physical fitness

Vacuuming for health?! You may want to rethink that paradigm…

Posted by on Oct 21, 2013 in physical fitness | 0 comments

vintage vacuuming

Before you include housework in your weekly tally toward physical activity, you may want to pay close attention: UK researchers say that claiming housework as exercise may be a mistake. (No wonder, FitBit barely registers when I vacuum or dust!). And, while some of you might openly rejoice about the lack of a connection between health and housework (true confession: there is a part of me that is just tickled by this news), it’s important to recognize that in an effort to encourage sedentary individuals to incorporate some form of physical activity into their lives, there may have been a bit of overselling going on. Let’s face it; housekeeping is not going to propel you toward fitness competition medals.

A bit of background is in order. I’m not claiming that health departments have been engaging in deception in order to get people off their butts; promotion of domestic physical activity is linked, at least partially, to studies that provide evidence for a link between things like home maintenance and gardening, and a reduction in risk for death from multiple activities. And let’s face it: some activity is always better than none. However, findings from a survey of roughly 4,600 Irish adults demonstrate that not only do less than half meet current recommendations to engage in at least 150 minutes moderate to intense physical activity per week, but, among the 42% of individuals who do, domestic physical activity (i.e. housework, do it yourself projects, gardening, or other) accounts for anywhere from 11% to 73% of this activity. Among women in particular who exclude domestic activity, only 20% would meet current recommendations.

And the news gets worse: the researchers say that housework was inversely related to leanness, suggesting that people are either “overestimating the amount of moderate physical activity they do through housework, or are eating too much to compensate for the amount of activity  undertaken.”

I say that it’s time to rebel against housework, take the streets and head straight to the gym! Forget the dusting; try a walk around the block instead! Vacuuming? No way; try a Zumba class!

Seriously though, health campaigns that are promoting domestic physical activity as curing that which ails the sedentary individual are doing us all a huge disfavour. Exercise often and exercise to burn calories, up your heart rate and break a sweat. Unless you are doing the IroningWoman Marathon, when it comes to housework and health, all bets are off!

Read More

Fit to be tied: MsFLASH and exercise

Posted by on Aug 9, 2013 in physical fitness | 0 comments


Exercise. Does it or doesn’t it? That is, does exercise improve menopausal symptoms? Some studies have shown that it does; and others, like the one I am about to share, shows that it does not.

I am fit to be tied, literally.

Not angry or annoyed but rather, regardless if exercise can improve vasomotor symptoms or not, there is absolutely no doubt that it helps maintain weight, improves overall wellbeing, promotes healthy bones, and may even result in better sleep in midlife. On Wednesday’s post, I shared information about a series of studies called MsFLASH, studies geared towards identifying strategies to alleviate menopausal symptoms and overall health. Today, I ran across one of these trials, published online in Menopause, the goal of which was to clarify the impact of three times weekly aerobic training in women who were in late perimenopause or full menopause reporting frequent and bothersome hot flashes and night sweats.

Exercise/aerobic training can mean a lot 0f things. This time, women who were randomized to 12 weeks of exercise participated in trainer supervised conditioning comprising a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike for 40 t0 60 minutes each session, with the goal of reaching up to 60% of target heart rate for the first month and up to 70% thereafter (this, along with workload and perceived exertion was measured throughout each session). Likewise, the women had energy expenditure goals relative to their body weight. The other group of women were asked to maintain their usual activity levels but at the end of the study, were offered a one month gym membership or yoga sessions.

While the verdict wasn’t so great for reduction of the frequency and bother of daily hot flashes (both study groups reported declines in hot flash frequency by roughly 2.5% and bother only changed minimally), adhering to training sessions appeared to favourably move the needle for sleep quality and quantity and yielded small improvements in depressive symptoms. Another interesting finding was that race appeared to play a role. Data have shown that African American women actually experience more severe hot flashes than their white peers. And, in this study, while exercise had some impact, albeit minimal, on hot flashes and night sweats, this impact was only seen among white women.

Still unanswered are whether or not small bouts of exercise can positively impact vasomotor symptoms or if individual differences (such as the one that race provides) also play a role. While these questions are being pondered, I’ll leave you where I started: exercise and menopause? Fit to be tied. Don’t give up the activity; it may not help your flashes but it yield a whole lot of benefits beyond cooling the heat that ails.


Read More

Wednesday Bubble: all juiced up and ready to go

Posted by on Dec 1, 2010 in heart disease, physical fitness, weight | 0 comments

Did you catch last week’s news about pomegranate juice and kidney disease? It seems that pomegranate juice just might be the next best thing… or not. The same holds true for orange juice, weight loss and heart disease. So before you get too excited about the wonders of the orange, let’s take a look at what research is telling us.

Middle-age is associated with a slow down of metabolism, distribution of weight and of course, an increase in risk for certain diseases, in particular heart disease. For women specifically, hormonal changes – namely a steeply progressive increase in testosterone, can contribute to a risk of developing metabolic syndrome (i.e. the cluster of risk factors — abdominal fat, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and insulin resistance –that increases the likelihood of developing heart disease and diabetes). In fact, data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation has shown that women have a a 1.45 times increased risk of developing the metabolic syndrome in perimenopause and a 1.25 increased risk after menopause. So, the cards are automatically stacked against us. Let’s add overweight and obesity, poor eating habits and sedentary behavior to the mix and we have a veritable “heart condition in the making” cocktail.

Wondering where this is going?

Across the board, the key ways to improve one’s risk of developing disease include a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and good fats and regular physical activity. The formula isn’t a magic one and but it’s been shown time and again to improve the odds. However, we are a society of instant gratification so it’s easy to fall into the trap of a quick fix, whether that entails botox, diet pills, diet plans, sweating or the like without paying much attention. Hence, when I saw a study setting the stage for the latest and greatest answer to our problems, i.e. orange juice, I had to take a closer look.

Like pomegranate juice, orange juice is rich in flavonoids, naturally-occurring plant and vegetable compounds that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Orange juice is also an important source of vitamin C, folate and potassium, which have been shown to help protect cells from bad, LDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and possibly help lower blood pressure. But, can drinking orange juice help prevent heart disease in middle-aged women who are already at risk?

When researchers compared 26 premenopausal women between the ages of 30 and 48 who were considered overweight or obese, and asked them to engage in a 1-hour aerobic exercise (running) 3 times a week and either drink 2 glasses (16 oz) of orange juice daily or not, they observed the following:

  • Regular aerobic exercise led to an average loss of 11% to 15% of fat and 1.2% to 2.5% of BMI depending on the group that women were assigned to.
  • Women who drank orange juice along with their thrice-weekly exercise had as much as a 15% decline in LDL-cholesterol and an 18% increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.
  • Daily orange juice intake also led to less muscle fatigue and better overall responses to aerobic training.
  • Although drinking orange juice added to daily caloric intake, it actually led to a decreased consumption of other foods.

Should you start drinking orange juice to lose weight and save your heart? Not so fast. This study simply shows an potential associated benefit and does not prove that drinking orange juice causes a reduced risk in heart disease,; mind you, these women were only studied for three months. Moreover, the study was small and a much larger group is needed to demonstrate proof of a benefit. Additionally, the results did not show which components in orange juice are specifically linked to a potential risk reduction, or if there are components in the juice that are shared by other juices. On a more positive side, it did demonstrate the benefit of a balanced diet, regular physical activity and improvements in performance, perhaps as a result of extra nutrients and energy provided by the juice.

Time to juice up? Nope, just time to start opening your eyes a bit wider when you see headlines touting the amazing benefits of a quick fix. Rule number 1? There are no quick fixes.

Read More

NewsFlash! Unsightly cellulite? Shock it away!

Posted by on Oct 29, 2010 in appearance, physical fitness | 4 comments

Every now and then I have to share some exciting news. And honestly? I don’t even know what to think about this one:

Got cellulite? There may be hope!  (Do you hear the angels singing?!!!)

As women, we are both blessed and burdened with extra padding around the thigh and buttocks area. These days, thanks for JLo, some women are even trying to pack some extra stuff in their booty, and when they can’t  they can even enhance their rear-ends with Booty Pop. But all kidding aside, while it might be great to have some extra junk in the trunk, the unsightly bumps due to numbers of large fat cells in fatty tissue can be downright difficult to overcome or get rid of, even with ample exercise, weight training and a proper diet. Indeed, aging in connective tissue can lead to an imbalance between the body’s ability to produce and breakdown fat, causing even more cellulite.

The news…German researchers are studying if shockwaves aimed at the thigh region plus intensive gluteal strength training can help solve the cellulite problem. Over 12 weeks, roughly 200,000 women under age 18 or over 65 are receiving:

  • Six sessions  of shockwave therapy (given every 1 to 2  weeks; 2000 focused impulses) plus twice daily gluteal exercises consisting of 15 quadruped hip extensions and 15 quaduped hip extensions with the leg straightened, or
  • Six sessions of sham shockwaves (given every 1 to 2 weeks) plus twice daily gluteal exercise as described above.

Cellulite is measured (or graded) on a scale of 0 to 3, ranging from no dimple when skin is pinched to skin alterations or dimpling both when women are standing and lying down. The results of this study, which are not available yet, will focus changes in skin elasticity based on this scale, self assessment on appearance of thighs and buttocks and on any changes in blood or oxygen flow in thighs.

Wow! I’m excited. Cellulite is a challenge, no matter how much exercise you do. This is one procedure I might get my arms (and legs and butt) around! Shock it baby! I’m in!

Read More

A bicycle built for…weight!

Posted by on Jul 12, 2010 in physical fitness, weight gain | 0 comments

I’d love to be writing to tell you that researchers have discovered a bicycle specifically built to boost weight loss.  However, better yet, it seems that any bicycle may be able to help you prevent weight gain during the premenopausal years. Moreover, the more you need to lose, the greater the benefits.

For some time now, experts have been telling us that daily exercise, even walking can help stave off weight gain. But is all walking created equal? And what about bicycling, which evidently, only 5% of the population over the age of 16, and mostly women, engage in?

Researchers report that among a pool of over 18,000 women studied between 1989 and 2005 (as part of the ongoing Nurses Health Study):

  • Increasing the amount of biking over the study period seemed to hold weight gain to a mininum even if that biking equaled only 5 minutes a day.
  • Women with normal weight who biked for more than 4 hours a week by the study weight had about a third lower odds of gaining about 5% of their body weight than women who did not bike at all.
  • Women who were considered overweight and obese had about half the odds of gaining weight if they biked for at least 2 to 3 hours a week.
  • Brisk walking was much better at holding off weight than slow walking — by about  a half pound.

The key take-away points of this study is that exercising is not created equal as we age. In this case, more is less is the rule of thumb, meaning that if you weigh more, you may gain less over time if you start bicycling at least 2 to 3 hours a week. If you are lean and mean, well, biking can still yield some significant benefits when it comes to weight gain.

Biking is definitely built for staving off weight gain. Go for it!

Read More

Just an hour a day keeps the weight away

Posted by on Mar 26, 2010 in physical fitness, weight, weight gain | 2 comments

Yikes! Seems like every time you turn around, there’s another study upping the ante on exercise. Last year, I wrote about 2005 USDA guidelines suggesting that adults need about 60 to 90 minutes of moderate physical activity a day for health and weight maintenance, i.e. at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily to stave off gradual, unhealthy body weight combined 30 minutes daily can help prevent chronic diseases.  To achieve optimal physical fitness, the recommendations suggested the incorporation of cardiovascular conditioning, weight training, and resistance exercise to improve strength and endurance. Conversely, 2008 Federal Guidelines suggested that adults needed about 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise to maintain health, while the Institute of Medicine suggested 60 minutes a day to prevent weight gain. Confused yet?

Researchers followed a group of over 34,000 women (mean age ~54) for 13 years, examining their amount and type of weekly physical activity (e.g. high versus low intensity), body weight, height, menopausal status, use of hormones or not, chronic disease, alcohol use, smoking and diet. (If you’re wondering, high intensity refers to running. bicycling, aerobic exercise or dance or use of aerobic machines, while low intensity refers to yoga, stretching, tennis, squash or racquetball, and lap swimming.)

Overall, study findings showed that on n average and regardless of physical activity level, women gained almost 6 pounds over the course of the study. However, women who exercised anywhere from 2.5 hours to less than 7  hours a week gained significantly more weight then women who exercised at least 7 hours a week (or one hour a day). In fact, women who exercised less than an hour a day were significantly more likely to gain at least 5 pounds over the first three years of the study. Note that these results apply only to normal weight women (body mass index <25).

I’ve recently increased my level of physical activity to an hour a day, not because of these study results but because I’ve been unhappy about the hormonally-driven tire that’s starting to appear around my midsection. I must tell you; it’s a huge time commitment. Undoubtedly, if you are busy in your career or with your children, finding an hour a day to exercise can be difficult. What remains unclear is whether or not this hour can be divided into increments.

What do you think? Do you have the time? Are you motivated? Or does this information discourage you?

Read More