New Study Finds that Yoga Can be Helpful for Low Back Pain

Over the course of their lives, about 80 percent of Americans will suffer from back pain at one time or another. A recent study found that more than a third of adults say that low back pain has affected their ability to perform the tasks of daily living, exercise, or sleep. Treating this pain remains a difficult problem, and for millions of people the pain is chronic.

Now, a new study by scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) has concluded that yoga may be helpful for low back pain. The study appeared earlier this month in the online journal Cochrane Library.

“We found that the practice of yoga was linked to pain relief and improvement in function,” said the study’s lead author, L. Susan Wieland, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Family & Community Medicine at UM SOM, and Coordinator of the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field at the Center for Integrative Medicine at UM SOM – an NIH grant-funded project that performs systematic reviews of various integrative medicine topics. “For some patients suffering from chronic non-specific low back pain, yoga may be worth considering as a form of treatment.”

Wieland and her co-authors reviewed 12 separate studies looking at yoga for low back pain. The trials, which included more than 1,000 participants, compared yoga to a non-exercise intervention, such as educational material given to a patient, or to an exercise intervention such as physical therapy. The researchers found that there was low to moderate certainty evidence that at three and six months, patients using yoga had small to moderate improvements in back-related function, as well as small improvements in pain.

Yoga performed about the same as non-yoga exercise in terms of improving back function at three and six months, although the researchers found few studies comparing yoga to other exercise and therefore considered the evidence to be very low certainty.

Yoga is a physical and spiritual practice that originated more than 2,000 years ago in India. Over the past several decades, it has become increasingly popular in the U.S. and other western countries. It typically involves a combination of physical movements, controlled breathing, and relaxation or meditation.

Most of the trials used Iyengar, Hatha, or Viniyoga forms of the practice. Because all study participants knew whether or not they were practicing yoga, and their reporting of changes in pain and functioning could have been affected by this knowledge, the study outcomes could only be graded with “moderate” certainty at best. The study also found that patients using yoga had more adverse effects than patients who did not use exercise, but had similar rates of adverse effects as patients who used non-yoga exercise. The adverse effects were mostly increases in back pain. Yoga was not associated with serious side effects.

Source: EurekAlert!

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Opinion: 1,460 Days of Exercise Taught Me These 5 Powerful Lessons

Wanda Thibodeaux wrote . . . . . .

When I first resolved to exercise every day, I mainly just wanted to fit into my pants. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to set an example for my kids.

It’s been more than four years since I made that resolution, and I’m proud to say, I’ve kept it. And over those roughly 1,460 workouts, I learned about myself, the world, and work. I’m better because of it. And because every individual has the potential to grow, because you can reach higher too, here are the indispensable gems I have taken from every drop of sweat.

1. What’s hard doesn’t have to stay that way.

When I first started exercising, I was so out of shape I barely made it 20 minutes. Weights heavier than 10 pounds? Pffft. (You’re funny.) But eventually, 20 minutes was doable. Then 30. I had to buy more weights. I ran half marathons. And sometimes the whole reason something in life is hard is because you simply haven’t done it before. But as you learn and get more information and practice, you get faster and more productive, and suddenly what seemed so difficult doesn’t scare you anymore. Ease comes with experience, and your perception of what’s challenging depends on how much you’ve been willing to face.

2. Willpower isn’t a guarantee you’ll hit a target.

I have had many days where, mentally, I was right on it. I had a plan. I knew what I had done in previous workouts. But when push came to shove, when I hit muscle failure, I hit muscle failure. No amount of positivity, no number of mantras was going to substitute for rest. I couldn’t do another rep just because I wanted it to happen. So it’s not about what you “should” be able to do–that’s preconception, construct. It’s about pushing the limits to find what you actually can do–that’s reality. And what you can do might vary from one day to the next. That’s Ok. Don’t be disappointed in yourself or feel like you’re not strong or committed enough just because those variations come up. Just give it everything every time, whatever “everything” might happen to be.

3. You don’t have to be a sheep and follow what everyone else does.

I’m a little person. I don’t let that stop me. But the reality is, machines and equipment designed for larger individuals don’t fit me. I could get hurt if I use those tools. So I improvise and modify. And if the 10-pound weights a crew uses in a workout video don’t feel difficult enough for me, guess what? I pick up the 15’s. We compare ourselves with others because we want to feel like part of the group and have a sense of normalcy, but adhering to the norm doesn’t always help us move forward. It even can put us at risk. So look in the mirror. Acknowledge what you need and who you are. Find your own way to work and assess progress based on where you were, rather than based on where others are.

4. Being present matters.

When you’ve exercised 1,460 times in a row, the odds are pretty darn good that you’ll be coming back to a move you’ve done dozens or even hundreds of times before. And familiarity makes it oh-so-tempting to zone out. But zoning out is a mistake–don’t do it! Maybe you have done 8,349 pushups. But how does this one feel? You will never experience it again. Analyze it. Feel it. Savor it. Whether you’re scrolling through Facebook, scarfing your usual from the drive-thru or just being lazy on the couch, recognize the purpose and importance of what you’re living.

5. It’s OK to take a break.

Did I really do 1,460 workouts, day after day after day? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t hit the pause button. It doesn’t mean I didn’t opt for yoga sometimes instead of high-intensity intervals for an hour. Because that’s the way we’re made. To break ourselves down a little, rest, and build up. Rinse and repeat. In fact, even the brain works that way, operating in cycles and requiring routine downshifting to function at its best. We forget that in a culture that encourages hours of overtime, that sees busyness as a sign of status and security. But if we don’t stop, eventually, our hearts will break. That’s as true in the emotional sense as it is the physical.

Only about 24,000 more to go

Consistent exercise has taught me to do my best, pay attention to myself and others, and be brave enough to embrace individuality. It’s taught me to absorb and appreciate as much as I can and not take anything for granted. It’s taught me courage and flexibility. And I go back to it every day to reconnect to those lessons and let them shape what I do, to remember who I am and what I want to be. There’s more than enough value in that to encourage me to put on my sneakers, and it feels incredible to know that, 1,460 workouts in, I’m really only getting started.

Source: Inc.

Quality Diet and Multi-dimensional Exercises Improve Fitness

In two recent peer-reviewed papers published by Nutrients and Growth Hormone and IGF-1 Research, Skidmore College exercise scientist Paul Arciero and colleagues report proven benefits of consuming moderate amounts of protein regularly throughout the day (protein-pacing) combined with a multi-dimensional exercise regimen that includes resistance exercise, interval sprint exercise, stretching and endurance exercise.

Based on Arciero’s studies, when followed for 12 weeks or more, individuals show improved fitness, decreased total and abdominal fat, increased lean body mass, and optimal metabolic and heart health.

To make the diet and exercise regimen easy for the public to remember, Arciero has coined the acronym, “PRISE.” The “P” stands for protein-pacing, the “R” stands for “resistance,” the “I” stands for “interval,” the “S” stands for stretching, and the “E” stands for endurance.

“Whether your goal is to improve fitness or heart health, the quality of your diet and a multi-dimensional exercise training regimen (PRISE) can make all the difference,” said Skidmore College exercise scientist Paul Arciero. “It’s not about simply eating less calories and doing more exercise. It’s about eating the right foods at the right time and incorporating a combination of exercises that most effectively promotes health and fitness.”

A member of the advisory board of the American Heart Association and a fellow of both the American College of Sports Medicine and the Obesity Society, Arciero is very familiar with the diet and exercise recommendations issued by these and other governing health organizations.

Arciero and his team enlisted 30 women and 20 men between the ages of 30 and 65 who could clearly be described as ‘physically fit’. They entered the study reporting they exercised a minimum of four days per week for at least 45 minutes per session, including both resistance and aerobic training for at least the past three years. Combined, these men and women had an average body mass index of 25 and average body fat percentage of 26.

Dividing his subjects randomly into two groups, Arciero conducted a 12-week trial in which all subjects consumed the same amount of calories and performed the identical exercise routine he has previously demonstrated to improve health (PRISE), but diet quality differed. One group consumed commonly recommended protein and fitness/sport nutrition products and the second group consumed a slightly increased protein intake and antioxidant-rich supplements.

When the trial ended, Arciero and his team found that although both groups improved on nearly every measure, those who had followed the protein-pacing and antioxidant-rich diet showed the greatest improvements in fitness, including upper body muscular endurance and power, core strength, and blood vessel health (reduced artery stiffness) among female participants; and upper and lower body muscular strength and power, aerobic power, and lower back flexibility among male participants.

These findings support three earlier studies by Arciero’s team that showed the PRISE protocol of protein- pacing with either whole food sources or whey protein supplementation, were equally effective at improving physical fitness, as well as decreasing total, abdominal and visceral fat, increasing the proportion of lean muscle mass and significantly reducing blood glucose, insulin and cholesterol levels.

Overall, these five studies support a rethinking of current assumptions about diet and exercise, which Arciero believes place too much focus on the quantity of calories eaten and amount of exercise people do, rather than the quality of the food eaten and the exercise.

For Arciero, PRISE is the culmination of research he has conducted and published over the last 30 years in an attempt to identify the most effective lifestyle strategies to improve health and physical performance.

“My original intention of becoming a nutrition and exercise science researcher was to provide people the tools to live a life of optimal health,” said Arciero.

Source: Newswise

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Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts . . . . .

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Even a Little Exercise can Help With Arthritis, Study Says

Older adults with arthritis-related joint pain and stiffness need to keep moving to remain functionally independent. But only 10 percent of older Americans with arthritis in their knees meet federal guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, the researchers said.

However, this Northwestern University study found that doing even about one-third of that amount is still beneficial.

The study involved more than 1,600 adults 49 or older who had arthritic pain or stiffness in their hips, knees or feet.

Those who did a minimum of 45 minutes of moderate activity — such as brisk walking — a week were 80 percent more likely to improve or sustain physical function and gait speed over two years, compared with those who did less activity, the researchers found.

“Even a little activity is better than none,” said study first author Dorothy Dunlop.

“For those older people suffering from arthritis who are minimally active, a 45-minute minimum might feel more realistic,” said Dunlop, a professor of rheumatology and preventive medicine at Northwestern’s School of Medicine in Chicago.

She said the federal guidelines are important because the more you do, the better you’ll feel and the greater the health benefits.

“But even achieving this less rigorous goal will promote the ability to function and may be a feasible starting point for older adults dealing with discomfort in their joints,” Dunlop said in a university news release.

The study was published online recently in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

Source: HealthDay

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Lack of Exercise Might Invite Dementia

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . .

Parking yourself in front of the TV may make you as likely to develop dementia as people genetically predisposed to the condition, a Canadian study suggests.

In a study of more than 1,600 adults aged 65 and older, those who led a sedentary life seemed to have the same risk of developing dementia as those who carried the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene mutation, which increases the chances of developing dementia.

Conversely, people who exercised appeared to have lower odds of developing dementia than those who didn’t, the five-year study found.

“Being inactive may completely negate the protective effects of a healthy set of genes,” said lead researcher Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

However, the study didn’t prove that lack of exercise caused dementia risk to increase. It only found an association between the two.

The APOE mutation is the strongest genetic risk factor for vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease and, especially, Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers said.

People with a single APOE “allele” may have a three to four times increased risk of dementia than non-carriers, the study authors said.

How exercise may reduce the risk for dementia isn’t known, Heisz said.

These study results, however, suggest that your physical activity level can influence your dementia risk as much as your genetics, Heisz said. “You can’t change your genes, but you can change your lifestyle,” she added.

The kind of exercise that’s best isn’t known, although the people who were physically active in the study reported walking three times a week, Heisz said.

“Which means you don’t have to train like an Olympian to get the brain health benefits of being physically active,” she said.

The report was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dr. Sam Gandy directs the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He said the study findings aren’t “really a surprise, but it is good to see it proven.”

Other scientists showed some years ago that people with the APOE mutation could virtually erase the risk of developing amyloid plaques in the brain if they became regular runners, Gandy said. Amyloid plaques are one of the hallmark signs of Alzheimer’s.

“That was an amazing report that, I believe, has been underpublicized,” Gandy said.

However, this new study suggests that if you are blessed with genes that lower your risk for Alzheimer’s, you could lose that benefit if you don’t exercise, he said.

“I cannot understand why the fear of dementia is not sufficient to induce everyone to adopt a regular exercise program,” Gandy said.

“I tell all my patients that if they leave with one, and only one, piece of advice, that the one thing that they can do to reduce their risk of dementia or slow the progression of dementia is to exercise,” he said.

About 47.5 million people around the world are living with dementia, the researchers said, and that number is expected to surge to 115 million by 2050. With no known cure, there’s an urgent need to explore, identify and change lifestyle factors that can reduce dementia risk, the study authors said.

Source: HealthDay

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