- To Burn More Calories At Work Do This
- Yoga May Be Good for Stubborn Back Pain
- Why Stress Makes You More Likely to Have a Heart Attack
Posted: 12 Jan 2017 07:36 AM PST
You already know that standing for periods of time throughout the day can reduce some of the harmful effects of too much sitting. But a small recent study from the University of Glasgow in the U.K. suggests that you’ll get a bigger health boost if you focus not only on the number of hours you spend standing, but on the number of times you stand up, as well.
Men in the study burned more calories and fat when they stood up more frequently throughout an eight-hour period (for 90 seconds at a time), than when they stood for longer blocks (15 minutes at a time)—even though the total time they spent standing was the same.
This fact alone isn’t surprising, say the researchers, since each sit-to-stand (and stand-to-sit) transition requires muscle activation and energy expenditure. It’s also been shown that fidgeting and toe-tapping burn extra calories, for similar reasons. But this is the first time different standing intervals have been tested against each other, providing actual numbers to back up this common belief.
The research, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, involved 10 overweight men who each participated in three 8-hour scenarios over the course of several weeks. In one scenario, the men sat for the entire day, getting up only for bathroom breaks. In a second scenario, they alternated sitting or standing every 15 minutes. The third scenario was similar to the second, except some of those blocks were broken down further into 90-second sit-and-stand intervals.
In both sit-and-stand scenarios, the men were on their feet for four hours. But while the second scenario involved 32 transitions between the two positions, the third scenario involved 320. And that made a difference: While the second scenario burned 10.7 percent more calories than sitting continuously, the third burned 20.4 percent more.
Put another way, the men burned about 76 calories more throughout the day when they stood in 15-minute blocks, compared to sitting only. But their bodies burned an additional 71 calories, on average—and oxidized about 7.1 grams more fat—when they upped the frequency of ups and downs.
Over four weeks, the authors calculated, those scenarios could translate to a weight loss of 2.7 pounds and 4.9 pounds, respectively. The fact that standing more frequently boosted fat oxidation (the process by which the body breaks fat molecules) may also have implications for weight management, the authors say, since high fat-oxidation levels seem to protect against long-term weight gain.
Exercise physiologist Tom Holland says that despite the small sample size, the findings make sense and should be considered “excellent news.”
“Not only do you not have to stand all day while at work or at home, you will actually benefit by alternating sitting with standing,” Holland told RealSimple.com in an email. (Holland was not involved in the study.) “I believe one reason is that rising from a seated position and lowering your body weight back down repeatedly takes more effort and expends more energy than does continuously standing stationary.”
It may be tough—not to mention detrimental to your productivity—to change your position every minute and a half throughout the day. But try switching it up as frequently as you realistically can, says Holland. “Think of it as interval training,” he says. “You are in effect adding squats to your standing routine.”
It should be mentioned, however, that the researchers found no substantial effects on glucose, insulin, or triglyceride metabolism for either sit-stand scenario, compared to sitting only. In other words, it didn’t provide all of the physiological benefits that a more intense workout would.
Posted: 11 Jan 2017 04:00 PM PST
Yoga may provide some relief for people with low back pain and improve their ability to perform everyday activities, according to a new review of research published in the Cochrane Library. But the authors say there’s a lack of high-quality evidence to back up their conclusion, and that more research is needed—especially on yoga’s long-term effects.
The review summarizes the results of 12 clinical trials involving more than 1,000 people in the United States, the United Kingdom and India. All participants had chronic, non-specific low back pain, meaning that their symptoms had lasted at least three months and were not explained by a specific disease or injury.
All of the studies compared practicing yoga in a class setting to other forms of exercise or to doing no back-focused exercises at all. Overall, the review found that compared to no exercise, yoga might improve back-related function—and reduce symptoms of lower back pain—by a small amount in the first six months to one year of practice.
The amount of improvement seen in most of the studies was minor, says lead author Susan Wieland, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “These differences were small, and might not be very meaningful to patients,” she says.
The studies also had follow-up periods of only 12 months or less. Larger studies that track results for longer lengths of time are needed to really understand how yoga might help these people, Wieland adds. Because of these limitations, Wieland and her co-authors determined that the evidence of yoga’s benefits for back pain was only of “low- to moderate-certainty.” For studies that compared yoga to other types of exercise, the findings were even less conclusive, providing “very low-certainty” evidence of minor differences.
The report also warns back pain sufferers to approach yoga with caution, as the mind-body practice could make their condition worse. In the review, about 5% more people experienced greater back pain after starting a practice, compared to those who did no exercise. This risk may be similar for any type of back-focused exercise, the authors note, and may not be specific to yoga.
Wieland also points out that all of the routines practiced in the studies were developed specifically for people with low back pain, and classes were led by experienced professionals. “If people are considering yoga, they should do their best to check that the program is safe and intended for back-pain sufferers, and that teacher has some amount of experience with this population,” she says.
Chronic low back pain is one of the most common and burdensome health problems in the United States. It’s often treated with over-the-counter medication and self-care methods like ice packs and heating pads. Current guidelines also suggest that physical activity and stretching and strengthening exercises can be beneficial.
“Research shows that being active is a smart thing to do,” says Wieland. It should be up to patients and their doctors to decide exactly how they want to be active, she adds, “but the evidence suggests that yoga can be one option to consider.”
Posted: 11 Jan 2017 03:30 PM PST
Stress might seem like an unavoidable reality of modern life, but your body isn’t as quick to write it off as such: in fact, being stressed takes a serious—and lasting—toll on your life, and according to a growing number of studies, it also increases your risk of heart disease.
Now, according to a new years-long study published in The Lancet, scientists report that having a more active amygdala—the brain region triggered during moments of stress—is linked to a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
In the study, 293 people without heart problems were given a PET/CT scan to measure brain activity, bone marrow activity and inflammation of the arteries. These three areas interact in important ways in animal models, says study author and cardiologist Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, co-director of the Cardiac MR PET CT Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Stress, it seems, triggers the amygdala, which then activates bone marrow and inflammation of arteries.
Scientists don’t yet know whether the same is true for humans. But if it were, then people with the most active amygdalas would be the ones with the highest risk of heart attack and strokes. That’s exactly what Tawakol and his team found almost four years later when they followed up. In people with more active amygdalas, these bad heart events also seemed to happen sooner. They also had increased bone marrow activity and inflammation in the arteries.
You may not even need a brain scan to find out your true stress levels. In a small separate study, the researchers asked 13 people with higher-than-usual stress to rate how stressed they generally felt using a psychological questionnaire. “We found that their perception of stress nicely related to activity in their amygdala,” Tawakol says. Those who said they were the most stressed really had the most active amygdalae. The researchers also found that a person’s perceived stress was related to their levels of inflammation.
The study is purely observational and needs to be substantiated in larger trials. But this intriguing new pathway for how stress may take a toll on the heart presents a powerful case for stress relief. “So far, it appears that things like mindfulness and other stress reduction approaches seem to really nicely tamp down on the amygdala, and they appear to even cause benefits in other areas of the brain,” says Tawakol.
“When I talk to my patients, I tell them that we’re learning that diet, exercise, and stress reduction are some of our most compelling tools—it’s a little humbling,” he adds. “Even though it’s unsexy and doesn’t really show the best technology that we have to offer our patients, at the end it is probably the best advice.”
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