Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is a Custom Gym Membership For You?

"You're at the gym, huffing and puffing away on the treadmill, trying to lose those last five, 10 or 15 pounds, when you glance at the person running next to you. Without fail, it's a supermodel or a bodybuilder. Suddenly, you're feeling a bit intimidated.More and more gym-goers, however, are avoiding this scenario by joining niche health clubs that cater to specific needs--including making members feel comfortable enough to want to keep coming back. ‘In general, clubs that are very in tune with their brand and what they're marketing have the most success,’ says Rosemary Lavery, a spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. ‘They know what they're selling, and it's very clear to the consumer. There are no misconceptions.’ Consumers seem to agree. In 2005, the IHRSA estimated that there were 10,000 express workout centers--facilities with less than 3,000 square feet of space and a membership of about 350--in the country that accounted for the majority of clubs that opened the previous year. Today, of the more than 30,000 health clubs in the U.S., only the women's club Curves has more than 10,000 facilities, says Lavery, an IHRSA spokeswoman. Niche gyms owe much of their success to Curves, which was formally launched in the U.S. by husband and wife team Gary and Diane Heavin in 1995. Of course, by targeting such specific users, these clubs put a lot of pressure on themselves to satisfy those they do attract. But, Lavery says, the gamble is often a smart one. ‘No matter what you're doing, people need support, whether it's financial or emotional,’ Lavery says. ‘In health clubs, it's no different, and that's why niche markets succeed.’”


Breath, Lives, Memory: Yoga Classes Stretch Mind, as Well as Body, of Alzheimer's Patients

“Words like ‘concentration,’ ‘focus,’ and ‘recall’ figure highly into Flesch's class: yoga for the memory-challenged. Twice a month, Flesch tailors breathing and exercises for people with Alzheimer's, dementia, and other conditions involving memory loss. Her thinking: By stretching the body, you relax the mind, which in turn makes it easier to concentrate and remember tasks at hand. The class also serves as a social gathering, providing a place to meet other patients, even if they may not remember one another. Although variations of yoga have been used to relax the sick and frail, Flesch's holistic approach is unique. She treats her students in a way that lends them grace, dignity, and a sense of control over a disease that can often make them feel powerless. ‘It's very grounding. It makes you pay attention, which relates to memory,’ said Flesch, a commercial photographer and yoga instructor for 35 years. ‘The yoga trains your mind to focus. Removing stress helps you be able to concentrate more.’ Flesch owns South End Yoga studio, but her memory classes are held at the Rogerson House, an adult day care and residential facility in Jamaica Plain. Each class enrolls fewer than 10 people, most of whom are elderly. Yoga has played a role in relaxation and gentle exercise for some people with Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association Massachusetts/New Hampshire chapter. Similar classes have launched recently. In Pensacola, Fla., a class called ‘Super Brain Yoga’ combines movement with breath to energize brain activity for adults with memory loss. In Australia, an Alzheimer's and memory community center began a free yoga class for caregivers and people with memory issues. A study released last year during the Alzheimer's Association's International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia in Washington, D.C., found that regular meditation can bolster cognitive function for people with memory loss. Whether they meditate alone or in a yoga class, patients will reap benefits, said Dr. Paula Raia, director of patient care and family support at the Alzheimer's Association's local chapter. As Alzheimer's and dementia ravage the brain, sufferers can become agitated and prone to anxiety. Gradually they experience a loss of memory, intellect, and social skills. Their grip on reality progressively slips away. Flesch began teaching these specialized classes 11 years ago after photographing Rogerson House seniors for promotional brochures. She believed that yoga might keep them active, both physically and mentally ‘I thought, 'Wouldn't it be interesting to try and work with Alzheimer's,' she recalled. ‘I went online to research it, and there was absolutely nothing. That made me want to do it even more.”


Behavioral Modification Programs Help Obese Children Manage Their Weight

“Obese school-age kids and teens can lose weight or prevent further weight gain if they participate in medium- to high-intensity behavioral management programs, according to a new report released today by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Children in the medium- to high-intensity behavioral management programs studied met for more than 25 hours, usually once or twice a week, for 6 months to 12 months. Effective programs included techniques to improve dietary and physical activity habits, with some featuring strategies such as goal setting, problem solving and relapse prevention. Researchers found that after completing weight management programs, obese children would weigh between 3 pounds and 23 pounds less, on average, than obese children not involved in such programs. Among those enrolled, the weight difference would be greatest among heavier children as well as in those enrolled in more intensive programs. Researchers also found that weight improvements could be maintained for up to a year after the program ended.”


Behavior: I Think, Therefore I’m Fat

“Could thinking make you fat? Maybe. A small Canadian study has found that people eat more after an intellectual exercise than they do after just sitting quietly for the same amount of time. The scientists had 14 female students engage in three 45-minute sessions before being invited to eat as much as they wanted at a buffet. For one session, they rested in a sitting position. In the next, they read a document and wrote a summary of it, and in the third they performed a series of computer-based tests. Even though the same amount of physical energy was involved in all three sessions, the women consumed an average of more than 25 percent more calories after the intellectual exercises than after just sitting quietly. The study, published in the September issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, controlled for habitual diet, body mass, anxiety level and other factors. There may be a physiological explanation. In blood samples drawn periodically during the experiment, the researchers found an increase in levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increased fluctuation in plasma glucose and insulin levels during and after the mental workouts. ‘There is nothing in these findings that can be described as restful activity,’ said Angelo Tremblay, the lead author and a professor of nutrition at Laval University in Quebec City. ‘We may sometimes be inclined to underestimate the biological impact of mental work.’”


Migraines More Frequent, Intense in Overweight Kids

“The more overweight children and teens are, the more numerous and severe their headaches, according to a U.S. study. But losing weight eases the frequency and severity of the headaches, the researchers said. The study, conducted at seven pediatric headache centers, found that 34.1 percent of patients were either overweight (17.5 percent) or at risk of becoming overweight. That's similar to rates of overweight in the general child/teen population. The researchers analyzed data collected on 913 patients at the start of the study, and again at three and six months, and found evidence of a link between weight and headaches. ‘Among children who are overweight at their initial headache center visit, a change in their body mass index (BMI) was associated with a change in the frequency of their headaches over time,’ study lead author Dr. Andrew Hershey, director of the Headache Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a hospital news release. ‘While we can't claim a causal link between obesity and headache, the association suggests some physiological or environmental processes that are common to both conditions,’ he said. The findings, published online in the journal Headache, have important implications for clinical practice, according to Hershey. ‘Physicians should actively consider a child's weight in the context of treatments for headaches,’ he said. ‘They should routinely assess weight and BMI and be prepared to offer weight control information at the initial treatment visit.’”


Monday, September 29, 2008

Health Clubs Gear Programs for Those With Ailments

“More and more clubs are offering exercise programs fine-tuned for people coping with a variety of ailments, said Joe Moore, head of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. He said the number of programs has grown along with the number of studies showing the health benefits of exercise. Medical and fitness experts say that exercise not only elevates the mood and energy levels, but helps control weight — a contributing factor for many diseases. For breast cancer patients, ‘being overweight or gaining weight post diagnosis is a huge risk factor’ for recurrence, said Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society. Her group and the American College of Sports Medicine are devising a special certification for people who work with cancer patients on exercise programs. Julie Main developed such a program after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36 in 1993. She was inspired after her doctor mentioned that she seemed to be going through treatment better than other patients. She told him one thing she was doing was continuing to exercise. ‘He said, 'Most of my other patients don't do that.' I said, 'Well, maybe they should,’ Main said. Now president of West Coast Athletic Clubs with five gyms in California, Main teaches other health clubs how to set up programs similar to her twice-a-week, 10-week program. Her free programs are done in collaboration with the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara and focus on strength-training. ‘With cancer, people feel too tired to exercise, but if they exercise the fatigue is less,’ said Christine Brown, the Cancer Center's wellness manager. Dr. John Pippen, a cancer specialist at Baylor University Medical Center, said that he tells his breast cancer patients to try to walk three to five hours a week. ‘To me, it's killing several birds with one stone — preventing osteoporosis, reducing cancer risk, perhaps most important of all, reducing cardiovascular risk,’ Pippen said.”


Conn. Gym Uses 'People Power' To Energize Building

“You've heard of solar power and wind power to generate electricity. Now get ready for people power - it's being generated at a Connecticut gym where exercise is being turned into energy. From the energetic instructor to the sweaty riders, everything looks like it should in a typical spin class at Ridgefield Fitness Club. But the riders aren't just burning energy, they're creating it. The club is the first in its area with new technology called ‘Green Revolution,’ a system that allows the club to supply its own energy through its very own gym-goers, reports CBS station WCBS-TV in New York. ‘If you're gonna be here and gonna be working out, why not turn it into energy? It makes total sense,’ says Allison Stockel, a Ridgefield patron. How it works is a ‘power pod’ attaches to the wheel of a regular spin bike, turning it into an electrical generator. As riders pedal, power is produced and fed into an ‘inverter,’ where it's sent to the gym's electrical grid, keeping lights on and fans running. ‘Anything that can give back to the club, save energy and pay for itself over time is gonna be great,’ says Jim Johnston, the club's owner. Johnston thinks the new system will really appeal to eco-conscious exercisers. A single workout produces enough power to light four fluorescent bulbs for an hour. Over the course of a year, spin classes will produce enough juice to light 72 homes for a month. ‘Everyone's become more personally competitive, trying to see how much wattage they can create,’ says Cathy Wien, who instructs the spin class. The setup is the first of its kind in Connecticut, but it turns out all over the world, all kinds of people are coming up with all kinds of ways to capture ‘people power.’ In London, a nightclub generates electricity with power cells in the dance floor. And some cities are looking at technology in sidewalks to capture energy from pedestrians. Meanwhile, the people behind the pedal power at Ridgefield are looking at other ways to generate energy while people exercise. Those other ways include adapting the technology so it works on treadmills and elliptical gliders, not just spin bikes.”


Moderate Aerobic Exercise Lowers Diabetics' Liver Fat

“In people with type 2 diabetes, regular aerobic exercise and weightlifting may reduce levels of fat in the liver by as much as 40 percent, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. High liver fat levels are common in type 2 diabetes patients and contribute to heart disease risk. The study included 77 diabetic women and men who were divided into two groups. For six months, one group did three 45-minute sessions of moderate aerobic exercise (bicycling, running on a treadmill, or brisk walking) and three 20-minute sessions of weightlifting per week. The other group didn't do any formal aerobic fitness or gym classes. MRI scans showed that people in the exercise group had lower levels of liver fat by the end of the study (5.6 percent) than those in the non-exercise group (8.5 percent). The exercise group also had better fitness and less body weight and fat than those in the non-exercise group. Those who did the aerobic/weightlifting program: had 13 percent higher averages for peak oxygen uptake levels during treadmill testing; were 7 percent stronger; had 6 percent lower body fat and body weight; and had 2-inch smaller waistlines (an average of 39 inches vs. 41 inches). ‘The benefits in improved fitness and fatness are clear, and physicians should really have all people with type 2 diabetes actively engaged in an exercise program,’ lead investigator Kerry Stewart, a professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and its Heart and Vascular Institute, said in a Hopkins news release.”


Persons with Serious Mental Illness Face Higher Prevalence of Obesity

“Obesity is a public health crisis within the general population; however, overweight and obesity issues are even more prevalent in persons with serious mental illness, according to a new report, scheduled to be released on October 3, 2008 by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD). Findings and recommendations from the report appear in the September 22 issue of Mental Health Weekly, making the journal the first major media outlet to inform the public of this new technical report. NASMHPD calls the crisis ‘an epidemic within an epidemic,’ and say they hope the new report will go a long way toward improving the systems that provide care and treatment to the SMI population. The specific recommendations, when implemented, should substantially reduce the weight and improve the overall health of a population with SMI, according to NASMHPD. ‘This report can be viewed as a rallying call for more prevention and intervention strategies for people with SMI struggling with obesity issues,’ said Robert W. Glover, Ph.D., NASMHPD executive director. The report also notes that some medications can cause weight gain for people with SMI, and notes that medications that are more weight neutral should be considered by physicians. "Medical interventions are needed to address issues with medications that can cause obesity and that includes behavior and counseling treatments, medications for weight loss, and surgery," said Joseph Parks, M.D., chair of the NASMHPD Medical Directors Council and medical director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health. The report, Obesity & Prevention Strategies for Individuals with Serious Mental Illness, represents the 15th in a series of technical reports. Two years ago, NASMHPD released its report, Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness, which found that people with SMI die 25 years sooner than the general population. In its new report, NASMHPD has issued a series of recommendations at the national, state and local levels. Recommendations include the implementation of national obesity surveillance/monitoring system for persons with SMI and the promotion of opportunities for healthcare providers, including peer specialists, to teach health lifestyles to families, individuals and older adults.”


Doctors Not Prescribing Exercise For Blood Pressure

“When doctors tell patients with high blood pressure to get some exercise, most of them listen -- yet too few doctors are doing so, a new study suggests. Using data from a government health survey, researchers found that only one-third of U.S. adults with high blood pressure said their doctors had counseled them on getting regular exercise. But of those who did get such advice, 71 percent followed it -- and had lower blood pressure than their counterparts who remained inactive, the investigators report in the journal Ethnicity & Disease. ‘The blood pressure reduction was ... unexpected, as this was not a trial to determine whether exercise would reduce blood pressure,’ lead researcher Dr. Josiah Halm, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, said in a statement. Doctors, he said, should be encouraging exercise as a way to manage high blood pressure, even if they think they do not have time for such a conversation. ‘Clinicians will always decry not having enough time to counsel, but a method of using a prescription pad with exercise recommendations as suggested in the study will help solve this quandary,’ Halm said.”


Study Supports Rowing for Astronaut Fitness

“Medical researchers are refining their knowledge about what keeps astronauts in space physically fit. Benjamin Levine, [a medical researcher working with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute], ‘We calculated or estimated that – in order to maintain the work of the heart while you’re in spaceflight – you’d need to do about 90 minutes of cycling every day to keep the heart at its pre-spaceflight level. But that also is a lot of work. It’s a lot of exercise. We looked to the sporting world and asked, which athletes have the biggest hearts, the densest bones, the biggest muscles. And that was a pretty quick answer: it’s rowers.’ Levine said that rowing is a very unique exercise. He said it’s like a combination of weight training and endurance training. Plus the blood pressure goes up high with each stroke, so it’s a good, solid workout for the heart. Levine’s recent study combined rowing with nutritional support for test subjects spending 5 weeks on bed rest to simulate the effects of reduced gravity on the body. And it appears the rowing regimen does keep the hearts, bones and muscles of astronauts fit, while cutting the time spent on exercise by more than half. Benjamin Levine: ‘I think that all astronauts would benefit from rowing, but that doesn’t mean that all astronauts will like rowing. Honestly, as long as you maintain the work of the muscle, it will maintain its structure and function.’ Levine mentioned that this research relates to what doctors call the Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or POTS. This ailment primary affects young women, and it means that, when these women stand up, their hearts pound, they get headaches. The disease can be incapacitating. Currently, an exercise intervention – based on rowing – similar to that studied by Dr. Levine is being tested.”


Health Care Costs Increase Strain, Studies Find

“Two studies released Wednesday provide further evidence of the toll that health care is increasingly placing on working families, even for those with health insurance. And as employees are paying more medical expenses out of their own pockets, they are having a harder time coming up with the money. The studies, by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Center for Studying Health System Change, were completed earlier this year before the financial markets reached their current state of crisis. But policy analysts say the findings underscore the mounting additional strain that medical care is placing on working Americans. ’The problems people are having paying for health care and health insurance are a central dimension of the economic and pocketbook concerns right now,’ said Drew E. Altman, the president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health research group that conducts an annual survey of employer medical benefits. Although inflation in insurance premiums has moderated in recent years, the Kaiser survey found that employees were continuing to spend more in medical costs, including their share of yearly insurance premiums. Employees are paying an average of $3,354 in premiums for family coverage, more than double the amount they paid in 1999. The total cost for family coverage now averages $12,680 a year, up 5 percent from 2007. And as people are paying more, they are finding the higher expense less affordable. In the study by the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change, based on its national survey of households, nearly one of every five families had problems paying medical bills last year. More than half of these families said they borrowed money to pay these expenses, and nearly 20 percent of those having difficulty said they contemplated declaring personal bankruptcy as a result of their medical bills. The study estimates that 57 million Americans live in families struggling with medical bills, and 43 million of those have insurance coverage. ‘It’s hitting both the insured and the uninsured, and it’s hitting middle-class families,’ said Karen Davis, the president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research organization that financed the study. Because they are already in debt over their medical care, some families start forgoing treatments, even for serious or chronic conditions, Ms. Davis said. By deciding not to fill a prescription for high blood pressure medication or failing to go to the doctor for diabetes, they are at risk of incurring more serious and costly problems that can land them in the emergency room. ‘It’s a serious health problem and it’s a serious economic problem,’ she said.”


Thursday, September 25, 2008

How Powerful is Your Workout?

“The four stationary bikes look almost like any others, except that they are fitted with an arm crank and are hooked up to a generator. As riders pedal and turn the lever, the movement creates a current that flows to a battery pack. They generate an average of 200 watts, enough to run the stereo, a 37-inch L.C.D. television and a laptop for an hour at this new gym in Portland, Ore. Adam Boesel, a personal trainer, wants his clients to burn calories, not fossil fuels. Last month he opened the Green Microgym, one of a new breed of fitness clubs that seek to harness the power of human exercise as a source of electricity. ‘It’s cool, fun stuff and an excellent workout,’ said Mr. Boesel, who spent a recent Monday morning demonstrating the power-producing bike machine, designed by a Texas manufacturer and called the Team Dynamo. Mr. Boesel, 37, says the Microgym — the name is a riff on the city’s signature microbreweries — is more than a gimmick. ‘It is an example of what a community can do to conserve energy, even if it’s a drop in the bucket.’ The club has energy efficient treadmills, remanufactured elliptical trainers and barbells ‘rescued from negligent owners on Craigslist,’ Mr. Boesel said. Wall-mounted solar panels, to be installed this fall, will generate about eight kilowatts of electricity, he said. The gym doesn’t have any showers or drinking fountains, and the club’s 70 members live within walking distance, ‘which is probably the greenest part of the gym,’ Mr. Boesel said. The idea to install power-generating machines came from a Hong Kong club, California Fitness, that opened last year with similar equipment. On the same day the Microgym opened, the Ridgefield Fitness Club in Ridgefield, Conn., installed yet another version of the technology from a company called the Green Revolution — on 17 of the club’s stationary bicycles. ‘There’s an undercurrent,’ Mr. Boesel said. ‘In 20 years, all cardio equipment will probably have the capability of generating electricity.’ The typical health club uses a huge amount of energy and water, said John Kersh, a former director of international development for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. But a growing number of conservation-conscious consumers are beginning to change that, he said. ‘It’s not just, ‘How do you get fit?’ ‘ Mr. Kersh said. ‘It’s: ‘How do you make your lifestyle healthier? How do you reduce your carbon footprint?’”


Just One Session of Exercise Can Improve Metabolic Health in Overweight Patients with Insulin Sensitivity

“One out of every three Americans is obese. These individuals are at greater risk for additional diseases, since obesity leads to other health problems, such as diabetes. Obesity-related complications are associated with an abnormal fat metabolism in the muscle. As a result, accumulated fat by-products inside the muscle affect insulin resistance. To avoid the build up of fat by-products, fat must either be oxidized (burned, as in exercise) or stored (as benign fat) in muscle. A team of researchers has examined the effect of exercise on fat accumulation in a new study involving five obese women. In one session the women overate and did not exercise; in a follow-on session they overate and did exercise. The researchers found that: the body's fat-burning oxidation rate was reduced after one day of overeating; conversely, just one session of exercise increased the rate of fat-burning oxidation; and exercise increased the amount of fat that would eventually be stored in the muscle. The findings indicate that even one bout of exercise helps to reduce the fat by-products inside the muscle, which affects the insulin sensitivity. The findings also suggest that a single session of exercise 'steers' muscle fat towards oxidation, thereby avoiding the accumulation of fat by-products.”


Digital Boot Camp Training System Allows Fitness Professionals to Make More, Work Less, and Help More

“Workout Muse Pro harnesses the science of interval training and the power of sound with custom audio interval training mp3 soundtracks. The audio instructions announce when to start, when to stop, and provides countdowns and updates to completely automate large group exercise classes. In addition, the fast-paced music brings fun and motivation to each workout. Now trainers can focus on helping an unlimited number of clients per session without being a prisoner to their stopwatch. Trainers and coaches who are on the cutting edge of the latest fat loss research know that high-intensity interval training burns nine times more fat than the long, slow, steady-state aerobic alternative. The one hindrance to training groups in this time-based manner is that the trainer has to focus on visually monitoring the intervals with his or her watch instead of focusing on motivating and supervising his or her clients. BJ Gaddour, Co-Creator and Fitness Director of Workout Muse, explains how he came up with the concept for this product, ‘My clients love the fast-paced, high-intensity nature of the interval training workouts at our boot camps. However, what they didn't like was the fact that when I was helping a client with form and technique during a session, that I took my eye off the watch and would lose track of the proper timing of the workout. With the ever-increasing number of people coming to my boot camps as we have grown in popularity, it became even more difficult to smoothly conduct our workouts.’ Gaddour found the solution he was looking for in Workout Muse Co-Creator and Head Sound Designer Topher Farrell. Gaddour simply wrote out the detailed audio scripts of his workout templates and handed them to Farrell to then produce companion audio interval training mp3 soundtracks complete with original music compositions and rhythmic audio arrangements. The result has been a completely digitized boot camp training system for all fitness professionals to benefit from.”


Weight May Influence How Prostate Cancer is Treated

“Obese patients with prostate cancer appear to be more likely to receive non-surgical treatments than their normal-weight counterparts, new research shows. Obese patients with prostate cancer have more aggressive tumors, Dr. Benjamin J. Davies from the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues note in the journal Urology, and prior studies have reported very high body mass index (BMI), the ratio of body weight to height, as a risk factor for death from prostate cancer. The investigators looked at patients' BMI and compared it with the treatment they received for prostate cancer. The study included 2,041 men who were first treated between 1995 and 2006. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, 25 to 29.9, overweight, 30 to 34, obese, and 35 or greater, very obese. A total of 28.1 percent of patients had a normal BMI, 50.5 percent were overweight, 16.5 percent were obese, and 4.8 percent were very obese. Increasing BMI was associated with a greater likelihood of receiving nonsurgical therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, rather than prostate removal. Compared with normal-weight patients, very obese patients had a 77 percent greater chance of receiving hormone therapy and a 59 percent greater chance of receiving brachytherapy, a form of radiation therapy, as their main treatment. Although hormone therapy may be a reasonable option for certain patients with early disease, this type of therapy cannot be considered a cure, which makes patients vulnerable to recurrence as well as side effects, Davies and colleagues note.”


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Exercise May Help Pregnant Women Stop Smoking

“Physical exertion may help pregnant women stop smoking, researchers said on Tuesday, after two small studies showed a quarter of women who exercised regularly while expecting a baby quit smoking. The British scientists said the quitting rate was about the same as for people who use nicotine replacement. ‘Our findings suggest that a physical activity intervention is feasible and acceptable as an aid to smoking cessation during pregnancy,’ Michael Ussher and colleagues from St. George's University of London, wrote in the journal BMC Health. Nicotine -- one of the most addictive substances known -- can lead to lower birth weight, higher infant mortality and is linked to learning difficulties and health problems in childhood. An estimated 17 percent of British women and 20 percent of women in the United States say they smoke during pregnancy, the researchers said. Nicotine patches are one way to help smokers give up, but there are worries they may harm the fetus, leaving exercise as a healthy alternative for pregnant women, the researchers said. The two pilot studies included women over 18 who smoked at least one cigarette a day and were 12 to 20 weeks into their pregnancy. In one trial, women exercised under supervision once a week for six weeks while in the other they worked out twice a week for the same length of time and then once weekly for three weeks. All received counseling and help to stop smoking. The women exercised at a moderate pace and the main activity was walking, the researchers said. A quarter of the 32 women gave up smoking before giving birth, the studies found. The researchers, who are now conducting a larger trial of more than 850 women, did not say why exercise appears to make a difference but previous research has linked physical activity to reduced cravings during pregnancy. ‘Regular exercise is ideal for any pregnant women who smoke as it's obviously safe and the benefits are enormous,’ Ussher said in a statement.”


Finger Length Tied to Enthusiasm For Exercise

“Finger length may help differentiate the couch potatoes from the exercise junkies, if new animal research is any indication. A number of human studies have linked finger length ratio -- specifically, the length of the index finger in relation to the ring finger -- to certain behaviors and traits, including aggression, athletic ability and academic skills. Generally speaking, men tend to have a shorter index finger relative to the ring finger, whereas the two tend to be more equal in length in women. Studies have the linked the ‘male’ pattern -- whether it's in men or women -- to higher aggression levels and greater athletic prowess, for example, whereas the ‘female’ pattern has been associated with sharper verbal skills. So can couch potatoes blame it on their finger length? Probably not, according to Dr. Hurd, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. ‘The effect sizes for digit ratios on behavior in humans are really small, making it virtually impossible to tell anything about a single individual from their hands,’ Hurd told Reuters Health. ‘The pattern only emerges when a great many people are examined.’ Instead, he explained, research on finger length and behavior is interesting because it suggests that there are things about people's personalities -- in this case, a propensity for physical activity -- that are ‘fixed’ during early development, probably in the womb. In the past, researchers have speculated that testosterone exposure in the womb explains the relationship between finger length and certain behaviors in humans. Greater fetal exposure to the hormone tends to result in relatively short index fingers. However, Hurd said, the situation may not be so simple. He explained that it would be difficult to reconcile the current study's findings with such a ‘testosterone effect.’ Instead, something more complex than a ‘simple testosterone-driven manliness metric’ seems to be at work, according to Hurd. Prenatal exposure to stress hormones could play a role, he and his colleagues assert -- as could other factors that regulate gene expression. Women tend to have higher levels of corticosterone stress hormones than men, though the effects of such hormones on finger length are not clear. Whatever the reason for the findings, Hurd and his colleagues conclude, they add to evidence of a connection among the brain, behavior, personality and the shape of the hand.”


Health Tip: Exercise for People With Diabetes

Exercise is a challenge for many people, but there are even more potential pitfalls for diabetics. The American Diabetes Association offers these suggestions to help diabetics who exercise:
• Figure out how exercise affects your blood glucose. Always measure it before and after you exercise.
• If your blood glucose is high before exercising, it may go even higher. Be cautious about exercising in this condition.
• Exercising for a long time, or exercising very strenuously, could also lead to low blood glucose. This might happen immediately or a while after you exercise, so be prepared.
• If you have low blood glucose when you are ready to exercise, try having a snack or adjusting your medication in consultation with your doctor.
• Keep water and a snack -- a carbohydrate is best -- on hand while you exercise


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Interest In Dieting Slims Down

“The number of people on a diet - 26 percent of all women in the United States and 16 percent of men for the year ending February 2008 - is the lowest it's been in more than two decades, according to a soon-to-be-released survey. ’Our interest in losing weight is waning,’ says Harry Balzer, lead food and beverage industry analyst for The NPD Group, a market research firm, and author of the survey, the Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America. The report, which asks 5,000 Americans to keep a daily journal for two weeks about their eating habits, also found that despite high levels of obesity nationwide, a declining percentage of people want to slim down or, for that matter, consider excess weight unattractive. In 1985, 55 percent of those surveyed ‘completely agreed’ with the statement, ‘People who are not overweight look a lot more attractive.’ Today, only 25 percent completely agree with it. In 1990, the same report found that 39 percent of women and 29 percent of men were on a diet. Balzer, who's tracked Americans' eating habits since the 1980s, believes the answer is that dieting is simply too hard. ‘It's much easier to change your attitude,’ he said, than to sustain the willpower to eat less. That view is echoed by Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, who says that diets are ‘notoriously ineffective,’ and posits that many overweight people may have simply given up. ‘The way health is being approached today is to eat healthier foods, not to eat less,’ says Balzer. Indeed, foods once shunned as fattening - nuts, olive oil, avocados - have been reborn as elixirs, valued for their anti-inflammatory or nutrient-rich qualities. Even chocolate, once a dietary pariah, now enjoys a reputation as a flavonoid-rich disease-buster. There's another possible explanation: Fewer people are dieting because there's no exciting new diet on the scene. ‘One of the real challenges for the diet book industry is - surprise - coming up with new diets,’ says Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly. Having exhausted seemingly every type of diet imaginable, she adds, the industry is trying a new tack: focusing less on the diet and more on the dieter. But first they're going to have to convince the overweight they're actually overweight. Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says many heavy people don't see themselves that way. According to the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, about 66 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. The government asks people about dieting habits, but researchers have not yet compiled statistics. ‘With 2 out of 3 people overweight in this country, it is hard for many people to gauge when they are overweight,’ she said. ‘If you look like all of your friends, you may not perceive there is a problem.’ Then again, maybe the drop in dieting heralds a new era in weight loss, one in which we're not counting, weighing, and measuring.”


Huckabee Discusses Need To Focus On Preventable Health Problems

“Former Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Tuesday during the ‘State of Our Health’ conference in Columbia, S.C., said that the U.S. must seek to decrease rates of obesity and other preventable health problems to help reduce health care costs, the AP/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. During the conference, sponsored by AstraZeneca and the National Committee for Quality Assurance, Huckabee said that politicians often do not focus on preventable health problems because they require a generation, rather than a term in office, to address. Huckabee said. ‘The sad fact is for the first time since 1776 and the 232 years of this nation's history, a child born in America today, because of the impact of obesity and childhood-related chronic diseases, is the first kid in the history of this nation who is not expected to have a life span equal to or greater than that of his parents or grandparents. Never happened before.’ He added that parents often serve their children unhealthy fast food, rather than healthy meals. Many ‘people think that the cause’ of increased obesity rates among children ‘is because we've lost gym class’ and ‘unhealthy school lunch menus,’ Huckabee said, adding, ‘I wish it were that simple’ (AP/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/16). Huckabee also discussed the need for health insurance portability and incentives for health insurers that invest in preventive care (Columbia State, 9/17).”


Calorie Restriction Diet Not Linked To Bone Loss

“A calorie restriction diet does not cause bone loss in young, overweight adults, provided adequate amounts of calcium and other nutrients are maintained, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.The aim of a calorie restriction diet is to reduce daily calories by 20 to 40 percent compared with the average intake, while still maintaining optimal nutrition. As such, it is sometime referred to as CRON, for ‘calorie restriction with optimal nutrition.’ ‘Our data do not support the notion that extreme weight loss (more than 10 percent of body weight) over short periods (3 months) has a worse prognosis on bone health than gradual weight loss achieved over 6 months by moderate calorie restriction with or without aerobic exercise,’ Dr. Leanne M. Redman, from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and colleagues conclude. These results are based on a study of 46 subjects who were randomly assigned to one of four diets: a normal healthy diet; a 25-percent calorie restriction diet; a 25-percent calorie restriction plus aerobic exercise diet; or a low-calorie diet followed by weight maintenance. The average loss of body weight ranged from 1.0 percent with the healthy diet to 13.9 percent with the low-calorie diet. With the calorie restriction diet, the average loss was 10.4 percent, and with the calorie restriction with aerobic exercise, it was 10.0 percent. Compared with the healthy diet, none of the other diets were associated with significant changes in bone thickness. ‘We speculate that in young individuals undergoing calorie restriction, minor adjustments in bone occur as a normal physiological adaptation to the reduced body mass.’ They suggest that longer studies are needed to confirm that ‘bone quality is preserved with weight loss,’ the authors conclude.”


Wounded Knees

“The culprits range from traumatic sports injuries, such as that suffered by the New England Patriots quarterback, to damage done over a lifetime that reduces the once super-slick tissue covering the knee into something more closely resembling Swiss cheese. We're asking our knees to do more than ever before: At one end of the age spectrum, girls are participating in sports in unprecedented numbers - and sustaining all the injuries that come with it. At the other end, many older Americans are no longer content to surrender to aches, pains, and immobility - or sacrifice their golf and tennis games. And at the same time, the nation is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, forcing knees to carry substantially more weight than they're designed to. Cranky, creaky knees generate upward of 20 million visits to the doctor each year in the United States, and they're the single most common reason that patients see orthopedic surgeons. Researchers estimate that by 2030, the number of total knee replacements - used in patients with severe degenerative arthritis - will soar to 3.5 million, a six fold increase. ‘The knee is an amazing piece of engineering,’ said Dr. Martha Murray, a Children's Hospital Boston researcher developing better ways of fixing broken knees. ‘It can tolerate stress year after year after year, and for the most part, it continues to function extremely well through 100 years of life.’ To understand the unremitting stress that a knee must endure, consider this: If you gain an extra 10 pounds, your knee interprets that as an additional 50 to 70 pounds because of the biomechanical demands placed on it. Ligaments can tear when they're asked to do something they're not really designed to handle. ‘In terms of the most dangerous thing that the knee has to do,’ said Dr. Jennifer Baima, a physical rehabilitation specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, ‘it's quick pivot-shift activity.’ That means fast-moving games like basketball and soccer. Not that the risk is shared evenly. Gender plays a role: Depending on the sport, women can be as much as five times more likely to snap a ligament. Different researchers point to different reasons for that, but the suspects include hormones and the fact that women have wider hips and a narrower notch in the knee, which can act like a guillotine.”


Heavy Children May Have More Headaches

“Overweight children and teenagers may be at elevated risk of developing chronic headaches, a new study suggests. The good news, researchers found, is that weight loss may, in turn, cut headache frequency. The study, which included 913 children and teens with headache complaints, found that as the children's body mass index increased, so too did the frequency of their headaches. The reasons for the headache-weight link are not clear. It's possible, the researchers explain, that obesity does not cause headaches, but instead exacerbates them -- resulting in more frequent, more debilitating headaches. One theory is that inflammatory substances associated with obesity may worsen headaches. The findings, according to Hershey's team, suggest that doctors caring for children with headaches should pay some attention to their weight. Children who are overweight may need referrals for behavioral therapy to help them shed their excess pounds, the researchers suggest.”


Monday, September 22, 2008

World Heart Day - Sunday 28th September 08 Know Your Risk!

“A 3 gram reduction in a person's dietary intake of salt would result in over a 20% drop in deaths from stroke and over a 15% fall in deaths from heart disease As heart disease and stroke are the world's number one killer, causing 17.5 million deaths every year, eating half a teaspoon less of salt each day could save millions of lives. High blood pressure or hypertension is the biggest single risk factor for heart disease and stroke and currently affects more than a billion people worldwide. However by the year 2025 it is estimated more than 1.5 billion people, or nearly one in three adults over the age of 25, will have high blood pressure. This is why this year's World Heart Day taking place on Sunday 28th September is urging people to take action and visit their health-care professional to ‘Know Your Risk!’ ‘I know my heart is the strongest, most important muscle in my body and a winning performance depends on its vitality,’ said Stefano Baldini, Olympic marathon gold medal winner. Having a healthy diet will help keep my heart young and my career long.’ There are several factors, which increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, including the excessive consumption of salt. ‘However, by adopting lifestyle changes hypertension is controllable,’ says Professor Shahryar Sheikh, President of the World Heart Federation. Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, overweight, obesity and physical inactivity. Taken together, these major risk factors account for around 80% of deaths from heart disease and stroke. Not enough of us are aware whether our own lifestyle and heritage could be contributing to our risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It is never too early and never too late to start taking care of your heart,’ says Professor Sheikh.”


Obesity May Diminish A Man's Fertility

“Being obese may dim a man's chances of becoming a father, even if he is otherwise healthy, a new study suggests. Researchers found that among 87 healthy men ages 19 to 48, those who were obese were less likely to have ever fathered a child. More importantly, they showed hormonal differences that point to a reduced reproductive capacity, the researchers report in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Compared with their thinner counterparts, obese men had lower levels of testosterone in their blood, as well as lower levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) -- both essential to reproduction. According to the researchers, these relatively low levels of LH and FSH are suggestive of a ‘partial’ hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. This is a condition in which the testes do not function properly due to signaling problems in the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, two brain structures involved in hormone secretion. The findings suggest that obesity alone is an ‘infertility factor’ in otherwise healthy men, write Dr. Eric M. Pauli and his colleagues at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey. Excess body fat, Pauli's team explains, may increase the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in a man's blood. Such hormone alterations could, in turn, signal the brain to suppress FSH and LH production. Past studies have linked obesity with a dampened libido and increased risk of erectile dysfunction, the researchers note. Those effects, they say, along with the hormonal alterations seen in this study, could act together to decrease an obese man's fertility.”


It's Easy To Get Lazy When A Machine Can Get You Fit

“Fitness fads come and go, but there's one that is rapidly gaining credibility in elite sporting circles - vibration training machines. You've probably heard of the Powerplate, which Madonna, Claudia Schiffer and Kylie Minogue swear by but the more widely available brand in Australia is Vibrogym - a vertical vibration platform. Though skeptical of the promised benefits, which included increased strength and toning, flexibility and balance and reduced body fat and cellulite, I was curious to track one down in Brisbane and see what all the fuss was about. I signed up to a trial of nine, 30-minute sessions and started noticing a difference by the sixth session. My flexibility has improved (before I could just touch my toes, but I can now almost put my hands flat on the floor - in fact measurements taken during my first and last sessions showed I could stretch my hamstrings a further 5cm). I look more toned (particularly in my legs and stomach area) and my strength has improved (I can hold the plank position for twice as long as I used to be able to and do twice as many push-ups). Contrary to popular belief, you can't lose inches off your waistline by just standing on the machine and doing nothing. You do actually have to move your butt and perform exercises on it, which I was initially quite peeved about. In fact, I didn't actually lose much weight while using the machine because while vibration training does burn calories and increase metabolism, it is primarily for strengthening, firming and toning, so you can still expect to go down a dress size even though the scales might not say so. According to the Vibrogym website, the machine ‘induces a Tonic Vibration Reflex (TVR) which recruits up to 95 per cent of your muscle fibres, whereas in conventional resistance training only 40 to 50 per cent of your muscle fibres are recruited’. In other words, it builds muscle without you having to pump iron. Perhaps the best thing about this new exercise phenomenon is its time-saving benefits. It allows you to do a workout in your lunch break and still have time to eat lunch.”


Friday, September 19, 2008

Working Out Kinks In Health Club Rules

“Sometimes the law of unintended consequences applies to the law itself. That’s the case in St. Paul, where a well-meaning, effective law used as a tool to root out prostitution has also curtailed the burgeoning business of unsupervised exercise clubs such as Snap Fitness and Anytime Fitness. The clubs are storefront, barebones workout rooms, with weights, treadmills and other cardiovascular machines. Short on frills but long on hours, most clubs are open 24 hours, with patrons swiping a card to get in. The facilities are often unsupervised, unlike health clubs with fulltime, on-site staffs. This innovative, less expensive way to work out hasn’t been able to work in St. Paul because of an existing ordinance against unsupervised health clubs. This is partly because years ago brothels used to sometimes masquerade as ‘health clubs,’ ‘saunas’ or ‘massage parlors,’ so a ban was imposed as an effective weapon in fighting that blight. But it was never intended to keep out legitimate businesses, and it’s inconsistent with St. Paul’s neighbors. Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs have had unsupervised health clubs open and operate without any evidence of illegal activity. A revised St. Paul ordinance, crafted through collaboration with city safety officials and representatives of the health club industry, is working through the City Council and should reassure concerned citizens and city officials. Among many requirements, the clubs will need to be on street level, be at least 500 square feet and have at least 75 feet of exterior window space visible to the public and police. A minimum number of exercise machines will need to be purchased and present, which would eliminate any doubt about the legitimacy of a club. And video surveillance must be accessible to both health club employees and, upon request, public safety officials. Beyond public safety, rules regarding personal safety should also ease concerns. Each club has ‘panic buttons’ that can be pushed in case of a heart attack or other injury, and patrons working out during unsupervised hours will be required to wear personal alert systems that can alert emergency services. Today’s age of shrinking purchasing power and expanding waistlines make these clubs a welcome addition to workout options. The business model means lower fees, which can encourage exercise among those who can’t afford fully staffed clubs. Given America’s obesity crisis, people at all income levels should be encouraged to get off the couch and get some exercise, at a time that fits their schedule.”


The Deadly Economics Of The Childhood Obesity Epidemic

“Douglas Castle, speaking for CIOF [Children's International Obesity Foundation], said, ‘It is acknowledged by every major healthcare agency and authority in the United States and throughout the world that obesity is the greatest threat facing our children today. The obesity epidemic is the gravest threat to kids' health that we know, and a whole generation's very survival is threatened by it.’ ‘The obvious question is, 'if we, as a decent society know this, why aren't we doing something to reverse the epidemic?' ‘The answer is chilling,’ said Castle. ‘Too many companies, agencies and even foundations are simply making too much money by keeping kids fat. The snack food and beverage giants, the pharmaceutical companies, the pop-psychologists, the clothing manufacturers, the fad diet pundits -- even some unscrupulous healthcare providers and foundations which are actually just puppets for these same special interest groups are getting richer and richer by feeding off of this epidemic. ‘ ‘These groups are either oblivious to the future of humankind, or they are engorged leeches, without any conscience. They are trading children's lives for profits and cash flow. Until there is an incentive for these profiteers to behave differently, and until they are revealed for who they really are, they will continue to confound every sincere effort to stop this killer,’ warned Castle. Robert Hinnen, CIOF's Executive Director, said, ‘Too much money is going to these profiteers and political interests -- and not nearly enough is going to organizations like CIOF, where our agenda is completely transparent and our mission is to predict, prevent and treat obesity; in that order.’ ‘We recently launched our September awareness and fund raising campaign to help stop the obesity epidemic, and we are competing for every single dollar with these 'so called' charities and other groups which are actually controlled by the same interests that push the products which make children fat and keep them even fatter.’ ‘Yes, the economy is very shaky right now, but can we allow this to dictate the quality of health for our children?’”


Obesity Goes Above 20% Among Adults - Smoking Ban Working, Wales

“Commenting on figures in The Welsh Health Survey that showed the level of obesity in Welsh adults went above 20% for the first time last year, Welsh Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson, Jenny Randerson AM said: ‘The fact that obesity in Wales is continuing its upwards rise and is not slowing is deeply worrying. This breaking through of the significant barrier of 20% of the entire adult population being obese shows there is a crisis very much alive in Wales and the Assembly Government's strategy is not having the desired effect. We are now very close to 60% of adults being overweight. These are deeply troubling statistics.’”


More Kids Getting Kidney Stones

“When you think of kidney stones, kids don't usually pop to mind. But doctors say they're seeing increasing numbers of children with the painful condition, and it could represent more fallout from the obesity epidemic. While exact numbers of children with kidney stones are elusive, physicians at children's clinics say the numbers are up. ‘There is very little available on pediatric stone disease in particular," said Dr. Caleb Nelson, a urologist at Children's Hospital Boston. "Most data has looked at adults or the entire population.’ ‘Proposed reasons include sedentary lifestyle, obesity increase, processed high-salt diets,’ Nelson said. Some children get the stones, because birth defects in the urinary tract put them at risk for urinary obstruction. ‘Another subset of children is premature infants who form stones related to the medications they require,’ he said. There's not much that parents can specifically do to prevent kidney stones in their children, Nelson said. They can encourage their kids to follow an overall healthy lifestyle, which can help reduce the risk. ‘Eat a balanced diet,’ he said. ‘Drink lots of non-caffeinated liquids. Get exercise.’”


Obese And Overweight Teenagers More Likely To Have Considered Suicide

“Researchers from the University of Liverpool measured the height and weight of 799 Year 9 students from five comprehensive schools in Cheshire. This was used to calculate each student's body mass index (BMI). The researchers also asked the pupils to complete questionnaires, including a Mood and Feelings questionnaire, which asks about suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide with some degree of intent), and an Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI). The pupils' EDI scores were compared with those of 174 adolescents of the same age and sex who were known to have the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. The researchers found that the prevalence of suicidal ideation was 13.3% (11.1% in boys and 15.5% in girls). A linear relationship existed between suicidal ideation and BMI, with overweight and obese adolescents experiencing the highest rates of 26.8% - more than twice the average prevalence for the entire group. Adolescents of both genders who had suicidal ideation were also found to have significantly higher EDI scores, meaning they had high levels of dissatisfaction with their bodies and a high drive for thinness. However, these scores were not as high as among the group with anorexia nervosa. The researchers concluded that being overweight or obese - together with associated dissatisfaction with weight and shape - may be a significant risk factor for suicidal ideation in adolescence in both sexes.”


'Baby' Fat Cells May Be Key To Treating Obesity, Say Researchers

“Immature, or ‘baby,’ fat cells lurk in the walls of the blood vessels that nourish fatty tissue, just waiting for excess calories to help them grow into the adult monsters responsible for packing on the extra pounds, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in mice.”


Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Put In 5 Miles at the Office

“In 2005, Dr. [James] Levine [an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic] led a study showing that lean people burn about 350 more calories a day than those who are overweight, by doing ordinary things like fidgeting, pacing or walking to the copier. To incorporate extra movement into the routines of sedentary workers (himself included), Dr. Levine constructed the first known treadmill desk by sliding a bedside hospital tray over a $400 treadmill. With a laptop and a phone headset, he said he can go all day at a leisurely 1.4 miles an hour. Without breaking a sweat, the so-called work-walker can burn an estimated 100 to 130 calories an hour at speeds slower than two miles an hour, Mayo research shows. Enthusiasts began following Dr. Levine’s example, constructing treadmill desks that range from sleekly robotic set-ups to rickety mash-ups that could be Wall-E’s long-lost kin. But the recent introduction of an all-in-one treadmill desk from Details may inch work-walking into the mainstream, as dozens of businesses invest in the hardware to let their employees walk (and, ideally, lose a little weight) at work. Since last November, about 335 Walkstations, have been sold nationwide to companies including Humana, Mutual of Omaha, GlaxoSmithKline and Best Buy. The Walkstation, which Dr. Levine helped develop, costs about $4,000 and comes in 36 laminate finishes with an ergonomically curved desktop. Its quiet motor is designed for slow speeds, said David Kagan, director of marketing communications at Details, a division of Steelcase. Still, to most, work-walking is ‘a freaky thing to do,’ said Joe Stirt, 60, an anesthesiologist in Charlottesville, Va., who works and blogs in his off hours while walking up to six hours a day in his home office. ‘I know lots of people who are using them,’ Dr. Stirt said of the treadmill desks. ‘But there are probably a hundred times more who we don’t read about on the Internet.’ There is even a burgeoning social network (officewalkers.ning.com), with around 30 members, that Mr. Rhoads started in March. To the uninitiated, work-walking sounds like a recipe for distraction. But devotees say the treadmill desks increase not only their activity but also their concentration.’ James O. Hill, an obesity researcher and the director of the University of Colorado’s Center for Human Nutrition in Denver, shares this opinion: “There are not very many people who can’t walk,” he said. “You should have a doctor’s note to not walk.’ Will work-walking free you from the gym forever? Not if you’re seeking serious weight loss or peak cardio-respiratory fitness. ‘Walking on the treadmill could be enough to prevent weight gain, but it’s not going to melt the pounds off,’ Dr. Hill said. ‘At least a little bit of exercise will just be part of my day and part of my working,’ he said. ‘The one thing I always do is work.’”


Half Of Normal-Weight Adults May Still Be Too Fat

“People with body mass indexes (BMI) that fall into the normal range may still have to be concerned about obesity, a cardiologist from the Mayo Clinic warns. Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez and his colleagues recently reported that people with normal BMIs but excess body fat were more likely to have high cholesterol, excess belly fat and other characteristics of the metabolic syndrome, a set of symptoms that puts people at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes. BMI is the ratio of height to weight that is frequently used to determine if an individual is over-weight or under-weight. This condition, which Lopez-Jimenez and his team have termed ‘normal-weight obesity,’ was extremely common; they found it in 61 percent of a sample of 2,127 men and women with normal BMIs. ‘It seems like it affects adults of all ages, men and women, and pretty much all races, according to our subgroup analysis,’ the researcher told Reuters Health. ‘The problem affects pretty much everybody.’ Sedentary living is usually the factor responsible for causing muscle mass to dwindle as fat accumulates, he added. ‘It usually comes down to exercise.’ He and his colleagues are now investigating what people with normal-weight obesity can do to replace their excess body fat with lean mass. ‘Whatever means a person has to increase their muscle mass and burn calories, that will be very likely the best way to deal with it,’ Lopez-Jimenez said. Exercise will certainly be important, he added, and it's likely that people should incorporate both strength training and aerobic workouts into their regimen of physical activity.”


What's Old Is New Again In Fitness World

“Martha Zamirski had tried almost every fitness fad: pole dancing, spinning, step aerobics. ‘I never saw results,’ said the 26-year-old who lives in New York City. ‘I thought something was wrong with me.’ But earlier this year, Zamirski, managing director of a nonprofit theater company, gave up the pole, the bike and the step for a basic boot camp workout. So far, she has lost 20 pounds and dropped two dress sizes. She's among a growing number of people who are forgoing Bowflex machines, trampoline classes and "Dancing with the Stars" workouts in favor of a back-to-basics strategy. They're emphasizing traditional exercises including pull-ups and old-fashioned tools such as kettlebells _ something like a cannonball with a handle. Simpler is sometimes better, said Michele Olson, who teaches a kettlebell class and is also a professor of physical education and exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery. The fitness tool, used for centuries in Russia, has become one of the hottest new workouts in the U.S. ‘The reason we keep coming back to basic workouts is because the movements are simple enough for everybody to do yet still highly effective,’ said Michelle Khai, of Miami Beach, Fla., creator of Kettlenetics Slim&Tone System, a kettlebell dance workout. ‘This makes it accessible, doable and frees you up to have fun with it.’ With the economic downturn, people are looking for ways to save time and money. The number of gym memberships dropped 3 percent to 41.5 million between 2006 and 2007, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. Kettlebells range from about $25 to $300, depending on the weight and shipping costs, said Khai. The Perfect Pushup is $39.95. ‘Sometimes I think to myself it would be great to go to the gym,’ said Julie Kuehl, 46, of Greensburg, Ind., who has a Perfect Pullup and Perfect Pushup. ‘But really I can do everything I need to do right here with these two little things.’”


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Healthy Lifestyle Boosts Women's Longevity

Good Living Can Reduce The Risk Of Dying From Heart Disease And Cancer, Study Shows
“Women who don't smoke, maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthful diet, and get regular physical exercise significantly reduce their risk of dying from any cause, and particularly from heart disease and cancer, Harvard University researchers report. Although the finding seems obvious, the scientists hope that by showing the long-term results of healthy living, people will see lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of dying from diseases such as heart disease and cancer. ‘Our findings suggest that the combination of lifestyle factors has a substantially larger impact on survival than any single factor,’ said lead researcher Rob M. van Dam, an assistant professor of medicine at Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. Clearly, avoiding smoking is of major importance for health, but regular physical activity, a healthy diet and weight management can result in large additional health benefits, van Dam said. ‘The results of the study reinforces the need to strengthen public health efforts targeting smoking, as well as efforts that make it easier for people to maintain a healthy weight and diet and to perform regular physical activity,’ he said. The report was published in the Sept. 17 online edition of the British Medical Journal.”


Exercise, Nutritional Supplements May Help Older Adults Maintain Active Lifestyle

“A combination of nutritional supplements and moderate exercise may help older adults maintain an active lifestyle, according to a British study of 60 healthy, independent-living volunteers, age 65 and older. The 12-week study found that taking carbohydrate and protein supplements just before and after low-resistance exercise could increase muscle performance and slow muscle wastage, United Press International reported. ‘Though we still need to assess precisely what level of exercise gives the best results, we believe we've shown that regular low-resistance exercise complemented by the right nutritional supplements could boost the well-being of the aging population’, study leader Dr. Gladys Pearson, of Manchester Metropolitan University, said in a news release. The study was presented at the BA Festival of Science in Liverpool, England.”


Lifestyle Changes Boost Enzyme Regulating Cell Aging

Adjustments To Diet, Exercise Increased Telomerase Levels 29%, Cut 'Bad' Cholesterol
“Major lifestyle changes can help improve levels of an enzyme called telomerase that controls cell aging, say California researchers. Telomerase repairs and lengthens telomeres, which are DNA-protein complexes at the end of chromosomes that directly affect how quickly cells age. As telomeres become shorter and their structural integrity weakens, cells age and die more quickly, according to background information in a University of California, Irvine, new release. Shortening of telomeres is emerging as a marker of disease risk and premature death in many types of cancer, including prostate, lung, breast and colorectal cancers. In this study, Dr. Dean Ornish, a professor of medicine at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif., and his colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, asked 30 men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer to make significant lifestyle changes. The changes included eating a diet with only 10 percent of calories from fat, low in refined sugars, and rich in whole foods, fruit and vegetables. They supplemented their diet with vitamins and fish oil and did moderate aerobic exercise, stress management, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises. The men's telomerase levels were measured at the start of the study and again at three months. At that time, the researchers found a 29 percent increase in telomerase levels and a decrease in "bad" (LDL) cholesterol. The findings were published online and will appear in the November print issue of The Lancet Oncology. ‘The implications of this study are not limited to men with prostate cancer. Comprehensive lifestyle changes may cause improvements in telomerase and telomeres that may be beneficial to the general population as well,’ Ornish said in the news release.”


Body Bar Systems Expands to Russia

MFitness is Exclusive Distributor; Training Sessions Planned

“Body Bar Systems, a premier fitness company specializing in products and educational tools for fitness enthusiasts of all ages and abilities, today announced its expansion to Russia. Exclusively providing Body Bar® brand weighted bars is Russian distributor MFitness, located in Moscow. MFitness provides all types of equipment for sports and fitness clubs from highly regarded American companies. ‘We are pleased to partner with MFitness, a true leader in fitness equipment and education in Russia,’ commented Timothy Riley, managing director, Body Bar Systems. ‘MFitness is the perfect company to profitably extend the Body Bar brand throughout Russia.’ Mr. Riley and Body Bar System’s director of program development and international fitness consultant Sherry Catlin plan to travel to Russia for the Moscow International Fitness Festival (MIOFF 2008), taking place September 17-19 in Moscow. Ms. Catlin will lead two classes on September 17: (1) Body Bar Dynamic Balance, Strength and Power, and (2) Body Bar Graceful Strength-Dynamic Core Training. Ms. Catlin is also planning an additional educational training session to take place at Planet Fitness in Moscow. ‘We are very excited about sharing the myriad benefits of the Body Bar with Russia’s elite trainers at the MIOFF and Planet Fitness events,’ added Mr. Riley.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kid Gyms Send Children Out To Play On Treadmills

“Like many parents, Diana Ennen had trouble getting her daughter Amber to exercise. So two years ago, Ennen decided that Amber was coming to the health club. Now age 10, Amber is using the stair stepper, lifting hand weights and doing situps on a stability ball. ‘She's lost some weight,’ said Ennen, of Margate, Fla. ‘Her clothes fit better. You can tell she's firmer.’ It may sound like a grown up routine, but many parents are enrolling their children in fitness centers or buying child-sized equipment for a workout more grueling than ballet or Little League but cheaper than hiring a personal trainer. Last year, 1.3 million children ages 6 to 11 were members of a health club, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. And as of April, a quarter of IHRSA member clubs surveyed had children's programs. At Action Kids Fitness Center, with two locations in California, children can take a 40- to 45-minute circuit training workout with resistance machines and cardio stations, including stationary bikes that connect to PlayStation 2. The center also has hip-hop dance, yoga, karate and monthly nutrition classes. ‘We really pride ourselves on the energy and excitement we put into making fitness fun,’ said Steve Ewing, the center's co-founder. ‘We don't want them to be thinking they are overweight and obese. We want them to acknowledge that moving is fun.’ The circuit workout at Funfit Family Fitness Center in Rockville, Md., has a tot-sized exercise bike, an air stepper and hydraulic strength training equipment. Kids and parents can also use personal trainers together or take classes including yoga for tots. Such workouts are a long way from riding bikes and playing tag. But in an era of rising childhood obesity, physical education cutbacks and a more sedentary lifestyle, children's gyms make sense, said Rosemary Lavery, IHRSA spokeswoman. While experts agree that any fitness is better than nothing, they aren't so sure this is the answer. Children should be outside interacting with other children, not playing video games in a musty basement, said Tony Sparber, who runs New Image Weight Loss Camps. ‘In the '50s and '60s, kids were playing and they were playing outside,’ he said. ‘We didn't have all these concerns about overweight, out-of-shape kids.’ Still, Cathie Soneja, 47, of Anaheim, Calif., said her 8-year-old son Nathan is usually the one reminding her that it's time to go to Action Kids, where he does the circuit and takes hip-hop dance. ‘When we first started, I wasn't that fit. Then I started seeing that I was getting stronger,’ he said. ‘It makes me feel like a teenager or adult.’”


How Much Exercise Do Children Need?

“You’re a parent and you want to do your best to be sure your children are healthy. So you worry about physical activity. How much exercise is enough? Will being active protect them against diabetes, cancer or heart disease later in life? Will it prevent them from getting fat? You search for information, for official guidelines on physical activity. And, you soon discover, there is plenty of advice — at least 27 sets of official guidelines, notes Harold W. Kohl, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Austin who formerly worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the problem in making recommendations is a lack of good data. We can’t ‘clarify the dose of physical activity and exercise that’s good for kids’ as precisely as we think we can, Dr. Kohl said. It’s not that experts haven’t tried. For example, a few years ago the C.D.C. convened a panel of experts to review published papers and make the best recommendations. The panel’s co-chairman, Robert M. Malina, a professor emeritus of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas at Austin, noted that the group reviewed 850 published papers on the benefits of regular exercise for school-age children and adolescents. In 2004, the panel concluded by recommending that children and adolescents get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Why 60 minutes and not 30 or 45? It was, Dr. Malina said, ‘a gut reaction’ to the body of evidence. Now, the Department of Health and Human Services is preparing a new set of guidelines, but most of the same questions remain, Dr. Kohl said. And even though he, Dr. Malina and most other exercise researchers enthusiastically endorse physical activity for everyone, they caution that some of its reputed benefits may be oversold. In reviewing published papers, the C.D.C. and Human Services panels asked: How good are the data? They learned that, with a few exceptions, for every purported benefit, the evidence was often marginal or equivocal. And, Dr. Malina said, even in situations in which exercise has demonstrable effects, there are marked differences among individuals: some children will get more benefit than others and some will not get any at all. The undisputed benefits of exercise, the panels said, are that it can lead to stronger muscles, greater endurance, and bones that are denser and have greater mineral content. In addition, when obese children exercise regularly, their body fat, blood lipids and blood pressure may fall. Exercise, though, has not been found to have those effects on healthy children of normal weight.”


Healthways SilverSneakers(R) Fitness Program Proven to Reduce Health Care Costs of Members with Chronic Conditions

“Healthways, Inc. (NASDAQ: HWAY) announced today that, according to recent studies, older adults with diabetes who participate in the Healthways SilverSneakers® Fitness Program are admitted to the hospital less often, have lower inpatient care costs and significant reductions in their overall health care costs after only a year. Greater participation in the program is also associated with significantly lower risk of depression, according to recent studies published in Diabetes Care, the journal of the American Diabetes Association, and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The studies are a continuation of research funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and conducted by Group Health and the University of Washington (UW) that looked at nearly 5,000 SilverSneakers participants over a two-year period. Researchers examined whether the health care use and the impact on health care costs for older adults participating in SilverSneakers--found in previous studies--also applies to those participants with chronic conditions such as diabetes and depression who have the most to gain from regular physical activity. ‘These studies are proof, once again, of the dramatic positive impact physical activity and prevention can have on the economic burden that chronic conditions place on older adults, the health care system and on our society,’ said Healthways president and CEO Ben R. Leedle, Jr. ‘You have the obvious cost savings, which are outlined in these two important reports, but SilverSneakers also enables older Americans to get more out of life, to interact socially, and to reclaim an element of freedom that may have been fading for them.’”


Monday, September 15, 2008

Fitness Trends in the Berkshires

“Gyms the size of nightclubs. Rows of treadmills equipped with their own television sets. Twenty-four-hour service. Pizza nights. Say hello to the new face of fitness in the Berkshires, where health clubs operated by three national chains recently opened in a market that traditionally has been serviced by locally owned facilities. Twelve facilities in Berkshire County fit the description of health clubs or gymnasiums, in addition to more community-oriented, multi-purpose facilities such as the Berkshire South Community Center in Great Barrington and the Pittsfield and North Adams YMCAs. ‘I think chains like that work out very, very well in the larger metro areas,’ said Mario DeMartino, who has run a physical therapy business, which includes a small workout facility, in Pittsfield for 46 years. ‘I think the mom and pop gyms work better in the rural areas. Pittsfield is not a big urban area like New York City or Albany.’ DeMartino said he believes that interest in the new facilities is high because they've just opened. Tucker, who co-owns five other Planet Fitness clubs in Western Massachusetts, refers to Berkshire County as an ‘untapped market.’ David M. Rooney, president of the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, said the addition of the new health clubs is good for the county because the fitness chains see a ‘market opportunity’ here. Regardless, Rooney said, the competition is good because it creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to see if the market will grow. Another plus is the number of jobs created by the new facilities. John Gaudreault, one of the four owners of Pittsfield's Retro Fitness franchise, said his firm did an extensive demographic survey before coming to the Berkshires in May. The survey included determining the population within a one-, three-, five-, and seven-mile radius of the proposed location in the Shops at Unkamet Brook. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sports Association, a Boston-based not-for-profit organization that monitors the health-club industry, travel time is an important factor in determining health-club location. In the suburbs, 80 to 90 percent of health-club members live within a 12- to 15-minute drive of their facility, according to the IHRSA. Massachusetts is a growing market for health clubs. According to the IHRSA, the number of clubs statewide increased by 82 percent, from 458 to 833, between 1996 and 2007. An average of 19.2 percent of the state's population held a health-club membership between 2005 and 2007.”


Appropriate Lifestyle Choices Can Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer - Europa Donna

“Breast cancer claims the lives of more European women than any other cancer. Almost 132,000 women died from breast cancer in 2006, and every year 430,000 European women are diagnosed with the disease. But studies show that having a healthy lifestyle - avoiding weight gain, eating nutritiously and being physically active - can greatly reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. As much as 25-33% of breast cancer cases are related to being overweight and physically inactive. Given the enormous influence of lifestyle factors on the breast health of European women, EUROPA DONNA - The European Breast Cancer Coalition, has declared 15 October 2008 the first annual Breast Health Day. The launch will involve a media event in Milan, featuring renowned international and European figures, and representatives from EUROPA DONNA's 41 member countries. The aim is for women and girls of all ages to have access to breast heath information and understand the influence lifestyle choices can have on their future health. ‘Many women take their health for granted and do not realise that those extra kilos or that extra glass of wine can affect their breast health in the long term. Recent studies indicate that women who avoid being overweight reduce their risk of postmenopausal breast cancer,’ said Ingrid K√∂ssler, President of EUROPA DONNA."


Calcium And Exercise To Strengthen The Bones - Do You Get Enough?

“A stumble, a fall - a broken bone: many older people are afraid of this happening. The German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care has published information about how you can protect yourself. Research shows that regular adequate intake of calcium and exercise can strengthen the bones. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum daily intake of calcium of 1,300 mg for women after the menopause and men over the age of 65. Some people believe that they can best protect themselves by not moving around too much and trying to avoid situations where they might have a chance of falling. But in reality being too immobile is one of the major risk factors for osteoporosis. If you spend a large part of the day sitting or lying down, your bones are more likely to become weak and brittle. Physical activity that involves carrying your weight can actually strengthen your bones. One of the easier ways to get exercise with a low risk of injury is brisk walking. According to the Institute, even in older age, walking is a simple way of getting enough exercise that people feel comfortable with - and it benefits more than the bones, as well. Professor Sawicki said: ‘Injury is of course always possible when you exercise. But people who are more active strengthen their muscles and bones - and that can help them stay physically stable and secure. People may gain more confidence in their bodies and that might mean a lower risk of stumbling and falling.’”


Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware Of Raised Fracture Risk

But Lifestyle Changes Can Lower Risk, Researchers Note
“A new large global survey reveals that more than half of women who suffer from osteoporosis do not perceive themselves to be at a higher risk for experiencing a fracture. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 55 percent of Americans over the age of 55 are at risk for developing osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease defined by the deterioration of bone tissue and low bone mass. Currently, about 8 million women and 2 million men in the United States have osteoporosis, reflecting the way in which the disease disproportionately strikes women. Those numbers suggest that the ensuing bone fragility means that one in two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will ultimately develop a disease-related fracture down the road -- usually in the hip, spine, wrist regions. And an initial fracture, in turn, raises the risk for more. Efforts to prevent disease onset are based on maintaining an adequate supply of calcium and vitamin D; getting sufficient exercise; avoiding cigarettes and alcohol; and, in some cases, medications.”


Kids Need Vigorous Activity For Best Bone Health

“To build strong bones, boys and girls may need at least 25 minutes of vigorous exercise daily, a new study in Pediatrics shows. Childhood and adolescence are key times for building bone mass and strength, Dr. Luis B. Sardinha of the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal and colleagues note. While exercise is known to help people accumulate bone density in their early years, they add, the amount of activity children need for optimum bone health remains unclear. This is largely because past research has relied on children's reports of their own activity, which are not considered reliable. In the current study, Sardinha and his team used devices called accelerometers to objectively measure the intensity and duration of exercise in 143 girls and 150 boys who were an average of 9.7 years old. For a detailed picture of the children's bone health, the researchers evaluated the compressive, bending, and impact strength of the femoral neck -- is the upper part of the thigh bone. Overall, the researchers found, the boys had stronger femoral necks than did the girls. The main type of activity related to femoral neck strength was vigorous exercise, which the researchers define as brisk walking, jogging, running or jumping. Among boys, those who got more than 26 minutes of this type of activity daily had greater compressive, bending and impact strength than boys who got 12 minutes or less each day. For girls, those who got at least 25 minutes of vigorous activity had greater bone mineral content in their femoral neck and more bending strength in the bone than those who were active for eight minutes a day or less.”


1st World Congress On Interventional Therapies For Type 2 Diabetes: Session Highlights


Obesity Highest In Children From Lower Income Areas

“School children from lower socioeconomic areas are one-and-a-half times more likely to be overweight or obese compared with children living in wealthier areas, a new study has found. Study author Rachel Sutherland said: 'Of huge concern was that by age six and seven, around 30 per cent of these kids were already overweight or obese.' The study, published in Nutrition & Dietetics by Wiley-Blackwell, collected data on 2,224 children aged six to 12 years from 16 randomly-selected primary schools in the Hunter region of New South Wales.”


Friday, September 12, 2008

Exercise Key To Healthy Living As We Grow Older, Study Shows

“If you want to live longer and stay healthier, then get out of your chair and start exercising. This is just as true for older people and provides a way to delay the impairments that can come in later life and even reverse them. The message on exercise is not new but a fresh analysis from Dr Gladys Pearson of Manchester Metropolitan University is perhaps one of the most in-depth studies yet attempted to show how exercise and diet helps the older population to stay healthy.She presented her comprehensive analysis yesterday at a session on the closing day of the annual British Association Festival of Science, this year taking place in Liverpool. ‘Our aim was to study how to use nutrition and exercise in older people to try and reverse some of the negative aspects of ageing,’’ Dr Pearson said. She undertook a pilot study of 78 subjects with funding from the UK body that promotes age-related research called Sparc, Strategic Promotion of Ageing Research Capacity. ‘We were trying to look at the type of exercise and the intensity of the exercise and at the social aspects of the routine to assess how likely they were to participate in the experience,’ Dr Pearson said. The 78 participants were healthy, independent-living and aged from 65 and 92. They were randomly assigned to five groups with variables including involvement in low, medium and high levels of exercise and whether they took nutritional supplements in association with their exercises. She measured an enormous array of factors before, during and after the eight to 12 week programme. These ranged from skeletal muscle mass, body mass index and muscle tendon strength, through hormone levels and levels of inflammatory substances called cytokines in the blood stream. "We are really the first to do this kind of work in older people. ‘We also did functional tasks such as how quickly they could get up from a chair and cross a room or how long to get up if lying down.’ ‘We did a lot of postural balance work. We did a lot of work on challenging their balance, for example standing on one leg and Tai Chi.’ The results were really quite striking, she believes. All groups showed improvements, but those who did best were the groups doing low to moderate exercise and who took the carbohydrate and protein supplementation. These did better than those who did the exercise but did not take the supplements.”


Exercise Helps Kids Recover After Brain Tumor Treatment

“Exercise helps repair brain cells after radiation, particularly in children being treated for brain tumours, researchers say after clinical trials on mice. Exercise helped restore stem cell growth and improved behaviour in young mice after brain damage, engineered by a relevant dose of radiation. These results were also applicable to children, Auckland University researchers said.”


Obese Have Minimal Heartbeat Response To Stress

“Contrary to their expectations, British researchers have found that when exposed to psychological stress, obese people show smaller changes in their heart rate compared with normal-weight individuals. Dr. Douglas Carroll at the University of Birmingham, and colleagues there and at the University of Glasgow, examined the association between obesity and the magnitude of heart reactions to stress in 1,647 adults living in the community. Blood pressure and heart rate were measured at rest and in response to psychological stress -- performing mental math problems under a time deadline. Measurements were taken when the study began and 5 years later. Contrary to expectations, heavier individuals and "those categorized as obese displayed smaller heart rate reactions to stress," Carroll and colleagues report in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Moreover, ‘high heart rate reactivity was associated with a reduced likelihood of becoming obese in the subsequent five years,’ they write. Low nervous system activity, which leads to smaller heart rate changes, may be associated with weight gain and the findings of this study "are certainly in line with that notion," the investigators say. Carroll's team notes that other researchers have suggested that reduced nervous system activity may increase food intake. Be that as it may, they conclude that low heart rate reactivity may be a risk factor for developing obesity.”


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Link Discovered Between a Mother's Stress and Her Child Becoming Overweight

“A mother's stress may contribute to her young children being overweight in low-income households with sufficient food, according to a new Iowa State University study that is published in the September issue of Pediatrics, the professional journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study analyzed data collected from 841 children in 425 households in the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers used mothers' responses to interview questions to determine their mental, physical, financial and family structure levels of stress -- producing a cumulative stress index. The child's weight status was determined by their Body Mass Index (BMI), age and sex. Subjects were also broken into two age groups: three to 10 and 11 to 17 years of age. Household food insecurity status -- whether or not there is enough food to sustain healthy, active lifestyles for all household members -- was also measured from the mothers' interview responses. In households with no maternal stress, low-income children in food secure households had a 33.0 percent probability of being overweight, while those in food insecure households had a 34.8 percent probability. As maternal stress levels increased, the probability of becoming overweight increased in children from food secure households, but decreased among those in food insecure households. When the maternal stress was found to be at twice the average level of the study sample, children in food-secure households had a 43.7 percent greater probability of being overweight or obese when compared with children in food insecure households. The researchers have future plans to measure the stress levels of fathers in determining overall household stress. ‘Recognizing the complexity of the issue allows us to recognize that we have more options to help children,’ he said. ‘If we can reduce mom's stress -- whether it be mental health or financial issues -- the direct effect on mom is helping her, and that's good. But we can also hope to see indirect effects on other household members and children. For example, their reduced probability of becoming obese is another benefit to helping mom.’”


Making Exercise Fun for Wheelchair Users

“University of Texas at Austin alumnus, Chris Stanford (MSEE '91), and Electrical & Computer Engineering undergraduates are working on making exercise fun for wheelchair users. For the last year, Stanford has been partnering with engineering seniors to test his idea for a virtual reality treadmill for the disabled. ‘Not many people realize,’ says Stanford who has been confined to a wheelchair since 1988, ‘the special health risks faced by wheelchair users. Everything is more difficult, including eating right and getting enough exercise. Because of this, the incidence of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is several times the rate of the general population.’ Stanford's solution, called TrekEase, approximates an arcade driving game. Users back a manual wheelchair into a frame, engage the flywheel for resistance, and start the driving software. ‘When Chris approached me last year about using [TrekEase] as one of our senior design projects,’ says UT-ECE professor Jon Valvano ‘I was enthusiastic. It's an interesting engineering challenge. He came in with a mechanical system that had already been vetted for safety. The students added software and sensors that make the experience interactive.’ ‘There is no way I could've done this by myself. I don't have the skill set,’ says Stanford. ‘The students are amazing. They step up to every challenge.’”


Health Clubs For Rural Youth in Punjab Villages

“Several non-resident Indians, in cooperation with local residents are promoting health facilities in villages of Doaba region to motivate youth against drug addiction and encourage them to join health clubs and sport activities. The efforts are showing results, as several adolescents and the teenaged young men Bholath constituency can today be noticed visiting the newly built health clubs in their respective villages. These clubs are a fascination for the village youth, as they have been equipped with multi-purpose health machines. There are about 130 villages in the Bholath constituency and 125 villages have got their clubs registered with the Youth Services Department of the Government. About 100 of these villages are today well-equipped with the latest multi-purpose health machines and other required equipments. The objective is to motivate rural youth to take care of their health and stay away from drugs. Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Member of the Legislative Assembly, said: ‘Many people of my constituency are settled abroad. When they came to know about the health clubs they also wanted to participate. NRI interest in these activities is increasing. They feel happy to see the people of their village becoming healthy. I hope this programme will spread all over Punjab and India. This is a kind of youth mobilization promoting a positive approach towards life. This also helps them to stay away from social evils like drugs,’ he added. Youngsters are not required to pay any fees for membership. Each club has an instructor. For students, the opening of health clubs close to their homes has proved attractive. ‘Earlier, I had to go to another health club, situated nearly 10 kilometer from Ramgarh. But the new health club has cheered health enthusiasts like me,’ said Gurwinder Singh, one local youth.”


Health Tip: Help Your Child Develop Healthy Habits

“Healthy habits for regular exercise and a good diet start at home, and they should start at a young age. The American Heart Association offers these suggestions to help your child stay healthy for life:
• Set a good example by living a healthy lifestyle yourself.
• Make exercise a family activity that involves everyone. Make family time for exercise every day, choosing sports and games that everyone enjoys.
• Set a limit on the amount of time your child spends watching TV, playing video games, or on the computer.
• Set goals for your child, such as a certain amount of daily physical activity or limits on the amount of unhealthy foods allowed.
• Encourage and reward good behavior, but never with food.
• Have a healthy dinner as a family every night.
• Teach your child to read food labels, and to recognize which foods are healthy and which aren't.”