Archive for the 'Exercise' Category

Excess Weight Linked to Poor Memory in Older Women

The brainIf you want to keep your mind as healthy as possible as you age, pay attention to your waistline.  Evidence is accumulating that excess weight is linked to mental decline in older years. 

A recent study found that postmenopausal women lost one point from their scores on a standard memory test for every point increase in their body mass index, indicating that obesity is linked to a decline in  memory and brain function with aging. 

A 2008 study found similar results. People with the greatest central fat accumulation had almost a three-fold higher rate of dementia 36 years later than those with the least amount.

More Information:

Source: Neurology, March 26, 2008

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, online  July 14, 2010 

Weight-Loss Drug Linked with Rare Cases of Liver Damage

Bathroom scalesThirteen cases of severe liver damage have occurred in association with taking the widely-used weight-loss drug Orlistat, according to the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Orlistat is sold by prescription under the trade name Xenical and available over-the-counter as Alli.

The FDA estimates that some 40 million people worldwide are taking the drug, so the incidence of liver damage is rare.  Nonetheless those who take the drug should be advised to stop the use of Orlistat and see their doctor if they develop itching, yellow eyes or skin, dark urine, light-colored stools, right-upper quadrant abdominal pain, fever, weakness, vomiting, fatigue, or loss of appetite. Orlistat therapy should be immediately discontinued if liver injury is suspected. 

Although a rare side effect, the bottom line is that all medications that you put in your body have potential for side effects.  This includes over-the-counter medications and herbal products.  Weight-loss drugs, in particular, have a bad track record so far.  Most people remember the disasterous Fen-Phen combination drug which swept the diet market in the early 1990s.  The popularity of Fen-Phen fell as fast as it rose when fenfluramine, which was the “Fen” in Fen-Phen, was linked to the life-threatening diseases, pulmonary hypertension and serious heart valve problems.  

Since 1980, obesity rates have risen three-fold and have reached epidemic proportions globally.   In the U.S., 66 percent of adults are either overweight or obese, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.   We need to solve this growing problem, but taking a pill has not proven to work very well.  The side effects are often difficult to tolerate or even dangerous at times, and once the pill is stopped, the weight piles back on, often more quickly than it was lost.  

There’s no easy solution for weight control–like so many things on this planet that are worthwhile, you have to work at it.  Permanent lifestyle changes which include eating right and exercising regularly remain the only true cure for obesity.     

More Information:


SOURCE: “Rare Cases of Liver Damage Tied to Weight-Loss Drug”, HealthDay News, May 26, 2010

Four Common Bad Habits Can Age You by 12 Years

CigaretteFour common behaviors, when combined, can increase the risk of death and age a person by 12 years, according to a recent large study from the University of Oslo. 

The bad habits were: smoking tobacco; drinking greater than three alcoholic drinks per day for men and more than two daily for women; getting less than two hours of physical activity per week; and eating fruits and vegetables less than three times daily.

People in the study who had all four habits had a substantially increased risk of death but also seemed 12 years older than those with the healthiest lifestyles.

More information:

Source: Elisabeth Kvaavik, PhD; G. David Batty, PhD; Giske Ursin, MD, PhD; Rachel Huxley, DPhil; Catharine R. Gale, PhD , “Influence of Individual and Combined Health Behaviors on Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Men and Women, The United Kingdom Health and Lifestyle Survey”, Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(8):711-718

Exercise Can Overcome the Obesity Gene

Exercise on a treadmill is an excellent way to achieve an exercise level of moderate intensityAn hour a day of moderate to vigorous exercise can overcome the effect of a gene that predisposes people to obesity, Swedish researchers report.

More Information: What is Moderate Intensity Aerobic Exercise?

Source:  Ruiz JR, et al “Attenuation of the effect of the FTO rs9939609 polymorphism on total and central body fat by physical activity in adolescents: The HELENA Study” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2010; 164(4): 328-33. 

Source: “Exercise Can Beat Obesity Gene”, MedPage Today, April 5, 2010

What is Moderate Intensity Aerobic Exercise?

Man exercising outdoors on a bikeAerobic exercise involves continuous activity that will increase your heart rate and maintain it at a higher rate for a sustained period of time, such as for 20-60 minutes. An intensity that is considered ”moderate” can be roughly estimated to be activity that is strenuous enough to cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. Hard enough to break a sweat, although not so hard that you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation. If you can sing and maintain your level of effort, you’re probably not working hard enough. If you get out of breath quickly, you’re probably working too hard, especially if you have to stop and catch your breath.

According to the American Heart Association’s exercise guidelines, an adult walking at three miles per hour on a flat surface is expending about 3.3 METs, which is the low end of moderate intensity.  Light intensity exercise is less than 3.0 METs; moderate intensity is 3.0 to 6.0 METs; and vigorous activity is more than 6 METs.

Another more precise method of estimating moderate intensity would be to monitor your heart rate. Activity at 60 to 70% of the maximum heart rate is considered moderate intensity exercise, by some experts.  (Other authorities use different ranges and methods of measurement.)

  • 220 (beats per minute) minus age = maximum heart rate. 
  • then multiply 60% times the maximum heart rate to calculate the lower end of the target heart rate
  • and multiply 70% times the maximum heart rate to calculate the upper end of the target hart rate 

For instance:

  • A 60-year-old woman exercising at 60% intensity would use the following calculation:
  • 220 - 60 = 160 (maximum heart rate)
  • 160 X 60% = 96 (target heart rate)
  • 96 is her target heart rate (the rate at which she should strive for during her exercise)

To calculate her target heart rate range for moderate intensity exercise, make an additional calculation using the intensity level of 70%:

  • 160 x 70% = 112
  • So, 96 to 112 is the target heart rate for a 60-year-old who wishes to exercise at a moderate intensity

Aerobic activities include walking briskly, bicycling, using a stationary bicycle, swimming, running, jogging, stepping machine, climbing stairs, vigorous dancing, ice skating, roller skating, aerobics (regular or low impact) cross-country skiing, rowing and playing racquetball or tennis.

Note: A few high blood pressure medications lower the maximum heart rate and thus the target zone rate. If you’re taking such medicine, contact your physician to find out if you need to use a lower target heart rate.

It’s always best to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, and start slowly with aerobic activities or muscle strengthening exercises that are less intense at first. Beginners might want to start with as little as three 10-minute walks a day, most days of the week. People who are younger and more fit might want to aim for as much as 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise.

Read more about the Benefits of Exercise and How to Get Started 

Calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index)

Sources: “Physical Activity” from MedLine Plus
Sources: American Heart Association

Women Over 50 Need to Exercise An Hour a Day to Keep the Weight Off

Daily exercise on a treadmill is an excellent way to stay fitFor normal-weight women, middle-aged and older, sixty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day is needed to prevent weight gain, according to researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Weight tends to gradually increase with age, even among those who have maintained a normal weight in their younger years. After the age of 25 our body naturally gains 1 pound per year, if nothing else changes.

What is moderate-intensity exercise? Experts usually consider it to be strenuous enough to cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. Hard enough to break a sweat, but not so hard that you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation.   In the above study, moderate-intensity exercise was considered the equivalent of one hour a day of brisk walking or 30 minutes a day of jogging or running.

Note: Check with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. If you have chest pain, feel faint or light-headed, or become extremely out of breath while exercising, stop the activity at once and tell your doctor as soon as possible.

More Information: Exercise

Source: Lee IM, et al “Physical activity and weight gain prevention” JAMA 2010; 303(12): 1173-79.
Source: “Cardiovascular Exercise” from

Marathon Runners May be Causing Damage to Their Arteries

Illustration of the heart and aortaWhile moderate exercise has a protective effect on the heart, exercising too much can do harm, say Greek researchers from Athens Medical School.

In their recent study, male marathon runners had significantly increased stiffness of the aorta when compared with people who took part in moderate, recreational exercise. 

The aorta is the major artery leading from the heart and is the largest and most important artery in the body.  Stiffness of the aorta can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and even death. 


Read more:

Source: “Marathoners Face Greater Risk of Artery Problems”, HealthDay, March 14, 2010 

Exercise Linked with Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Aerobic ExerciseA number of studies have found an association between regular exercise and decreased breast cancer risk, and now a new study from Alberta Health Services in Calgary finds further supporting evidence in their trial of 320 postmenopausal women. 

The women in this study did aerobic exercise for at least 45 minutes five days a week over a period of 12 months. During the exercise, they monitored their pulse to achieve 70% to 80% of their heart rate reserve.

Periodically the researchers assessed blood levels of hormones and found that exercise was associated with modestly lowered levels of estradiol which is consistent with a slightly lower risk of breast cancer.

Aerobic exercise involves continuous activity that will increase your heart rate and maintain it at a higher rate for a sustained period of time, such as for 20-60 minutes.

In aerobic exercise, you continually move large muscles in the legs and buttocks. This action causes you to breathe more deeply and your heart to work harder to pump blood, thereby strengthening your heart and lungs.

What are aerobic activities? Walking briskly, bicycling or using a stationary bicycle, swimming, running, jogging, stepping machine or climbing stairs, vigorous dancing, ice skating or roller skating, aerobics (regular or low impact) cross-country skiing, rowing and playing racquetball or tennis. Riding a bike is an excellent aerobic exercise that will also strengthen the quadriceps muscles, (thigh muscles) that stabilize the knee joint. 

How long? Beginners might want to start with as little as three 10-minute walks a day, most days of the week.  People who are younger and more fit might want to aim for as much as 60 minutes a day, most days of the week.

How intense? To achieve the benefits of aerobic exercise, the activity must be continuous, without stopping, and strenuous enough to cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. Hard enough to break a sweat, but not so hard that you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation. If you monitor your heart rate during exercise, what should it be? Calcuate your target heart rate for your age, using this calculater.

In addition to decreasing breast cancer risk, there are at least 17 other very good reasons to exercise regularly. Here is a list of the many benefits of exercise and some important tips on how to get started

Note: Before getting started on an exercise program, it’s always best to first consult with your doctor. 

Source: “For Older Women, Exercise May Cut Breast Cancer Risk”, MedPage Today, February 16, 2010

Source: Friedenreich CM, et al “Alberta physical activity and breast cancer prevention trial: Sex hormone changes in a year-long exercise intervention among postmenopausal women” J Clin Oncol 2010; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2009.24.9557. 

Food Addiction Can Become Similar to Drug Addiction

Measuring tapeDo you ever feel like the more you eat, the more you want to eat?  There are several complex mechanisms that do indeed create this viscious cycle. 

One factor was recently studied by researchers from the Brookhaven National Laboratory on New York’s Long Island. In their recent study, the brain activity of hardcore drug and alcohol addicts was similar to obese participants who were ”addicted” to food.  The researchers conducted several brain imaging studies of obese patients using PET-CT scans.  Very close similarities were found in brain activity between patients addicted to cocaine or alcohol, and those who were obese and ”addicted” to eating.  

In other experiments, the researchers also found a higher body mass index (BMI) was linked with lower prefrontal cortex function — the area of the brain that regulates inhibitory control. In other words, those who were more obese had less impulse control. 

So the more we overeat, the less we’ll be able to control our desire to overeat, or possibly control other impulsive negative behaviors as well. Not a pleasant thought.

The studies also revealed that a higher BMI was linked to a decrease in memory and executive functioning.

These are all very good motivating factors to curb any overeating now, before it’s too late.  And if it is too late, you might want to consider getting some professional help, as overeating is a very serious problem. 

Whether or not you have an eating problem, a program of regular exercise is an excellent way to live a happier, healthier and longer life. Regular exercise will fight the fat, boost your energy, improve your mood and self esteem, increase immune function, fight cancer, ward off viruses, improve the quality of your sleep, strengthen your muscles and your heart, lower high blood pressure, improve arthritis and many other common conditions.  

Read more about getting started on an exercise program.

Source: “Doctor’s Orders: Brain’s Wiring Makes Change Hard”, MedPage Today/ABC News, February 2010

Fat Burning Enhanced After Low Glycemic-Index Breakfast

Whole grains are carbohydrates with a low glycemic-indexFat burning appears to be enhanced when a 60-minute walk follows a breakfast of low glycemic-index carbohydrates, according to a small study from the University of Nottingham in the UK.   

High Glycemic-Index carbohydrates, such as white bread and pure sugar, are known to have a more pronounced effect on the body’s blood sugar levels whereas low glycemic index foods (LGI) will increase the body’s sugar levels more slowly.  LGI foods include cereals made from oats, barley, and bran, along with whole grain breads and most vegetables other than white potatoes.  In fact, white is usually a color to avoid when it comes to carbohydrates:  white bread, white sugar, white potatoes, white pasta and white rice.

Not only do the white carbs interfere with fat burning, according to this study, but they also tend to stimulate hunger. In another study of 12 obese adolescent males, the researchers found that after eating high-GI meals, the subjects were hungrier and ate again sooner: voluntary food intake was 53 percent greater than after a medium-GI meal, and 81 percent greater than after a low-GI meal.  So eating sugary foods not only interferes with fat burning, but it creates a viscious cycle of hunger and overeating.

The bottom line, carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet — but stick to the good ones.

Source: Stevenson EJ, et al “Fat oxidation during exercise and satiety during recovery are increased following a low-glycemic index breakfast in sedentary women” J Nutr 2009; 139: 890-97.

Source: “Fat Burns Faster After Low-Glycemic Breakfast”, MedPage Today, April 15, 2009

Source: “High Glycemic Index Foods and Overeating in Obese Individuals”, NIDDK,