Thursday, August 28, 2008

Black Enterprise Magazine's 25 Most Affordable Franchises

Recession-Resistant Industries And Low Startup Costs Make These Opportunities Our Top Pick
“The franchising sector is as prolific as ever. The total number of franchised business locations in the U.S. now exceeds 900,000, creating some 21 million jobs and $2.3 trillion in total economic output, according to the IFA, which also states that franchising accounts for about 11.5% of the entire U.S. economy. And the current economic environment has made this business sector a viable option for aspiring entrepreneurs. ‘When traditional investments either equity markets like the stock market or investments like real estate don’t perform as well as they did in the past, people start to look at other places to put their money,' says Matthew Shay, IFAh president. ‘That makes franchising a more attractive alternative as well.’ Rising unemployment also contributes to the sector's growth, as laid-off workers create their own jobs through entrepreneurship. ‘People who have been downsized, right-sized, outsized voluntarily or involuntarily have in many cases turned to franchising as a way of securing their economic future,’ says Shay. But the world of franchising is large. Where are the hot spots? According to Darrell Johnson, president of FRANdata, which provides information and analysis for the U.S. franchise industry, a few areas enjoy solid growth and some appear recession-resistant as well: Pet services, including grooming and dog walking; child-focused enterprises, such as juvenile fitness programs; educational tutoring or test prep, and daycare services; business services such as commercial cleaning and lawn care; personal services such as fitness centers, health programs, and beauty salons; business-to-business, including franchises specializing in outsourcing virtual assistants, law and tax services, and tech consulting; and residential lawn care, landscaping, and housecleaning, among others. Much of the growth in these areas is a result of busy baby boomers and Generation Xers, groups looking to enjoy what free time they have while living longer, healthier, more affluent lives. And many of them are working parents who must find caregivers for their children. ‘There is a lot more growth in service areas, professional services, personal services, residential services; things that make life easier for people in general,’ says Johnson. ‘There is no reason to think that the service sector is going to slow down, whether the economy is going up or down, because most people want to use their time more efficiently. Fitness and personal care are big parts of the franchise world that perform well in just about any economic climate. Fitness is big business. The number of health clubs has increased more than 250% over the last 10 years, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. According to IHRSA, memberships have declined but, despite the economy, club revenues have actually gone up. "There is no sure way to see how membership will be affected in 2008, but having a health club membership is not a luxury, it's an investment in your health,' says Kara Thompson, an IHRSA representative.”

Bally’s $1 Workouts to Raise Money for Augie’s Quest

“Bally Total Fitness will host a “Donate Your Workout” fundraiser on Thursday to help raise money to support Augie’s Quest, the ALS research arm of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Anyone can work out at a Bally club for a donation of $1 or more. ‘Bally is a strong advocate for ALS awareness, and we are committed to helping Augie’s Quest fund research for a cure,” John Wildman, chief marketing officer of Bally Total Fitness, said in a statement. ‘Our national event on Aug. 28 gives everyone the power to make a difference with their workout.’ Augie’s Quest was created by Augie Nieto, a long-time fitness industry pioneer who created the Lifecycle and founded Life Fitness. Nieto was diagnosed with ALS in 2005 and has dedicated the remaining days of his life to helping find a cure for ALS. The Pussycat Dolls, currently starring in the Bally summer advertising campaign, also advocate the importance of ALS research and filmed a message on behalf of the fundraiser.”

10 Workout Secrets: Expert Exercise Tips

“Getting and staying fit can be a challenge. For many of us, it's hard enough just to get up off the couch. So what's the secret of people who have managed to make exercise a way of life? To find out, WebMD talked to fitness experts and successful exercisers who revealed the top tips, tricks and secrets they use to get the most from their workout routines. ‘Don't strive for perfection or an improbable goal that can't be met,’ says Kara Thompson, spokesperson for the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). ‘Focus instead on increasing healthy behaviors.’ In other words, don't worry if you can't run a 5K just yet. Make it a habit to walk 15 minutes a day, and add time, distance, and intensity from there. Find a friend or relative whom you like and trust who also wants to establish a healthier lifestyle, suggests Thompson. ‘Encourage one another. Exercise together. Use this as an opportunity to enjoy one another's company and to strengthen the relationship.’”

McCain, Obama (Look-A-Likes) Teach Aerobics

“As the presidential campaign heats up, businesses of all stripes are trying to tap into consumers’ fervor over the candidates. Also on Tuesday, New York Sports Clubs said that it has launched a special ‘election-themed’ workout program dubbed Voterobics 2008. Meanwhile, New York Sports Club’s Voterobics has its own election season gimmick. The Voterobics exercise program, offered from September until Election Day, will feature instructors resembling Barack Obama and John McCain leading participants in balance exercises and push-ups. At a time when overall, health club membership is on the decline—memberships dropped nearly 1% in New York State between 2006 and 2007, and 3% nationally, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association—such gimmicks could bring in new blood. New York Sports Club did the same promotion with George W. Bush and John Kerry look-a-likes in 2004. 

Retail industry experts are not surprised by the rush to cash in on the excitement over this year’s presidential campaign.
’Because of the candidates and who they are, as well as all of the media attention, we’ll see a lot more marketing incentives,’ said Michael Londrigan, chair of fashion merchandising at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising. 
He noted that even Trojan is passing out condoms at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.”

Fat Cells In Obese People Are 'Sick'

More Likely To Make Insulin-Resistant Proteins, Study Says
“Published in the September issue of Diabetes, a group of researchers from the Temple University School of Medicine analyzed fat samples from the upper thighs of six lean and six obese people. They found significant differences in the fat cells of the obese participants compared with the lean participants. ‘The fat cells we found in our obese patients were deficient in several areas,’ study author Guenther Boden, the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Medicine and chief of endocrinology, said in Temple press release. Boden said that the obese people's fat cells showed stress on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which helps cells synthesize proteins and monitor how they are folded. When the ER is stressed, Boden explained, it produces several proteins that ultimately lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, in turn, plays a major role in the development of obesity-related conditions. The differences in the fat cells between obese and lean people may help explain the link between obesity and a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, Boden theorized.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

IHRSA Warns Australia Music Licensing Issue Could Affect The U.S.

“Faced with a possible 3,000 percent increase in fees for playing copyrighted music in Australian group exercises classes, Fitness First Australia, a chain of more than 85 health clubs in Australia, recently partnered with The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) to fight back. IHRSA warns if the increase is successful, American record companies could try to do the same here in the U.S. ‘Global music companies are looking for new sources of revenue, as sales in their traditional business—the sale of CDs—have dropped,’ Tony deLeede, managing director of Fitness First Australia and a member of the IHRSA board of directors, said in a statement from IHRSA. ‘The music industry has already had a significant victory with nightclubs in Australia. If music companies have success here raising fees for health clubs, it will have an effect around the world.’ IHRSA and Fitness First Australia have pledged $135,000 and are looking for Australian health clubs to match these funds in order to help stop the music industry’s attempts to raise the fees charged to clubs. The current Fitness Class Tariff in Australia, which is paid to the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA), has an Australian dollar value of $0.90 ($0.80 USD) per class with an annual cap of $2,654 ($2,302 USD). The PPCA has been studying how music is valued and is suggesting that the proposed fee either be increased to $31.67 ($26.89 USD) per class with no cap—an average increase of 3,172 percent per club—or that clubs be charged a rate of $26.08 ($22.55 USD) per member per month. Fitness Australia says it plans to challenge the model that the PPCA is using to value music in health clubs. ‘Either scenario would devastate the industry and has serious implications for clubs in other countries, since PPCA sister organizations around the world may well decide to restructure their fees in a similar way,’ IHRSA President Joe Moore said in the statement. ‘For the sake of the global industry, we need to stop this issue in Australia.’”

Functional Fashion Vs. Feminist Fitness

Are Running Skirts A Step Backwards For Athletic Women?

“Fitness and fashion can be strange bedfellows (think of the thong-bottomed neon leotards that were so popular in the '80s). And while there are those who jump on every fashion fad, fitness enthusiasts tend to favour function over fashion, which is why the current trend of running skirts has sparked some debate among runners. Runners World, considered the bible of all that is running, currently tackled the issue with a five-page article featuring three female runners who weighed in on the running skirt (one for, one against, one ambivalent). Why the debate? Skirts in sport are symbols of years gone by, when female athletes were required to demonstrate both modesty and femininity when participating in athletics. The resurgence of skirts on the athletic scene is credited to Nicole De-Boom, a professional triathlete who showed off her prototype during an Ironman event in Wisconsin. She has since launched her own line, called Triks. So popular is this fashion trend that most sporting-wear companies have launched their own versions, each with a slightly different look, including shorter and longer skirts, high-and low-rise styles, with waistbands that are wide and flat or narrow with a drawstring. Is there an advantage to running in a skirt over a pair of shorts? Some women think so. A quick perusal of my local sporting goods store almost put me off. Running skirts aren't cheap. The average price is $50 or more; a little pricey when compared to a good pair of shorts, which cost about $35. Faced with the possibility of being left with an expensive piece of clothing that would do little more than take up precious space in the packed cubby where I store my running gear, I decided to save a few bucks and try my daughter's running skirt. Once I started running, the skirt part of the outfit became extraneous. It didn't restrict my movement or ride up and the shorts stayed in place nicely. I sweat, but the moisture didn't leak through the skirt. In fact, the skirt covered any sweat marks around the groin, which was a bonus I hadn't anticipated. It also didn't bunch up or get caught up between my thighs, something I can't say about some of my running shorts.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Living Longer, in Good Health to the End

“The fastest-growing segment of the population consists of people over 85, and by 2050 some 800,000 Americans will have celebrated their 100th birthday. Doomsayers consider this a terrifying trend, bound to bankrupt Social Security and Medicare and overwhelm the ability of doctors and medical facilities to care for the burgeoning population of the oldest old. But there is increasing evidence that the societal burden of increased longevity need not be so drastic. Long-term studies have shown that how people live accounts for more than half the difference in how hale and hearty they will remain until very near the end. Dr. Richard S. Rivlin, an internist and director of the nutrition and cancer prevention career development program at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in an interview that it was never too late to adopt habits that predict a healthy old age. In The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last year, Dr. Rivlin noted that changes in body composition, like loss of bone and muscle and accumulation of body fat, typically accompany aging and can affect health in a variety of ways: poor posture that impairs breathing; falls and fractures; loss of mobility; a reduced metabolic rate; and weight gain that can lead to diabetes, heart and blood vessel disease and some forms of cancer. But these changes in body composition, he added, ‘are not an invariable accompaniment of aging.’ Much can be done to limit and even reverse them, he said, including restricting calories and following a diet of high-quality protein and limited saturated fat and replacing simple sugars with whole grains rich in fiber. A second critical measure for the ‘young-elderly,’ as he calls 70-year-olds, is to ‘make regular exercise a part of their daily lifestyle,’ including aerobic activities that raise the heart rate; weight-bearing activities that strengthen muscles and bones; and stretching exercises that reduce stiffness and improve flexibility and balance. Other long-term studies have also pinpointed exercise as the single most potent predictor of healthy longevity, in women as well as in men. It is not that very old people…can exercise because they are healthy, these findings indicate. Rather, they achieve a healthy old age because they exercise.”

Arkansas Lawmakers Discuss Health Care Agenda For Next General Assembly

“Arkansas lawmakers will focus on health issues, including access to care, emergency care, childhood obesity and Medicaid, in the 87th General Assembly, state Surgeon General Joe Thompson said Wednesday at the second annual Arkansas Health Summit, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. According to the Democrat-Gazette, the meeting of about 150 state lawmakers, physicians and health officials was an opportunity for policymakers and others to learn about the state's health care issues before the start of the legislative session in January. Arkansas Department of Health Director Paul Halverson said the state Legislature also will examine injury prevention, strategies to lower the infant mortality rate, improving oral health and developing a statewide coordination system for trauma and emergency care personnel. Thompson said, ‘We've got to start thinking of our health like an investment.’ State Rep. Eddie Hawkins (D) said it would be better for the state to promote healthier lifestyles and behaviors through marketing than through mandates. Hawkins said, ‘What I find with people is the more we try to mandate ... the more they try to fight that’ (Park, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 8/21).”

Professional Athletes And Celebreties Asked To Reject Offers To Promote Processed Junk Food

“As the saturation of Americans who are overweight is projected to reach nearly 100 percent by 2040, and with 30 to 40 percent of today's children projected to develop diet-related diabetes in their lifetimes, leading child obesity advocates denounce Michael Phelps' endorsement of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Cereal, which was quickly followed by his acceptance as being named a McDonald's Ambassador. They implore the Olympic gold medalist and swimming phenom to reject offers to promote junk food. As a role model and Olympic hero to America's children, Michael Phelps--and all athletes and celebrities--are asked to reconsider any connection to substances suspected as agents of obesity including sugary cereals, soft drinks, and other foods with refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, transfats, and high fructose corn syrup. ‘Public figures like Michael Phelps exert a major influence over our youngsters,’ said Douglas Castle, Senior Advisor to Children's International Obesity Foundation (CIOF). ‘Mr. Phelps is a superior athlete by any measure, but his judgment regarding the McDonald's and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes endorsements was either 1) ill-advised by his handlers; 2) the irrational product of too much blood sugar; or 3) a sad triumph of greed over good. CIOF believes that celebrities should think twice before choosing to endorse or encourage the consumption of any product which is inherently unhealthful to children, especially if that product is correlated to obesity, diabetes, and a myriad of dangerous conditions.’ ‘In this era of escalating child obesity and diabetes, the last association Michael Phelps wants is that of 'junk food pusher', said MeMe Roth of National Action Against Obesity (NAAO) and the Children's International Obesity Foundation. ‘While Michael Phelps may consume thousands of calories a day and burn them off through Olympic training, America's kids aren't so lucky--they're fat, sickly, and have little hope of accomplishing a single sit-up much less Olympic Gold. Kids are watching, and Michael Phelps' going for the quick cash of pushing junk food at the expense of children tarnishes his image similar to an association with cigarettes or alcohol would. National Action Against Obesity and the Children's International Obesity Foundation implore Michael Phelps, and all celebrities and athletes, to reject offers to push more sugar, fat, and hazardous calories onto America's kids.’ The Children's International Obesity Foundation recently endorsed the controversial obesity documentary ‘Killer at Large’ as a film that reveals the true story behind the many hidden causes of America's obesity epidemic. CIOF is working with the filmmakers on a November fundraiser screening and obesity awareness gala in New York City.”

Heavy MSG Use Increases Risk Of Being Overweight

“Eating foods that contain lots of monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer frequently used in Asian cuisine, can make you fat, new research published in the journal Obesity suggests. Rural Chinese men and women who consumed the most MSG were more than twice as likely to be overweight than their peers who didn't use the additive, Dr. Ka He of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and colleagues found. In 1969, He and his team note in their report, a study showed that mice given large doses of MSG shortly after birth had gained more weight by 4 months of age than control mice, even though the control animals ate more. Researchers have also spotted injuries in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps regulate appetite and fat metabolism, in mice given MSG. But to date no one has investigated whether MSG intake is associated with weight gain in humans, according to He's group, possibly because intake of the additive from processed foods is difficult to measure. To fill in this knowledge gap, the researchers analyzed data from the International Study of Macro-/Micro-nutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP), an investigation conducted to examine the relationship between sodium and blood pressure. The study included 752 healthy men and women living in three different rural Chinese villages. All ate very little processed food, making it easier for researchers to estimate MSG intake by looking at how much the study participants used when they prepared their meals. The researchers found that 82.4 percent of study participants used MSG, with an average intake of 0.33 grams per day. Average body mass index (BMI) for non-MSG users was 22.3, compared to 23.5 for people who consumed the most MSG. Once the researchers adjusted the data for the affects of physical activity and the total amount of calories consumed, they found that individuals in the top third of MSG consumption were 2.1-times more likely to have a BMI of 23 or higher than non-users. A BMI of 23 is considered overweight for Asian populations by the World Health Organization. The heaviest consumers of MSG were 2.75-times more likely than non-users to have BMIs of 25 or greater, the international standard for overweight. The relationship was seen for both men and women.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

When It Comes To Fitness, Men And Women Motives Certainly Not The Same

“Health, appearance, athletic performance and social approval are the main reasons people work out. And while men and women may express their motivations differently, the differences between the sexes seem to be narrowing when it comes to fitness. While you might think that the motivation to work out comes down to the fact we all want to look good naked, local personal trainers say the Mars-Venus differences are more complex. Their observations reflect both subtle and significant contrasts. ‘Men are more likely to say, 'My doctor says I should get fit' rather than 'I want to get fit,’ says local certified personal trainer Rusty Roussel, the co-owner of Salvation Studio, who says men are often motivated by health scares. ‘Women simply want to embrace what exercise can do for them -- having more energy, looking good, feeling good.’ Local trainers say most women want to lose fat and most men want to build muscle -- the same fundamental goal of a more toned body conveyed in a completely different way. And because their instinct is always to nurture others before self, women also are more likely than men to require external pressure to work out, says performance expert Mackie Shilstone, director of The Fitness Principle at East Jefferson General Hospital. ‘Women make 70 percent of the health care decisions in this country, but they don't make (enough) decisions for themselves,’ Shilstone says. ‘In many cases, a woman begins a health program to satisfy a mother, a friend, a spouse.’ Important life events -- such as a class reunion, a vacation, a milestone birthday, a wedding -- also play strongly into the workout habits of women, says Joe Moore, president of International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). A strong indicator that the sexes have more fitness goals in common than ever before is borne out by the fact that health clubs, once segregated by sex, are now almost exclusively co-ed. Even free weight rooms, once an all-boys' club, are now unisex environments. ‘Men and women did not work out together. Clubs often alternated days between men and women, or they provided dual facilities to accommodate both sexes,’ Moore says. Now IHRSA's membership rolls show that women make up more than half of health-club memberships, which runs counter to research that shows women are still hesitant to work out alongside men.”

Getting Started, Fitness Can Help Save On Health-Care Costs

“If you watched the Olympics, you can't help but be inspired by the athletes' physical abilities. I've been trying to lift heavier weights, take extra time to stretch and jog with just a bit more speed. And judging by the crowd at the gym lately, I'm not the only one feeling motivated. Exercise has the obvious benefits of helping you look and feel better. Make a habit of it, though, and you also could be doing something to improve your financial future. In its most recent retirement confidence survey, the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute found that concerns about health-care costs outweighed worries over mortgage payments, debt and energy prices among both workers and retirees. It's understandable:

-- Health care's growing expense Today, roughly 16 percent of the national gross domestic product is spent on health care, up from less than 14 percent a decade ago and 9 percent in 1980. Health insurance helps defray the expense, but insurers have been passing along costs too. In 2007, for example, medical insurance premiums rose an average 6.1 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that researches health-care issues. Meanwhile, wages climbed an average of 3.7 percent. Even with insurance, many treatments don't come cheap. So doing whatever you can to minimize the need for care could make a big difference to not only your health but also your savings. There are a variety of preventive strategies for staying healthy: eating right, exercising, doing appropriate screenings, flossing your teeth and getting enough shut-eye, among others. The merits of each are endlessly debated, and their effectiveness subject to genetic makeup and luck. Broadly speaking, though, there is more to gain from preventive care than to lose. In an article this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers wrote, ‘Preventable causes of death, such as tobacco smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity, and misuse of alcohol have been estimated to be responsible for 900,000 deaths annually, nearly 40 percent of total yearly mortality in the United States.’”,0,6892169.story

Alabama Workers To Pay For Extra Pounds

Next Year, The State Will Add A $25 Insurance Fee For Being Overweight
“Alabama, pushed to second in national obesity rankings by deep-fried Southern favorites, is cracking down on state workers who are too fat. The state has given its 37,527 employees a year to start getting fit — or they’ll pay $25 a month for insurance that otherwise is free. Alabama will be the first state to charge overweight state workers who don’t work on slimming down, while a handful of other states reward employees who adopt healthy behaviors. Alabama already charges workers who smoke — and has seen some success in getting them to quit — but now has turned its attention to a problem that plagues many in the Deep South: obesity. The State Employees’ Insurance Board this week approved a plan to charge state workers starting in January 2010 if they don’t have free health screenings. If the screenings turn up serious problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose or obesity, employees will have a year to see a doctor at no cost, enroll in a wellness program, or take steps on their own to improve their health. If they show progress in a follow-up screening, they won’t be charged. But if they don’t, they must pay starting in January 2011. The board will apply the obesity charge to anyone with a body mass index of 35 or higher who is not making progress. A person 5 feet 6 inches tall weighing 220 pounds, for example, would have a BMI of 35.5. A BMI of 30 is considered the threshold for obesity. The board has not yet determined how much progress a person would have to show and is uncertain how many people might be affected because everyone could avoid the charge by working to lose weight. But that’s unlikely — government statistics show Alabamians have a big weight problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.3 percent are now obese, ranking the state behind only Mississippi.”

24/7 Fitness Centers Are Ready When You Are

“‘Part of our overall fitness service for our members is 24-hour-a-day convenience,’ said Snap Fitness owner Brian Mulder, who owns and operates sites at 2056 Lake Michigan Drive NW in Grand Rapids and 150 Pine St. in Wayland. Mulder's 2,500-square-foot facilities offer free weights, weight machines and a cardio-exercise theater. The 24-hour format works ‘because we are focused on being a neighborhood fitness center where people don't have to drive miles for a workout,’ he said.Anytime Fitness centers have been around about a decade, International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association spokeswoman Rosemary Lavery said. ‘They started in major metro areas like Chicago, with large manufacturing sectors, white-collar industries and universities, where people had diverse schedules,’ she said. Besides convenience, round-the-clock fitness centers also reduce staffing needs and eliminate the guesswork for operating hours.”

65% Of Executives In Taiwan Suffer From Poor Heart-Lung Endurance

“Some 65 percent of the middle- and high-level executives in Taiwan lack regular exercise and as a consequence, suffer from poor heart and lung endurance, according to the results of a study released Thursday...The results show that they worked an average 9.5 hours per day, that most of them were sedentary office workers, and that 55 percent of them admitted they were not in the habit of taking regular exercise. The study also found that most of the executives suffered from physical fatigue due to their long working hours and preferred to spend their leisure time sleeping rather than exercising. The physical results show that 65 percent of them had poor heart and lung endurance, while 58 percent had weak leg muscles, with another 52 percent failing to meet standards for waist suppleness.”

Australia's Wake-Up Call - Obesity Costs Now At $58 Billion Type 2 Diabetes Crisis

“A new Access Economics Report commissioned by Diabetes Australia has found that 3.71 million Australians are obese with a current estimated cost to the nation of $58 billion. The report titled ‘Growing economic costs of obesity in 2008’ reveals that there has been a 137% increase since 2005 in the number of Australians who have type 2 diabetes as a result of being obese. The total cost of obesity includes $8.3 billion in financial costs and $49.9 billion in the value of lost wellbeing, which accounts for years of healthy life lost through disability and /or premature death. Commenting on the report, National President of Diabetes Australia Dr Gary Deed said, ‘These new figures are tragic and frightening and represent a wake-up call for the nation. They show that previous estimates of the epidemic's size and cost were very much understated. The obesity epidemic in Australia is having a direct and catastrophic influence on increasing the incidence of type 2 diabetes. We know that obesity and type 2 diabetes can be prevented and we need to make fundamental changes in the way we live to arrest the escalating crisis. The report underlines the need to shift our focus on health and wellbeing and make prevention our priority.’ Dr Deed said, ‘The fight against obesity requires a new approach that considers the economic and social conditions under which we live and how this is impacting on our health. Long-term policy planning is needed on issues such as urban design, food labelling, workplace initiatives, lifestyle education, and making healthy choices easier for Australians and their families. Governments must act outside of concern for their current electoral cycle to address the explosion of obesity and diabetes.’”

The Older The Fatter: Longitudinal Study About Overweight Children

“On the trail of overweight, the health scientist Prof. Dr. Günter Eissing, Technische Universitat Dortmund, carefully examined 432 Dortmund children at the age of three, in cooperation with BKK Hoesch, Public Health Authority and the city's statistical department. More precisely, he measured them. Based on height and weight, Prof. Eissing calculated the so-called Body Mass Index (BMI), compared it with birth certificate data and medical examination documents, and found out: after the first three years of their lives, 22 percent of the boys and eleven percent of the girls are overweight. The results are only the first part of a unique longitudinal study about the BMI development based on a test group of Dortmund children. After three years the test subjects will be examined again within the scope of the pre-school medical examination. So far the control of the BMI of the test subjects over a period of six years, is unique.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Ticking Time Bomb For Health Services: Obesity In The Elderly

“Research carried out at the Peninsula Medical School in the South West of England has discovered that obesity in later life does not make a substantial difference to risks of death among older people but that it is a major contributor to increased disability in later life - creating a ticking time bomb for health services in developed countries. The research is published in the August 2008 edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The Peninsula Medical School research team worked with data on just under 4,000 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) aged 65 and older and living in the community. Each participant had their weight and height measured and their BMI (body mass index) calculated and they were followed up for five years. The researchers compared people with BMI of 20 to 24.9 (i.e. those of recommended weight), with those who had a BMI of 25 to 29.9 (‘overweight’), 30 to 34.9 (‘obese’), or 35 or over (‘severely obese’). The results showed that the higher an older person's BMI, the more likely he or she was to develop mobility problems (measured using a standard performance test) or to develop difficulty carrying out everyday tasks. The results also showed that, in older people, the link between higher BMI and the risk of death is weak - only severely obese older men seemed to run this increased risk. He [Dr Iain Lang, who led the research from the Peninsula Medical School] added: ‘This research is important because a growing proportion of the population is aged 65 or over, and more and more of these older people are overweight. In fact, in most developed countries middle-aged and elderly adults are more likely to be obese than people in any other age group. These findings have huge significance for the delivery of health care, both now and in the future. Increasing numbers of older people and higher levels of overweight and obesity will lead to a greater burden of disability and ill health and place an immense strain on health and social services. The issue is likely to get worse as time goes on and represents a ticking time bomb for health services around the world.’”

The Key To Overeating As We Age Discovered By Monash Scientist

“A Monash University scientist has discovered key appetite control cells in the human brain degenerate over time, causing increased hunger and potentially weight-gain as we grow older. The research by Dr Zane Andrews, a neuroendocrinologist with Monash University's Department of Physiology, has been published in Nature. Dr Andrews found that appetite-suppressing cells are attacked by free radicals after eating and said the degeneration is more significant following meals rich in carbohydrates and sugars. ‘The more carbs and sugars you eat, the more your appetite-control cells are damaged, and potentially you consume more,’ Dr Andrews said. Dr Andrews said the attack on appetite suppressing cells creates a cellular imbalance between our need to eat and the message to the brain to stop eating. Dr Andrews said the reduction in the appetite-suppressing cells could be one explanation for the complex condition of adult-onset obesity. ‘A diet rich in carbohydrate and sugar that has become more and more prevalent in modern societies over the last 20-30 years has placed so much strain on our bodies that it's leading to premature cell deterioration,’ Dr Andrews said.”

Cool Water Bath Boosts Post-Exercise Recovery

“A dip in chilly water can help endurance athletes recover faster after a tough workout, while alternating between cold and hot water immersion is also beneficial, according to new research published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. On the other hand, soaking in hot water was only slightly better than resting for the same amount of time in helping athletes to maintain performance, Dr. Joanna Valle, of the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, and her colleagues found. All three types of water immersion are becoming increasingly popular for helping athletes in many sports recover after exertion, Valle and her team note. She and her colleagues sought to compare their effectiveness in maintaining cyclists' performance across five days of strenuous exercise, similar to the ‘demanding and consistent performances on multiple days’ required in stage racing. They had 12 male cyclists complete a five-day ‘fatigue-inducing’ cycle of exercises, four times each, with nine days' rest between each cycle. The athletes used one of four recovery strategies after each day of exercise: immersion in a 15 degree C (59 degree F) pool for 14 minutes; immersion in 38 degree C (100.4 degree F) water for 14 minutes; alternating between cool and hot water every minute for 14 minutes; or 14 minutes of rest.Cyclists' sprint and time trial performance was maintained or slightly improved with cool water immersion and contrast water therapy, but both declined with hot water dips or rest only, the researchers found.Cold water improved sprint performance by 0.5 to 2.2 percent and time trial performance by 0.1 to 1.0 percent, while contrast water therapy improved sprint and time trial performance by 0.1 to 1.4 percent and 0.0 to 1.7 percent, respectively. Sprint performance fell by up to 3.7 percent with hot water immersion, and time trial performance dropped by up to 3.4 percent, only slightly less than was seen with rest only. The findings ‘suggest that cold water immersion and contrast water therapy may be beneficial recovery interventions following and between events such as track cycling where the task requires short maximal efforts, as well as longer events such as stage races where the task requires continuous high-intensity efforts on successive days,’ the researchers conclude.”

Getting Better With Age: Dive In

“Researchers at the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming at Indiana University found that the population of Masters swimmers (made up of 42,500 members ages 18 to 100-plus) has gotten faster over the last 20 years in age groups from 25 to 55, said Joel Stager, the center’s director. Why is that? They are applying better skills. ‘Technique trumps training,’ Dr. Stager said. ‘Water is the great equalizer.’ Chief among the reasons for the speediness, say coaches, researchers and swimmers themselves, are improved stroke mechanics and training methods emphasizing intensity over distance. This is good news for those who like to race, and for those taking to the water for fitness at any age. As they age, people lose muscle mass and cardiovascular capacity, which declines by 1 to 1.5 percent annually. But for regular exercisers, the rate of decline is slower, researchers say. ‘Before, it was thought that athletes peak at 25,’ said Scott Trappe, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University. But now the paradigm is shifting. ‘People are paying attention to their own fitness and nutrition.’ Swimmers can compensate for the body’s decline mostly because the water rewards those who are more technically proficient, and because the sport is non-weight-bearing and enables prolonged participation. ‘People can and do get faster, despite the fact that they may be 10, 20 years older than when they first started,’ Dr. Stager said.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Staving Off “Boomeritis”

“53-year-old Greg Norman's surprise showing at the British Open a few weeks ago--and 41 year old swimmer Dara Torres' heroics at the Olympic trials--has Bill Lohmann of the Richmond Times-Dispatch probing the larger story of sporty boomers. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, the number of health-club members 55 or older in 2005 was 8 million, an increase of 314 percent since 1990. The number in the 35-to-54 age category, 13.5 million, represents an increase of 113 percent. The success of aging famous athletes on the world stage might lead even more boomers to join health clubs or sign up for more golf lessons, which would certainly please Pulliam and other teaching pros. At the least, such triumphs of age will reinforce what boomers already know, said Hunter Schwartz, director of operations at the James Center YMCA in downtown Richmond. Alas, this welcome increase in athletics among boomers also has a downside. In May, the American College of Sports Medicine convened a symposium on ‘Overuse Injuries in the Baby Boomer: The Results of Years of Abuse.’ Health-care professionals discussed the problems of acute injuries such as broken bones, ruptured tendons and ligaments, torn rotator cuffs, ankle sprains and knee injuries suffered at a young age. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons even has a name for sports injuries among boomers: ‘boomeritis.’ The phenomenon of the aging boomer athlete was documented by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission this decade when it reported that sports injuries among boomers increased 33 percent from 1991 to 1998. As boomers continue to try to stay young and fit, chances are this trend will only get worse.”

To Live Longer, Stay Active, Calm And Organized

“A 50-year long study suggests that men and women who are active, emotionally calm, and organized, may live longer than people with less positive personality traits such as anxiousness, anger, or fearfulness. Striving for emotional stability and a conscientious and active lifestyle ‘can reduce health risks, increase life satisfaction, and significantly extend life,’ Dr. Antonio Terracciano told Reuters Health. Terracciano, from the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, in Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues assessed personality traits among 2359 generally healthy people who, in 1958, enrolled in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The researchers used these data, collected when participants were between 17 and 98 years old, to assess links between specific personality traits and the lifespan of the 943 participants who died during the 50-year study. Their findings, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, show men and women who scored above average in measures of general activity, emotional stability, or conscientiousness lived on average 2 to 3 years longer than those who scored below average. These findings indicate that people who are more active and energetic, less likely to become angry or anxious (emotionally stable), and are better informed, disciplined, organized, and resourceful (conscientious) tend to live longer. Among women, higher assertiveness was also linked to lower risk of death. Links between personality traits and longevity were independent from those of two major health risk factors -- cigarette smoking and obesity -- the researchers report. Furthermore, among participants who died of cardiovascular diseases, the most significant predictors of death were traits of emotional instability such as anxiousness, depression, vulnerability, and anger.”

Incidence Of GERD, Colorectal Cancer Increase With Body Mass

“The prevalence of obesity and overweight in the United States coupled by the increased risk of gastrointestinal diseases related to obesity raises serious implications for the health of Americans. Several scientific studies in the August issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology examine the association between obesity and the risk of colorectal cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Dr. Frank K. Friedenberg and colleagues from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia provide an extensive overview of scientific research on the epidemiologic and pathophysiologic associations between obesity and GERD. Several studies featured in the article highlight the correlation between increasing body mass index (BMI) and the frequency and severity of acid reflux symptoms. One particular study found that accumulation of abdominal fat, as measured by the waist-to-hip ratio, may be the most important risk factor for the development of acid reflux and related complications such as Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. Researchers at the University of Tokyo and Kameda General Hospital in Japan examined the effect of body weight on the incidence of colorectal adenoma in 7,963 Japanese patients who underwent colonoscopy between 1991 and 2003. Patients who had a family history of colorectal cancer, colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal surgery or who took NSAIDS were excluded from the study. In this cross-sectional study, patients were classified into four groups according to their body mass index (BMI). Researchers found 20.7 percent of patients had at least one colorectal adenoma. Importantly, as the BMI increased, so did the prevalence of colorectal adenomas. In a separate cohort analysis, 2,568 patients from the initial study underwent a second colonoscopy after one year to compare the effect of body weight changes on the development of new colorectal adenomas. The incidence rates of colorectal adenoma were 9.3 percent in patients who lost 5 percent or more in body weight; 16.2 percent in patients who gained 5 percent or more in body weight; and 17.1 percent in patients who neither gained nor lost weight. Weight loss was associated with lowered incidence of adenoma, independent of gender, age, initial colonoscopic findings, and initial BMI. Based on their findings, the authors suggest that controlling body weight may decrease the risk of developing colorectal adenomas.”

Bone Growth Protein Also Promotes 'Good' Fat

Stimulation Of Brown Globules Helps Burn Calories, Hints Of New Ways To Treat Obesity
“A protein that induces bone growth also helps promote development of ‘good’ brown fat that helps burn calories and plays a role in fighting obesity, says researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. They said their finding about the protein, called BMP-7, may help lead to new ways to prevent and treat obesity. The two main types of fat cells in the body are white and brown, explained study author Yu-Hua Tseng, an assistant investigator in Joslin's Section on Obesity and Hormone Action. ‘White fat cells are the 'conventional' form of fat designed to store energy. By contrast, the main role of brown fat is to burn calories by generating heat. Brown fat cells largely disappear by adulthood in humans, but their precursors still remain the body,’ Tseng said in a Joslin news release. In laboratory studies of mouse cells, Tseng and colleagues found that BMP-7 drives the precursor cells that give rise to mature brown fat cells. They also found that injecting BMP-7-treated progenitor cells (similar to stem cells) into mice led to increased development of brown fat tissue, and that mice that developed brown fat gained less weight than those that didn't develop brown fat. The Joslin team hopes this type of research into fat development will lead to new drugs or other treatments for obesity. ‘Diet and exercise are still the best approaches for weight reduction in the general population. However, for people who are genetically predisposed to obesity, these approaches may have very little effect,’ Tseng said. ‘As we learn more about the controls of brown fat development, medical interventions to increase energy expenditure by brown fat inducing agents, such as BMP-7, may provide hope to these individuals in losing weight and preventing the metabolic disorders associated with obesity,’ she said.”

Addiction Drug Causes Rapid Weight Loss in Rats

Findings Offers Hope Of New Treatments For Severe Obesity In Humans
“Vigabatrin, a medication that holds potential as a treatment for drug addiction, has been found to cause rapid weight loss in animals. A study done by U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory found that animals bred to be obese lost up to 19 percent of their total weight while non-obese animals lost 12 percent to 20 percent after being on vigabatrin for a short time. ‘Our results appear to demonstrate that vigabatrin induced satiety in these animals,’ study leader Amy DeMarco, of the Brookhaven laboratory, said in a DOE news release. The study was published online Aug. 20 in the journal Synapse. Vigabatrin is in U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved Phase II clinical trials as a possible treatment to break cocaine and methamphetamine addiction. Brookhaven researchers have previously uncovered a strong link between obesity and addiction, including similar changes in the brains of the obese and cocaine addicts. That lead to tests in which 50 genetically bred ‘fat’ and normal-weight animals were regularly either dosed with various amounts of vigabatrin or a placebo for up to 40 days. ‘The fact that these results occurred in genetically obese animals offers hope that this drug could potentially treat severe obesity,’ Stephen Dewey, who has conducted more than 20 years of preclinical research with this medication, said in a lab release. ‘This would appear to be true even if the obesity results from binge eating, as this disorder is characterized by eating patterns that are similar to drug-taking patterns in those with cocaine dependency.’”

Warm-Up Routine Helps Women Avoid ACL Injury

“Female college soccer players can help protect themselves from injuring the key stabilizing ligament of the knee joint with a series of exercises that can be done in less than a half-hour, a new study shows. ‘It's exciting that it doesn't cost money, it doesn't require special equipment, it doesn't require a lot of training, the whole team can do it,’ Dr. Julie Gilchrist of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, one of the researchers involved in the study, told Reuters Health. ‘The most important thing is technique.’ Women are more likely than men to suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, Gilchrist and her colleagues note in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. These injuries frequently require surgical repair and months of rehabilitation. ACL injuries are most likely to occur during deceleration, pivoting, and landing from a jump. Sports medicine specialists have been developing approaches to retrain female athletes to perform these movements more like men do, with some success in preventing ACL injuries, Gilchrist said. However, many of these programs are time-consuming and require special equipment.In the current study, Gilchrist and her team evaluated the Prevent injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) program, which is also intended to reshape women's biomechanics but does not require any special equipment or extensive training. Designed by an expert panel convened by the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation in 1999, the program consists of 19 exercises including warm-ups, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics (training muscles to perform fast, powerful movements), and agility drills. The researchers randomized 61 National Collegiate Athletic Association soccer teams to warm up with the PEP program three times a week or stick with their standard warm-up for the fall 2002 season. Among the 26 teams that did the PEP warm-up, involving a total of 583 athletes, seven non-contact ACL injuries occurred during the season, compared to 18 for the 852 athletes in the 35-team control group. This represented a 41% lower risk of injury in the PEP group, although the difference wasn't significant from a statistical standpoint. There were two non-contact ACL injuries in the intervention group versus 10 in the control group, a 70% reduction that also didn't reach statistical significance. Among athletes who had sustained ACL injuries in the past, those in the PEP Program were nearly five times less likely to reinjure the ligament during the season compared to those who stayed with their usual warm-up routine. ‘We feel very confident that this program is helpful,’ she added, noting that difference in injury rates reached statistical significance in the last six weeks of the season, when athletes would have been expected to be getting the maximum benefit of the exercises.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Obesity Rates Up in 37 States: Report

At Least 20% Of Adults Are Obese In Every State Except Colorado
“The obesity epidemic in America has gotten worse -- not better -- in the last year, despite public service campaigns warning about the health risks posed by carrying too much weight, a new report found. Adult obesity rates increased in 37 states, while there were no decreases in any states, according to the annual report released Tuesday by the nonprofit Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The obesity rates rose for a second consecutive year in 24 states and for a third consecutive year in 19 states, according to the report, ‘F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America, 2008’. More than 25 percent of adults are obese in 28 states, up from 19 states last year. And more than 20 percent of adults are obese in every state except Colorado. In 1991, no state had an obesity rate greater than 20 percent. Eleven of the 15 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South. Northeastern and Western states have the lowest obesity rates. ‘Despite widespread acknowledgement that obesity is endangering the health of millions of Americans, the country is still failing to respond clearly or comprehensively,’ Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in the news release. ‘We must work together, governments, schools and communities, to improve nutrition and increase physical activity for all ages. We must ensure that strong policies are implemented and enforced in every state, not only to help reverse existing obesity rates, but to prevent obesity among our nation's children and generations to come.’”

Exercise is Medicine

“Messages all around us urge us to exercise regularly. Volumes of medical literature proclaim the benefits of exercise: Exercise lowers blood pressure. Exercise helps to reduce and maintain weight. Exercise decreases the risk for certain cancers. And, the list goes on. Americans need to grasp the idea that exercise is, indeed medicine. Yet, in spite of these persistent exercise messages, Americans are not moving. In fact, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention state that 60 percent of Americans are physically inactive. To reinforce the urgency of the exercise message, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have launched “Exercise Is Medicine,” an initiative that will bring the topic of exercise into the physician’s office to be assessed by the physician as a vital sign – just as temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate are already being assessed at every comprehensive visit. Because exercise helps to prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes, exercise is considered to be essential to everyone’s well-being. Exercise is an effective medication. In fact, exercise can prevent and cure many chronic conditions – doing in 30 minutes per day what dozens of prescription drugs try to do, without the potentially harmful side effects. By participating in regular exercise, you empower yourself. You give yourself the power to assume responsibility for your own life. No one can exercise for you; it is something you do for yourself. So, next time you visit with your doctor, be prepared oft the questions, ‘Are you exercising?’ or ‘How much exercise do you do?’ As a matter of fact, if you offer the information before your doctor asks, for it, he or she will know that you are serious about your health and that you are taking charge of your life.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Better to Be Fat and Fit Than Skinny and Unfit

“Despite concerns about an obesity epidemic, there is growing evidence that our obsession about weight as a primary measure of health may be misguided. Last week a report in The Archives of Internal Medicine compared weight and cardiovascular risk factors among a representative sample of more than 5,400 adults. The data suggest that half of overweight people and one-third of obese people are ‘metabolically healthy.’ That means that despite their excess pounds, many overweight and obese adults have healthy levels of “good” cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and other risks for heart disease. At the same time, about one out of four slim people — those who fall into the ‘healthy’ weight range — actually have at least two cardiovascular risk factors typically associated with obesity, the study showed. ‘We use ‘overweight’ almost indiscriminately sometimes,’ said MaryFran Sowers, a co-author of the study and professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan. ‘But there is lots of individual variation within that, and we need to be cognizant of that as we think about what our health messages should be.’ Several studies from researchers at the Cooper Institute in Dallas have shown that fitness — determined by how a person performs on a treadmill — is a far better indicator of health than body mass index. In several studies, the researchers have shown that people who are fat but can still keep up on treadmill tests have much lower heart risk than people who are slim and unfit. In December, a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked at death rates among 2,600 adults 60 and older over 12 years. Notably, death rates among the overweight, those with a B.M.I. of 25 to 30, were slightly lower than in normal weight adults. Death rates were highest among those with a B.M.I. of 35 or more. Stephen Blair, a co-author of the study and a professor at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, said the lesson he took from the study was that instead of focusing only on weight loss, doctors should be talking to all patients about the value of physical activity, regardless of body size. ‘Why is it such a stretch of the imagination,’ he said, ‘to consider that someone overweight or obese might actually be healthy and fit?’”

Good Question: Do Treadmill Calorie Counts Work?

“On the treadmill or the elliptical machine it's the one number on the display that can keep you moving: The calorie count. But how can a machine know how many calories we're burning? ‘Well, it's an estimate,’ explained Beth Lewis, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development. Lewis acknowledged that while she works out she consults a calorie counter on a watch that monitors her heartbeat, although, ‘I take it with a grain of salt,’ she said. Each manufacturer uses a different formula to calculate the calories burned. Some, like Precor USA, say they created the formula in consultation with the American College of Sports Medicine. Generally, those formulas include weight and age of the athlete, along with speed of the workout and incline or intensity level. But, according to Lewis, there are many other factors that the machines do not factor in to their formulas. ‘Genders often not, like I said body fat, your metabolism rate, how long you've been doing the machine, how efficient you are. Those are kind of the major variables that could play a role,’ she said. According to, machine calorie counts tend to overestimate by 10 to 15 percent, at times they can overestimate by as much as 50 percent. If the calorie readout indicates that you've burned 300 calories, it's possible you've burned closer to 265 calories. Either way, Lewis recommends that you don't take that number as an invitation to consume those calories as a reward for your workout.”

Women Have Choice Of Gyms

“Health clubs have come a long way since the days of a few dumbbells, plates and a bar. Now there seems to be a gym on every street in most cities. These days, health clubs offer things like aerobics classes, pilates, yoga, saunas and personal trainers. And women can find their very own place to work out, without the distraction of men. Women-only gyms are sprouting up locally and all over the nation. In the metro Jackson area, woman's clubs are definitely thriving with places like Curves, Fitness Lady, Ladies Workout Express and Total Woman. Curves, which boasts of 10,000 locations and 4 million members worldwide, has six locations in the metro area. Its program allows members to get a complete aerobic and strength training workout in just 30 minutes. ‘Let's face it, most of a woman's life is spent taking care of others,’ said Jamie Neal, manager at the Curves in Flowood. She said Curves asks members ‘to give us 30 minutes, three times a week to take care of you. That is not too much to ask of oneself.’ Regular exercise can also do marvelous things for your bones and joints. At another women-only workout club, Fitness Lady, members can take water aerobics classes - which is often helpful to ease the pains of arthritis. Other offerings include aerobics and indoor cycling classes, free weights and personal trainers. Total Woman Health and Fitness, opened its doors in December 2006, and now has more than 300 members. Beth Aldridge, owner of Total Woman, said her club doesn't offer the 30-minute workout routine, but actually something more. ‘We have offered our members the highest standard in new state of the art equipment that stands above any co-ed facility or women-only club in town,’ she said. Maybe more importantly, members can come into the gym not worrying about how they look, or about the possibility that someone is staring at them. As Jamie Neal of Curves put it, ‘We care about you as an individual, not how good you look doing a squat.’”

Monday, August 18, 2008

Heart Disease Risk Soars With Obesity, Diabetes

“People who are both obese and have diabetes are highly likely to develop heart disease during their lifetime, a new study shows. Researchers found that of more than 3,400 adults in a long-running U.S. heart study, women who were obese and diabetic had a nearly 80 percent chance of developing heart disease at some point. For their male counterparts, that figure was nearly 90 percent. Lifetime risk was based on the likelihood that a 50-year-old would develop heart disease in the next 30 years. Obesity and diabetes commonly go hand-in-hand. The new findings, published in the journal Diabetes Care, show that diabetes on its own significantly raises the lifetime risk of heart disease, and that obesity worsens the situation. Dr. Caroline S. Fox of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and her colleagues the lifetime heart disease risk of normal-weight women who did not have diabetes was 34 percent. The risk for normal-weight women with diabetes was 55 percent. The number of Americans with diabetes is expected to rise to 48.3 million by 2050, the researchers note, and heart disease due to diabetes appears to already be on the rise. ‘This trend may continue to worsen if current trajectories do not change,’ they warn.”

Health Clubs Manage Financial Fitness

“Fitness Together is sandwiched between other Rockford health clubs, but owner and manager Keith Cooper isn’t worried about the competition. His studio, 3065 N. Perryville Road, highlights one-on-one training, trying to capture the market of exercisers who need motivation and accountability as much as the treadmill and free weights. ‘This is for people willing to work the hardest for good health,’ Cooper said. ‘If they’re willing to put the work in, we can pretty much guarantee success. This is what works.’ The fitness market he’s entering can be a volatile one. Peak Fitness and the YMCA recently expanded after opening new locations, while Ladies Workout Express and TruEssence Ultimate Fitness & Day Spa have closed within the past year. Kara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, said competition in the fitness industry has intensified in recent years. The trend plays out here because as soon as one club closes, another moves in. The number of clubs in Illinois grew by 160 percent from 1996 to 2007. The state had 451 clubs in 1996 and 1,169 as of January, a slight decrease from 2006.

But pair those numbers with the average 2005 to 2007 participation rates in Illinois, which is 13.7 percent. The association’s 2008 Global Report discusses trends ranging from niche markets that create ‘member experiences’ to industry growth in affordable group training that doesn’t rely on lots of equipment. Overall, membership rates are holding steady, club growth increased slightly from the year before and revenues are up, meaning the client base is willing to spend more for its fitness options. The IHRSA cites survey results that affordable cost, convenience and having enough time are key factors affecting why Americans join specific clubs.”

Friday, August 15, 2008

Flawed Logic in Obesity Forecast

“In the future, everyone will be fat — or so warns a news study published online last month in the medical journal Obesity. About 66 percent of American adults are now overweight or obese, according to government estimates, and the report makes the dire prediction that by 2048 the figure will reach 100 percent. But that projection, which presumes a linear increase in the number of people who are overweight, is logically impossible, say several top statisticians. The reasons are outlined in one of my favorite columns, ‘The Numbers Guy,' written by the Wall Street Journal’s Carl Bialik. ‘Employing that same logic, 13 out of every 10 adult Americans by then won’t have landlines,’ Mr. Bialik wrote. ‘The phone forecast is impossible, of course, but it’s arguably no less solidly grounded than the obesity forecast.’ Mr. Bialik also interviewed top statistician Donald Berry, chairman of the department of biostatistics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. ‘Extrapolations are dangerous,’ Dr. Berry explained. ‘Especially dangerous is to assume that trends are linear. Otherwise we’d conclude that Olympic swimmers will one day have negative times, there will be more Internet users than people, and more people on Earth than molecules in the universe.’”

Exercise Reduces Blood Pressure

But Too Few Doctors Recommend It To Their Patients, Study Finds

“For people with high blood pressure, exercise can be the most important lifestyle change they can make, researchers say. Yet two-thirds of doctors don't take the time to tell their patients with high blood pressure about the importance of exercise and physical activity, a new study finds.‘Patients do follow physician recommendations to exercise when instructed to, and patients who follow exercise recommendations tend to have lower systolic blood pressures than those who do not,’ said lead researcher Dr. Josiah Halm, a hypertension specialist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The findings are published in the summer issue of Ethnicity & Disease. For the study, Halm's team collected data on 17,474 people who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Among these people, 4,686 reported having high blood pressure. The researchers found that only slightly more than one-third of the people with high blood pressure said their doctor had told them to increase physical activity as a way of bringing down their blood pressure. Yet, 71 percent of patients with high blood pressure saw a drop in their blood pressure when they increased their physical activity, which means that they listened when doctors told them to exercise more, according to the report. ‘Non-pharmacological methods such as exercising are important in improving blood pressure control on a population level as this study looked at the cross-section of the U.S. population,’ Halm said.”

Role Of Obesity In Preeclampsia Studied At University Of Pittsburgh

“A plague of obesity in the United States already is known to increase the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and joint problems. Now, an infusion of $6.4 million in grant support from the National Institutes of Health will enable researchers at the University of Pittsburgh-affiliated Magee-Womens Research Institute to investigate what role obesity may play in preeclampsia, a common complication of pregnancy that can be life-threatening for mother and baby. The grant is a renewal of funds originally awarded 14 years ago to support studies into the basic mechanisms of preeclampsia, but the focus on obesity is a new direction for research. ‘We know there is a strong relationship between pre-pregnancy obesity and preeclampsia, and at least a third of all pregnant women in the United States are obese,’ said Carl A. Hubel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and principal investigator of the project. "Our work represents the first multidisciplinary evaluation of the possible mechanisms of the disease process as it relates to obesity.’ Although obesity is often viewed as a cosmetic or character flaw, the disorder is linked to disturbances in vital metabolic processes ‘that are posing one of the greatest health threats in human history, said Dr. Hubel, who also is an associate investigator at the Magee-Womens Research Institute.”

How Long-Distance Runners Get to the Finish

Successful Ones Can Control Their Heart Rate, Study Finds

“Throughout a long-distance race, the runner's heart rate increases in a very controlled manner, and appears to be scaled to the race distance, said study author Carl Foster, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. The report is published in the August issue of Public Library of Science. Foster and his colleagues evaluated 211 male middle- and long-distance runners, who were, on average, 32 years old and had various running abilities. Foster's team evaluated the heart rate responses of the running during competitions ranging from 5 kilometers to 100 kilometers by using lab tests and heart rate recordings. All were serious competitors, although they were not of elite caliber. What happened? The runners were found to actively manage the increasing strain on their body in anticipation of getting to the finish line -- which requires constant reassessment of their fatigue levels. The heart rate increased in a consistent pattern during the events, they found, and seems to be scaled proportionally to the distance of the event. As the authors write: ‘Athletes are continually in a dialogue or negotiation with themselves, assessing how fatigued they feel. Then they adjust the pace to be sure muscle fatigue doesn't get out of control. This suggests, the authors write, that ‘adept runners are faster due to their underlying physiological capacity rather than because they put more relative effort into their competition.’ The finding that the runners' heart rates increased in a very controlled way is a positive one, Foster said. ‘It gives us hope we aren't going to kill ourselves.’”

Oxford "Obesity-Gene" Group Launches Target For Obesity Researchers

“Oxford University's technology transfer company, Isis Innovation, has launched range of new assays for obesity research - tools that can be used to identify potential drug candidates. A team led by Oxford's Prof Chris Schofield has developed the assays. They are based on the group's pioneering work which identified a gene and an enzyme strongly implicated in obesity. ‘The FTO gene was the first gene to be identified which is both common, and a strong factor in increased weight,’ said Prof Schofield. ‘The fact that we've been able to show that FTO is an enzyme, and have developed assays which will tell us if a drug candidate is targeting that enzyme, opens up the potential of FTO as a 'druggable target', and - we hope - ultimately to a new method for treating obesity.’ Previously, researchers had determined that people with two copies of the "fat" FTO gene have a 70 per cent higher risk of obesity than those with none, and weigh 3 kilograms (6.5lb) more. People carrying one copy of the FTO gene had a 30 per cent higher risk of being obese compared to a person with no copies of the gene. The FTO protein belongs to a family of enzymes known as 'oxygenases', which are involved in cellular processes including DNA repair, fatty acid metabolism and post-translational modifications. Prof Schofield said that the assays could be used by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies interested in altering FTO activity in a new approach to controlling obesity.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Said the Doctor to the Cancer Patient: Hit the Gym

“Gyms and fitness centers have begun stepping in to meet a small but growing demand for programs designed to not only hasten recovery but to address the fatigue of chemotherapy, the swelling of lymphedema and the loss of muscle tone. In the last eight years, a dearth of research has become a flood of studies. Among them is one sponsored by the National Cancer Institute in 2006 that looked at the effects of moderate exercise on groups of breast and prostate cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy for six weeks. Those assigned to a daily program — taking walks of increasing distance and doing exercises with a resistance band — had less fatigue, greater strength and better aerobic capacity than those who were not instructed to exercise. Other studies indicate that moderate exercise has additional benefits like strengthened immune function and lower rates of recurrence. Studies at Dana-Farber found that nonmetastatic colon cancer patients who routinely exercised had a 50 percent lower mortality rate during the study period than their inactive peers, regardless of how active they were before the diagnoses. Dr. Fuchs, a study author, said it influenced his advice. ‘I am counseling all of my patients to increase their activity,’ he said, ‘or if they were regularly exercising before their diagnosis, to continue.’ But every recommendation has its caveats. There will be days during treatment when meaningful activity is not possible, oncologists say, and that’s fine. The American Cancer Society promotes moderate exercise but encourages patients to discuss their exercise plans with their oncologists, and lists on its Web site 13 precautions (cancer .org/docroot/MIT/MIT_0.asp).”

For Health, Body Size Can Be Misleading

“Many overweight and obese people are metabolically healthy, while large numbers of slim people have health problems typically associated with obesity, a new study shows. The findings, based on national health data collected from 5,440 adults, shows that weight often is not a reliable barometer for health. In addition to looking at height and weight, the study, published this week in The Archives of Internal Medicine, tracked blood pressure, ‘good’ cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and an inflammatory marker called c-reactive protein, all of which are viewed as indicators of cardiovascular health. Overall, thin people were still metabolically healthier than people who were overweight or obese. But being a normal weight was not a reliable indicator of health. In the study, about 24 percent of thin adults, or about 16 million people, posted unhealthy levels for at least two of the risk factors. By comparison, among the overweight, about half the people had two or more of the risk factors. But half of them were also metabolically healthy. And nearly one out of three obese people were also metabolically fit. While it’s long been known that it’s better to be fit and fat than being thin and sedentary, the new data are believed to be the first time researchers have documented the unreliability of body size as an indicator for overall health. Study author MaryFran Sowers, a University of Michigan obesity researcher, told The Associated Press that the results show that stereotypes about body size can be misleading, and that even ‘ ’less voluptuous'’ people can have risk factors commonly associated with obesity. Dr. Sowers said that when it comes to weight and health risks, ‘We’re really talking about taking a look with a very different lens.’”

Poor Physical Control Linked To Obesity

“A study published on reports that an increased risk of obesity later in life is associated with poor physical control and coordination during childhood. These findings, suggested by Walter Osika and Scott Montgomery (Orebro University Hospital, Orebro, Sweden), are yet another piece of evidence that correlates type 2 diabetes in adults, obesity, and poor cognitive function in childhood. The researchers studied a sample of 11,042 individuals who have participated in the National Child Development Study in Great Britain - an active program since 1958. To test physical control and coordination, teachers evaluated 7,990 participants at age 7 for level of hand control, coordination, and clumsiness; doctors tested 6,875 of the participants for hand control and coordination at age 11. The battery of tests consisted of copying a simple design to measure accuracy, marking squares on paper within a minute, and picking up 20 matches. Participants then had body mass index (BMI) measurements taken at age 33, where obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or over. According to the researchers, the 7-year olds who had poorer hand control and coordination and were more clumsy were more likely to become obese adults. Similarly, poorer function at age 11 was positively correlated with obesity at age 33. Statistically adjusting for possible confounding factors such as childhood body mass and family social class did not change the researchers' conclusions. The authors write that, ‘Some early life exposures [such as maternal smoking during pregnancy] or personal characteristics may impair the development of physical control and coordination, as well as increasing the risk of obesity in later life.’ They conclude: ‘Rather than being explained by a single factor, an accumulation throughout life of many associated cultural, personal, and economic exposures is likely to underlie the risks for obesity and some elements of associated neurological function.’”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Obesity Not Always Linked To Higher Cardiovascular Risk

“Two studies, one from Germany and another from the US published this week, suggest that obese people do not always carry an increased risk of heart disease, while some individuals of normal weight do. The clue appeared to lie in how body fat was distributed, for example fat in the abdomen, as indicated by a larger waist circumference, was a consistent risk factor in both studies. The first paper describes how researchers at the University of Tübingen in Germany studied 314 people aged 18 to 69 (the average age was 45) by measuring their total body fat, their visceral fat (the fat around the abdomen and internal organs), and subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin) with magnetic resonance tomography. The participants also underwent an oral glucose tolerance test to measure their insulin resistance. ‘Our data suggest that ectopic [misplaced] fat accumulation in the liver may be more important than visceral fat in the determination of such a beneficial phenotype in obesity. ’In the second study, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, studied body weight and indices of cardiometabolic abnormality in 5,440 people who took part in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (NHNES) between 1999 and 2004. ‘These data show that a considerable proportion of overweight and obese US adults are metabolically healthy, whereas a considerable proportion of normal-weight adults express a clustering of cardiometabolic abnormalities.’”

Overweight Hispanic Children At Significant Risk For Pre-Diabetes

“A study by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) found that overweight Hispanic children are at significant risk for pre-diabetes, a condition marked by higher than normal blood glucose levels that are not yet high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. The persistence of pre-diabetes during growth is associated with progression in risk towards future diabetes, according to the study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Diabetes, and is now available online. With a population of more than 35 million, Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States. Despite the fact that Hispanics are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, few previous studies have looked at physiological causes of the disease within this population. Researchers led by Michael I. Goran, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine, physiology and biophysics and pediatrics, and director of the USC Childhood Obesity Research Center at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, followed a cohort of 128 overweight Hispanic children in East Los Angeles. The children were tested over four consecutive years for glucose tolerance, body mass index, total body fat and lean mass and other risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The study found that an alarming 13% of the children had what the investigators termed ‘persistent pre-diabetes.’ ‘What this study shows is that doctors should be doing regular monitoring of these children over time, because a one-time checkup might not be enough to tell if they are at risk for developing diabetes,’ Goran says. ‘To better treat at-risk children we need better ways to monitor beta-cell function and visceral fat buildup,’ Goran says.”

Eating Disorder Risk High In Young Active Women

“Young female athletes or those with high levels of physical activity seem to be more vulnerable to eating disorders than their less athletic peers, a study suggests. Researchers found that among 274 female undergraduates, those who were regularly active -- whether through sports or by exercising on their own -- were more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies, strive to remain thin or have symptoms of bulimia. At greatest risk were students who competed in varsity athletics and had a high level of anxiety over their performance, the researchers report in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Not surprisingly, sports that place a high value on thinness -- such as gymnastics, figure skating or distance running -- have been particularly linked to body-image concerns and unhealthy weight-control habits. Similarly, excessive levels of exercise can be a symptom of an eating disorder, or a signal that someone is at risk of developing one. These latest findings suggest that ‘sports anxiety’ may contribute to eating disorder risk in athletes, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Jill M. Holm-Denoma of the University of Vermont in Burlington. ‘As women's participation in athletics increases, so too does the need for awareness of the link between eating disorders and sports participation among women,’ Holm-Denoma said in a journal statement. ‘Coaches and athletic departments should consider consulting with clinicians to implement prevention and monitoring programs for the female athletes and independent exercisers at their universities,’ she added. It's not clear whether sports and physical activity actually cause young women to become dissatisfied with their bodies. ’On one hand,’ the researchers write, ‘women may develop eating disorder symptoms as a result of participating in athletic events and experiencing the associated pressures of competition.’ ‘Alternatively,’ they add, ‘women who are at a high risk for developing eating disorders may elect to become involved in athletics, perhaps in an effort to manage their weight.’”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fitness Industry Veteran Chuck Leve to Leave IHRSA

BOSTON- August 12, 2008- The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) announced today the departure of Chuck Leve, Vice President of Business Development and fitness industry veteran, effective August 31, 2008. A 27-year IHRSA employee, Leve leaves to launch a new association, which will serve active, healthy lifestyle consumers.

“Chuck has been a tremendous asset to IHRSA,” said Joe Moore, IHRSA president and CEO. “He has been instrumental in growing IHRSA and being a trusted resource for our members. We will miss him, but we are excited for him and his new venture. He brings an entrepreneurial spirit and ability to identify growth opportunities to this new company and we wish him much success.”

“Chuck was IHRSA’s ‘go to’ guy from Day One,” said John McCarthy, IHRSA’s Former Executive Director. “Successively, he led membership sales, booth sales, ad sales, and sponsorship sales. In each area, he surpassed everyone’s expectations. Plus, he helped develop many of IHRSA’s current superstars, leaders such as Michele Eynon, Tom Hunt, and Lynne Fussteig.”

IHRSA’s strong personnel assure a smooth transition of Leve’s responsibilities, which consist primarily of working with key IHRSA associate member companies.

IHRSA veterans Fussteig (sponsorship and promotions), Hunt (exhibit sales), Eynon (advertising and associate membership), and Alison O’Kane (international development) are fully dedicated to the growth, protection and promotion of the industry. They, along with Hans Muench (IHRSA Europe) and John Holsinger (IHRSA Asia Pacific) will continue to work closely with the industry’s manufacturers and supplier companies to help them grow their businesses.

John Aglialoro, Chairman and CEO of Cybex International, a long time IHRSA associate member, commented, “Chuck Leve’s work with John McCarthy cemented the existence and future of an organization that has changed, is changing, and will continue to change for the better the lives of millions.”

“I’ve spent the last 27 years helping to build IHRSA and the fitness industry, and it has been a tremendously satisfying run,” said Leve. “I hope I’ve added value for all the people and companies with whom I’ve worked, and I know my customers will be in good hands with the tremendous IHRSA staff and will continue reaping the rewards IHRSA brings them. I’d also like to thank John McCarthy for his 25 years of leadership and inspiration, and Joe Moore for making this transition possible. The Consumer Fitness Association will provide benefits and services to healthy lifestyle consumers and will be complementary to IHRSA.”
Leve, 59, was IHRSA’s first employee in 1981, serving as its national sales director. Throughout the years, he held positions of increasing responsibility in sales and marketing, and sponsorship and promotions. Most recently, he was vice president of business development, working primarily with leading fitness manufacturers and suppliers. His decision to launch his Consumer Fitness Association starts another chapter in his long and successful fitness industry career, beginning with the U.S. Racquetball Association and National Court Clubs Association in the 1970s and continuing through IHRSA.

For further biographical information on Chuck Leve or images, please contact IHRSA PR at +1 617-951-0055 or
For further information regarding the Consumer Fitness Association please contact

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. The association’s membership includes over 9,100 clubs in 75 countries, along with over 730 industry suppliers.


Run for Your Life

Exercisers Live Longer And With Fewer Disabilities, Study Finds

“It may, in fact, be possible to outrun death -- and even the creeping ravages of time -- at least for a while. Research spanning two decades has found that older runners live longer and suffer fewer disabilities than healthy non-runners. And the findings probably apply to a variety of aerobic exercises, including walking, said the study authors, from Stanford University School of Medicine, whose findings are published in the Aug. 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. ‘This is telling you that being a runner, being active is going to reduce your disability, and it's going to increase your survival,’ said Marcia Ory, professor of social and behavioral health at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health in College Station. ‘Late in life, you still see the benefit of vigorous activity.’ In 1980, the study's lead author, Dr. James Fries, emeritus professor of medicine at Stanford, wrote a landmark paper outlining his ‘compression of morbidity’ hypothesis. The theory held that regular exercise would compress, or reduce, the amount of time near the end of life when a person was disabled or unable to carry out the activities of daily living, such as walking, dressing and getting out of a chair. ‘Illness would be compressed between later age of onset and age of death, and that paradigm was controversial, because it went against conventional wisdom and had no proof,’ Fries explained. Two hundred and eighty-four runners and 156 healthy "controls," or non-runners, in California completed annual questionnaires over a 21-year period. The participants were 50 years old or over at the beginning of the study and ran an average of about four hours a week. By the end of the study period, the participants were in their 70s or 80s or older and ran about 76 minutes a week. At 19 years, just 15 percent of the runners had died, compared with 34 percent of the non-runners. Surprisingly, the health gap between runners and non-runners only increased with time. ‘I always thought that the two curves would start to parallel each other and that eventually aging would overpower exercise,’ Fries said. ‘I think that will happen, but we can't find even a little twitch toward that gap narrowing in the present time.’ ‘Vigorous activity has a really dramatic impact, but we can't ignore that there are also helpful benefits to people who are active at all levels, meaning those people who are just out walking’ said Ory. ‘It's so important to be physically active your whole life, not just in your 20s or 40s, but forever.’ Added Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City: ‘Exercise is like the most potent drug. Exercise is by far the best thing you can do.’”

Healthy Lifestyle Cuts Stroke Risk: Study

“A person's odds of suffering a stroke might be significantly reduced by maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle, which includes not smoking, exercising daily, consuming a healthy diet, drinking alcohol in moderation and maintaining a healthy weight, according to a study released today. In the study, people with these five healthy lifestyle habits had about an 80 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke compared to people with none of the healthy habits. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked; it is the most common type of stroke. This study shows that a ‘low-risk’ lifestyle recommended to lower the risk of multiple chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, may also help ward off stroke, the study team notes in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.”

Losing Weight Soon After Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis Doubles Positive Outcomes

“People who lose weight soon after a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes have better control of their blood pressure and blood sugar, and are more likely to maintain that control even if they regain their weight, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published online in Diabetes Care, the American Diabetes Association journal. This is the first clinical study to show that benefits remain even if patients regain their weight. ‘Our study shows that early weight loss can reduce the risk factors that so often lead to diabetes complications and death,’ says Dr. Adrianne Feldstein, MD, MS, the study's lead author, a practicing physician and an investigator at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. ‘We've known for a long time that weight loss is an important component in diabetes treatment and prevention. Now it appears there may be a critical window of opportunity following diagnosis in which some lasting gains can be achieved if people are willing to take immediate steps toward lifestyle changes.’ More than 20 million Americans have type 2 diabetes and most of them are overweight or obese.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Obesity Genes Revealed

“A study of 228 women has revealed genetic variants responsible for body shape. Based on work in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, research published today in the open access journal BMC Genetics identifies natural variation in the human LAMA5 gene as a key determinant of weight. As the prevalence of obesity and related health problems continues to increase worldwide, there is considerable effort being devoted to identify genetic mechanisms that control fat storage. Maria De Luca led a team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA, who identified candidate genes using different strains of Drosophila. On the basis of the results of these fly experiments, the research team then tested three common variations in the human LAMA5 gene and discovered two gene variants that were associated with body shape, one in women of European American descent and the other affecting women of American African descent. As De Luca reports, ‘We found one variant to be associated with weight and lean mass in both ethnic groups. This variant was also associated with height, total fat mass and HDL-cholesterol, but only in European American women. A different variant was associated with triglyceride levels and HDL-cholesterol in African American women.’”

International Health Challenge Seeks Participants For Obesity Prevention Research

“The University of Houston department of health and human performance is launching an international effort to recruit 500 participants for a study promoting healthy dietary habits and physical activity. The study will take place entirely in the virtual world of Second Life (SL). The project is part of the UH Texas Obesity Research Center's (TORC) International Health Challenge, and offers an enjoyable way for participants to learn about preventing and treating obesity through education, skills training and outreach. ‘This is an excellent opportunity to learn and practice these new behaviors in a virtual environment and in real life,’ said Rebecca Lee, associate professor and director of TORC. ‘It's also a great place to meet other avatars and share information and experiences.’ The TORC International Health Challenge in Second Life will provide opportunities for avatars to earn Lindens - the currency of Second Life - for walking on treadmills, riding bikes and trying new fruits and vegetables in Second Life. Participants compete to earn ‘Challenge Points’ for their healthy behaviors. The country team that earns the most Challenge Points will win the International Health Challenge. Materials will be available in English, French and Spanish.”

Friday, August 8, 2008

Exercise Lowers Risk of Colon Cancer

“Physical activity can reduce the risk of colon cancer, but few American adults are aware of this, a new study shows. A sedentary lifestyle accounts for as many as 14 percent of all colon cancer cases in the United States. People who get lots of exercise have a 30 percent to 40 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer, according to study co-author Elliott Coups, of the Division of Population Science at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Cheltenham, Pa., and colleagues. But their analysis of survey data from 1,932 adults who answered questions about colon cancer risk found that only 15 percent said they used physical activity as a way of reducing their colon cancer risk. The findings were published in the August issue of Patient Education and Counseling. Several factors may contribute to this lack of knowledge about the link between exercise and colon cancer risk. ‘Patients may not be learning this information from their health-care providers and information regarding colon cancer prevention is not as well publicized as it could be,’ Coups said in a new release from the Center for the Advancement of Health. Doctors may find it easier to tell patients about the general health benefits of exercise, rather than specifically referring to colon cancer, even if a patient has a family history of colon cancer or other risk factors for the disease. ‘Sedentary people should first set such moderate, achievable goals. More benefits could accrue from higher levels and more intense exercise, such as jogging, running or tennis. To some extent, more may be better, but it is important to note that a little is much better than nothing,’ Giovannucci said in the news release.”

Light Stretching Improves Range of Joint Motion

“Short-duration stretching before exercise temporarily improves range of joint motion and doesn't weaken muscles, says new research that fuels the debate about whether stretching before exercise reduces muscle strength and performance. In this study, moderately active, non-athlete participants did two, four and eight-minute sessions of lower leg and ankle stretching. The participants' exercise performance was assessed before and immediately after, and also 10, 20 and 30 minutes after stretching. The stretching didn't cause any changes in muscle strength, but did improve range of motion of the ankle joint. The findings were published in the August issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. ‘In moderately active individuals, short durations of stretching seem to temporarily improve flexibility without the detrimental strength losses that have been previously reported,’ study author Eric Ryan said in an American College of Sports Medicine news release.”

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Light Exercise Prevents Atrial Fibrillation in Elderly

“Light to moderate exercise -- just walking a few blocks or even dancing -- can help prevent the abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation in those most vulnerable to it -- older people, a new study finds. Atrial fibrillation, in which the two upper chambers of the heart tend to twitch rather than beat steadily, is the most common heart rhythm abnormality. It is especially common after age 65. The danger is that blood can pool, causing clots that move to the heart or brain. There have been reports of an increased incidence of the abnormality in younger people who exercise vigorously. ‘Prior studies have looked at atrial fibrillation in young and middle-aged and generally healthy people,’ said study lead author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. ‘They found that, for example, marathon runners have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation. But the vast majority of atrial fibrillation occurs later in life. After 65, about one in five people develops atrial fibrillation over 10 years.’ Mozaffarian and his colleagues studied the habits of 5,446 adults, average age 73, comparing their physical activities with the risk of developing atrial fibrillation. ‘No one has looked at exercise and atrial fibrillation in these older people,’ he said. ‘We found that light to moderate exercise, such as walking 10 blocks a week, was associated with a lower incidence of atrial fibrillation.’”