Is Sitting the New Cigarette Smoking?

Is Sitting the New Cigarette Smoking?

How much time does it really take for a healthy person to become measurably less healthy? Less than you might think.

According to new research from the University of Liverpool, just two weeks without regular physical activity can lead to muscular and metabolic changes that could potentially increase one’s risk of diabetes, heart disease, and possibly even premature death.

The new study is being presented this week at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal, and has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The findings are preliminary, but the authors say they still highlight the dangerous consequences of sedentary behavior—even for a short period of time.

To investigate just how much a two-week break from physical activity might impact healthy young adults, researchers recruited 28 men and women, average age 25, who didn’t work out regularly but walked about 10,000 steps a day. The participants had an average body mass index of 25, which is considered borderline between normal and overweight.

Before the study began, researchers measured the participants’ fat and muscle mass, mitochondrial function (a measure of how well they regulate energy and recover from exercise), and physical fitness. The participants were then asked to wear an activity tracker for two weeks, and to reduce their daily activity by more than 80%—to about 1,500 steps a day. They were also told not to alter their food intake over that time.

During those 14 days, the time people spent doing moderate-to-vigorous activity dropped by an average of 125 minutes a day—from 161 minutes to just 36. Daily sedentary time increased by an average of 129 minutes.

Not surprisingly, when the participants were re-checked after those two weeks, they had gained weight and lost muscle mass. Total body fat had also increased—especially fat around the abdomen, which is a major risk factor for developing chronic disease.

The results were also surprising because the study involved relatively young and healthy individuals, says lead author and graduate student Kelly Bowden-Davies. “If even those people were at risk, you have to think about what that means for patients who are older or less healthy, or who have other risk factors, like a family history of disease.”

The authors acknowledge that the changes were small, but they were statistically significant. If a sedentary lifestyle was continued for longer than two weeks, they say, those changes would likely become more pronounced.

And although the study participants drastically cut back their daily activity, Bowden-Davies points out that they were still going about their daily lives. “They still went to work or university, or looked after their children,” she says. “So this is a typical example of what some individuals are doing in society.” Even for people who are regularly active, it’s not hard to imagine how some lifestyle change—like a new job or a longer commute—could trigger this type of reduction in walking and other types of regular exercise, the authors say.

But there’s good news from the study, too: When participants resumed their normal activity after their sedentary period, their health measures returned to normal over the following two weeks.

Do You Need a Health Coach

Do You Need a Health Coach

If you’ve been struggling with nutrition, goal setting or changing some unhealthy behavior, perhaps enlisting the assistance of a certified health coach can help to transform your life. What exactly is a health coach and what can they do for you? A health coach partners with you to seek self-directed, lasting changes aligned with your values which promote health and wellness and thereby enhancing your well-being. They will determine the proper program for you combining healthy eating, workout plans, and provide support, motivation and accountability.

You don’t have to go it alone! Find out how a certified health coach can set you on the right path to health and wellness.

The Many Benefits of Strength Training

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By now you should know the drill. In order to lose weight and tone up, you need to combine cardiovascular exercise 5-6 days/week for an hour along with a sensible diet and strength training sessions two times/week. If you’re hesitant to begin a strength training regimen, here’s some valuable benefits that you will receive. And while this article is geared more toward older adults, the same benefits will be realized in all adults.

The Center for Disease Control extols the benefits of resistance exercise, particularly as you grow older. Science tells us that conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and depression are significantly reduced through the effects of regular strength training. Studies have shown that older adults age 50+ who engage in strength training achieve a 43% reduction in pain, along with increases in strength and performance.

Balance is improved through resistance exercise, and a routine of strength training two to three times per week has been shown to lower the risk of falls by 40%. For post-menopausal women, bone mass decreases 1 to 2% per year, and weight training will improve bone density enough to counter that loss. Glucose control, mood, and sleep are all improved through strength training.

Even your heart benefits from resistance exercise, since it leads to leaner body composition…and therefore a decrease in heart disease, as well as increased aerobic capacity. As we age, our bodies are less able to crease new muscle tissue. Sarcopenia is age-related loss of muscle, and with it comes a reduction in the ability to do functional everyday activities. When you lose weight, you inevitably lose muscle mass as well as fat. By doing strength training exercises, you can reduce the amount of lean muscle tissue that you lose during weight loss. For those maintaining a stable weight, strength training reduces the age-associated loss of muscle tissue. In addition, strength exercise programs can be a significant help in maintaining our metabolic rate (which normally declines with age and with weight loss).

Increase Your Resistance

Studies show that if resistance is gradually increased, lean muscle mass will increase more than if resistance remains the same. In other words, if you continue to lift with the same amount of weight, you will not increase mass as much as if you continually increase the weight or resistance. When you get to a point where you’re able to do more than 10-12 reps without taking a break, it’s time to increase the weight or resistance until you can only do 8-10 reps. Simply by increasing the resistance as you get stronger, you could hold on to up to 5% more of your lean body mass over the course of a decade.

How Do You Get Started?

With any physical activity, you should consult with your physician before beginning. If you’re new to strength training and are not sure of the proper exercises to perform for your different muscle groups, it is a good idea to invest in some sessions with a personal trainer. Not only will they show you the proper form to avoid possible injury or stress to your body, but they will show you how to maximize the results you achieve.

Why Do Your Muscles Ache After a Workout (and other muscle facts)

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The better you understand your muscles and what they are capable of, the more you can do with them, whether it’s acing a tennis serve, running a race or just turning heads on the beach! Let’s start with the basics. There are over 650 muscles in the human body made up of three types: the cardiac muscle found in your heart, the smooth muscle that lines organs such as your stomach and esophagus, and skeletal muscle, which attaches to your bones via tendons. Skeletal muscles are the ones we are discussing in this article and they make up 30 to 40 percent of your body mass and are largely voluntary, meaning that you make them move.

Grow What You’ve Got

The number of muscle fibers you have was determined by the time you are in middle school. While you can’t increase the number of muscle fibers you have after puberty, you can control how big the fibers get which will determine how tight and strong you look.

Hurts So Good

When you cut your finger, your body heals, but if often overcompensates by leaving a scab. Something similar happens with muscles. Hoisting a barbell can cause microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. As a result, waves of white blood cells rush in to patch things up. While they’re at it, they release chemicals that set off pain receptors. The process peaks in about 36 hours post workout. This is referred to as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. Try to resist the urge to take an over-the-counter pain medication to relieve the discomfort. This may blunt your body’s ability to rebuild muscle, meaning you get stronger more slowly. Kneading or massaging the muscle using slow, deep circles will provide relief. Soaking in a tub with epsom salts will also feel good.

Slow vs. Fast Twitch

All muscle fibers are not created equal. Slow-twitch fibers are perfect for endurance but don’t pack a whole lot of power. Fast-twitch fibers do the opposite. They offer bursts of rapid fire energy, but only for a short amount of time. Your genes control how much of one type or the other you have. If you’re looking to increase your endurance for a marathon, hone your slow-twitch muscles by lifting 2 to 3 sets with lighter weights, eking out 12 to 15 reps. If you want to improve your 5k final kick, try cranking out 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps at a heavier weight.

Our Muscles are Smart

When you fire a powerful punch in kickboxing class, your brain sends a signal down a nerve cell, telling certain muscle fibers in your arms, back, core and legs to contract. After a series of microscopic reactions, you deliver the knockout blow! As you practice, your brain and muscles learn to communicate more efficiently and you become more coordinated.

Visualize This

In 2007, researchers found that when healthy men and women spent 4 weeks visualizing themselves lifting weights, their actual strength went up 4 percent without ever lifting a single dumbbell. By comparison, a group that actually did strength train gained 5 percent and a control group that did nothing lost 0.2 percent. Bottom line? Thinking about exercises may help bolster the pathways between your brain and your muscles.

To Bulk Up or Not to Bulk Up

Weight lifting will not turn you into a raging superhero. It’s just not in your blood. Testosterone helps men gain bulk. When they lift weights the hormone causes their muscle fibers to grow. Since women have 20 to 30 percent less testosterone than men, women will gain strength without the bulk.

Men vs. Women – Who’s Stronger?

When researchers compared the muscle strength of men and women, they found that men were about 50 percent stronger than women. But when they factored in body weight and muscle weight, they discovered that, on a muscle to muscle basis, women are just as strong as men.

Where You’re Most Likely to Grow

It’s the width of your shoulders. Generally there isn’t a lot of fat around a person’s deltoids, so muscle growth there is more defined under your skin.

And finally…Why Do They Hurt After a Workout?

Recently researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered the reason your muscles burn after a workout. Lactic acid. The acid is a main source of fuel for your muscles. When you push yourself, your muscles convert glucose from food into lactic acid which is moved via proteins to the mitochondria, your muscles’ energy factories. The more you work out, the more efficiently your body uses lactate as fuel…which means you can go longer and harder. Feel the burn…LOVE the burn!