Sorry folks, I have no session slots available for new clients for the time being. Contrary to what Tesco and Poundland might tell you, I am not taking part in any promotional scheme, although they do seem like quite a bargain! Watch this space – good luck in your journey towards self improvement.

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When more is not better

Vigorous exercise is good for health, but only if it’s limited to a maximum daily dose of between 30 and 50 minutes, say researchers in an editorial published online in Heart.

The idea that more and more high intensity exercise, such as marathons, can only do you good, is a myth say the US cardiologists, and the evidence shows that it’s likely to more harm than good to your heart.

“If you really want to do a marathon or full distance triathlon, etc, it may be best to do just one or a few and then proceed to safer and healthier exercise patterns,” they warn.

“A routine of moderate physical activity will add life to your years as well as years to your life. In contrast, running too far, too fast, and for too many years may speed one’s progress to towards the finishing line of life.”

J. H. O’Keefe, C. J. Lavie. Run for your life .. at a comfortable speed and not too far. Heart, 2012; DOI: 10.1136/heartjnl-2012-302886
From ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/11/121129143456.htm

Posted in Disease prevention and management, Health and fitness | Tagged , , ,

Aerobic Exercise Beats Resistance Training for Weight and Fat Loss

Aerobic training is the best mode of exercise for burning fat, according to Duke University Medical Centre researchers who compared aerobic training, resistance training, and a combination of the two.

The study, which appears Dec. 15, 2012, in the Journal of Applied Physiology, is the largest randomized trial to analyse changes in body composition from the three modes of exercise in overweight or obese adults without diabetes.

Aerobic exercise – including walking, running, and swimming – has been proven to be an effective way to lose weight. However, recent guidelines have suggested that resistance training, which includes weight lifting to build and maintain muscle mass, may also help with weight loss by increasing a person’s resting metabolic rate. Research has demonstrated health benefits for resistance training, such as improving glucose control, but studies on the effects of resistance training on fat mass have been inconclusive.

“Given that approximately two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight due to excess body fat, we want to offer clear, evidence-based exercise recommendations that will truly help people lose weight and body fat,” said Leslie H. Willis, MS, an exercise physiologist at Duke Medicine and the study’s lead author.

Researchers enrolled 234 overweight or obese adults in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three exercise training groups: resistance training (three days per week of weight lifting, three sets per day, 8-12 repetitions per set), aerobic training (approximately 12 miles per week), or aerobic plus resistance training (three days a week, three set per day, 8-12 repetitions per set for resistance training, plus approximately 12 miles per week of aerobic exercise).

The exercise sessions were supervised in order to accurately measure adherence among participants. Data from 119 people who completed the study and had complete body composition data were analyzed to determine the effectiveness of each exercise regimen.

The groups assigned to aerobic training and aerobic plus resistance training lost more weight than those who did just resistance training. The resistance training group actually gained weight due to an increase in lean body mass.

Aerobic exercise was also a more efficient method of exercise for losing body fat. The aerobic exercise group spent an average of 133 minutes a week training and lost weight, while the resistance training group spent approximately 180 minutes exercising a week without shedding pounds.

The combination exercise group, while requiring double the time commitment, provided a mixed result. The regimen helped participants lose weight and fat mass, but did not significantly reduce body mass nor fat mass over aerobic training alone. This group did notice the largest decrease in waist circumference, which may be attributed to the amount of time participants spent exercising.

Resting metabolic rate, which determines how many calories are burned while at rest, was not directly measured in this study. While theories suggest that resistance training can improve resting metabolic rates and therefore aid in weight loss, in this study, resistance training did not significantly decrease fat mass nor body weight irrespective of any change in resting metabolic rate that might have occurred.

“No one type of exercise will be best for every health benefit,” Willis added. “However, it might be time to reconsider the conventional wisdom that resistance training alone can induce changes in body mass or fat mass due to an increase in metabolism, as our study found no change.”

Duke researchers added that exercise recommendations are age-specific. For older adults experiencing muscle atrophy, studies have found resistance training to be beneficial. However, younger, healthy adults or those looking to lose weight would see better results doing aerobic training.

“Balancing time commitments against health benefits, our study suggests that aerobic exercise is the best option for reducing fat mass and body mass,” said Cris A. Slentz, PhD, a Duke exercise physiologist and study co-author. “It’s not that resistance training isn’t good for you; it’s just not very good at burning fat.”

Journal Reference:

  1. L. H. Willis, C. A. Slentz, L. A. Bateman, A. T. Shields, L. W. Piner, C. W. Bales, J. A. Houmard, W. E. Kraus. Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2012; 113 (12): 1831 DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01370.2011
Posted in Disease prevention and management, Health and fitness, Weight loss | Tagged , ,

Shovel FIT

Get fit and healthy whilst clearing the snow in the great outdoors by using a good old fashioned shovel. Did you know that manual snow shoveling is as energetic as downhill skiing or cross country hiking? Multiply your weight in kg by 6 to find out how many calories you could burn in an hour. Sunshine on a snowy day




Technique is important, not only for work efficiency, but to protect your back from injury:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart for stability and balance
  • Keep the shovel close to your body
  • Bend from the knees
  • Tighten your tummy as you lift the shoveled snow.
  • Avoid twisting at the waist: move your whole body and feet round to move the snow
  • Warm up by shoveling slowly
  • Use a shovel with a smaller blade to ease the load
  • Rest frequently until you are accustomed to the work

Manual shoveling is not for everyone. If you have had, or are at risk of having a heart attack; have a history of heart disease or high blood pressure; smoke or lead a very sedentary lifestyle, then leave the job to someone else until you have made lifestyle changes.

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Physical Exercise Improves Gait Speed, Muscle Strength, Fitness in Patients with Parkinson Disease

Physical exercise, including treadmill, stretching and resistance exercises, appears to improve gait (walking) speed, muscle strength and fitness for patients with Parkinson disease (PD), according to a recent report of a randomized clinical trial published Online First by Archives of Neurology, a JAMA Network publication.

As I (Helen) reported here earlier, current therapies are inadequate at preserving mobility as PD progresses. Fortunately, there is growing interest in the use of exercise to improve mobility and function see my NEUROfit page.  What I found particularly interesting about this study is that the higher intensity of treadmill training sessions reported in this study were of only 30 min duration, whereas, the lower intensity sessions were of 50 min duration.  The better outcome in terms of gait-speed from the ‘lower’ intensity training sessions supports the idea of high-volume training for neuro-plastic changes to occur.

Lisa M. Shulman, M.D., of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial of three types of physical exercise to compare the effectiveness of treadmill, stretching and resistance exercises in improving gait speed, strength and fitness for patients with PD.

The study included 67 patients with PD who had gait impairment and were randomly assigned to one of three groups in the trial: a higher intensity treadmill exercise (30 minutes at 70 percent to 80 percent of heart rate reserve); a lower-intensity treadmill exercise (50 minutes at 40 percent to 50 percent of heart rate reserve); and stretching and resistance exercises (two sets of 10 repetitions on each leg on three resistance machines). Patients performed the exercises three times a week for three months.

“The effects of exercise were seen across all three exercise groups. The lower-intensity treadmill exercise resulted in the greatest improvement in gait speed. Both the higher- and lower-intensity treadmill exercises improved cardiovascular fitness. Only the stretching and resistance exercises improved muscle strength. Therefore, exercise can improve gait speed, muscle strength and fitness for patients with Parkinson disease,” the study notes.

According to the study results, all three types of exercise improved distance on the 6-minute walk: lower-intensity treadmill exercise (12 percent increase), stretching and resistance exercises (9 percent increase) , and higher-intensity treadmill exercises (6 percent increase). Both types of treadmill training improved cardiovascular fitness, whereas stretching and resistance had no effect. Only stretching and resistance improved muscle strength (16 percent increase).

“The fact that the lower-intensity treadmill exercise is the most feasible exercise for most patients with PD has important implications for clinical practice. Although treadmill and resistance training are beneficial for gait, fitness and muscle strength, these benefits were not accompanied by improvements in disability and quality of life,” the authors conclude. “Future directions for study include trials of combinations of exercise types, longer training periods and investigation of the potential for exercise to modify the trajectory of disease progression over time.”

(Arch Neurol. Published online November 5, 2012. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.646)

Editor’s Note: This study was supported by a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Additional resources also were provided from other sources. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Editorial: Benefits of Exercise in Parkinson Disease

In an editorial, Liana S. Rosenthal, M.D., and E. Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A., of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine,Baltimore,Md., write: “In this issue of the journal, Shulman and colleagues offer compelling evidence that exercise can improve gait and fitness among individuals with PD.”

“This research adds to the evidence regarding the value of interventions for PD beyond medications and surgery and offers an opportunity for patients to be active participants in their care,” they continue.

“Exercise programs among those with neurological disorders increase the patients’ sense of self-efficacy, their sense of involvement in their care and overall belief in their abilities to perform certain activities,” they conclude. “In essence, exercise puts the patient – not a pill – at the center of care, which is exactly where patients want and ought to be.”

(Arch Neurol. Published online November 5, 2012. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.772.)

click here for media source.

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The right trousers? – Advanced exoskeleton for people with paraplegia

The dream of regaining the ability to stand up and walk has come closer to reality for people paralyzed below the waist who thought they would never take another step.

A team of engineers at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Intelligent Mechatronics has developed a powered exoskeleton that enables people with severe spinal cord injuries to stand, walk, sit and climb stairs. Its light weight, compact size and modular design promise to provide users with an unprecedented degree of independence.

The university has several patents pending on the design and Parker Hannifin Corporation – a global leader in motion and control technologies – has signed an exclusive licensing agreement to develop a commercial version of the device, which it plans on introducing in 2014.

Parker-Hannifin design concept for the commercial version of the exoskeleton.

Parker-Hannifin design concept for the commercial version of the exoskeleton. (Courtesy of Parker-Hannifin)

Until recently “wearable robots” were the stuff of science fiction. In the last 10 years, however, advances in robotics, microelectronics, battery and electric motor technologies advanced to the point where it has become practical to develop exoskeletons to aid people with disabilities. In fact, two companies – Argo Medical Technologies Ltd. in Israel and Ekso Bionics in Berkeley, Calif. – have developed products of this type and are marketing them in the U.S.

These devices act like an external skeleton. They strap in tightly around the torso. Rigid supports are strapped to the legs and extend from the hip to the knee and from the knee to the foot. The hip and knee joints are driven by computer-controlled electric motors powered by advanced batteries. Patients use the powered apparatus with walkers or forearm crutches to maintain their balance.

“You can think of our exoskeleton as a Segway with legs,” said Michael Goldfarb, the H. Fort Flowers Chair in Mechanical Engineering and professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. “If the person wearing it leans forward, he moves forward. If he leans back and holds that position for a few seconds, he sits down. When he is sitting down, if he leans forward and holds that position for a few seconds, then he stands up.”

Goldfarb developed the system with funding from the National Institutes of Health and with the assistance of research engineer Don Truex, graduate students Hugo Quintero, Spencer Murray and Kevin Ha, and Ryan Farris, a former student who now works for Parker Hannifin.

“My kids have started calling me ‘Ironman,’” said Brian Shaffer, who was completely paralyzed from the waist down in an automobile accident on Christmas night 2010. He has been testing the Vanderbilt apparatus at the Nashville-area satellite facility of the Shepherd Center. Based in Atlanta, Shepherd Center is one the leading hospitals for spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation in the U.S. and has provided the Vanderbilt engineers with the clinical feedback they need to develop the device.

Brian Shaffer

Brian Shaffer testing the Vanderbilt exoskeleton at Shepherd Center’s satellite facility in Franklin, Tenn. (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt)

“It’s unbelievable to stand up again. It takes concentration to use it at first but, once you catch on, it’s not that hard: The device does all the work. I don’t expect that it will completely replace the wheelchair, but there are some situations, like walking your daughter down the aisle at her wedding or sitting in the bleachers watching your son play football, where it will be priceless,” said Shaffer, who has two sons and two daughters.

“This is an extremely exciting new technology,” said Clare Hartigan, a physical therapist at Shepherd Center who has worked with the Argo, Ekso and Vanderbilt devices. “All three models get people up and walking, which is fantastic.”

According to Hartigan, just getting people out of their wheelchairs and getting their bodies upright regularly can pay major health dividends. People who must rely on a wheelchair to move around can develop serious problems with their urinary, respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems, as well as getting osteoporosis, pressure sores, blood clots and other afflictions associated with lack of mobility. The risk for developing these conditions can be reduced considerably by regularly standing, moving and exercising their lower limbs.

The Vanderbilt design has some unique characteristics that have led Hartigan and her colleagues at Shepherd Center to conclude that it has the most promise as a rehabilitative and home device.

None of the exoskeletons have been approved yet for home use. But the Vanderbilt design has some intrinsic advantages. It has a modular design and is lighter and slimmer than the competition. As a result, it can provide its users with an unprecedented degree of independence. Users will be able to transport the compact device on the back of their wheelchair. When they reach a location where they want to walk, they will be able to put on the exoskeleton by themselves without getting out of the wheelchair. When they are done walking, they can sit back down in the same chair and take the device off or keep it on and propel the wheelchair to their next destination.

The Vanderbilt exoskeleton weighs about 27 pounds, nearly half the weight of the other models that weigh around 45 pounds. The other models are also bulkier so most users wearing them cannot fit into a standard-sized wheelchair.

From a rehabilitation perspective the Vanderbilt design also has two potential advantages, Hartigan pointed out:

  • The amount of robotic assistance adjusts automatically for users who have some muscle control in their legs. This allows them to use their own muscles while walking. When a user is totally paralyzed, the device does all the work. The other designs provide all the power all of the time.
  • It is the only wearable robot that incorporates a proven rehabilitation technology called functional electrical stimulation. FES applies small electrical pulses to paralyzed muscles, causing them to contract and relax. FES can improve strength in the legs of people with incomplete paraplegia. For complete paraplegics, FES can improve circulation, change bone density and reduce muscle atrophy.

Hartigan has advice for potential users: “These new devices for walking are here and they are getting better and better. However, a person has to be physically fit to use them. They have to keep their weight below 220 pounds, develop adequate upper body strength to use a walker or forearm crutches and maintain flexibility in their shoulder, hip, knee and ankle joints … which is not that easy when a person has relied on a wheelchair for months or even years.”

The research was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development numbered R01HD059832.

David Salisbury, (615) 322-NEWS

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Work your body to protect your brain

People who exercise later in life may better protect their brain from age-related changes than those who do not, a study suggests

People who exercise later in life may better protect their brain from age-related changes than those who do not, a study suggests: researchers found that people over 70 who took regular exercise showed less brain shrinkage over a three-year period than those who did little exercise.

Greater brain shrinkage is linked to problems with memory and thinking and the researchers say their findings suggest that exercise is potentially one important pathway to maintaining a healthy brain both in terms of size and reducing damage.

The researchers also examined the brain’s white matter – the wiring that transmits messages round the brain. They found that people over 70 who were more physically active had fewer ‘damaged’ areas – visible as abnormal areas on scanning – in the white matter than those who did little exercise.  Additionally, the researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that the over-70s taking regular exercise had more grey matter – the parts of the brain with nerve cell bodies.

The Edinburgh team used MRI scans to measure the volume of brain tissue and the volume and health of the brain’s white matter in almost 700 people.

They studied levels of physical activity which ranged from moving only for necessary housework to more strenuous forms of exercise such as keep-fit or taking part in competitive sports.  Scientists also recorded whether or not the participants – all aged over 70 – took part in mentally stimulating activities such reading and participating in social groups.  Quite surprisingly, psychologists and neuro-imaging experts, based at the University of Edinburgh, did not find there to be any benefit to brain health for older people from participation in social or mentally stimulating activities.

Dr Alan Gow of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology who led the research, said: “Our results suggest that to maintain brain health, physical activity may be more beneficial than choosing more sedentary activities. We are excited by the next stages of this research as we seek to understand more about what might underlie the effect, but in the meantime, increasing physical activity – even a short walk each day – can only be encouraged.”

Professor James Goodwin, Head of Research at Age UK who fund the Disconnected Mind research project, said: “This research is exciting as it provides vital clues as to what impacts the way our brain ages and how we could tackle mental decline. If we can establish definitively that exercise provides protection against mental decline, it could open the door to exercise programmes tailored to the needs of people as they age.

“We already know that exercise is important in reducing our risk of some illnesses that come with ageing, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. This research re-emphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it’s a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older.”


The study is published today in Neurology, the journal of The American Academy of Neurology and is part of a larger project that is supported by funding from the Age UK (The Disconnected Mind project) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The study was carried out at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Epidemiology (CCACE), which is funded by the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing programme, a collaboration between the UK’s Research Councils and Health Departments which is led by the MRC (www.mrc.ac.uk/LLHW), and at the University’s Brain Research Imaging Centre (www.bric.ed.ac.uk).

Posted in Cognitive health and memory, Disease prevention and management, Mental health | Tagged , , , , , , ,

It’s simple: eat, fast – lose fat, stay smart and live longer

Last week, in BBC Two’s Horizon programme Dr Michael Mosley investigated the effects of intermittent fasting on health.  He was looking for ways to live longer, stay younger and lose weight whilst making as few changes to his life as possible along the way.  Based on recent scientific findings on the ancient idea of intermittent fasting, and he was able to test out the idea on himself and still enjoy his food.  He found that restricting his calories to only 600 per day on only two days of the week, whilst eating normally on the other five days allowed him to improve his health and help him shed body fat.

All cells in the body require energy to survive and function properly, but consuming too many calories, too frequently, over long periods of time will cause body fat storage and can cause cells to malfunction and promote disorders such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and cancers.

Restricting your calorie intake whilst maintaining adequate vitamin and mineral intake can extend lifespan and can increase disease resistance. Studies have shown that dietary restriction can have profound effects on brain function and vulnerability to injury and disease. Animal studies have shown that decreasing either the frequency of eating or the quantity of food consumed can protect neurons against degeneration in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases and stroke.

Dietary restriction by either increasing the time interval between meals and/or by reducing overall calorie intake appears to cause a positive cellular stress response that stimulates the production of proteins that enhance brain cell connection, neuronal plasticity (changes in, or growth of nerve cells) and cellular resistance to oxidative and metabolic stresses.  These changes may increase the ability of the brain to resist aging and restore function following injury.

A recent review revealed that 3 to 12  weeks of either:

  1. Intermittent fasting (24 hr complete or partial fasting followed by 24 hr eating normally) or,
  2. daily calorie restriction (eating 40-85% of normal calorie intake)

gained similar weight and fat mass losses, with intermittent fasting achieving 4-8% weight loss and 11-16% fat loss, and daily calorie restriction achieving 5-8% weight loss and 10-20% fat loss.  Most importantly, they found that less lean mass (body tissue other than fat) was lost in response to intermittent fasting versus daily calorie restriction.  The findings suggest that although these diets are equally as effective in decreasing body weight and fat mass, intermittent fasting may be more effective in retaining lean muscle.

The take home message?  On one or two days per week, take time out from your usual levels of food intake – have a partial fast, i.e. 500 calories for a woman, 600 calories for a man, where you eat two small protein and vegetable-based meals, one at breakfast and one in the early evening.  Drink plenty water. On the other days, avoid snacking and allow yourself to feel hungry before eating, this signals changes in your body that are protective to your brain and body cells. Eat a little less than normal when you do eat and make sure that your diet is as healthy and varied as you can make it.

Posted in Cancer, Cognitive health and memory, Diet and weight control, Disease prevention and management, Mental health, Neurological injury | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

How much exercise should I do each week to prevent disease and keep healthy?

What is the advice for adults?

To stay healthy, adults aged 19-64 should try to be active daily and should do at least:

150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and

muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a
week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips,
back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).


75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week, and

muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a
week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips,
back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).



An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week (for example two 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of fast walking), and

muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

CMO exercise and activity guidelines for UK , click here for source article.

Posted in Cancer, Cognitive health and memory, Disease prevention and management, Health and fitness, Mental health, Strength and endurance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is there such a thing as eating too many fruits and vegetables?

Yes!  According to Loyola University Health System registered dietitian Brooke Schantz,

“While fruits are nutritious, too much of even a healthy food can lead to weight gain.  The key is to remember to control the portion sizes of the foods you consume.”

Regardless of the food source, if you consume too many calories for your needs then your body will convert the spare energy into body fat.  Starchy vegetables such as peas, corn and potatoes, and sugar-rich fruits such as ripe bananas, although healthy, are rich in calories and should be limited.  Non starchy, low sugar fruit and vegetables, such as most leafy vegetables, cauliflower and broccoli, celery, salad vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, apples, pears, cherries, strawberries and raspberries are difficult to overeat unless they are accompanied by unnecessary calories from sauces, cheeses, cream or butter. This is due to their high water and fiber content coupled with the stretching capacity of the stomach.

Limit yourself to 2-3 portions of starchy fruit or vegetables each day and fill up on at least 3 portions of non starchy fruit and vegetables each day.  Choose fresh, seasonal and preferably organic for optimal health.

Source article: Loyola University Health System (2012, July 24). ScienceDaily.

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