Better Balance at Every Age

Julie Davis wrote . . . . . .

You probably take balance for granted, but it’s a motor skill that benefits from training throughout life.

Working on your balance is key to staying active and injury-free today and in the future. Balance is part of some exercise disciplines, and there are also specific exercises you can do.

Get started with heel-to-toe walking. Place the heel of your right foot just in front of the toes of the left foot. Heel and toes should just barely touch. Focus on a spot ahead of you and take a step, putting the left heel just in front of the toes of the right foot. Take 20 steps to start, and work up from there.

Next, practice standing on one foot. Balance on one foot for 20 seconds, then switch to other foot. Hold onto a sturdy counter at first if needed. Gradually add more time.

Progress to exercises with a balance pillow, disc or board to challenge you to stand on an unsteady surface. Sitting on a stability ball engages core muscles in your abdomen, back and hips to improve balance. Once you’ve mastered simple sitting, do exercises on the ball to develop balance further.

Yoga has many poses that improve balance, plus flexibility and posture. Tai chi also has these benefits. And both offer other pluses, like stress relief and the ability to work at an easy pace.

Do balance exercises every day, and always before other types of activity when muscles are fresh. Just remember that they’re in addition to — not instead of — cardio and strength training.

Source : HealthDay


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Housework May Help Older Women Living Longer

Like it or not, a little housework is good for you.

Researchers found that simple daily activities such as doing the dishes or folding clothes may help older women live longer.

“Doing something is better than nothing, even when at lower-than-guideline recommended levels of physical activity,” said study lead author Michael LaMonte of the University at Buffalo in New York. He is a research associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health.

LaMonte and his colleagues looked at more than 6,000 women, ages 63 to 99, in the United States. Those who did 30 minutes of light physical activity a day — measured by an accelerometer — had a 12 percent lower risk of death than inactive women.

Risk of death was 39 percent lower among women who did 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, according to the study.

Light physical activity included regular tasks such as folding clothes, sweeping or washing windows. Moderate to vigorous activity included brisk walking or leisurely bicycling, the authors said in a university news release.

While the study focused on older women, the bottom line applies to younger women and men, too: It’s important to make physical activity a part of your life while you’re younger so you’re more likely to remain active as you age, the researchers said.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Source: HealthDay


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New Research Suggests High-intensity Exercise Boosts Memory

Michelle Donovanwrote . . . . . .

The health advantages of high-intensity exercise are widely known but new research from McMaster University points to another major benefit: better memory.

The findings could have implications for an aging population which is grappling with the growing problem of catastrophic diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Scientists have found that six weeks of intense exercise—short bouts of interval training over the course of 20 minutes—showed significant improvements in what is known as high-interference memory, which, for example, allows us to distinguish our car from another of the same make and model.

The study is published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

The findings are important because memory performance of the study participants, who were all healthy young adults, increased over a relatively short period of time, say researchers.

They also found that participants who experienced greater fitness gains also experienced greater increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth, function and survival of brain cells.

“Improvements in this type of memory from exercise might help to explain the previously established link between aerobic exercise and better academic performance,” says Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster and lead author of the study.

“At the other end of our lifespan, as we reach our senior years, we might expect to see even greater benefits in individuals with memory impairment brought on by conditions such as dementia,” she says.

For the study, 95 participants completed six weeks of exercise training, combined exercise and cognitive training or no training (the control group which did neither and remained sedentary). Both the exercise and combined training groups improved performance on a high-interference memory task, while the control group did not.

Researchers measured changes in aerobic fitness, memory and neurotrophic factor, before and after the study protocol.

The results reveal a potential mechanism for how exercise and cognitive training may be changing the brain to support cognition, suggesting that the two work together through complementary pathways of the brain to improve high-interference memory.

Researchers have begun to examine older adults to determine if they will experience the same positive results with the combination of exercise and cognitive training.

“One hypothesis is that we will see greater benefits for older adults given that this type of memory declines with age,” says Heisz. “However, the availability of neurotrophic factors also declines with age and this may mean that we do not get the synergistic effects.”

Source: McMaster University

Any Physical Activity Is Good for Seniors

Don’t try saying you’re too old or too busy to exercise, especially after that calorie-laden Thanksgiving dinner.

Any level of physical activity can reduce seniors’ risk of heart disease, researchers report.

The 18-year study included more than 24,000 adults ages 39 to 79.

They found a link between physical activity and reduced risk of heart disease in both elderly and middle-aged people.

“Elderly people who were moderately inactive had a 14 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who were completely inactive,” said study first author and cardiologist Sangeeta Lachman.

“This suggests that even modest levels of physical activity are beneficial to heart health,” said Lachman, who is with the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

No gym nearby? That’s not a problem. Seniors should be encouraged to at least do low-intensity physical activities, such as walking, gardening, and housework, she said.

The study results were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

“Given our aging population and the impact of cardiovascular disease on society, a broader array of public health programs are needed to help elderly people engage in any physical activity of any level and avoid being completely sedentary,” Lachman concluded in a journal news release.

Source: HealthDay

Endurance Training Helpful in Recovery from Muscle Inflammation

Endurance training can actually be helpful in dealing with muscle inflammation, according to a new paper co-written by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden.

Muscle inflammation, or myositis, can be caused by infection, injury and chronic disease. However, specific forms of myositis like dermatomyositis and polymyositis occur when the body’s immune system turns against its own muscles, damaging the muscle tissue in the process.

While there are plenty of prescribed medications to cope with muscular diseases, Binghamton University Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Kanneboyina Nagaraju states the medication utilized only does half the job.

“All the drugs people are using target one immune cell or a group of immune cells, but there are no new drugs that target muscles that are dying,” said Nagaraju. “Yet, exercise takes care of the immune cells that are killing the muscles, and repairs the cell death of the muscle.”

In order to discover a better treatment, Nagaraju and his former graduate student Jessica Boehler, along with an international team of researchers, set out to uncover how endurance exercise changes microRNA in skeletal muscles and associate the identified microRNAs with mRNA and protein expressions. The experiment consisted of two groups, a 12-week endurance exercise group and a non-exercise group. To see how exercise affects the patients, muscle biopsies were taken before and after undergoing exercise. This exercise trial was done by Prof. Ingrid Lundeberg’s group at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden

Researchers found that endurance exercise altered microRNAs that target and downregulate immune processes, as well as decreased different microRNAs that target and upregulate mitochondrial content at the protein level. That is, exercise creates microRNA that decreases the number of immune cells that attack the muscle and heals the muscle by increasing aerobic metabolism through mitochondrial biogenesis.

“The results weren’t surprising,” said Nagaraju, “The reason why exercise wasn’t considered before is that if people have muscles that are already inflamed or weak, they believed exercise would make the muscles worse. However, what is surprising is the question of why exercise is so effective. It’s because exercise takes care of the immune cells that are damaging the muscle while simultaneously targeting specific parts of dead or affected muscles.”

While there are no drugs today that target all the issues of muscle inflammation, Nagaraju believes a combination of medication and endurance-based exercise can help patients live a happier and healthier life.

The paper, “Effects of endurance exercise on microRNAs in myositis skeletal muscle – A randomized controlled study,” was published in PLOS ONE.

Source: Binghamton University


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