical activity for 14 days also led to an increase in total body fat. Furthermore, said body fat was most likely to accumulate centrally, which the team notes is a significant risk factor for chronic disease. Current guidelines recommend that adults aged 18-64 undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity every week. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that fewer than 50% of adults meet these exercise recommendations. Are you doing enough exercise each week? Even just small lifestyle changes can make a big difference when it comes to your risk of chronic disease.

More than 20 million Brits 'physically inactive', study reveals

04/04/2017

More than 20 million people in Britain are physically inactive and increasing their risk of heart disease, according to a new report by the British Heart Foundation. The charity has warned that the lack of exercise by such a large proportion of the British population is costing the NHS a staggering £1.2bn each year. Women are 36% more likely than men to be physically inactive, which the report defines as not meeting the UK government's guidelines for physical activity - 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity and strength exercises on two or more days a week. However, despite the report finding that 11.8 million women were physically inactive compared with 8.3 million men, it is actually men who sit down for longer (78 days a year compared to 74 for women). Furthermore, inactivity levels differ by region. For example, 47% (2.7 million) of people living in the North West of England were found to be inactive, whereas people in the South East had the lowest rate at 34%. Over five million deaths across the world each year are attributed to physical inactivity, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of death. In the UK, physical inactivity contributes to almost one in 10 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year, as well as one in six deaths from any cause. Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour in the UK remain stubbornly high, and, combined, these two risk factors present a substantial threat to our cardiovascular health and risk of early death.

New drug could help one in five breast cancers

16/03/2017

A new type of breast cancer treatment could help up to 10,000 women in the UK, according to scientists. Historically, biological therapies have been used to help fight rare, inherited genetic errors which can lead to cancer, such as the BRCA one actress Angelina Jolie carries. However, a new study has found that such therapies could also help women diagnosed with breast cancer who do not have these genetic errors. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute study suggests that such therapies could be effective in one in five breast cancers (20%). For comparison, the number of women who develop cancer and have faulty BRCA genes is 1 to 5%. For the study, the researchers analysed the genetic make-up of breast cancer in 560 different patients. They found that a significant proportion had "mutational signatures" that were very similar to faulty BRCA. Therefore, given the close similarities, these cancers could also potentially be treated with biological therapies. Clinical trials are now being called for to confirm the researchers' theory. Baroness Delyth Morgan, from Breast Cancer Now, said the initial results were "a revelation". "We hope it could now lead to a watershed moment for the use of mutational signatures in treating the disease," she said. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding cigarettes, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to reduce a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

People are getting fatter, but fewer than ever are trying to lose weight - study

09/03/2017

Despite the fact the number of people who are overweight or obese has risen over the past 30 years, fewer people are actually attempting to shed weight, according to a new study, the findings of which were published in JAMA. Around two thirds of the adult population in the United States are obese or overweight, putting them at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. However, new research has found that even though there has been a significant rise in the number of people who are overweight or obese since the 1980s, the percentage of U.S. adults who are trying to lose weight has fallen. For their research, study co-author Dr. Jian Zhang and her colleagues from the Georgia Southern University, analysed the data of 27,350 U.S. adults aged between 20 and 59 years. The analyses revealed that the rates of overweight and obesity increased by 13%, from 53% in 1988-1994 to 66% in 2009-2014. Furthermore, the researchers also found that the percentage of people who attempted to lose weight over the same period actually dropped by 7%, from 56% in 1988-1994 to 49% in 2009-2014. At present, people are deemed to be overweight or obese depending on their body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 25 to under 30 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are proven to help curb weight gain, which is why we should all make a conscientious effort to watch what we eat and exercise more. [Recommended read: BMI Wrongly Labelling People Unhealthy, Finds New Research]

Weekend Exercise Alone Provides 'Significant Health Benefits'

12/01/2017

People who cram all their recommended weekly exercise into one or two sessions at the weekend can realise important health benefits, a study suggests. Furthermore, just being active, without undertaking the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity every week, is still enough to reduce the risk of premature death by a third. Researchers from Loughborough University and the University of Sydney analysed the survey responses of around 64,000 adults aged over 40 in England and Scotland focusing on the amount of time they spent doing exercise and their general health over an 18-year period. They found that no matter how many times people exercised in a week, as long as they met the recommended guidelines the health benefits were the same. The findings of the study are particularly good news for people with busy lives who simply do not have enough time during the week to exercise. These particular individuals often squeeze all of their physical activity into the weekends, leading to them becoming known as "weekend warriors". In fact, these so-called "weekend warriors" were found to lower their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 41% and cancer by 18%, compared with people who were inactive. Commenting on the findings of the study, Justin Varney, national lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE), said: "The maximum health benefits are achieved from 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. "However, every little counts and just 10 minutes of physical activity will provide health benefits."

Dopamine could be to blame for people's reduced motivation to exercise

05/01/2017

The New Year is here and for many of you that will mean a new exercise regime designed to get you into shape and improve your overall health. For some people, though, sticking to a disciplined program of physical exercise is one of the hardest resolutions they can make because a lack of motivation gets in the way. But now new research sheds some light on why many people, despite understanding the benefits of regular exercise, find it hard in practice to stay physically active. Researchers from the Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), led by Alexxai V. Kravitz, focused on why obese animals also have a hard time carrying out physical activity. They found that a dysfunction in obese rodents' dopamine systems might help explain why. Mice fed on a high-fat diet started gaining significantly more weight than mice fed on a normal diet. They were also observed to have fewer movements; spend less time moving; and were slower when they did move, compared with the lean mice. Most interesting of all was that the overweight mice's changes in movements did not correlate with body weight gain. Instead, the researchers found that a deficit in striatal D2R explained the obese mice's lack of activity. "In many cases, willpower is invoked as a way to modify behavior. But if we don't understand the underlying physical basis for that behavior, it is difficult to say that willpower alone can solve it," said Kravitz.

Exercise Could Cancel the Harm Associated with a Week's Overeating

08/11/2016

Christmas is just around the corner and for many people that means gorging themselves on all manner of delicious food and drinks. But all that festive feasting can play havoc with people's waistlines, which is why so many individuals make dieting one of their New Year's resolutions. However, the effects of overeating might not be as disastrous for a person's health as we may think, as long as people keep exercising. That's the findings of research presented at the American Physiological Society (APS) Integrative Biology of Exercise VII meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. For their study, researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, wanted to find out what would happen to people's fatty tissue if they continued to exercise while undertaking a week-long food blowout. The researchers got study participants to consume 30% more calories over the course of a week than they would usually. The participants also exercised for at least two and a half hours spread over at least 6 days of the week. What the study team found was that the participants' fatty tissue showed no signs of inflammation and no change was witnessed in their glucose tolerance or chemical breakdown of fat. In people who do not exercise, the markers of inflammation in fat tissue would normally increase after a week of overeating.

Study Finds Bariatric Surgery Decrease Gout Risk

13/10/2016

A study in Sweden has found that obese individuals who underwent bariatric surgery had a 34% less likelihood of developing gout - a condition that is often associated with and aggravated by being overweight. For the study, researchers analysed two groups of individuals: one which had undergone bariatric surgery and one which had followed intensive lifestyle modifications, including advice on food choices, energy intake and exercise. They found that over 26 years of follow-ups, there were 138 new cases of gout in the group that had undergone the surgery and 201 new cases in the matched, non-surgery group. Interestingly, the patients in the surgery group had higher body mass indexes; larger waist circumferences; and worse glucose and cholesterol levels. Speaking about their findings, the team, which was headed up by Lena M.S. Carlsson, MD, of the University of Gothenburg, said: "The beneficial effects of bariatric surgery are not limited to weight loss, but they extend to improvement in metabolic parameters and to lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer." Other studies have previously suggested that bariatric surgery can lead to lower serum uric acid levels, which are the primary cause of gout.

Study Finds No Proof that Fitness Trackers Promote Weight Loss

22/09/2016

The results of a two-year long study by the University of Pittsburgh published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggest that fitness trackers, such as devices that count how many steps people have taken, do not appear to improve the chances of losing weight. For the study, researchers tracked the weight loss progress of some 500 overweight individuals who were asked to diet and do more exercise. Half of the volunteers were given a fitness tracker to help them keep tabs on their progress throughout, while the other half weren't. At the end of the study, the group without the fitness trackers had lost more weight than their gadget-wielding counterparts. The study authors say that while people should not ditch their fitness trackers altogether in the first instance, they should also not put as much faith in them as they do for weight loss. However, device manufacturers say that their own research suggests fitness trackers can aid weight loss when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise. They also say that their technology has moved on since the University of Pittsburgh study was conducted. Nevertheless, Lead researcher Dr John Jakicic said that he did not think this would alter the findings of the study, even though he acknowledged that the technology had moved on. "What these devices tell us and how we use the information has not changed," he said.

Laughter Boosts Seniors' Motivation to Exercise

20/09/2016

Researchers have found that laughter may really be the best medicine when it comes to a person's health in later life. And, according to the study led by Georgia State University, when laughter is combined with moderate exercise, not only is the mental health of older individuals improved, but also their motivation to undertake physical activity. Prior to their research, lead author Celeste Greene, from Georgia State, and colleagues noted that many seniors are reluctant to carry out physical activity because they lack motivation due mainly to the fact they don't find exercise enjoyable. That's why Greene's team set out to investigate whether combining laughter with physical activity would increase the amount of enjoyment older people get while exercising, thus increasing the likelihood of them doing more and reaping the associated health benefits. For older people, regular physical activity can improve heart health; reduce the risk of diabetes; aid weight control; improve bone health; and maintain and boost muscle strength. Greene and her team created LaughActive, a unique laughter-based exercise programme, which combines moderate-intensity physical activity with simulated laughter techniques. The research team enrolled 27 older adults in the LaughActive programme, who were all required to attend two 45-minute sessions every week for a period of 6 weeks. What they found at the end of the 6-week programme was that 96.2% of participants said that laughter was an enjoyable addition to physical activity and boosted their motivation to take part. In addition, the programme was associated with significant improvements in the mental health and aerobic endurance of the participants.

One hour of 'brisk exercise' can offset risks associated with sitting

02/08/2016

One hour of "brisk exercise" each day can offset the risk of early death for people who are desk-bound in their working lives, according to scientists. The study of physical activity - the results of which were published in The Lancet - analysed data from more than one million people to see how being inactive affects people's health. Watching TV was found to be worse than sitting at a desk. This is because of the associated habits that go with it, like snacking. However, even people who sit at a desk for eight hours a day because of their jobs can compensate by undertaking an hour of physical activity. In fact, the research found that desk-bound workers who were physically active had a significantly lower risk of death than people who weren't physically active and only sat for a few hours. At present, NHS guidelines recommend people do at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. The new research suggests that is insufficient for many. Being inactive has long been linked to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, and accounts for around 5.3 million deaths globally each year. For comparison, smoking accounts for around 5.1 million. Prof Ulf Ekelund, Lead author of the study, from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and Cambridge University, said that people don't even need to do sport or go the gym to exercise. "It’s OK doing some brisk walking, maybe in the morning, during lunchtime, after dinner in the evening. You can split it up over the day, but you need to do at least one hour," he said.

Womb cancer rise likely due to obesity

14/04/2016

Cancer Research UK has warned that rising levels of obesity could be fuelling an increase in the number of women diagnosed with cancer of the womb. According to figures released by the charity, 19 in every 100,000 women in the UK were found to have the disease in the 1990s. However, this figure had risen to 29 in 100,000 by 2013. It's thought that hormones associated with carrying extra fat could be playing a part in this rise, but researchers have acknowledged that this still remains unclear and that more studies are needed. Each year in the UK, approximately 9,000 women are diagnosed with womb cancer and 2,000 die from the disease. Nevertheless, treatments are improving and higher survival rates today reflect this. But researchers are still concerned why more women are getting the disease nowadays than before. Cancer Research UK's Prof Jonathan Lederman said: "It is worrying that womb cancer cases are going up so sharply. "We don't know all the reasons why, but we do know that about a third of cases are linked to being overweight - so it is no surprise to see the increases in womb cancer cases echo rising obesity levels." The exact causes of womb cancer remain unclear, but experts believe that extra fat may produce hormones which could increase the chances of tumours forming. Other risk factors include: lack of exercise, age and genetics. Being overweight increases a person's risk of developing some cancers, which is why it's important to get regular exercise and keep an eye on portion sizes, as well as sugar and fat intake.

Study: American heart attack victims now younger and fatter

29/03/2016

A new study has revealed that heart attack victims in the United States are becoming younger and fatter. Over the past two decades alone, the average age of people suffering the deadliest heart attacks has fallen from 64 to 60, and obesity has been implicated in 40% of the most severe, according to researchers at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. In addition, heart attack sufferers nowadays are more likely to be smokers and people with high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), compared to 20 years ago. It's a reality that is raising alarm bells. "Lifestyle changes to reduce weight, eat right, exercise and quit smoking are critical for prevention of heart attack," said senior researcher Dr. Samir Kapadia, an an interventional cardiologist in the Cleveland Clinic Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Kapadia added that the responsibility for making these lifestyle changes should be shared between the patient and their medical doctor, and the issue discussed at routine checkups. The study focused on analysing heart disease risk factors among more than 3,900 patients; all of whom had been treated for an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). One of the most severe types of heart attack, STEMIs often result in disability or death and occur when the heart's main artery is completely blocked by plaque. The results of the study are scheduled to be presented on April 4 at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in Chicago.

Obese People Can Preserve Their Knee Cartilage by Losing Weight, says Study

02/12/2015

A new study presented at the recent Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting in Chicago, Illinois reveals that knee cartilage degeneration is significantly slowed in obese patients who lose a substantial amount of weight. Over 500 overweight patients were assessed for the study, which used an MRI scanner to measure the progression of knee cartilage degeneration, allowing the researchers to investigate the impact that different amounts of weight loss can have. The researchers discovered that patients who lost more than 10% of their body weight had slower knee cartilage degeneration, also known as osteoarthritis. The knee is one of the most common parts of the body to be struck by osteoarthritis and patients often need to have their entire knee replaced if the disease progresses too far. Study leader Dr. Alexandra Gersing, from the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), said that while the effects of osteoarthritis cannot be reversed without surgery, “obese patients who lose weight can slow down the progression of cartilage degeneration in the knee.” The study was conducted over a four year period and involved over 500 overweight and obese patients. The researchers are now planning to conduct a further study, which will investigate how diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity, also affects cartilage degeneration. For the time being, however, overweight and obese individuals can slow their cartilage degeneration by losing weight. And while that’s not always as easy as it sounds, weight loss surgery is sometimes an option for obese patients to consider.      

‘Brain Training’ Good for Older People, says Study

05/11/2015

Older people benefit from playing online games that test their memory and reasoning skills, also known as ‘brain training’, according to a large-scale study. The six month experiment, which was conducted by researchers at King’s College London, involved almost 7,000 individuals aged 50 and over and was launched by the BBC’s Bang Goes The Theory. None of the volunteers who participated in the study had reported any memory or cognition problems and they were recruited from the general population as part of a collaboration between the BBC, the Medical Research Council and the Alzheimer’s Society. The researchers found that mental exercises, such as those undertaken during brain training, helped with everyday skills like cooking and shopping. A baseline was taken by testing the study subjects on a series of medically recognised cognitive tests. The group was then split into two, with one subgroup asked to play online brain training games whenever they wanted for up to 10 minutes at a time. The medically recognised cognitive tests were then redone at three and six months to see if the group which had been playing the online games displayed any detectable differences over the other group. After six months, the group that had been playing the brain games showed broader cognitive skills than those who hadn’t. Dr Doug Brown from the Alzheimer's Society said: "Online brain training is rapidly growing into a multi-million pound industry and studies like this are vital to help us understand what these games can and cannot do. “While this study wasn't long enough to test whether the brain training package can prevent cognitive decline or dementia, we're excited to see that it can have a positive impact on how well older people perform essential everyday tasks." Bigger, longer studies will now commence to dig deeper into this study’s findings.  

Regular Exercise Reduces Symptoms of Asthma

09/10/2015

The benefits of exercising regularly are well-known and abundant, but now new research suggests that it may also help relieve symptoms of asthma in adults. The study, which was published in MJ Open Respiratory Research, focused on the physical activity levels of 643 adults diagnosed as having asthma. It found that those who exercised the recommended amount each day (30 minutes) were almost 2.5 times more likely to have their asthma symptoms under good control, compared to those who did zero exercise. Furthermore, the exercise does not necessarily need to be strenuous, according to lead author Simon Bacon, a professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. "Just 30 minutes a day of walking, riding a bike, doing yoga - anything active, really - can result in significant reduction of asthma symptoms,” he said. Asthma cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled and the individual can enjoy a good quality of life if it is effectively managed and it seems exercise is now a key factor for that management. World Health Organisation (WHO) figures show that there are around 235 million people in the world who have asthma. Conventional advice was that asthma sufferers should try and avoid exercise as it can trigger attacks. But Professor Bacon says this can be avoided if the right measures are taken: "The issue of exercise-induced bronchospasm is real - but if you use your reliever medication, blue puffer, before you exercise, and then take the time to cool down afterwards, you should be okay. Even if you have asthma, there's no good reason not to get out there and exercise,” he said.

Non-Invasive Treatment Helps Paralysed Men Move Again

27/08/2015

A new technique, which has been reported in the Journal of Neurotrauma, has helped five men who were totally paralysed from the waist down move their legs. The non-invasive procedure  is thought to represent the first time patients have regained voluntary leg movement, without undergoing surgery. Electrical stimulation therapy was utilised by scientists along with physical rehabilitation exercises, instead of invasive surgery. These initial results could offer hope to millions of people with paralysis and allow scientists to look at spinal cord injuries “in a new way”, according to Senior author Prof. V. Reggie Edgerton. Experts believe that spinal cord injuries may no longer affect someone for the rest of their life. "The potential to offer a life-changing therapy to patients without requiring surgery would be a major advance; it could greatly expand the number of individuals who might benefit from spinal stimulation,” said Roderick Pettigrew, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This recent study involved five men who were paralysed from the waist down for more than two years. They each underwent a specific training regime, which involved electrodes being placed on the skin on their lower backs. At the beginning, the patients’ legs only moved when strong stimulation induced involuntary movements. However, by the end of the study, the patients could move their legs with buspirone – a drug which mimics the actions of serotonin – but without additional stimulation. Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf5OMQbcJ90 The study has been described as “remarkable” due to the fact that experts had previously believed that paralysed individuals no longer had any neural connections in their spines. "The fact that they regained voluntary control so quickly must mean that they had neural connections that were dormant, which we reawakened,” said Prof. Edgerton.

Alzheimer’s Symptoms Could be Improved with Physical Exercise

30/07/2015

Just last week we told you about how a simple saliva test could be used to predict a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And now this year’s Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in Washington, D.C., has heard how physical exercise not only has the potential to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, but also effectively treat it as well. Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer's Association, said: “Based on the results we heard reported today at AAIC 2015, exercise or regular physical activity might play a role in both protecting your brain from Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and also living better with the disease if you have it.” The randomised controlled trials sought to assess whether moderate to high-intensity activity had an effect on 200 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms. The team from the Danish Dementia Research Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark, led by Dr. Steen Hasselbalch, found that the group of patients following the exercise programme experienced significantly fewer of the neuropsychiatric symptoms often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. "While our results need to be verified in larger and more diverse groups, the positive effects of exercise on these symptoms that we saw in our study may prove to be an effective complement or combination with antidementia drugs," said Dr. Hasselbach. "This calls for further study of multimodal treatment strategies, including lifestyle and drug therapies." The study further highlights the importance of undertaking physical exercise on a regular basis. The list of proven health benefits is increasing all the time and just a little physical activity now could dramatically improve your life in the future.     Photo credit: Medical News Today

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