December 8, 2008

Young Doctors Exercise Less Than They Should


In comparison to the national average, young doctors get much less exercise, and this level of exercise is below recommended levels, according to a study released on December 2, 2008 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine

To assess exercise habits in doctors, the researchers surveyed junior doctors working at two hospitals in Southern England, one of which had an on-site gym. Of the the 61 total surveyed, half were women, and the average age was 27. In the group, there were equal numbers of medical and surgical specialists. The survey asked about the subjects' physical exercise habits before and after graduating and lifestyle factors, such as smoking or drinking, which were likely to affect general health.

In most categories, the doctors outperformed the national public. On average, the doctors weighted and smoked less than national average estimates. Only 7% drank more than the recommended number of units of alcohol. However, only 21% achieved recommended exercise levels, far below the national average of 44%. Additionally, examining the doctors performing too little exercise, most worked at the hospital with a gymnasium -- but one third of the doctors working there said they were unaware of its existence.

In the 35 doctors who used a gym, on-site or elsewhere, only three exercised according to the guidelines. The doctors' previous habits may be have been different, because as medical students, 64% fulfilled the guidelines. When asked why they did not meet the guidelines, the most common response was lack of time, with 58% of the total. However, 29% said they were not motivated or too tired. When asked what might increase their exercise participation, many of the subjects suggested promotion programs at work, or the availability of exercise classes or sports teams.

I think this is incredibly interesting- Doctors who are to be promoting health to their patients are not getting enough exercise themselves. This sort of research underscores the importance of health promotion program even to those whose job it is to promote health. Often times these people are so busy to think of their own health. However, I think it would be difficult to listen to a doctor or health professional who was healthy him or herself. Therefore, health promotions should target health professionals as well. This is not a usual intervention population, but apparently there is a need.


December 4, 2008

How Astronauts Stay Fit

Picture of Shuttle Endeavour delivering the advanced Resistive Exercise Device to the international space station.

A CNN article looked at how astronauts stay fit in space and on earth. Research shows that floating around in zero-G can have some serious consequences for the human body, including the weakening of bones. In fact, studies have shown that space travelers can lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass each month on average, according to NASA.

One way that astronauts have been fighting bone loss is through strength training. And they're getting some help with a new machine delivered this week by the shuttle Endeavour, which docked with the international space station on Sunday.

The advanced Resistive Exercise Device, aRED for short, functions like a weight machine in a gym on Earth, except it has no conventional weights. Instead, it has vacuum cylinders -- canisters with air that have had a vacuum applied -- that provide concentric workloads up to 600 pounds, NASA says.

The device works somewhat like a bicycle pump, only in reverse, said Mark Guilliams, a NASA trainer. For example, if you are squatting, the vacuum gets pulled out as you stand up, and when you squat back down, the vacuum pulls the bar back to the normal position.

The international space station also is equipped with a treadmill and a bicycle, Guilliams said.

So what's the difference between exercising on Earth and working out on the international space station?

"When you run outside on Earth, you've got 195 pounds smacking against the pavement every time you take a step," said Anderson, who weighs 195 pounds on Earth. "In zero gravity, you're trying to use bungees to hold you down."

The treadmill has clip harnesses to hold an astronaut down, such that the fewer clips used, the more force acts around the legs, making running more difficult, he said.

Both before and after space travel, astronauts go through the same kinds of exercises familiar to athletes and others who exercise on Earth, Guilliams said -- aerobic activity such as running, and weight training. Astronauts training for a flight have scheduled exercise time two or three times a week for two hours each session, but in unscheduled time, they'll go for a run, he said.

For Clay Anderson, a NASA Astronaut who played football in college and has been athletic for much of his life, space travel was "physically easy." Space walks did get fatiguing because they required him to use his forearms, hands and upper body, which don't get much exercise on Earth.

"On Earth, you tend to use your big muscle group, and in space you tend to use your smaller muscle group, especially on a space walk when you use your forearms and your hands almost exclusively," he said.

Currently, an ongoing study is measuring how much astronauts who stay on board the international space station eat and exercise, Anderson said. The experiment will determine what kinds of dietary supplements astronauts should take in addition to the food they eat, and also the appropriate level and type of exercise they should get, he said.

"I think they're making some good strides in figuring out how to keep people healthy on a six- to nine-month trip to Mars," he said

I think is great research - we don't always see tools for such small groups of people. Astronauts, may represent a small population, but reaching even those that may not even be on our planet - is extremely important in the combat towards obesity. It goes to show that small minor details can make a big difference.


November 22, 2008

Physical Inactivity and Lack of Sleep Linked to Cancer

Putting on your walking shoes and sleeping a full eight hours a night can help reduce a woman's risk of getting cancer, according to a recent study.

A study by the National Cancer Institute found that exercising can reduce a woman's risk of cancer by as much as 20 percent.

"This is one of the first studies that has shown that in women who do not have a history of breast cancer, they can actually reduce their risk by exercising," said Dr. Susan Boolbol, with Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

However, researchers found that exercise can't help if a woman does not get a good nights' sleep.

Sleeping less than seven hours a night eliminates the cancer-fighting benefits of exercise. In some cases, lack of sleep increased the risk by 50 percent

Researchers say they need to do more work to determine the exact connections between exercise, rest and cancer. But in the meantime, what's known should help women reduce their risk of cancer.

I think this is a rather complicated finding- which points to the need for further research to elucidate the relationship between exercise and sleep for reducing cancer risk. It goes to show how being healthy is difficult and it takes not only a lot of work, but also just the right amount of rest.


There is also a video of this research that can be seen at

November 13, 2008

Physical Activity Among Seniors


Health for Life -- Senior Physical Activity-Falls
Marita Campbell, Public Health Nurse

Q: I am 68 years old and recently retired. My family says that I spend too much time watching television and not enough time being active. I could get more exercise but shouldn’t someone my age take it easy to avoid falling and maybe breaking my hip?

A: First let me congratulate you on your retirement. It is a major transition in life when you no longer have to meet the demands that work puts on your time. It is an opportunity to relax and take it easy, but also an opportunity to make changes in your physical activity level that can actually improve your health.

It is important that you don’t look at retirement as a time to slow down. Try to keep the level of strength and agility you have. Engaging in regular, moderate physical activity will make you feel better, perhaps sleep better, improve the health of your heart and also lessen your risk for falls. A fear of falling often causes people to stay indoors and avoid physical activity. If you were to do this, the inactivity could lead to loss of flexibility and bone and muscle strength that actually puts you at a greater risk for falls and injuries.

Since you have not been active recently, you should talk to your doctor or health-care provider before making big changes. Start with activities you can easily add to your daily routine that will build your endurance, flexibility, strength and balance. Here are a few examples to get you started:


Take a 10-minute walk each day, gradually increasing the pace and distance. In cold weather, meet your friends at Intercity Shopping Centre and take part in the Shake, Chatter and Stroll Program.


Gardening, yard work, golf, bowling, T’ai Chi or anything that gets you bending stretching or reaching will help you meet your flexibility needs.

Strength & Balance:

Climbing the stairs, carrying laundry or groceries or even standing up and sitting down several times in a row will put you on your way to building your strength and balance.

Even if you have not been very active, you will see that once you make a commitment to regular activity, you’ll have more energy and find yourself spending less time in front of the television. Start with small steps but try something, anything you enjoy doing. Even a little bit of exercise every day will make a big difference.

Despite the well-established benefits of physical activity for older adults, seniors ages 75 and above are among the most sedentary of Americans. Staying active even though ones retirement may be difficult, but it is just as important. Especially now with the baby boomer generation going into retirement.


October 16, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Today, children aren't getting outdoors to play and engage in physical activity. With the available technologies like video games, computers, and television children are not getting as much physical activity as they used to. Allowing only a specified number of hours for these activities may be beneficial to increasing exercise lebels. When I think about my childhood, growing up on farm, our days were spend outside running about or helping out with the chores. I think Establishing these habits when children are young will prove to be incredibly important.

October 12, 2008

Honesty About Exercise Tied to Weight

When people with weight problems talk about their exercise and eating habits, many doctors and nutritionists don’t believe them. That’s because studies show that overweight people commonly underestimate the amount of food they’re eating.

But exercise habits appear to be a different story. New research shows that people with weight problems are far more tuned into how much they exercise than they are often given credit for.

In a study presented at the Obesity Society’s annual meeting, researchers from Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education in Philadelphia found that obese women were more accurate in reporting their activity levels than overweight or normal weight women.

For 12 months, the researchers studied 280 normal weight, overweight and obese women whose average age was 47. The women were equipped with accelerometers, devices that measure physical activity, and asked how much they exercised at the beginning of the study, after three months and at 12 months. Notably, women who were normal weight or overweight, but not obese, had a more difficult time estimating their physical activity levels. But women who were obese — meaning they had a body mass index above 30 — came much closer to accurately estimating how much they were exercising.

Study lead author Tracy Oliver said that obese women are often considered “less credible? when they report their caloric intake, and that she expected they would also have a difficult time estimating their physical activity. She speculated that the opposite finding may be due to the fact that exercise and even low levels of physical activity may be particularly challenging for an obese person.

“They want to give themselves credit for every little bit engaged in due to the effort put forth,? she said.

This was a rather interesting short article on a research study. Although, I would have like more information about why these results were found and what they might mean. Why were obese women more accurate in estimating their physical activity levels? Were non-obese women underestimating or overestimating? And why? What about men? What does this mean for normal or overweight women? This is a great news piece despite not being in a peer reviewed scholarly journal. However, I would have liked to see more detail and greater depth of meaning.


October 7, 2008

New Physical Activity Recommendations

The Department of Health and Human Services Announces New Physical Activity Recommendations

Adults can gain substantial health benefits from two and a half hours a week of moderate aerobic physical activity.

The new guidelines, from the Health and Human Services Department, aim to end years of confusion about how much physical activity is enough, while making clear that there are lots of ways to achieve it.

Key Guidelines for Adults
Adults gain substantial health benefits from two and one half hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity. Walking briskly, water aerobics, ballroom dancing and general gardening are examples of moderate intensity aerobic activities. Vigorous intensity aerobic activities include racewalking, jogging or running, swimming laps, jumping rope and hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes. For more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to five hours a week moderate-intensity or two and one half hours a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Adults should incorporate muscle strengthening activities, such as weight training, push-ups, sit-ups and carrying heavy loads or heavy gardening, at least two days a week.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans are the most comprehensive of their kind. They are based on the first thorough review of scientific research about physical activity and health in more than a decade. A 13-member advisory committee appointed in April 2007 by Secretary Leavitt reviewed research and produced an extensive report.

It’s important for all Americans to be active, and the guidelines are a roadmap to include physical activity in their daily routine,? HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. “The evidence is clear -- regular physical activity over months and years produces long-term health benefits and reduces the risk of many diseases. The more physically active you are, the more health benefits you gain.?