Why Yoga, Tai Chi and Meditation Are Good for You

Relax your mind and then consider this: The physical and mental health benefits of pursuits like yoga and meditation begin in your genes, a new review suggests.

The researchers reviewed 18 studies, involving a total of 846 people, to examine how the behavior of genes is affected by yoga, tai chi, meditation and other mind-body interventions.

The conclusion: Such activities reverse molecular reactions in DNA that cause poor health and depression.

“Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realize is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business,” said lead researcher Ivana Buric.

Buric is a doctoral candidate with the Brain, Belief and Behavior Lab at Coventry University in Great Britain.

“These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, [mind-body interventions] cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our well-being,” Buric said in a university news release.

More study is needed to understand these effects fully and how mind-body interventions compare to other healthy activities and dietary habits, she said.

“But this is an important foundation to build on to help future researchers explore the benefits of increasingly popular mind-body activities,” Buric added.

The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.

Source: HealthDay


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Want a Workout for Mind and Body? Hop on Your Bike

Riding a bike is good for your body — and your mind.

So say health experts at Penn State, who add that biking provides superb heart conditioning.

“That helps prevent weight accumulation, decreases the risk of heart disease and risk for diabetes,” said Dr. Alan Adelman. He made his comments in a news release from Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where he practices family medicine.

Riding on varied terrain offers riders the type of interval training that gives the heart a good workout, another exercise expert said.

“Working hard to climb a hill — even just a small one — followed by the recovery of going down the other side is similar to high-intensity interval training, which is very popular, and we know that it is an effective way to do physical conditioning,” said Deborah Tregea. She’s a senior exercise physiologist and campus wellness coordinator at Penn State University Fitness Center.

Cycling is a low-to-no-impact activity, so it can be a good choice for people with osteoarthritis who want to minimize wear and tear on their joints, the experts said.

People with knee problems tied to leg strength also benefit, because cycling strengthens leg muscles, according to Tregea.

Plus, cycling is an activity that families and friends can do together, and the mental health benefits it brings can be as significant as the physical ones, the experts said.

“People get a high and feel better mentally from physical activity in general,” Adelman said.

Source: HealthDay


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Recreational Running Benefits Hip and Knee Joint Health

Recreational runners are less likely to experience knee and hip osteoarthritis compared to sedentary individuals and competitive runners, according to a new study published in the June issue of the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy® (JOSPT®).

The study concludes that running at a recreational level for up to 15 years–and possibly more–may be safely recommended as a general health exercise. Further, the evidence suggests recreational running may have benefits for hip and knee joint health.

An international team of researchers in Spain, Sweden, the United States, and Canada aimed to evaluate the association of hip and knee osteoarthritis with running and to explore the influence of running intensity and years of exposure on that association. They found in their systematic review of several studies investigating the relationship between running and arthritis of these weight-bearing joints that only 3.5% of recreational runners developed hip or knee arthritis. This was true for both male and female runners.

Their findings further indicate that remaining sedentary and forgoing running for exercise was associated with a rate of knee and hip arthritis of 10.2%, while training and running competitively increases the incidence of arthritis in these joints to 13.3%. The study’s authors note that other researchers who have also found a link between high-volume and high-intensity runners and knee and hip arthritis define exercise at this level as running more than 57 miles (92 km) per week.

“The principal finding in this study is that, in general, running is not associated with osteoarthritis,” says lead author Eduard Alentorn-Geli, MD, MSc, PhD, with Fundación García-Cugat; Artroscopia GC, Hospital Quirón; and Mutualidad Catalana de Futbolistas-Delegación Cataluña, Federación Española de Fútbol in Barcelona, Spain, as well as the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. He adds that “the novel finding in our investigation is the increased association between running and arthritis in competitive, but not in recreational, runners.”

Dr. Alentorn-Geli and his fellow researchers used PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases to identify studies investigating the occurrence of osteoarthritis of the hip and/or knee among runners. They reviewed 25 studies that included 125,810 people, and ultimately selected 17 studies involving a total of 114,829 people.

The study’s authors then conducted a meta-analysis of studies, comparing this occurrence between runners and sedentary individuals who did not run. Runners were considered “competitive” if they were identified themselves as professional/elite athletes or participated in international competitions. Recreational runners were those individuals who ran in a nonprofessional, or amateur, context.

The researchers calculated the prevalence rate and odds ratio (with 95% confidence interval [CI]) for osteoarthritis between runners at both competitive and recreational levels and sedentary individuals. They also performed subgroup analyses for arthritis location (hip or knee), gender, and years of exposure to running (less or more than 15 years).

Dr. Alentorn-Geli and his colleagues were not able to determine the amount of running that is safe for these joints. The study’s authors also caution that they did not assess the impact of obesity, occupational workload, or prior injury on the future risk of hip and knee arthritis in runners.

Source: EurekAlert!


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Aerobic-plus-resistance Combo Workout May Suit Obese Seniors Best

Kathleen Doheny wrote . . . . . .

Older, obese adults need to shed weight, but dieting can worsen their frailty. A new study addresses this conundrum, suggesting seniors take up both aerobic and resistance exercise while slimming down.

Engaging in aerobic and resistance exercise while losing weight enabled study participants to maintain more muscle mass and bone density compared to folks who did just one type of exercise or none at all, the researchers found.

“The best way to improve functional status and reverse frailty in older adults with obesity is by means of diet and regular exercise using a combination of resistance and aerobic exercise training,” said study leader Dr. Dennis Villareal. He’s a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

More than one-third of people age 65 and older in the United States are obese, according to the study authors. Obesity worsens the typical age-related decline in physical functioning and causes frailty, while weight loss can lead to harmful declines in muscle mass and bone density.

The researchers wanted to see what combination of exercise, along with dieting for weight loss, might be best. They randomly assigned 160 obese and sedentary adults, age 65 or older, to one of four groups: weight loss and aerobic training; weight loss and resistance training; or weight loss and a combination of both types of exercise. The fourth group served as controls and didn’t exercise or try to lose weight.

After six months, physical performance test scores increased by 21 percent in the combination exercise group, but just 14 percent among those who only did aerobic exercise or resistance exercise, Villareal’s team said.

The researchers also found that lean body mass and bone density declined less in the combination and resistance groups than in the aerobic group.

One strength of the study is its evaluation of several regimens, said Miriam Nelson, director of the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

Such research is critical, as ”the majority of [older] people are either overweight or obese,” said Nelson, who wasn’t involved in the study.

While many studies of obese or overweight older adults focus only on exercise and weight loss, “this is really looking at health,” she said.

“Health in aging is really [about] functioning,” Nelson said. Maintaining muscle strength and bone density is essential to remain mobile and functional, she pointed out.

“All these multiple factors are what dictate to a large extent somebody’s ability to be independent, healthy and to live life to its fullest as they age,” Nelson added.

At the outset of the study, participants were mildly to moderately frail, according to the authors.

The researchers assessed the seniors’ physical performance, muscle mass and bone health over the 26-week study.

The overall winners, the combination group, exercised three times a week, from 75 to 90 minutes each session.

Aerobic exercises included treadmill walking, stationary cyclingand stair climbing. Resistance training involved upper-body and lower-body exerciseson weight-lifting machines. All groups also did flexibility and balance exercises.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Source: HealthDay


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Give Prediabetes the Boot

One in three adults have prediabetes. If results from two new studies pan out, the right diet and exercise program could dramatically lower risk.

Cutting Carbs

Researchers randomly assigned 38 people who had prediabetes and were obese to one of two diets. Each cut 500 calories a day.1

After six months, 14 people had dropped out. However, blood sugar levels in all of the remaining 12 people on the higher-protein diet—but in only four of the remaining 12 on the higher-carb diet—had fallen into the normal range. What’s more, the higher-​protein group had lower hemoglobin A1c (a long-term measure of blood sugar) and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, triglycerides, and some markers of inflammation.

Both groups lost the same amount of weight, but people on the higher-protein diet lost only fat, while those on the higher-carb diet lost both fat and muscle.

What to do: If you have prediabetes, try cutting back on carbs. (That will cut your calories and make protein a higher percentage of your diet.) Although this small study needs to be replicated, it’s worth a try. And you needn’t cut all carbs. You can still enjoy vegetables and fresh fruit, with small servings of grains.

Resist Diabetes

Strength training may also help make prediabetes disappear.

The Resist Diabetes trial enrolled 159 sedentary overweight or obese adults with prediabetes in a strength-training program for three months.2 Twice a week, they did 12 supervised exercises (like leg presses, chest presses, and abdominal crunches) for 8 to 12 repetitions each.

Then each participant was given one of two different levels of encouragement for six months, followed by six more months when they were on their own.

After the 15 months, 30 percent of the participants no longer had prediabetes. It made no difference whether they received more or less encouragement.

Although the volunteers didn’t lose weight, their waistlines did shrink. And those who gained the most muscle were the most likely to reverse their prediabetes.

What to do: If you’re not doing strength training, get started. People lose muscle as they age. Building strength is the best way to stop or reverse that loss, whether or not you have prediabetes.

Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest


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