Why Running May Be Good for Your Back

People who regularly run or walk briskly appear to have healthier discs in their spines than people who do not exercise, according to one of the first studies to closely examine links between movement and disc health.

The findings refute a widely held belief that activities like running might overtax the spine and indicate that, instead, they make it sturdier.

The human spine is a complicated mechanism, composed of vertebral bones cushioned between intervertebral discs. These discs, shaped like tiny whoopee cushions, contain a viscous fluid that compresses and absorbs pressure during movement, keeping the back in good working form.

With age, disease or injury, spinal discs can degenerate and bulge, resulting in back pain, which can be debilitating.

There were tantalizing hints in animal studies, however, that this idea could be out of date. When scientists in Sweden scanned the spines of mice before and after they ran for several weeks on treadmills, the researchers noticed significant increases in the size of their spinal discs, indicating that those structures had been responding and adapting to the demands of running.

But mice, of course, run on four legs and are in all other respects not people, and it remained unclear whether running and similar activities would be good or not for the human spine.

So for the new study, which was published in April in Scientific Reports, researchers at Deakin University in Australia and other institutions decided to examine the backs of people who run and others who do not.

Eventually they recruited 79 adult men and women, two-thirds of whom said that they were runners. Some of these told the researchers that they covered more than 30 miles (about 50 kilometers) a week in training. The researchers designated these as the “long-distance” group. The others said that they ran between 12 and 25 miles a week. All had been training for at least five years.

The final group rarely exercised at all.

To ensure that people’s reported activity levels were accurate, the researchers asked their volunteers to wear accelerometers for a week.

Then they scanned everyone’s spines, using a sophisticated type of M.R.I. that precisely measures the size and liquidity of each disc.

And they found differences. In general, the runners’ discs were larger and contained more fluid than the discs of the men and women who did not exercise.

Since both greater size and increased levels of internal fluid indicate better disc health, the runners harbored fundamentally healthier spines than the people who were sedentary, says Daniel Belavy, the study leader and a professor of exercise at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University.

Interestingly, mileage barely mattered. The discs of the people who ran less than 30 miles per week were almost identical to those in the long-distance group, suggesting that, compared to moderate mileage, heavy training does not augment disc health but also

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Running miles to lose weight? You’re wasting your time

Running miles to lose weight? You’re wasting your time

From USA Today

There are lots of benefits to treadmills, but new research shows that runners are likely to get more out of their workouts if they take it outside. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

In the United States, a nation fatter than any other, running remains the most popular workout activity. That’s according to a Fitbit analysis of fitness tracker user data.

And if tied-up treadmills across the country are any indication, much of that running is long distance.

Here’s the cruel catch, though: Running miles at a time doesn’t shed fat as efficiently as other forms of exercise. In some ways it doesn’t help much at all.

As fitness author Lou Schuler explains in his book, The New Rules of Lifting For Women, relying on long-distance running to lose weight poses a key problem. The human body, ever-resourceful, eventually adapts to the repetitive nature of running. And that added efficiency means the body burns fewer calories for the same amount of work.

“If your goal is to be leaner, then greater endurance isn’t really to your benefit,” Schuler concludes.

Dr. William Roberts, a University of Minnesota physician and former president of the American College of Sports Medicine, likes running. He’s blogged for Runner’s World and served as medical director for the Twin Cities Marathon in St. Paul.

That means adding strength training to any pure running routine, Roberts said, the latter of which neglects upper body muscles. Losing weight requires about 40 to 60 minutes of activity most days of the week, he said, and at least half that time should be spent bulking up.

“If you can build strength and build muscle mass, you’re going to burn more calories,” Roberts said. “Even if you’re idling.”

That’s because strength training causes tiny tears in the muscles. Those require calories as they repair, meaning your body keeps working long after you leave the gym. That’s less so with steady, moderate jogging.

Fitness coach Adam Bornstein put it this way in Shape: “With cardio, you can slog away for 30 minutes at a lower intensity and burn 200 calories — or you can just eat 200 fewer calories per day. It’s the same thing.”

If you love running, fear not: Sprinting may work as well. A study from the University of Western Ontario asked one group of people to run at a slow, steady pace for 30 to 60 minutes, three times per week. Another group ran 30-second sprints, between four and six of them, three times each week — a way less time-intensive routine.

The sprinters shed more than twice the body fat of the joggers after six weeks, while gaining some muscle mass. Those who jogged gained none

What are you going to do

More than 10 percent of the world’s population is now obese, a marked rise over the last 30 years that is leading to widespread health problems and millions of premature deaths, according to a new study, the most comprehensive research done on the subject.

Published Monday in The New England Journal of Medicine, the study showed that the problem had swept the globe, including regions that have historically had food shortages, like Africa.

The study, compiled

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Tuesday 170509

 

The salt equation taught to doctors for more than 200 years is not hard to understand.

The body relies on this essential mineral for a variety of functions, including blood pressure and the transmission of nerve impulses. Sodium levels in the blood must be carefully maintained.

If you eat a lot of salt — sodium chloride — you will become thirsty and drink water, diluting your blood enough to maintain the proper concentration of sodium. Ultimately you will excrete much of the excess salt and water in urine.

The theory is intuitive and simple. And it may be completely wrong.

New studies of Russian cosmonauts, Read more Tuesday 170509

Let’s get our Box Squat on

The toll that aging takes on a body extends all the way down to the cellular level. But the damage accrued by cells in older muscles is especially severe, because they do not regenerate easily and they become weaker as their mitochondria, which produce energy, diminish in vigor and number.

A study published this month in Cell Metabolism, however, suggests that certain sorts of workouts may undo some of what the years can do to our mitochondria.

Exercise is good for people, as everyone knows. But scientists have surprisingly little understanding of its cellular impacts and how those might vary by activity and the age of the exerciser.

So researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., recently conducted an experiment on the cells of 72 healthy but sedentary men and women who were 30 or younger or older than 64. After baseline measures were established for their aerobic fitness, their blood-sugar levels and the gene activity and mitochondrial health in their muscle cells, the volunteers were randomly assigned to a particular exercise regimen.

Some of them did vigorous weight training several times a week; some did brief interval training three times a week on stationary bicycles (pedaling hard for four minutes, resting for three and then repeating that sequence three more times); some rode stationary bikes at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a few times a week and lifted weights lightly on other days. A fourth group, the control, did not exercise.

After 12 weeks, the lab tests were repeated. In general, everyone experienced improvements in fitness and an ability to regulate blood sugar.

There were some unsurprising differences: The gains in muscle mass and strength were greater for those who exercised only with weights, while interval training had the strongest influence on endurance.

But more unexpected results were found in the biopsied muscle cells. Among the younger subjects who went through interval training, the activity levels had changed in 274 genes, compared with 170 genes for those who exercised more moderately and 74 for the weight lifters. Among the older cohort, almost 400 genes were working differently now, compared with 33 for the weight lifters and only 19 for the moderate exercisers.

Many of these affected genes, especially in the cells of the interval trainers, are believed to influence the ability of mitochondria to produce energy for muscle cells; the subjects who did the interval workouts showed increases in the number and health of their mitochondria — an impact that was particularly pronounced among the older cyclists.

It seems as if the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with aging was “corrected” with exercise, especially if it was intense, says Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, a professor of medicine and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic and the study’s senior author. In fact, older people’s cells responded in some ways more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did — suggesting, he says, that it is never too late to benefit from exercise.