Study: Exercise Doesn’t Boost Heart Health for Obese Individuals

The harmful effects of obesity on the heart can’t be undone by exercise, and it’s not possible to be “fat but healthy,” Spanish researchers warn.

“Exercise does not seem to compensate for the negative effects of excess weight,” said study author Alejandro Lucia, a professor of exercise physiology at European University in Madrid.

The study findings “refute the notion that a physically active lifestyle can completely negate the deleterious effects of overweight and obesity,” he said.

Lucia and his colleagues analyzed data from nearly 528,000 working adults in Spain. The participants’ average age was 42 and close to 7 out of 10 were men.

About 42% of these adults were normal weight; 41% were overweight, and 18% were obese. Most were inactive (63.5%); 12.3% got some but not enough exercise, and 24.2% were regularly active.

About 30% of participants had high cholesterol; 15% had high blood pressure, and 3% had diabetes.

No matter how active they were, however, overweight and obese people had a higher risk of heart disease than those whose weight was normal, according to the study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Compared to active people of normal weight, active obese people were about twice as likely to have high cholesterol, four times more likely to have diabetes, and five times more likely to have high blood pressure.

“One cannot be ‘fat but healthy,’ ” Lucia warned in a journal news release.

But the researchers did not disregard the importance of exercise. In all weight categories, any physical activity was associated with a lower risk of diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, according to the findings. And the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure fell as physical activity rose.

“This tells us that everyone, irrespective of their body weight, should be physically active to safeguard their health,” Lucia said.

“More activity is better, so walking 30 minutes per day is better than walking 15 minutes a day,” he noted.

Lucia said it’s equally important to fight obesity and inactivity. “Weight loss should remain a primary target for health policies together with promoting active lifestyles,” he concluded.

Source: HealthDay

Is It OK to Exercise When You’re Sick?

Genaro C. Armas wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you are sick and plan to exercise this cold and flu season, experts say to use your head – and recognize the body’s warnings signs.

It’s especially important to take precautions this winter during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consulting a doctor always is a good idea if there are any questions about symptoms or whether to quarantine or isolate.

But in general, physical activity isn’t necessarily a no-no for a milder illness like a simple head cold.

“The typical rule of thumb that a lot of practitioners and exercise physiologists like to stick to is that if symptoms are above the neck, it’s OK to get out there and do some exercise,” said Amanda Paluch, assistant professor at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Think a runny nose or light headache, though it might be wise to ease up from the typical routine, she said.

“Maybe just going out for a walk instead of a vigorous run,” Paluch said. “You can still see benefits even with this lower intensity. Just getting out there could actually help you feel a little better.”

Symptoms below the neck like chest congestion or upset stomach typically are signs to avoid exercise. Never exercise when you have a fever, regardless of whether it’s related to the flu, COVID-19 or another virus, said Dr. Felipe Lobelo, an associate professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

Recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people diagnosed with COVID-19, with or without symptoms, generally should isolate for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms or after a positive test.

So, that means no exercising during that time, too, Lobelo said. Even after that 10-day period, he said people should wait another week before resuming exercise.

And the return to exercise after recovering should be gradual. “You probably will feel deconditioned because of some bed rest and much lower levels of activity, on top of any lingering effects of COVID if you had a cough, fatigue or shortness of breath.”

It’s important, Lobelo added, to notify your doctor if symptoms don’t improve gradually with exercise or if new symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath or extreme fatigue develop during physical activity.

Finding safe and responsible ways to stay active remains important during the pandemic, whether at home or while outside with social distancing. According to the CDC, physical activity reduces blood pressure and anxiety, improves mood and energy level, and helps people get better sleep.

However, it’s best to avoid indoor activities at gyms because of the increased potential for coronavirus transmission, Lobelo said. If you do go, wear a face covering, maintain social distancing and wipe down equipment regularly.

“You really want to focus on outdoor activities as much as possible,” Lobelo said. He also encouraged people to take a mask with them outdoors to wear for instances like passing someone on a trail.

Paluch offered tips for those not accustomed to exercising in the cold, including wearing layers of clothing that can be shed if needed. Wearing a mask while exercising has the added benefit of helping to keep your face warm.

A fitness tracker also could be a creative way to stay active and engage virtually with family and friends, said Paluch, who researches the benefits of wearable sensors. For instance, family members might race to see who can accumulate the most steps during a week and compare results online.

“These kinds of things can keep people connected and maybe provide some motivation,” Paluch said. “You can have that social support without direct contact.”

Source: American Heart Association

Get Fit in Middle Age to Boost Your Aging Brain

Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in middle age and beyond might help keep your brain healthy, a new study suggests.

“Our study suggests that getting at least an hour and 15 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity a week or more during midlife may be important throughout your lifetime for promoting brain health and preserving the actual structure of your brain,” said study author Priya Palta, an epidemiologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.

“In particular, engaging in more than 2.5 hours of physical activity per week in middle age was associated with fewer signs of brain disease,” she said.

For the study, published online in the journal Neurology, Palta’s team collected data on more than 1,600 people (average age: 53) who had five physical exams over 25 years and rated their weekly activity levels.

Participants also had brain scans at the end of the study to measure their gray and white brain matter and areas of injury or disease in the brain.

While the researchers only found a correlation, those participants who didn’t do moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity in midlife had 47% greater odds, on average, of developing small areas of brain damage compared to people who engaged in high levels of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.

Higher activity levels were also associated with more intact white matter. White matter is tissue composed of nerve fibers that link different areas of the brain.

“Our research suggests that physical activity may impact cognition in part through its effects on small vessels in the brain,” Palta said in a journal news release. “This study adds to the body of evidence showing that exercise with moderate-to-vigorous intensity is important for maintaining thinking skills throughout your lifetime.”

Source: HealthDay

Study Identifies ‘Three Pillars’ of Good Mental Health for Young Adults

Getting good quality sleep, exercising, and eating more raw fruits and vegetables predicts better mental health and well-being in young adults, a University of Otago study has found.

The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, surveyed more than 1100 young adults from New Zealand and the United States about their sleep, physical activity, diet, and mental health.

Lead author Shay-Ruby Wickham, who completed the study as part of her Master of Science, says the research team found sleep quality, rather than sleep quantity, was the strongest predictor of mental health and well-being.

“This is surprising because sleep recommendations predominantly focus on quantity rather than quality. While we did see that both too little sleep – less than eight hours – and too much sleep – more than 12 hours – were associated with higher depressive symptoms and lower well-being, sleep quality significantly outranked sleep quantity in predicting mental health and well-being.

“This suggests that sleep quality should be promoted alongside sleep quantity as tools for improving mental health and well-being within young adults,” Ms Wickham says.

Along with quality sleep, exercising, and eating more raw fruits and vegetables – in that order – were three modifiable behaviours which correlated with better mental health and well-being in young adults.

Depressive symptoms were lowest for young adults who slept 9.7 hours per night, and feelings of well-being were highest for those who slept 8 hours per night.

Well-being was highest for young adults who ate 4.8 servings of raw fruit and vegetables per day; those who ate less than two servings, and also more than eight servings, reported lower feelings of well-being.

“Sleep, physical activity, and a healthy diet can be thought of as three pillars of health, which could contribute to promoting optimal well-being among young adults, a population where the prevalence of mental disorders is high and well-being is suboptimal,” Ms Wickham says.

Senior author, Associate Professor Tamlin Conner, of the Department of Psychology, says most prior research examines these health behaviours in isolation of each other.

“We showed that they are all important for predicting which young adults are flourishing versus suffering.”

She also stressed the study’s findings were correlations only.

“We didn’t manipulate sleep, activity, or diet to test their changes on mental health and well-being. Other research has done that and has found positive benefits. Our research suggests that a ‘whole health’ intervention prioritising sleep, exercise, and fruit and vegetable intake together, could be the next logical step in this research,” she says.

Source: University of Otago

Physical Activity Reduces Your Risk For Falls

Experiencing a fall is one of the most common accidents older adults face: Each year, one-third of people over the age of 65 will fall. Half of these falls cause injuries, including serious ones such as hip fractures and others that require hospitalization.

Researchers have shown that higher levels of physical activity can reduce your risk for a fall. Although you might think that being inactive, or sedentary, is safer for you than being active, it actually contributes to falling.

Common sedentary behaviors include sitting while watching television, using a computer, or riding in a car. To reduce sedentary time, you can use a standing desk, and try devices that remind you when it’s time to get up and move around a bit.

Older adults who are mostly sedentary are likely to suffer poor physical function and other signs of ill health, but we don’t have much research about how sedentary time contributes to your risk for falls. In theory, being sedentary could lead to weakness or loss of stability in your legs and hips, could harm the interaction of your nerves and muscles, or lessen your strength and balance — all of which can lead to falls.

On the other hand, people who are more sedentary may be less likely to fall.

It’s difficult to know whether being sedentary affects the likelihood of falling, partly because measuring sedentary time is difficult. We do know that older adults who report being sedentary have an increased risk for falling. However, they may have difficulty remembering the amount of time they’ve spent being sedentary.

In a new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers used devices to monitor active and sedentary time. They examined links between device-measured sedentary time and the number of falls experienced. The researchers also examined whether these associations varied, based on a person’s moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, physical function, and history of falling. Finally, the researchers outlined the participants’ fall-related injuries and hospitalizations by their sedentary time.

To learn more about the relationship between sedentary time and falls, researchers analyzed information collected from women who were enrolled in the Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease Health (OPACH) Study, part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Long Life Study. In the WHI study, postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years were enrolled and completed baseline assessments between 1993 and 1998.

Participants in the OPACH study took a home test which measured their ability to walk, stand, and get up from a chair, and they answered questions about their health. Just over 7,000 women participated between March 2012 and April 2014.

Researchers asked participants to wear accelerometers — devices similar to fitness trackers that monitor and measure movement — for seven days, except during bathing or swimming. People who wore the devices for 10 or more hours on at least four days were included in the study.

The participants recorded any falls on special calendars for up to 13 months after they wore the monitors for several days. Participants were instructed to record daily whether they had a fall. Calendar pages were mailed back to study researchers each month. Researchers interviewed some of the participants who reported falls by telephone about events that led to the fall, the location of the fall, and whether injuries occurred.

Overall, 5,980 falls were reported from the calendars, and 1,492 women completed interviews regarding 3,375 falls.

The women studied were in their 70s or 80s; 51 percent were white, 33 percent African American, and 17 percent Hispanic. Women who logged the most sedentary time were more likely to be older, white and non-drinkers, report poor balance and vision, and have severe body pain, higher ratios of body weight to height, more chronic conditions, and more falls in the previous year.

Women who were on average sedentary for longer periods of time had an increased risk for falling. Also, for women with a history of two or more falls, more sedentary time was associated with an increased risk for falls.

Falls experienced by women who had the least amount of sedentary time were the least likely to require medical treatment and also the least likely to experience a serious injury or fracture.

The researchers concluded that the more time older women spent being sedentary, the more falls they experienced over 13 months. According to the researchers, these are the first findings to link sedentary time to a higher incidence of falls.

Source: Health in Aging