Posts Tagged "physical activity"

Use it or lose it – more on osteoporosis

Posted by on Jul 15, 2011 in bone health, osteoporosis | 0 comments


Bone health and osteoporosis. Yes, I know I keep writing about it. The reason is simple: you ARE at risk of losing your bone density and strength, especially if you are a woman over the age of 35. And if you are 50 or older? You have as much as a 40% risk of suffering a fracture due to osteoporosis during the rest of your lifetime. Moreover, during the first five years after menopause, women can experience as much as a 30% loss of bone density.

I can’t emphasize it enough. The risk is there. It is inevitable. However, you can reduce your risk a little bit by incorporating the following message into your life:

Use it. Or lose it.

In other words, you need to move.

The latest news out of the esteemed Cochrane Collaboration (an international organization that extensively reviews medical research) is that exercise specifically designed to promote bone growth and preserve existing bone mass, namely the type that places mechanical stress on the body, is necessary.  The newly-published review of 43, scientifically sound (i.e. randomized, controlled studies) is an update of a review that appeared in 2000. Of the 4,320 postmenopausal women included in the reviewed trials:

  • Those who engaged in any form of exercise had slightly less (0.85%) bone loss than women who did not.
  • Those who performed combinations of exercise types, i.e. walking, jogging, dancing, progressive resistance training, vibration platform had, on average, as much as 3.2% less bone loss than those who did not exercise.
  • Non-weight bearing exercise, such as progressive resistance strength training targeting the lower limbs, was shown to slightly preserve bone mineral density at the hip, while the combination of exercise, per above, was most beneficial for slightly preserving bone mineral density at the spine. (Did you know that spine and hip fractures are the most common among women with osteoporosis?)

The conclusions are pretty clear: long periods of inactivity lead to reduced bone mass.However, here is a simple way to mitigate some of this loss, albeit slightly, and even help reduce the costly effects of osteoporosis: Exercise.

The best exercises? Those that stress or mechanically load the bones, meaning the type that make the bones support body weight or resist movement, such as aerobic or strength training, walking, or Tai Chi.

Ultimately, your goal is prevent osteoporosis from occurring in the first place. While some amount of bone loss is part and parcel with aging, resistance training is critical.

Move it or lose it.

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Wednesday Bubble: word to the wise – move early, move often, keep moving

Posted by on Dec 15, 2010 in weight | 2 comments

I’m not bursting bubbles this week but rather  illusions about physical activity.  This advice is for women AND men. And not just for the midlife set:

Maintaining high activity levels throughout the young adult years may help to reduce weight gain during middle age.

It’s intuitive, isn’t it? And yet, obesity has been steadily increasing since 1973 and now affects almost a third of adults in the US. And while battling the bulge definitely becomes more challenging with age,  it appears that there is a rather easy solution: Move early. Move often.

In a newly published study of over 3,000 men and women, researchers found that habitual activity, described as maintaining high intensity activity (including sports, exercise, home maintenance and occupational activities) totaling roughly 150 minutes/week over a period of 20 years resulted in:

  • A weight gain of approximately 6 lbs to 13 lbs less per year in men and women respectively, compared to peers who were exercising only moderately or lightly
  • A lower increase in body mass circumference (measured by BMI) by as much as 1.2 inches to 1.5 inches per year in men and women, respectively, compared to peers who were only exercising moderately or lightly

These outcomes, which were especially notable in women, remained even when the researchers accounted for such factors as race, education, smoking, age, BMI at the study’s start, alcohol use and daily caloric intake.

One of the remaining questions is how much activity is needed to sustain these sort of changes, especially as we transition into middle age. That’s where experts disagree, with some claiming that 30  minutes daily is enough and others, suggesting that women in particular require at least 60 minutes daily. There is also indication that higher activity alone might not be enough to counter age-related weight gain although the findings only partially support this.  The bottom line is that there is no time like the present to start instilling good habits, which why I’m challenging you to share this post broadly, especially among the young adult women in your life. As I’ve written time and again, the earlier the intervention, the likelier you are to remain healthy and stave some of those troublesome menopausal symptoms.

Young or old, start moving, move often and keep moving.

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The B’s have it – bursting the belly and bones myth

Posted by on Dec 3, 2010 in bone health | 2 comments

When it comes to aging and women, bone health is a big deal. As I’ve written time and again on Flashfree, women are at a particularly high risk for bone loss as they age because of declining estrogen levels, and in turn, a reduced ability to prevent an increase in net bone resorption (i.e. bone loss due to the activity of bone cells). And while we’ve been told that excess body fat actually protects against bone loss, novel research is putting that myth to rest. This news may affect the millions of women who are considered obese based on their body mass index (BMI > 30), who, although at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and joint disease, were at least believed to have a weapon against osteoporosis.

In a small study that was presented at this week’s Radiological Society of North America meeting, an assessment of the abdominal and total fat and bone mineral density of 50 premenopausal women of varying BMI showed surprising results. According to the lead researcher, Dr. Miriam Bredella, “the general consensus has been that increased body fat protects against bone loss and obese women are at decreased risk for developing osteoporosis. However, we found that visceral fat — the deep belly fat — makes bone weaker.” In fact, the researchers found that women with more belly fat had significant declines in their bone mineral density and increases in the degree of fat within their bone marrow, but that total body fat or fat existing right below the skin had little impact on bones.

An important challenge for women is not only that metabolism slows and the risk for obesity increases as we age, but also, a natural increased risk for redistribution of fat to the abdominal area. And unfortunately, it’s one of the most challenging areas to address, requiring significant increases in physical activity and decreases in caloric intake. Some data suggest that isoflavones might help reduce waist circumference as well, although they are hardly definitive at this point. Still, a word to the wise: that belly fat is not going to protect your bones. Time to start moving and eating correctly; your bones will thank you.

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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.

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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!

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