What's the Take Home Message From the New Study on Walking and The Brain?
A: "The single most dazzling advance has been the discovery that the brain can generate new cells," Parade Magazine, November 21, 1999.
A few days later, we posted an article titled CHALLENGE YOUR MIND, AS WELL AS YOUR BODY: https://www.cbass.com/Mind.htm
I led off with the above quote from Parade Magazine.
Until the late 1990s, the prevailing view was that our brain was physically fixed and inflexible after early childhood. That the brain cells we are born with is all there will ever be.
We've been learning more about the "how and why" ever since the finding that new brain cells can be generated. Most of the early research focused on the gray cells that permit and create thoughts and memories. Less research was devoted to white matter, which connects different parts of the brains.
As we age, white matter deteriorates; as a result, the signal becomes slower, misdirected or lost. One study showed that a noticeable decline in white matter integrity can occur after only six months in healthy aging adults.
The new research finds that it also works the other way around. That moderate aerobic walking three times a week can reverse age-related white matter impairment, as well as improve memory.
In the new study, Agnieszka Burzynska, a professor of neuroscience and human development at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and colleagues collected brain images and cognitive measurements from a group of healthy sedentary men and women (average age 65 years).
All participants' bodies changed after
completing the six-month exercise program. But did their brains change?
The answer depends on what type of exercise was practiced.
For the exercisers, these findings ďare very promising,Ē Dr. Burzynska says. They tell us that white matter remains plastic and active, whatever our age, and a few brisk walks a week might be enough, she says, to burnish the tissue and slow or stave off memory decline.
The study is open access; you can read it online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811921005814?via%3Dihub
For a less technical presentation, see the New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds: https://dnyuz.com/2021/07/14/how-walking-can-build-up-the-brain/
September 1, 2021
What's the Minimum Dose of Training to Stay Fit?
A. We have a new study (May 2021) which addresses this question from every angle - endurance, strength, athlete, general population, and age - for the most part in language we can all understand.
Cutting to the chase, here's the bottom line: Our primary conclusion is that exercise intensity seems to be the key variable for maintaining physical performance over time, despite relatively large reductions in exercise frequency and volume.
Only one problem as I see it.
While it is an excellent study overall, I question the finding on maintaining muscle size and age. They distinguish between training in the younger (~20-35) and in the older (~60 and 75) groups.
They find that younger trainers can reduce muscle movements to one set per week, but recommend that the older group up training to 2-3 sets per exercise twice a week.
I see this as an option for seniors--nothing more.
* * *
I often link people to Professor Ralph Carpinelli's paper: The No-Nonsense Way to Build Strength: https://www.cbass.com/CarpinelliNoNonsense.htm
As Carpinelli observes: "There is very little evidence to suggest that multiple sets of each exercise are superior to a single set for strength gains."
As I wrote years ago, doing more than one set encourages pacing, holding back on the first set and losing steam on the final set. Makes more sense to do one "all out" set and move on to the next exercise.
At 83, I still do a general warm-up and one set of each exercise, lifting until I can't do another rep in good form. Focusing on intensity - not volume - in accordance with the overall conclusion of new study.
That said, those who prefer training more often and doing two or more sets should do just that. Best results come from training in the way you enjoy and believe best.
Just don't think you must do more sets and train more frequently because you are older.
At 90, Bill Pearl prefers volume training. But it has little, if anything, to do with age. As I wrote in my book Challenge Yourself, Bill has always been a volume trainer.
Do what makes sense to you.
The new study is led by a military researcher and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2021/05000/maintaining_physical_performance__the_minimal_dose.35.aspx
I've Heard that Deep Sleep Is Good for the Brain. How Does that Work?
A: The July 2021 Harvard Health Letter tells us that deep sleep is part of the waste management system (called the glymphatic system), flushing out toxins and repairing and rebuilding the brain.
In 2002, I wrote about the lymphatic system, our body's waste management system. The glymphatic system does much the same thing for the brain.
The Lymphatic System
Understanding the basics of the lymphatic system makes it easier to understand the glymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is as essential to bodily function as the bloodstream it complements.
As most readers may know, much of the body is made up of water. Part of the water is in the bloodstream, but far more resides in the lymphatic system. Our cells are located in a sea of lymph, a pale fluid. Oxygen and sugar are transported from the blood vessels to nourish the cells via the lymphatic fluid. Likewise, wastes from the cells Ė carbon dioxide, lactic acid and metabolites Ė are carried back to the bloodstream through the lymph fluid.
When the lymphatic system is flowing freely everything is fine. When it
backs up, however, thereís trouble.
Exercise is a powerful conditioner of the lymphatic system. It can increase lymphatic flow threefold (or more with extreme exercise).
Walking should be your first option. (My Morning Motion routine, moving every joint in the body would be a good addition.) Deep breathing is also a key player. Exercise, of course, makes us breathe faster and more deeply.
Remember, the lymph system doesnít have a heart to keep it flowing. Itís dependent on contraction of the muscles and breathing. So, breathe deeply and exercise.
No matter what exercise you choose, the important thing is to do it regularly and habitually. Keep moving in ways you enjoy and want to continue doing.
You'll find many more details in my 2002 article: https://www.cbass.com/lymph.htm
That brings us to deep sleep, the glymphatic system, and the brain.
The Glymphatic System
Fitbit tells us that deep sleep is when our body and the thinking parts of our brain are "largely offline," - completely relaxed - allowing the body to do "a lot of rebuilding and repairing."
Harvard Health Letter takes it from there, calling the brain's waste management system "one of the most interesting discoveries in the past decade."
Called the glymphatic system, it consists of "a series of tubes that carry fresh fluid into the brain, mix the fresh fluid with the waste-filled fluid that surrounds the brain cells, and then flush the mix out of the brain and into the blood."
This occurs primarily during deep sleep.
* * *
Those interested in the technical details will want to read a Science Direct paper titled "Cleaning the sleeping brain - the potential restorative function of the glymphatic system: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468867319301609
* * *
This makes me want to pay even more attention to getting a good night sleep--and to the "Deep Sleep" reading on my Fitbit.
You might want to take another look at my article on The Importance of Sleep: https://www.cbass.com/Sleep.htm
Active living brings on restful sleep.
Another reason to keep moving.
August 1, 2021
Still Using Your Fitbit?
A: Yes indeed. Moreover, we have a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (March 2021) showing the effectiveness of such devices in reducing body weight in overweight and obese individuals.
Carol says I've become addicted to my Fitbit. While there's some truth in that, it's a healthy addiction.
I check my Fitbit every morning for sleep time and pattern, resting heart rate, heart rate pattern during the night, and info on my walks during the previous day.
When Carol and I go into the foothills, the first thing I do when we get home is check the Fitbit for time, steps, and heart rate pattern (average, high and low). That allows me to compare foothill workouts from week to week and keep it interesting. I try to make every trek different and challenging.
You'll find more details in my FAQ shortly after getting the Fitbit from my brother-in-law for Christmas: https://www.cbass.com/FAQ(11).htm
* * *
As many know, I check my body composition on our Tanita scale every Saturday. That allows me to make adjustments in my diet or training when necessary - before things get out of hand.
This happened recently when my body fat hit 8%. (I try to stay between 5 and 7%) I made a few minor adjustments in my diet and activity level, and was back under 7% in three weeks. It was painless, a key to staying lean. Weight control regimens that create hunger and feelings of deprivation simple do not work over time.
My experience is that monitors of activity and body composition are indeed helpful.
That brings us to the new study on the effectiveness of fitness trackers for the overweight and obese.
Researchers led by Dr. Zan Gao, University of Minnesota Twin Cites, reviewed results from 31 studies and found that the greatest weight loss was in participants who used the type of activity devices used in research (pedometers and accelerometers) and commercially available fitness trackers (Fitbit and Apple Watch), compared with exercise programs that did not use trackers and control groups.
We learned of the study in the Cleveland Clinic Arthritis Advisor and found more details in the British Medical Journal. (We were only able to access the study Abstract.)
While physical inactivity makes it harder to lose weight, only about 5% of US adults meet recommended physical activity levels. And those who are overweight or obese are even less likely to meet these recommendations, say the researchers.
Fitness trackers and step counters seem
to motivate users to meet their physical activity goals, but it's not
clear if they can also help people who are overweight lower their Body
Mass Index (BMI)óa measure of healthy weight.
Each study required participants to set and meet goals based on daily steps and/or to reach the recommended weekly minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (usually brisk walking).
Both the fitness trackers and step counters/accelerometers by themselves resulted in an average reduction in BMI of around 2. But step counters/accelerometers combined with counseling or dietary changes achieved the largest average BMI reduction.
This is because they "allow users to set
and track [physical activity] - and health-related goals and provide
constant reminders to get up and move to achieve these goals, which
promotes self-monitoring and self-regulation," the researchers explained.
July 1, 2021
Are You Still Big on Breakfast?
A: Yes, the case for eating a good breakfast continues to grow.
I don't believe there's ever been a time in my life when I didn't eat a substantial breakfast. By stabilizing my blood sugar first thing in the morning and keeping it on an even keel, I've been able to come to each meal under control, ready to eat but not famished.
In FAQ 10, I wrote about two recent
studies from Israel explained why eating a hearty breakfast is
important. We now have a third study from Germany.
The second study focused on blood sugar stability. Again, both groups ate the same number of calories. The difference was that one group consumed substantially more of the calories at breakfast and the other in the evening meal. Lunch was the same in both groups. The groups then switched diets--those eating the big breakfast had the big dinner and vice versa--to control for individual differences.
"Our study demonstrated that a large breakfast and reduced dinner is a beneficial alternative for the management of glucose balance during the day and should be considered as a therapeutic strategy in type 2 diabetes," Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz of Tel Aviv University told Medscape.com.
For more details, see https://www.cbass.com/FAQ(10).htm
Calorie Burn Much Higher at Breakfast
Researchers from the University of Lubeck in Germany found that our body's ability to burn calories is more than twice as high at breakfast than at dinner.
The study title is surprisingly straight forward: Twice as High Diet-Induced Thermogenesis After Breakfast vs Dinner On High-Calorie as Well as Low-Calorie Meals
Juliane Richter, MSc, Center of Brain, Behavior and Metabolism, and colleagues examined diet-induced metabolism in 16 healthy, normal weight men who ate a low-calorie breakfast and a high-calorie dinner in the first round and then switched in the second round. Again, to control for individual differences.
Regardless of calories consumed, metabolism was 2 and half times greater in the morning than in the evening. What's more, they found that eating a low-calorie breakfast increased feelings of hunger, especially for sweets.
"We recommend that patients with obesity, as well as healthy people, eat a large breakfast to reduce body weight and prevent metabolic diseases," lead author Julian Richter said in a statement.
Cleveland Clinic Men's Health Advisor, where I learned of the study, says the "take-home message" is that eating a big breakfast ups calorie burn, aids weight management, and controls blood sugar.
You can read the entire study online: https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/105/3/e211/5740411?login=true
* * *
My lifetime habit of eating a substantial breakfast is looking better and better.
July 1, 2021
Physical Activity After 65?
A: I was troubled--but not really surprised--to read in the Nutrition Action Health Letter that "nearly one in four women over age 65 are unable to walk just two or three blocks at a stretch." Lack of mobility is, of course, associated with a loss of independence. If you can't get around well, life tends to close in on you, limiting your opportunities.
A study reported in JAMA Network Open on February 23, 2021 shows that it doesn't have to be this way. Self help can keep us going strong at 65 and beyond.
Nicole L. Glass, MPH, and John Bellettiere, PhD, Human Longevity Science, University of California, San Diego, and colleagues followed 5,735 mobile women aged 63 or older who wore an accelerometer to measure their activity level.
After five years they measured their mobility again, finding that those who did roughly 5 to 10 hours of light activity a day had a 40 percent lower risk of disability than those who did 4 hours or less.
Disability meant that they couldn't walk a block or up a flight of stairs on a typical day.
They concluded that increased time spent in light-intensity activity is likely to reduce incidents of disability.
In short, staying active will keep you mobile. Get up and get moving every day, and you'll do fine.
Sit around most of the time and you're likely to find that you're having trouble getting up without a struggle. Spend time in the waiting room of doctors (any kind) and you're likely to see people who find themselves straining to get up, much less going up stairs.
Nutrition Action suggests following the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: at least 5 hours of light activity a day. Better yet, 2 and a half hours of moderate--or one and one half hours of vigorous activity. Some combination of the three options is probably best.
You can read the entire study online: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2776720
If you want to be able to get up, do chair squats several times a week. (To make it harder do slow reps or wear a weight belt) If you want to keep walking, make walking part of your day. If you want to be able to climb stairs, climb stairs indoors and hills outside.
Carol is a good example. Every day she takes a long walk outdoors, and then does short walks indoors throughout the day. On weekends she hikes in the foothills with me.
She also does strength training: Hip-Belt Squats and a variety of free weight or machine exercises for the rest of her body.
In short, she stays active and has the mobility that goes with it.
This is my favorite photo of us
together--with her arm up in victory.
Photo by a friendly neighbor
June 1, 2021
Should I Count Calories to Lose Weight?
A: No. I've never counted calories. It's a nuisance and not necessary. The key is to eat quality foods that fill you up, without overshooting your calorie needs.
Here's what I wrote in my first book, RIPPED: The Sensible Way to Achieve Ultimate Muscularity, published in 1980:
Self-discipline is the problem: Itís hard to discipline yourself to eat fewer calories than you burn. I found the solution to this problem. I discovered by eating only natural, unprocessed foods, you avoid almost all concentrated calorie foods, and you wonít overeat. Youíll become lean.
People marveled at my results but questioned my diet. Many said (or thought) it was too good to be true. That I was oversimplifying or just didnít understand how weight control works for most people.
* * *
Counting calories may still be the prevailing view: Why Calorie Counting Still Works Best for Weight Loss: https://www.verywellfit.com/why-calories-still-count-3496053
But some heavy hitters are coming around to my way of getting lean and staying lean.
Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and editor-in-chief of Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter, addressed your query in the February, 2021 issue:
"Counting calories is not necessary, and, I believe, not desirable when trying to lose weight. Calories of course matter, but the number of calories we ultimately eat - and burn - is influenced long-term by the types of foods we eat.
"Based on our evolutionary past when food was scarce, humans have multiple powerful, overlapping mechanisms for maintaining weight. A focus on calorie counting can work for short term weight loss, but eventually these mechanisms for weight control fight back."
"Different types of food we eat have important influences on these mechanisms. When we eat foods that are more highly processed, rich in starch or sugar, rapidly digested, and nutrient poor - even when restricting calories - our weight maintenance mechanisms are affected in negative ways that make it hard to keep the weight off. In contrast, when we eat foods that are minimally processed, rich in fiber, phytonutrients, and healthy fats, and slowly digested, these mechanisms are affected in positive ways that help us slowly lose weight, and keep it off long term."
"For long-term success and steady gradual, weight loss, fill up on foods like fruits, nuts, beans, virgin plant oils, non-starchy veggies, minimally processed whole grains and fish, as well as yogurt with probiotics. Minimize foods high in refined starch (most breads, cereals, rice, crackers, granola bars, muffins, etc.), sweets and sugars, sugary drinks and alcohol, and processed meats. Other foods like cheese, poultry, eggs, and occasionally, unprocessed red meats, can be eaten in moderation."
"Aim to lose a pound a week or simply to keep weight constant (itself a victory). Focus on making healthy food choices rather than counting calories. This approach will help your health at any weight."
* * *
Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at Harvard, and perhaps the most widely quoted person in nutrition and health, also calls diet quality important for both weight control and long-term well-being.
Finally, Harvard professor David Ludwig, MD, PhD, is rewriting the rules of diet and weight control with his book Always Hungry? (Grand Central Life Style, 2016)
For a detailed review of Professor Ludwig's insightful book, see my Unlock Your Fat Cells, Forget Calories, Think Quality and Satisfaction: https://www.cbass.com/unlockfatcells.htm
* * *
Now, it's up to you to decide which approach suits you best. Programs that you own work best; see The Ownership Principle: https://www.cbass.com/SELECTIO.HTM
Good training - and eating.
Why Are Some People Sore a Day or Two After Training and Others Are Not?
Visitor Comments Below
A: Emeritus Professor of Psychology Richard Winett and I have been debating this for years. He avoids soreness and I welcome it.
Suggestions that delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) may suppress the immune system caused us to take another look at this issue.
After finding little or no evidence that strenuous exercise impairs immunity, we resumed our evaluation of the two forms of training. It turns out that both approaches have merit.
I've written about DOMS at length: https://www.cbass.com/musclesoreness.htm
My experience is that muscle soreness is an important factor in long term training success. Soreness signals change and progress. And progress keeps us motivated.
Richard on the other hand, enjoys putting great effort into doing the same thing over and over--and rarely gets sore. He seeks perfection in movement, while I value change and progress.
While that explanation--change brings soreness--is in my earlier article, Richard and I dug deeper and found interesting nuances in the two approaches.
Our dialogue was enlightening, and I believe our readers will find it helpful in planning their own training.
* * *
CB: Several questions. Do you have a bottom line on DOMS? Is it to be
avoided altogether or simply kept to a minimum?
I think your training is very productive. I also, for example, am well
aware that I could train with less frequency and the results would be
about the same. So, my frequency of training may be just a preference
that I can rationalize in any number of ways, but not a necessity. I
also though recall that if I could sleep decently, I always seemed to be
able to recover well. Keep in mind too that I found it hard to tolerate
and recover from something you did very well, really hard and longer
rowing sessions. That created more DOMS than anything else. Iím best in
short sprint protocols such as Gibalaís 3 x 20 second protocol, or the
very brief protocol noted in my piece on Sustainable Training. But, you
seemed to do great with rowing.
But, by means of comparison, with no or ineffective training over the last close to 30 years, the expectation is that I likely would have lost about 25 lbs of muscle mass and maybe would have tried to compensate by weighing less.
This photo provided by Richard shows him in peak condition at 46. He is now in his 76th year.
* * *
Hope we've given you a lot to think about. The choice is yours. Take what makes sense and appeals to you, and leave the rest.
February 1, 2021
Selected Visitor Comments
DOMS Not Relevant
Iíve been aware of the DOMS issue for many years, but, as a practical, personal matter, it's never had any relevance for my training.
I work out seven days a week, alternating a lifting workout with a powerwalk (in a nearby park that has decent slopes).
Energy and enthusiasm are my two gauges for recovery, and it's often just one day in three weeks that I'll skip a workout day because I become aware that these gauges are low.
Great conversation regarding DOMS and training in general! Iím 72 years of age and have made many adaptations to my training due to age/injury limitations. As there are not many resources for the older trainer, you and Richard have been my guiding lights for the past 25+ years. Thank you both for all the insight and motivation that you have provided!
When Growing Stopped, Soreness Stopped
I had a major break through in my training (at about the age of 30) when I cut my workouts to 3 days a week 30 minutes max on a upper body - lower body split. I did two sets per large muscle and 1 for smaller. I gave it my all and put on the most muscle I ever have and my strength went through the roof (benching 300lbs, squatting 405 for 10 deep reps with good form and no knee wraps). This is after already working out hard for 15 years already. In the first 3 months of the 3 thirty minute workouts, my muscle soreness came back like I was a beginner again. My point of all this is, I think the soreness was related to me growing again.
Once I stopped growing, the soreness stopped.
Choose Lasting Results
interesting article as there are 2 opinions to compare.
Stress and Allow Recovery
Infrequent strenuous training, with adequate rest, may modulate/impair/suppress the immune system some, for up to 24 hours, but the exercise benefits far out way any short term immune system changes. As you say Clarence, stress the body, then give it plenty of time to recover!
I find that I rarely get DOMS unless I've been sick and have laid off of training for a week or two. On the other hand, one of my younger brothers who trains regularly almost always has DOMS whenever he does a weightlifting workout, even though he does them on a regular basis. So perhaps some of the difference here is due to genetic differences rather than just differences in how we train.
Two Day Delay
Now at 78, I'm experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness about 2 days after working a certain muscle group. Due to our restricted trips out of the house, I'm finding that doing 1 or 2 different muscle groups per day over 5 or 6 consecutive days provides "cabin fever" stress relief - and that the soreness always seems noticeable in those previously exercised muscles.
Soreness Keeps Training Interesting
I agree very
much with you that getting sore after a workout is the body's feedback
that you've done a good workout. Therefore I welcome soreness. But I can
also see Winett's point of view, of never being debilitated by soreness.
So I think the major factor in the equation is psychological. Some
people (like me, and also you perhaps) want to push themselves to the
outer edges of the body limitations. It just plain makes us feel like
we're accomplishing something. It motivates us and satisfies us. The
thought of doing the exact same workout (with only minor variations)
week after week, year after year, like Winett would drive me out of the
gym. It would be too boring. The fact that he thrives with such a
regiment shows how different we are.
March 1, 2021
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