Cindy + Box Jumps

Why calorie counting is almost useless and often misleading

Petros Giannakouris / AP
“A new study says taking a hot bath burns as many calories as a 30-minute walk.”

That popped up in a tweet from Time on Tuesday night. It referred to a small investigation into the physiologic effects of heat exposure.

The responses on social media were an inevitable, exultant mix of self-identification and self-deprecation. Things like, This is so meeeeee, and Guess I’m right for not going to the gym, suckers, and Fill ’er up (the tub) I’m taking a bath forever and going to eat the whole time [gluttonous emoji].

And, of course, This is a distraction from the Russia scandal.

We are all constantly projecting meaning onto the world to suit the templates we’ve committed to, so I saw the study’s finding as an indictment of calories. My own reply was that the study serves to prove that calories are “an almost useless and often misleading metric.”

My tweet was popular and beloved by almost everyone. Read more Cindy + Box Jumps

I Still Hate Burpees

From Runner’s World

I Did 30 Burpees For 15 Days and Here’s What Happened

They’ve been called the most efficient exercise known to humankind, and doing them every single day was more rewarding than I could have imagined.

MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2017, 10:29 AM
doing a burpee
When I wanted to try CrossFit, I dragged one of my best friends to a beginner’s class with me. And although she was a good sport about it, she mentioned on our drive home how the deadlifts-crunches-burpees circuit would have been so much better had it been just deadlifts and crunches.
I was shocked. To me, the burpees were the best part. It was then that I realized not everyone is as crazy as I am—not everyone enjoys burpees. This got me thinking: What if I incorporated burpees into my daily routine?

I did some digging into the origin of the exercise, and I found out they were created in 1939 by a man named Royal H. Burpee to determine a person’s physical fitness. Back then, the move didn’t include a pushup in the middle or the jump at the end, but it was still dreaded.

First, I wanted to make sure my form was on point. I decided to do the modern burpee, not the old-school version from the 1930s.

I read some how-tos. To do a burpee, start from a standing position, then squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you. Quickly kick both feet out behind you so you are in a pushup position, and then do one pushup. Next, bring your legs forward to go into a squatting position again, and jump up.

Yes, it’s an awkward, frog-like movement. But I knew it would be worth it to challenge myself.

I’ll admit I’m not great at sticking to things. I always have the best intentions, but when life starts to get busy, I’ve been known to make excuses here and there (I’m working on it, I swear). I was glad I had this story to hold me accountable as I set out to become a burpees beast.

So with my trusted 50 Cent Pandora station by my side, I got to work.

Here’s what I did:
I completed three sets of 10 burpees for 15 days straight. I started out with a one-minute rest in between my sets and decreased that time by 15 seconds every three days until I was doing all 30 burpees at once with no rest for the last three days.

I wanted to stick to the same time every day—when I woke up at 7:30 a.m.—but that didn’t always work out. When I slept in, I’d do a circuit when I got home at around 4 p.m.

Here’s what happened: 

1. My running improved.
My typical easy pace is about nine minutes per mile, but towards the end of the 15 days, I started running faster without consciously ramping up my speed. My lungs felt clear and I coasted through miles.

I was also going longer. I’ll Read more I Still Hate Burpees

Why Exercise Is Good for the Heart

 CreditGetty Images

Even a single workout could be good for the heart. That’s the conclusion of a fascinating new study in mice that found that 30 minutes on a treadmill affects gene activity within cardiac cells in ways that, over the long haul, could slow the aging of the animals’ hearts.

Although the study involved mice,the results may help to explain just how, at a cellular level, exercise improves heart health in people as well.

There’s no question that, in general, physical activity is good for hearts. Many studies have found that people who regularly exercise are much less likely to develop or die from cardiac disease than people who are sedentary.

Still, researchers have remained puzzled about just how exercise alters hearts for the better. Exercise is known to improve our blood pressure, pulse rate and cholesterol profiles, all of which are associated with better cardiac health.

But many scientists who study the links between exercise and heart health have pointed out that these changes, considered together, explain only about half of the reported statistical reductions in cardiac disease and death.

Other, more complex physiological modifications must simultaneously be taking place within the heart itself during and after exercise, these researchers have speculated.

And recently, Read more Why Exercise Is Good for the Heart

Is Your Workout Not Working? Maybe You’re a Non-Responder

Research and lived experience indicate that many people who begin a new exercise program see little if any improvement in their health and fitness even after weeks of studiously sticking with their new routine.

Among fitness scientists, these people are known as “nonresponders.” Their bodies simply don’t respond to the exercise they are doing. And once discouraged, they often return to being nonexercisers.

But an inspiring and timely new study suggests that nonresponders to one form of exercise can probably switch to another exercise regimen to which their body will respond. And a simple test you can do at home will help you determine how well your workout is working for you.

One of the first major studies to report the phenomenon of nonresponders appeared in 2001, when researchers parsed data from dozens of previously published studies of running, cycling and other endurance exercise.

The studies showed that, on aggregate, endurance training increased people’s endurance. But when the researchers examined individual outcomes, the variations were staggering. Some people had improved their endurance by as much as 100 percent, while others had actually become less fit, even though they were following the same workout routine.

Age, sex and ethnicity had not mattered, the researchers noted. Young people and old had been outliers, as had women and men, black volunteers and white. Interestingly, nonresponse to endurance training ran in families, the researchers discovered, suggesting that genetics probably plays a significant role in how people’s bodies react to exercise.

Since then, other researchers have found that people can have extremely erratic reactions to weight training regimens, with some packing on power and mass and others losing both.

And a study published last year concentrating on brief bouts of intense interval training concluded that some people barely gained endurance with this type of workout, while others flourished, greatly augmenting their fitness.

These studies, however, were not generally designed to tell us whether someone who failed to benefit from one form of exercise might do well with another.

So for the new experiment, which was published in December in the journal PLOS One, researchers from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and the University of Ottawa decided to focus intently on whether a nonresponder to one form of exercise could benefit by switching to another.

They began by gathering 21 healthy men and women and determining their VO2 max, a measure of how much oxygen the lungs can deliver to the muscles; heart rates; and other physiological parameters related to aerobic fitness.

Then they had each volunteer complete two very different types of workouts. Each training regimen lasted three weeks, and the researchers waited several months before starting the next regimen, so that volunteers could return to their baseline fitness.

One three-week routine involved typical endurance training: riding a stationary bicycle four times a week for 30 minutes at a moderately strenuous pace.

The second type of exercise revolved around high-intensity intervals. Each volunteer completed eight 20-second intervals of very hard pedaling on a stationary bicycle, with 10 seconds of rest after each bout. The intervals were brutal but brief.

At the end of each three-week session, the researchers again checked each volunteer’s VO2 max and other fitness measures.

As a group, they had gained admirable amounts of fitness from both workouts and to about the same extent.

But individually, the responses varied considerably.

About a third of the people had failed Read more Is Your Workout Not Working? Maybe You’re a Non-Responder

What female athletes need to know about menopause

From The Washington Post

Story by Bonnie Berkowitz, graphic by Aaron Steckelberg

Dec. 20, 2016

Menopause is when the monthly waves of estrogen and other hormones that women have been surfing since puberty finally ebb for good. Periods cease, of course. But all kinds of other biological processes change as well, including some that affect sports performance.

You’re still an athlete, you just have to figure out your new normal.

“Just because you hit a certain age, your body doesn’t stop,” said Stacy T. Sims, a nutrition scientist and physiologist at the University of Waikato in New Zealand who has studied women’s performance for 25 years. “The fitter you are, the less of a problem these are. When you are competing, that’s when you really you feel them, because you are, like, ‘What is going on?’ But when you’re a general woman and you’re keeping fit, then all these things are [easier to handle].”

But what if you’re not very fit right now?

“It is definitely not too late — that’s the greatest thing about this,” said Monica Serra, a research scientist at the VA Maryland Health Care System who has written about post-menopausal competitive athletes. “If you start exercising, you can build your bone mass, you can build your lean mass, you can lose the fat mass, you can improve the quality of your muscle. . . . Research says people who exercise have a better quality of life.”

This graphic shows the major changes that occur as female athletes age. They sound bad, but don’t worry: As you’ll read below, there’s always a “but . . . .”

Sleep quality suffers

Sixty-one percent of post-menopausal women report insomnia symptoms, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Many things conspire to disrupt sleep: the decline of estrogen and progesterone, which help you fall and stay asleep; a dearth of melatonin, which regulates body temperature for sleep; hot flashes and night sweats, which wake you up; and the stress hormone cortisol, which estrogen helps control.

But: “Physically active people have better sleep patterns,” Serra said, which is good because a lot of muscle recovery and rebuilding occurs during sleep. Exercise early in the day promotes better sleep. Sims recommends keeping your bedroom cool and trying a small, frosty glass of tart cherry juice before bed to help cool your core and boost natural production of melatonin.

The engine slows

Aerobic capacity, which is your cardiovascular system’s ability to convert oxygen to energy, can drop 5 to 9 percent each decade beginning in your 30s. (This happens to men as well.) Much of this is because your heartbeat slows a little each year. That means oxygen-rich blood is being pumped to working muscles a little less often.

But: Athletes of all ages have better aerobic capacity and blood volume than people who don’t exercise.

Heat is harder to handle

During hot flashes and whenever the body begins to get too warm, blood rushes to the skin surface to offload heat — which is annoying for athletes, who’d prefer that the blood feed working muscles. In older adults, sweating, a key part of cooling, begins later in a workout. As if that’s not enough, the thirst mechanism dulls with age, so dehydration is more likely.

But: Good hydration and a little bit of caution can keep you from danger. And for 92 percent of women who get them, hot flashes will go away.

‘Menopot’ happens

Older women aren’t as efficient at processing carbohydrates, so they tend to store the excess as fat. And they tend to store fat in their bellies rather than in hips and thighs as they did when they were younger. This visceral fat is associated with higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.

But: Studies show that women who exercised four to five times a week have less total body fat than sedentary women of the same height and weight, Serra said. And their visceral fat stores were similar to sedentary women a third their age.

Your stomach rebels

Women become less efficient at processing carbohydrates, so athletes may find that their beloved bagels and pasta can send blood-sugar levels soaring. In particular, the ability to digest fructose in processed foods declines. So energy gels may suddenly cause mid-race GI issues.

But: Eating more fruit and whole grains and less processed sugar can keep stomachs and blood sugar steadier. (Fructose in whole fruit is not a problem.) Look for race-day food that doesn’t contain added fructose.

Bones get thinner

Estrogen works with calcium and vitamin D to strengthen bones. In the five to seven years after menopause, a woman’s bones can lose up to 20 percent of their density, Sims said.

But: Athletes start out with denser bones because weight-bearing activity (running, walking, tennis, etc.) puts stress on bones, which spurs the body to strengthen them. Regular strength training and a diet rich in bone-building nutrients — fish and yogurt are good choices — can shore up key areas such as hips and spine.

Flexibility decreases

Age makes all of us less flexible, which means a greater risk for muscle pulls and strains. Runners get very tight hamstrings. People who sit a lot get tight hip flexors and lazy glutes, which can alter gait and range of motion.

But: A little effort can make a huge difference. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends flexibility exercises two or three times a week while muscles are warm, such as after a workout or bath.

Muscles shrink

Testosterone and other growth hormones plunge along with estrogen, so building and maintaining muscle is tougher. Fat begins to marble the tissue, reducing its ability to generate power. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest.

But: Exercise will help you keep muscle and build more. Strength training, interval training and consuming protein within half an hour of hard exercise will help, Serra said.

Mojo wanes

Fluctuating levels of estrogen can make you cranky, edgy and even at risk for depression until brain chemistry stabilizes after menopause. “Brain fog” can make it harder to concentrate and remember things, and sleep problems make you tired.

But: Exercise is a known stress reliever and mood booster. Research has found that people who exercise are better able to deal with the ups and downs of aging, Serra said. “You feel better about yourself because you’re accomplishing what you can … and that makes you more able to deal with these other stressors, both physical and mental, in your life.”