Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Strength Fitness

Here's an article I got off of another site. It is written by Mark Rippetoe, whom you are likely familiar with if you have been a serious student of strength training here in the U.S. He is a grass roots type guy who has been in the trenches as a lifter and coach for many years. His style is no nonsense stating of the obvious without too much "scientific" jargon. I have to admit, that this article falls under the category of "I wish I had written that." This is something that I have always believed, but never really stated, strength is the foundation of endurance. Several years ago Dr. Mike Stone, a legendary American strength and conditioning researcher, published some articles proclaiming that raw strength was essential to increasing power, or rate of force development; and that muscular hypertrophy was essential for increasing strength. There were alot of coaches, here in the U.S. anyway, that expressed disagreement. It seems that many thought that such "bodybuilding" types of training were the antitheses of training for maximal power. Rippetoe's statement that strength is the foundation of endurance also seems counter to the "common knowledge" that strength and endurance are opposite ends of the spectrum and cannot co-exist. It only makes sense, to me anyway, that a stronger body can sustain workloads for a longer period of time. Does this mean a marathoner should spend all his time in the weight room? Of course not. But he shouldn't avoid it either. There is no such thing as too strong, for any activity and in fact, the stronger the better.

For several reasons, most of the articles and books I write are intended for people just starting their training. First, there are more of you, because most people never get past the novice phase of training due to laziness, lack of time, or a change in interests.
Second, novices who read articles on the Internet are better consumers of information than more advanced lifters, because they're actively trying to learn. And third, advanced guys already know everything there is to know anyway – certainly more than Rippetoe does.
This article is no different, so if you already know everything there is to know about training and, in this particular instance, conditioning, please don't waste your time reading another paragraph.
Now that adequate bandwidth has been restored, here's a shocking statement that applies to all novice lifters, as well as the vast majority of all trainees: training specifically for conditioning without a well-developed strength base is a waste of time.
There's simply no better way to increase your work capacity than increasing your ability to produce force. If your primary interest is being more effective at moving yourself and/or submaximal or maximal loads more efficiently, training for strength contributes much more to your goal than training for endurance.
The reason for this should be obvious. Maximal loads are your 1RMs in the basic lifts. For a 200-pound male of average height, a 1.75x bodyweight squat, a 2x bodyweight deadlift, and a .75x bodyweight press constitute a well-developed strength base.
Although this isn't considered "strong" by competitive lifters, it represents a level of strength that's attainable by 95% of male trainees in a few short months of reasonably efficient training on the lifts. More importantly, it makes commonly encountered submaximal tasks much easier repetitively, and this is what we mean by "work capacity."
All in a Day's Work
Loading hay on a trailer all day is a pretty good example of "work." Around here, 70-pound bales are the norm, and 200 of them are a typical afternoon's work. If you can power clean 200 pounds, lifting 75 - 200-pound bales of hay isn't the task it would be for a skinny runner that doesn't lift weights and therefore has a 65-pound clean.
His 30-minute 5-mile time is irrelevant because loading 200 bales of hay is only an endurance task to a guy that's strong enough to actually perform the work.
So how would you get better at loading 200 bales of hay? One way would be to load 50 bales, wait a couple of days and then load 65 bales, wait a couple more and load 80, and work on up to the full 200. This would produce a quick adaptation to the specific task of loading 200 bales of hay.
Running 5 miles would be an example of a great way to avoid addressing the issue altogether, because moving your bodyweight rapidly down the road isn't the nature of the task.
The best way to adapt your body to the task of loading a couple of hundred 75-pound bales of hay would be to spend some time getting your squat, press, and deadlift up to the aforementioned numbers.
This takes longer, but it prepares you for the task of loading the hay, and it has the much more important benefit of preparing you for any other work-related task you might encounter, not just the hay. Granted, it takes longer than escalating hay loading, but it's a more useful adaptation because it's not as specific.
Strength Rules Them All
This is the most important thing to understand: strength is the most general of all athletic adaptations. All other physical capacities, such as power (a guy with a 400-pound deadlift cleans more than a guy with a 150-pound deadlift), even balance and coordination depend on the production of force within the physical environment. If strength improves, all other capacities improve with it, to varying degrees.
For a person who's not strong, time spent getting stronger returns more improvement in all measures of physical capacity than time spent specifically developing any of the other derivative capacities that so many exercise programs consist of.
This is especially significant when you consider that it just doesn't take very long to substantially increase your strength. Every athlete we've trained for strength who competes in a non-barbell sport reports that strength training has the biggest positive impact on their other abilities (which get trained in sports practice anyway).
As far as the breathing thing is concerned, strength training actually improves VO2max values in previously untrained populations. Granted, just a little, because VO2max, like the standing vertical jump, is one of those physical abilities that doesn't improve much with training. Go ahead, look it up.
For novice athletes, or for recruits with many other things to learn, strength training improves this aspect of fitness as efficiently as conditioning programs that take much more time and produce no useful strength improvement.
This may surprise some of you who think that all people must do conditioning to be fit. And I agree that past a certain point in the development of strength, some Prowler work on a regular basis is beneficial, but remember, we're talking about novices, people with no strength base, and for whom a strength base improves all aspects of performance.
The Prowler is the finest conditioning device ever invented, I assure you. Nothing else approaches its effectiveness. But for these people, barbell training works better. Getting their squat up profoundly affects their Prowler capacity, but pushing the Prowler doesn't have the potential to build strength the way barbell training obviously does. The Prowler interferes with a novice's recovery from strength training, and again, strength is by far the more useful adaptation.
So the Prowler and all other conditioning activities can wait until after the strength base is developed. It only takes a few months to get much stronger, unless you fuck up and interfere with the process by losing sight of the priority.
Strength? Conditioning?
It's also very important to realize the difference between a strength and a conditioning adaptation. Strength improves very quickly at first if a correct program is followed, but soon slows down and ultimately can be developed for many years – it's a long-term adaptation because it requires the construction of new tissue and the restructuring of tissue already in place.
Strength is a very persistent adaptation that doesn't disappear after a layoff. Once a man gets strong, he's always stronger than he was before, even if he quits training, because the long-term adaptations have raised his baseline strength. Getting stronger is "expensive" to your body, and expensive things aren't usually disposed of quickly.
Conditioning, on the other hand, develops very quickly and goes away just as fast, as most of you've already noticed. A young, healthy guy can get in pretty good shape to run in about 2 weeks. Lay off a couple of months and you have to start over from the previous baseline, but it comes back just as quickly.
A conditioning adaptation changes the metabolic environment in the cells without the need for the large-scale tissue remodeling necessary for a strength adaptation. Condition comes on quickly, is easy to maintain, and goes away just as quickly.
At the higher levels of endurance-based competition, cardiac changes occur which are more persistent, but that level of endurance adaptation is useless in any other application, whereas strength is used by active people every single day. A resting heart rate of 48 BPM is very cool, but it's not nearly as useful as a 405-pound deadlift.
So, if conditioning comes on quickly, and is easy to maintain, why would you leave it out, especially if it goes away so fast? And the answer is, because if you're weak, you don't need it as much as you need to be stronger, and time Is money.
A bunch of "cardio" or "met-con" absolutely guts your strength progress, while getting stronger improves your work capacity all by itself. There's time to do your conditioning work later – you're not going to die immediately, and if you do, nobody will talk about your shitty 5-mile time. The very programs that should be preparing young guys to be more useful are instead making them very good at running away, and that's about all.
Extreme Specialization
I, of course, realize that my recommendation goes against the conventional wisdom regarding physical preparation for the sports and jobs typically (and incorrectly) regarded as endurance-based.
Running 26.2 miles in under 3 hours is an endurance activity, without doubt. It requires specialized preparation, and strength training is detrimental to high-level marathon training.
But twenty six 5.5-minute miles represents an extremely specialized activity, the epitome of endurance, the performance of which has absolutely no bearing on the ability to do anything else, and the training for which actually decreases physical capacity for other activities – just like the specialization for powerlifting in the elite levels of the heavier weight classes in the weirder federations that don't judge depth anymore.
Marathon competition itself is highly catabolic and has an exceptionally high mortality risk. Half-marathons are much less dangerous, as of course are 5 mile runs. But running at any distance produces no strength adaptation, while strength training improves the sedentary person's ability to run and do everything else, too. So a rational person would regard strength training as the more beneficial activity.
But we don't. We – meaning we recipients and promoters of the conventional wisdom – regard endurance activity as exercise and strength training as something to "sculpt lean muscle" and soothe vanity.
Exception, Not The Norm
Military PT still consists of running and high-rep bodyweight calisthenics like push-ups and sit-ups. Police and fire academy PT is also based on running, and it's the exceptional program, rather than the norm, that builds a programmed strength increase into their graduation requirements.
Here's an interesting take on training for police work, recently overheard at a state-level training academy:
1.       Size and strength don't matter; it's all about technique. In the "real world" being too strong prevents good technique, and "will get you killed on the street."
2.       Big motor skills are things like breathing; small motor skills are things like moving your arm. These techniques will start out being small motor skills but as you practice will become big motor skills.
Priceless, right? Never mind the motor skills gibberish – I just thought it was entertaining, so I left it in – but this assessment of strength is completely assbackwards, one that can't meet any analysis of physical reality, the job, and its physical requirements.
Military/Police/Firefighter work involves a variety of physical abilities, all of which we understand pretty well and are easily able to prepare for. If the individual isn't strong enough, all these tasks will be harder than they are for a stronger individual.
The development of mechanized transport has made the forced-march contingency rare enough that no modern battle has been lost because of a unit-wide endurance deficiency, while many an ass has been kicked because the possessor of that ass was not strong enough.

Policemen the world over rely on cars these days, and it's helpful to be strong enough to deal with a bad guy at the end of the occasional foot-chase, unless you were just going to shoot him anyway.
Firefighters die on the job from heart attacks far more frequently than from any other cause, and there's no better way to have a heart attack than to lack sufficient strength to complete a physical task that would have been easier and over with sooner if you were stronger.
I've worked with a rather large number of military units, policemen, firemen, and other people who have physically demanding jobs. Many hundreds of these people have taken our seminar for the express purpose of learning more about getting stronger. Several articles written by active-duty military guys with combat experience are posted on my website, each with a very active discussion thread.
The unanimous view of all these people is that their strength has a pivotal bearing on their ability to function in the toughest situations they encounter, and that endurance plays a much smaller, if not insignificant, role in any modern shitstorm.
A Better Way
In my opinion, and that of men who've been there and done that, boot camps and academies would better prepare their recruits by instituting a basic barbell strength course in place of all the pointless running and conditioning; by requiring that a reasonable strength standard be met for graduation; and by putting the fat kids on a diet and feeding the hell out of the skinny ones.
At the end of 5 to 6 months of basic strength development and the attainment of the required strength standard, the emphasis would shift to a maintenance strength program combined with some intelligently programmed conditioning.
Remember that the conditioning adaptation comes on quickly and is easy to maintain, so that by the time the class graduates they're both strong and in shape. In every case, the graduate of such a program would be better prepared for his job at the end of 9 months than he is now.
The bottom line is that strength improvement for people who are not already strong is the rising tide that floats all the other ships in the physical performance harbor. In the current situation, time is being wasted on conditioning for novice trainees for whom it's neither necessary nor appropriate, and not nearly enough attention has been paid to getting them stronger.
If you're not strong, stronger is fitter. Stronger is conditioned. If you're a novice, take my advice and don't dilute your strength training with a bunch of sweaty work until it's appropriate – when your initial strength gains slow down.
If you're in charge of training novices, and their proper preparation is actually critical to their duties, their lives, and the lives of others, try my suggestion on a group of them, and then compare that group to your standard-approach recruits.
I dare you.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Getting Outside is Good for the Brain

Outdoor workouts are great!

No surprise here, getting out and moving is good for us. From the context of this brief article, I would question whether the positive results were from the exercise, from being outdoors, or from the combination. I wonder if getting equivalent exercise indoors, such as a gym, would give equal benefits? I also wonder if just sitting outdoors, without the movement would produce beneficial effects? I wonder if the combination of exercising and being outdoors synergistically increases the benefits of both? Whatever the case, I know I enjoy exercising outdoors and try to do so as often as I can.

SALT LAKE CITY — Shane Thomas, like a lot of people, would much rather be in the mountains than at work.
As a busy financial services representative, Thomas, of Farmington, said he "tries to get away as often as possible." He's got a couple ascents of Washington's Mount Ranier under his belt, as well as nearly every peak along the Wasatch Mountain Range and its adventurous backcountry.
Earlier this year, he immersed his 10-year-old son in backpacking pleasure, on a summit of Utah's highest point, King's Peak.
"It's fun to get out and get above the smog, breathe fresh air, with nothing pressing going on, just Mother Nature," Thomas, 36, said.
While it is mostly the thrill of a challenge, or a chance to get better at what he does, Thomas said nature is someplace he can think for himself and have real conversations with people.
 "It's fun to be cruising along a trail, at 5 or 6 in the morning, just talking. A lot of people don't do that anymore," he said.
And researchers at the University of Utah and the University of Kansas believe he's right.
"We think it is part of a general phenomenon of getting out in nature and disassociating yourself — stepping back from technology — and all of a sudden, you get these restorative effects," said David Strayer, University of Utah professor of psychology and co-author of a study published Wednesday in PLOS ONE, an online journal sponsored by the Public Library of Science.
He said that something about the sights, sounds and smells of nature allow a person to put aside the regular stressors of life and think more clearly and more creatively.
Strayer said the physiological and emotional benefits of being out in nature begin after about 30 minutes, but continue to compound up until about three or four days, when decision-making and creativity skills are acutely tuned.
Individuals were studied during various four- to six-day Outward Bound backpacking expeditions held in Alaska, Colorado, Maine and Washington in the summer of 2010. Of the 56 subjects, 24 took a 10-item creativity test the morning before they began their journey, and 32 took the test on the morning of the trip's fourth day.
People who had been submerged in the outdoors four days scored higher on the test than those who had yet to begin their trips, leading researchers to believe that nature has a profound effect on the brain.
The results indicated a nearly 50 percent improvement in brain function post-hike.
"Three or four days in, you change into a different state and let all the stuff at the office slide away and you're in the moment, you're in the present, you're not ruminating about the past or anticipating things from the future," Strayer said.
One critical aspect of the study, however, is that participants agreed to put away their cellphones, laptop and tablet computers, and all other technological devices that might serve as a distraction from nature.
Thomas said his group usually carries cellphones, but they're packed away for use in an emergency.
Strayer said in order to wholly connect with nature and reap the benefits it provides to the soul, one must set aside reminders of daily life in our somewhat fabricated urban settings.
"The pace of life has increased, we're multitasking at ever-increasing rates," he said. The concern is that the artificial environment humans have created for themselves, using all kinds of technology, may actually stress the brain. The accumulative effects, then, are believed to cause even higher levels of stress and arousal.
The somewhat frantic multitasking has eroded human enjoyment of nature over the years.
Researchers in the Utah-Kansas study cited earlier studies that indicate today's children spend an average of 15 to 25 minutes a day outdoors, which is a far cry from the hours and days their ancestors spent interacting with nature.
The average 8- to 18-year-old spends more than 7.5 hours a day using media such as TV, cellphones and computers, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Effects from such a lifestyle are still being studied, but early research holds that modern technology and multitasking place undue demands on the brain, distorting the ability to stay on task or maintain focus.
Nature is effective in restoring such abilities, Strayer and his colleagues found.
"Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, television, etc.) that hijack attention," the PLOS ONE article states. "By contrast, natural environments are associated with gentle, soft fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish."
So, Strayer said, anecdotal reports from artists and writers claiming that nature inspires are true.
In addition, constantly being connected, he said, is increasingly more concerning to social psychologists and social scientists, because it "leads to fewer social interactions. And digital interactions just don't have the same quality as social interactions."
He said it is necessary to "give the human system a break from your everyday high-tech swirl.
"If you can set that aside and go out into nature … it tends to produce benefits that are very clear, measurable and promote good health."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ibuprofen and Exercise a Bad Mix?

Few, if any,  lifters get this far without a little anti-inflammatorial help.

Take this for what it is worth. I'm not sure if the same results found with bikers and marathoners would be similar in resistance training. I have used Ibuprofen as well as other NSAIDS over the years and still do from time to time, although less now that I train to train and not to compete. I remember Lyn Jones, former coach for Team USA Weightlifting as well as Team Australia telling me that any serious lifter needs anti-inflammatories "and not the kind you give your Grandmother for arthritis". Anybody who lifts hard and heavy for any length of time will eventually become familiar with "cumulative microtrauma". That is a word that I heard, but never understood until about the age of 40. Then I began to appreciate it's meaning.
Personally I would not advise using NSAIDs (or any other substance) in order to work through a real injury. I have to admit that I have tried that too, and it is a dead end road. It leaves you with long term or even permanent damage. However using a little ibuprofen, naprosin, or even aspirin over the years to take the edge off of soreness has not had any lasting negative side effects that I can discern. Be smart and keep the dosages and length of use within reasonable limits. Don't make your recovery plan revolve around the pills. Learn to use ice, massage, contrast baths or showers, and foam rollers as well.  Eat healthy and drink a lot of water.
For years, athletes have turned to ibuprofen as a pain reliever to combat muscle soreness, with some even taking the drug before exercise as a preemptive strike against tissue inflammation. However, in a new study published in the December issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands report that taking ibuprofen and similar anti-inflammatory painkillers before a workout yields no benefit, and instead may cause temporary intestinal damage. For the study, researchers tested nine healthy, active men four times at Maastricht's human performance lab. According to the New York Times: During two of the visits, the men rested languorously for an hour, although before one of the visits, they swallowed 400 milligrams of ibuprofen the night before and also the morning of their trip to the lab. (Four hundred milligrams is the recommended non-prescription dosage for adults using the drug to treat headaches or other minor pain.) During the remaining visits, the men briskly rode stationary bicycles for that same hour. Before one of those rides, though, they again took 400 milligrams of ibuprofen the night before and the morning of their workout. At the end of each rest or ride, researchers drew blood to check whether the men's small intestines were leaking. Kim van Wijck, MD, a surgical resident at Orbis Medical Center in the Netherlands who led the study, says the post-workout and post-rest checkups found that blood levels of a protein indicating intestinal leakage were much higher when bike riding was combined with ibuprofen than when the test subjects rode without the drug or took it without exercising. The testing also revealed that the protein levels remained elevated several hours after exercise and ibuprofen consumption. The findings support similar results from a 2006 study conducted by researchers from Appalachian State University. In this study, researchers found that runners at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run who were regular ibuprofen users had small amounts of colonic bacteria in their bloodstream post-race. Ironically, this bacterial incursion resulted in "higher levels of systemic inflammation," David C. Nieman, a Professor of Health and Exercise Science at Appalachian State University, and who conducted the study, told The New York Times. According to Nieman, an ultramarathoner himself, the runners who frequently used ibuprofen ended the race with higher overall levels of bodily inflammation after the race. They also reported the same amount of post-race soreness as runners who had not taken ibuprofen beforehand. Nieman says based on the findings from these studies, athletes should reconsider taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, including ibuprofen and aspirin, before and during exercise. "The idea is just entrenched in the athletic community that ibuprofen will help you to train better and harder," Dr. Nieman told The New York Times. "But that belief is simply not true. There is no scientifically valid reason to use ibuprofen before exercise and many reasons to avoid it." According to the Times, van Wijck agrees. "We do not yet know what the long-term consequences are" of regularly mixing exercise and ibuprofen, she said. But it is clear that "ibuprofen consumption by athletes is not harmless and should be strongly discouraged."

Some pains are beyond the scope NSAIDs. You think?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Louie Simmons on Weightlifting

I have been in the business of training and life long enough to form the opinion that if you are completely partisan in your view, you will miss alot. Complete devotion to any single philosophy or dogma can be very limiting. Our politicians here in the United States are an excellent example of missed opportunities. In the area of training there are plenty of philosophies out there. I have to admit that I really like the Olympic sty le lifts, but also realize that training all athletes exactly like competitive weightlifters is a big mistake. I don't buy into the nearly defunct fad of high intensity training (H.I.T.) but I have learned some things and use some of the principles they promoted. Louie Simmons and Westside Training is another example. In many weightrooms this has become the "flavor of the day". Louie is a bright guy, both in training methods and marketing. He obviously has produced a lot of winning powerlifters in that specific sport and when drug testing isn't in the picture. Do some of his ideas have merit in training athletes for other sports? No doubt. But I am thoroughly unimpressed with his diatribes about Olympic lifting in the U.S. He is out of his element there. All he needs to do to gain some credibility is produce a few Olympic style champions, but we are still waiting. Check out the standard Westside squat style in the second video. Other than seeing how much weight one can move up and down through a very limited range of motion, I see little carryover value from that type of training. Compare to Ivan Chakarov in the last video. Which style would you rather have your non-powerlifting athletes doing? Below is a post from another site from Brad Reid, a former thrower who writes alot of historical articles on lifters and throwers. I think he nails it pretty well. The video of Louie's interview is about 25 minutes long, but after only a few minutes you can figure out where he is going with it.

Well, Louie is one really effective coach for powerlifters, some other sports too, and a heck of a lifter himself. But, he misses the point, I think, that the very training range he prefers for powerlifters, the 50% days for multiple sets of 2 reps, that when one does a power clean or a squat clean, the weightlifter is moving a submaximal weight very fast already, and a further derivative weight reduction would be of no value (O-lifters training at 50% might mean 25% or so of maximum muscle static tension capacity, too low).

We actually have some proofs, very old ones, that lots of pulls (full cleans, power cleans, high pulls), instead of deadlifts, can result in a nice deadlift. Bill Starr set a deadlift record, I believe it might have been a senior national powerlifting "meet" record, but it could have been an American Record (too long ago for me to remember) . . . pulling around 670 as I recall as a 198 lber. Starr would later claim he did almost no deadlift training prior to that meet, that heavy pulls did the trick. The other man who comes to mind is George Ernie Pickett who deadlifted up near then world record territory when he occasionally crossed over to a P/L meet. Anyway, these are two examples of Louie Simmons-type results from Olympic Lifters crossing over to powerlifting. And, it is exactly the same idea: you can get stronger in the more static-like lifts by accelerating lighter loads (cleans and snatches and high pulls) very fast.
Starr, by the way, often only squatted 500-520 in p/l meets using a stricter style, of course, than the average powerlifter of that day. I seem to recall Starr pulling in a 440 clean at one meet, sort of a statistical outlier for him, but I believe he failed to stand up with it. He could have benefited from Simmons' squat routines, I think.
That's the real trick . . . forgetting about what doesn't or won't cross over to O-lifts and seeing if there is anything that does translate well. My guess is the squat routines would fit well, some version of maximizing pull power, too, though the modern O-lifter must adhere to training the actual snatch and clean & jerk with top weights.
Pulling a 50% max snatch really fast, now think about it, would mean that since the bar would want to fly toward the ceiling, that the lifter would have to feather back, cut off the pulling motion early to prevent it. The "body" would simply be learning a rhythm that has no semblance to a max effort, a bad lesson if you will.

Cheers! Brad

Monday, December 10, 2012

Exercise for the Brain

A traditional Grandma running on the Navajo reservation.

An interesting article. Adds support to to the idea that mind and body are not two seperate entities. While this study focused more on aerobic exercise, there is no reason to not to think that resistance training would have similar benefits for the brain. Whether you are young or old, move to build and preserve brain power.
Here on the Navajo Nation running has been a part of the culture for generations and there are many healthy and fit elders who bear testimony of it's benefits. Unfortunately this beneficial tradition is passing out of popularity with many of the younger generation. "Progress" is not always in our best interest, but we don't have to choose. We can have the best of both worlds, high tech and old school. Well we may live in the space age, we need to understand that our bodies have not changed since the stone age and still respond to the same stimulus that they always have. There is no "high tech" shortcut to health and fitness. It still requires regular sustained activity to function at it's best.

12:02AM EST November 26. 2012 - Anyone looking for a reason to be more active can start by worrying about their brain.

That's the conclusion of researchers behind a study out today showing people who burn off the most energy have healthier, younger brains compared with adults who do less.

Lead author Cyrus Raji of UCLA says the researchers set out to determine how physical activity is associated with gray matter during aging. Gray matter, also called the cerebral cortex, gets the credit for processing much of the information we use. It is made up of neurons and nerve fibers, and its shrinkage is a possible cause of or contributor to dementia and Alzheimer's disease, a fatal degenerative illness that affects 5.2 million adults in the USA. The number of diagnoses is expected to triple by 2050.

In the study of 876 adults (ages ranged from 69-95), those who burned the most calories had 5% more gray matter. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago. The researchers used MRIs and 3-D pictures of the brain to measure volume.

"If you want to maximize the effect on your brain, these physical activities are something people have to start engaging in earlier in life, in your 50s and 40s," says Raji.

Physical activities included swimming, hiking, aerobics, jogging, tennis, racquetball, walking, gardening, mowing, raking, golfing, bicycling, dancing, calisthenics and riding an exercise cycle.

Those in the top 25% for physical activities burned off 3,434 calories a week compared with those in the bottom 25%, who burned only 348 calories a week. It takes about 110 minutes to walk off 560 calories.

Though the study shows a link between activity and brain health, the findings don't prove that activity preserves brain matter, says Dave Knopman, a spokesman for the American Academy of Neurology.

 "It could be the people with the bigger brains are more physically active," says Knopman, a neurology professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The patients' conditions ranged from normal cognition to Alzheimer's dementia. Benefits were also noted in people who have mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease, Raji says. Greater caloric expenditure was related to larger gray matter volumes, including the hippocampus.

While noting that biological changes in other parts of the brain (beyond gray matter) are also possible causes for dementia, Joshua Willey, a neurologist at Columbia University, says this study's focus on regions of the brain is encouraging.

"We care about the volume of the hippocampus because that seems to be the first area that's affected in Alzheimer's disease," Willey says. "That's the part of the brain most of us think of in terms of short-term memory. So this is exciting work."

 A 2011 study of 120 previously sedentary adults ages 55 to 80 found that those who walked around a track for 40 minutes three days a week for a year increased the volume of their hippocampus. Older adults assigned to a stretching routine showed no hippocampal growth.

Walking is aerobic in nature, making the heart, lungs and large muscle groups work harder than at rest.

"Virtually all of the activities examined in this study are some variation of aerobic physical activity, which we know from other work can improve cerebral blood flow and strengthen neuronal connections," he says.

Knopman gives the aerobic theory a thumbs-up: "People who are active are also less likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, are less likely to be obese or have heart disease, all conditions associated with an increased risk of getting dementia."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

World's Biggest Arms

Not sure what goes on inside of some people's brains, but what is this guy thinking? I have to say I am not impressed with his appearance, in fact it is repulsive to me. There is nothing to demonstrate any increase in performance of any relevant tasks. It must be something along the lines of aneroxia in reverse, a mentally distorted body image that imagines that big arms are attractive or something. I don't know. I'm not a psychologist. Like I tell my students, girls are attracted to big bank accounts, not big arms. To each his own. If it makes him happy he certainly is not hurting anyone else, except for maybe giving lay people another excuse to think that weightlifters are even more strange than we already are.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Asking For Your Vote

Dear Friends, my wife has always had a competitive side, but only on rare occasions does it ever become very evident. This is one such occasion. Recently she entered our family in a Facebook Contest called: The Hotel Park City Photo Contest. She is so set on winning this thing that she has enlisted my help. I have long since learned that life is always easier when I make the necessary accommodations for her, so on her insistence, I am writing this post. 

It is a simple voting process and your vote would be very appreciated! 

1. Log onto your Facebook account.
2. Click on the following link: https://soappbox.com/HotelPCphotocontest?i=4264
3. It will open a new window. Click the "Connect with Facebook" button.
4. This will open another window. Click the "Login with Soappbox" button.
5. This will reload the previous page. Click the "Like" button.
6. This will load the contest page. Find the above picture and vote for "Katie Durrant Whaley."

The process actually doesn't take that long. And on behalf of my wife and our family, we appreciate your vote for us.

Thank you Friends,

The Whaley's