Tag Archives: exercise

Seasoned Citizens Reduce Fall Risk Via Exercise

… according to an article at MedPageToday. (I thought we already knew that.) Add this to your list of reasons to exercise. Successful aging is a war against gravity.

Tai Chi was the exercise in two of the trials, but the rest consisted of gait, balance, and functional training for activities performed in daily life. Most trials also included strength/resistance training exercises.

***

All the exercises that proved to be effective for fall prevention emphasized balance training, which the researchers said is “ample evidence that this type of program improves balance ability.”

Exercise reduces the risk of fractures by about 40%.

Click for the original research report, a meta-analysis.

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Exercise Helps With Insomnia, But It May Take Four Months

She'll sleep better, eventually

She’ll sleep better, eventually

The Well blog at the New York Times has details. The study at hand involved only 11 women with insomnia, mostly in their 60s. A key take-away is that it took as long as four months for some  to see an improvement. So don’t get discouraged and stop exercising too soon.

It doesn’t take much exercise.

Read the whole thing (it’s brief).

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Should Diabetics Exercise?

 

Women, don't worry about getting too bulky with muscles: you don't have enough testosterone for that

Women, don’t worry that weight training will get you too bulky with muscles: you don’t have enough testosterone for that

Read on for the potential benefits of exercise, then decide for yourself.

GENERAL EXERCISE BENEFITS

Regular physical activity postpones death, mostly by its effect on cancer, strokes, and heart attacks.

Exercise is a fountain of youth. Peak aerobic power (or fitness) naturally diminishes by 50 percent between young adulthood and age 65. Regular exercise increases fitness (aerobic power) by 15–20 percent in middle-aged and older men and women, the equivalent of a 10–20 year reduction in biological age.

Additional benefits of exercise include: 1) enhanced immune function, 2) stronger bones, 3) preservation and improvement of flexibility, 4) lower blood pressure by 8–10 points, 5) diminished premenstrual bloating, breast tenderness, and mood changes, 6) reduced incidence of dementia, 7) less trouble with constipation, 7) better ability to handle stress, 8) less trouble with insomnia, 9) improved self-esteem, 10) enhanced sense of well-being, with less anxiety and depression, 11) higher perceived level of energy, and 12) prevention of weight regain.

EFFECT ON DIABETES

Eighty-five percent of type 2 diabetics are overweight or obese. It’s not just a random association. Obesity contributes heavily to most cases of type 2 diabetes, particularly in those predisposed by heredity. Insulin is the key that allows bloodstream sugar (glucose) into cells for utilization as energy, thus keeping blood sugar from reaching dangerously high levels. Overweight bodies produce plenty of insulin, often more than average. The problem in overweight diabetics is that the cells are no longer sensitive to insulin’s effect. Weight loss and exercise independently return insulin sensitivity towards normal. Many diabetics can improve their condition through sensible exercise and weight management.

Muscles doing prolonged exercise soak up sugar from the blood stream to use as an energy source, a process occurring independent of insulin’s effect. On the other hand, be aware that blood sugar may rise early in the course of an exercise session.

EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS

You don’t have to run marathons (26.2 miles) or compete in the Ironman Triathlon to earn the health benefits of exercise. However, if health promotion and disease prevention are your goals, plan on a lifetime commitment to regular physical activity.

Kayaking combines exercise and recreation

Kayaking combines exercise and recreation

For the general public, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

  • at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking) and muscle-strengthening activity at least twice a week, OR
  • 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., running or jogging) plus muscle-strengthening activity at least twice a week. The muscle-strengthening activity should work all the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms.

I’m working on a program of combined aerobic (high intensity interval training) and strength training for just 70 minutes a week, but it’s not yet ready for prime time.

STRENGTH TRAINING

What’s “strength training”? It’s also called muscle-strengthening activity, resistance training, weight training, and resistance exercise. Examples include lifting weights, work with resistance bands, digging, shoveling, yoga, push-ups, chin-ups, and other exercises that use your body weight or other loads for resistance.

Strength training just twice a week increases your strength and endurance, allows you to sculpt your body to an extent, and counteracts the loss of lean body mass (muscle) so often seen during efforts to lose excess weight. It also helps maintain your functional abilities as you age. For example, it’s a major chore for many 80-year-olds to climb a flight of stairs, carry in a bag of groceries from the car, or vacuum a house. Strength training helps maintain these abilities that youngsters take for granted.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “To gain health benefits, muscle-strengthening activities need to be done to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition without help. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up. Try to do 8–12 repetitions per activity that count as 1 set. Try to do at least 1 set of muscle-strengthening activities, but to gain even more benefits, do 2 or 3 sets.”

Look into "body weight training" if weight machines and dumbbells don't appeal to you

Look into “body weight training” if weight machines and dumbbells don’t appeal to you

If this is starting to sound like Greek to you, consider instruction by a personal trainer at a local gym or health club. That’s a good investment for anyone unfamiliar with strength training, in view of its great benefits and the potential harm or waste of time from doing it wrong. Alternatives to a personal trainer would be help from an experienced friend or instructional DVD. If you’re determined to go it alone, Internet resources may help, but be careful. Consider “Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults” (ignore “older” if it doesn’t apply).

Current strength training techniques are much different than what you remember from high school 30 years ago—modern methods are better. Some of the latest research suggests that strength training may be even more beneficial than aerobic exercise.

AEROBIC ACTIVITY

“Aerobic activity” is just about anything that mostly makes you huff and puff. In other words, get short of breath to some degree. Examples are brisk walking, swimming, golf (pulling a cart or carrying clubs), lawn work, painting, home repair, racket sports and table tennis, house cleaning, leisurely canoeing, jogging, bicycling, jumping rope, and skiing. The possibilities are endless. A leisurely stroll in the shopping mall doesn’t qualify, unless that makes you short of breath. Don’t laugh: that is a workout for many who are obese.

But which aerobic physical activity is best? Glad you asked!

Ideally, it’s an activity that’s pleasant for you. If not outright fun, it should be often enjoyable and always tolerable. Unless you agree with Ken Hutchins that exercise isn’t necessarily fun.

Your exercise of choice should also be available year-round, affordable, safe, and utilize large muscle groups. The greater mass and number of muscles used, the more calories you will burn, which is important if you’re trying to lose weight or prevent gain or regain. (Exercise isn’t a great route to weight loss in the real world, although it helps on TV’s Biggest Loser show.) Compare tennis playing with sitting in a chair squeezing a tennis ball repetitively. The tennis player burns calories much faster. Your largest muscles are in your legs, so consider walking, biking, many team sports, ski machines, jogging, treadmill, swimming, water aerobics, stationary cycling, stair-steppers, tennis, volleyball, roller-skating, rowing, jumping rope, and yard work.

You dog needs brisk walking, too

You dog needs brisk walking, too

Walking is “just what the doctor ordered” for many people. It’s readily available, affordable, usually safe, and requires little instruction. If it’s too hot, too cold, or rainy outside, you can do it in a mall, gymnasium, or health club.

MEDICAL CLEARANCE  

Check this link.

SUMMARY

All I’m asking you to do is aerobic activity, such as walk briskly (3–4 mph or 4.8–6.4 km/h) for 30 minutes most days of the week, and do some muscle-strengthening exercises two or three times a week. These recommendations are also consistent with the American Diabetes Association’s Standards of Care–2013. This amount of exercise will get you most of the documented health benefits.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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One More Reason to Exercise: Slow the Rate of Age-Related Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease

…according to an article at MedPageToday. The 300+study participants were at high risk of Alzheimer’s dementia due to family history. The protective dose of exercise was at least 7.7 MET per hour/week. Please comment if you can translate that into something practical! Click for the definition of MET at About.com.

Old-school preparation for exercise; stretching actually doesn't do any good for the average person

Old-school preparation for exercise; stretching actually doesn’t do any good for the average person

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Exercise Issues for the PWD (Person With Diabetes)

People with diabetes may have specific issues that need to be taken into account when exercising.

DIABETIC RETINOPATHY

Photo of the retina at the back of the eyeball

Photo of the retina at the back of the eyeball

Retinopathy, an eye disease caused by diabetes, increases risk of retinal detachment and bleeding into the eyeball called vitreous hemorrhage. These can cause blindness. Vigorous aerobic or resistance training may increase the odds of these serious eye complications. Patients with retinopathy may not be able to safely participate. If you have any degree of retinopathy, avoid the straining and breath-holding that is so often done during weightlifting or other forms of resistance exercise. Vigorous aerobic exercise may also pose a risk. By all means, check with your ophthalmologist first. You don’t want to experiment with your eyes.

DIABETIC FEET AND PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY

Diabetics are prone to foot ulcers, infections, and ingrown toenails, especially if peripheral neuropathy (numbness or loss of sensation) is present. Proper foot care, including frequent inspection, is more important than usual if a diabetic exercises with her feet. Daily inspection should include the soles and in-between the toes, looking for blisters, redness, calluses, cracks, scrapes, or breaks in the skin. See your physician or podiatrist for any abnormalities. Proper footwear is important (for example, don’t crowd your toes). Dry feet should be treated with a moisturizer regularly. In cases of severe peripheral neuropathy, non-weight-bearing exercise (e.g., swimming or cycling) may be preferable. Discuss with your physician or podiatrist.

HYPOGLYCEMIA

Low blood sugars are a risk during exercise if you take diabetic medications in the following classes: insulins, sulfonylureas, meglitinides, and possibly thiazolidinediones and bromocriptine.

Are you sure your symptoms are from hypoglycemia?

Are you sure your symptoms are from hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is very uncommon with thiazolidinediones. Bromocriptine is so new (for diabetes) that we have little experience with it; hypoglycemia is probably rare or non-existent. Diabetics treated with diet alone or other medications rarely have trouble with hypoglycemia during exercise.

Always check your blood sugar before an exercise session if you are at risk for hypoglycemia. Always have glucose tablets, such as Dextrotabs, available if you are at risk for hypoglycemia. Hold off on your exercise if your blood sugar is over 200 mg/dl (11.1 mmol/l) and you don’t feel well, because exercise has the potential to raise blood sugar even further early in the course of an exercise session.

As an exercise session continues, active muscles may soak up bloodstream glucose as an energy source, leaving less circulating glucose available for other tissues such as your brain. Vigorous exercise can reduce blood sugar levels below 60 mg/dl (3.33 mmol/l), although it’s rarely a problem in non-diabetics.

The degree of glucose removal from the bloodstream by exercising muscles depends on how much muscle is working, and how hard. Vigorous exercise by several large muscles will remove more glucose. Compare a long rowing race to a slow stroll around in the neighborhood. The rower is strenuously using large muscles in the legs, arms, and back. The rower will pull much more glucose out of circulation. Of course, other metabolic processes are working to put more glucose into circulation as exercising muscles remove it. Carbohydrate consumption and diabetic medications are going to affect this balance one way or the other.

If you are at risk for hypoglycemia, check your blood sugar before your exercise session. If under 90 mg/dl (5.0 mmol/l), eat a meal or chew some glucose tablets to prevent exercise-induced hypoglycemia. Re-test your blood sugar 30–60 minutes later, before you exercise, to be sure it’s over 90 mg/dl (5.0 mmol/l). The peak effect of the glucose tablets will be 30–60 minutes later. If the exercise session is long or strenuous, you may need to chew glucose tablets every 15–30 minutes. If you don’t have glucose tablets, keep a carbohydrate source with you or nearby in case you develop hypoglycemia during exercise.

Re-check your blood sugar 30–60 minutes after exercise since it may tend to go too low.

For myself, I prefer high intensity interval training (HIIT) over long slow cardio (aerobics)

For myself, I prefer high intensity interval training (HIIT) over long slow cardio (aerobics)

If you are at risk of hypoglycemia and performing moderately vigorous or strenuous exercise, you may need to check your blood sugar every 15–30 minutes during exercise sessions until you have established a predictable pattern. Reduce the frequency once you’re convinced that hypoglycemia won’t occur. Return to frequent blood sugar checks when your diet or exercise routine changes.

These general guidelines don’t apply across the board to each and every diabetic. Our metabolisms are all different. The best way to see what effect diet and exercise will have on your glucose levels is to monitor them with your home glucose measuring device, especially if you are new to exercise or you work out vigorously. You can pause during your exercise routine and check a glucose level, particularly if you don’t feel well. Carbohydrate or calorie restriction combined with a moderately strenuous or vigorous exercise program may necessitate a 50 percent or more reduction in your insulin, sulfonylurea, or meglitinide. Or the dosage may need to be reduced only on days of heavy workouts. Again, enlist the help of your personal physician, dietitian, diabetes nurse educator, and home glucose monitor.

Finally, insulin users should be aware that insulin injected over muscles that are about to be exercised may get faster absorption into the bloodstream. Blood sugar may then fall rapidly and too low. For example, injecting into the thigh and then going for a run may cause a more pronounced insulin effect compared to injection into the abdomen or arm.

AUTONOMIC NEUROPATHY

His heart's on fire!

His heart’s on fire! (My son made this)

This issue is pretty technical and pertains to function of automatic, unconscious body functions controlled by nerves. These reflexes can be abnormal, particularly in someone who’s had diabetes for many years, and are called autonomic neuropathy. Take your heart rate, for example. It’s there all the time, you don’t have to think about it. If you run to catch a bus or climb two flights of stairs, your heart rate increases automatically to supply more blood to exercising muscles. If that automatic reflex doesn’t work properly, exercise is more dangerous, possibly leading to passing out, dizziness, and poor exercise tolerance. Other automatic nerve systems control our body temperature regulation (exercise may overheat you), stomach emptying (your blood sugar may go too low), and blood pressure (it could drop too low). Only your doctor can tell for sure if you have autonomic neuropathy.

GETTING STARTED

I’ve run out of time today. For ideas, scan some of the articles under the Exercise category in the far right panel. FYI, here’s what I’m doing, but it’s not a good place for rank beginners to start. If you want to being resistance training, strongly consider some sessions with a personal trainer.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Exercise Versus Recreational Physical Activity

MP900049602Melanie Thomassian’s blog post on physical activity reminded me of an essay called “Exercise vs Recreation” by Ken Hutchins.

One of the key points of the essay for me is that exercise isn’t supposed to be fun.  Ken wrote, “Do not try to make exercise enjoyable.”  Getting your teeth cleaned or car’s oil changed isn’t supposed to be fun, either.

Once I got that through my thick skull, it made it easier for me to slog through my  twice weekly workouts.  Another excerpt:

We accept that both exercise and recreation are important in the overall scheme of fitness, and they overlap to a great degree.  But to reap maximum benefits of both or either they must first be well-defined and then be segregated in practice.

Read the whole thing.

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Is Exercise Twice a Week as Good as Six Sessions?

exercise for weight loss and management, dumbbells

If you’re not familiar with weight training, a personal trainer is an great idea

Weight Maven Beth Mazur  found evidence in favor of the fewer days, at least in post-menopausal women.

I don’t like to exercise. Sometimes I find excuses to avoid even my twice weekly 40-minute workouts. I do enjoy hiking; I even hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out last May. But that’s not exercise, it’s more recreation.

You may well have good reasons to exercise every day. Maybe you’re a competitive athlete or enjoy exercise. If you just want the health benefits of exercise, I’m increasingly convinced that twice a week is enough.

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