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Some simple and well known exercises can be all you need to see if you are fit for your age. Or not!
1 – Push up test.
How many push-ups can you do continuously until failure? For men this is a full push up with the shoulders, knees and hips in a straight line. The tempo should be slow – 2 seconds down and two seconds up; you should go to a depth where your elbows are at 90 degrees. For women the same applies but do them from the knee. A poor score in this test means that you have low upper body strength and suffer from sarcopenia; this is the natural muscle wastage that happens to us all with ageing.
Scores: Women – aged 30-39 – 13 or above is good. Below 13 is poor. Women 40-49 – 11 reps is good, below 11 poor. Women 50-59 – 7 or above is good, below 7 is poor. Women 60-69 5 or above is good, less than 5 is poor.
Scores men: 30-39: 17 or above is good, less than 17 is poor. 40-49: 13 or above is good, less than 13 poor. 50-59: 10 or above is good, less is poor. 60-69: 8 or above is good, less than 8 is poor.
2 – Stand up sit down test.This is a simple yet one of the most functional moves there is. Using only one hand, from a cross legged position, how many times can you get up and sit down in 2 minutes? Regardless of sex, if you are under 40 you should be able to do 15. According to a Brazilian study of 2,000 people and published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, this simple test is a strong predictor of how long you are likely to live. Those who had to use both hands or who needed to get up on both knees were 6 times more likely to die prematurely.
3 – What is your running speed? A simple but perhaps painful test. How fast can you run 1 mile? Running speed in midlife has been closely linked to the likelihood of heart disease.
1) a man is his fifties who can run a mile in 8 minutes or fewer (9 min for a woman) had a 10% lifetime risk of heart problems.
2) a man who could run a 9 minute mile (10 min 30s for a woman) had a 20% risk
3) a man who could only do a mile in more than 10 minutes (12 minutes for females) had a 30% risk.
The study concluded that the exercise that you do in your 40s has a large bearing on your health in your 80s.
3 – How far can you walk in 6 minutes?
Studies show that not only is this test an indicator of cardiovascular health, but it is also a guide to how well you will stave off aches and pains like a bad back in later life. Distances to aim for are: men and women under 60: 650-900m. men aged 60-64: 600m (women 500m). Men aged 65-69: 515m (women 460m). Men aged 70-74: 500m (women 440m).
A team of scientists in Norway have devised a new simple formula to calculate your “fitness age”. Although our birthday marks another year that we have been alive, the process of ageing varies greatly from one individual to another and can be hugely influenced not just by genetics but also by the amount of exercise, healthy food and sleep you have (to name just a few). Now scientists have come up with a simple formula to see how your body is defying the ageing process.
The lead author of the study, professor Ulrik Wilsoff, director of the KG Jebsen Centre of Exercise in Medicine, says that the low-tech calculation is the single best predictor of current health. After evaluating the fitness, weight and health measurements of 5000 subjects between the ages of 20-90, the professor and his team came up with a formula to estimate someone’s VO2 max. This is the maximum amount of oxygen that can be taken in, transported and utilised by the body and delivered to the cells. Although it declines with age the drop can be slowed with regular exercise. A good VO2 max is linked to a host of health benefits, from prevention of cardio-vascular disease to diabetes.
How fit you are is increasingly thought to be a better measurement of health than BMI or weight alone. Adults aged 60+ with a good level of aerobic fitness have been found to live longer that those with a low VO2 max regardless of weight and levels of fat. A low level of fitness means longer stays in hospital for older people following illness or surgery as well as a greater propensity for other health related diseases.
Although not completely accurate, the test provides a useful guide to cardio-respiratory fitness. The results will be a wake up call for many. A 45 year old man who exercises moderately, has a 36 inch waist and a resting heart rate of 72 beats per minute will have a fitness age of 55. The good news is that no matter how old you are, starting exercise or increasing the frequency and intensity of activity can still turn back the clock. You can still have a fitness age of someone much younger!
Try the test by filling out your details here!.
There are four basic health checks that everyone can do to make sure that all is well with their general health and to have a healthy heart. The good news is that they don’t involve jumping up and down or any for of exercise!
The for areas to keep a watch on are your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and resting heart rate.
1 – lower your heart rate. The ideal range should be 60-60, but if you can do some regular exercise that takes you above 60% of maximum heart rate then it might get even lower. Like a car sitting at the traffic lights, your resting heart rate is the speed at which your engine has to work to keep you alive at rest, and is a true measure of your cardio-vascular health. If your arteries are clogged or your lungs inefficient at taking in oxygen, then the more beats per minute it will have to beat at rest. Over time this will all add up; if your engine is constantly having to work hard then sooner or later it will wear out.
For every 15 beats per minute that you add onto resting heart rate your chances of getting heart disease increase by 24% (American Heart Journal).
What now? Check your heart rate in the morning before getting out of bed at least 4 times a year. Keep it low by getting three lots of reasonably vigorous cardio-vascular exercise every week.
2 – Watch your blood sugar levels. Blood sugars can show if you are at risk of batting diabetes. Ask your GP for a test and do a follow up every year. Eating foods with a lower GI (glycaemic index) will ensure that you are not constantly suffering high blood sugar levels. This will cause your cells to become immune to the insulin that is being constantly released and eventually will cause insulin deficiency.
3 – Blood pressure. You should have this checked every quarter. If it is high then you need to look at your nutrition and start to get some exercise. Even small changes and short bursts of exercise will help to get you back on track. Ideally it should be 120/80
4 – Balance your cholesterol. The bas sort of cholesterol is LDL (low density lipoproteins). Ideally it should be less than 100mg/dL. Every 43mg/dL that your cholesterol goes up adds 50% to your risk of heart disease. Good cholesterol will act as a brake on the bad. So eat plenty of healthy oils, nuts and seeds.
Sweden has become the first Western nation to reject the current status quo recommending a low fat and high grain carbohydrate based diet. The change followed the publication of a two year study by the independent Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment. The body looked at 16,000 studies published over the past 30 years.
Personal trainers and bodybuilders have known for years that fat does not make you fat..finally some governments may start to see sense. The current advice from western governments is to consume 60% of our foods in the form of grains and carbohydrates. Yet this neglects the impact that blood sugar levels, insulin and hormones have on fat storage and long-term health.
Highlights of the study are as follows:
“Health markers will improve on a low-carbohydrate diet:
…a greater increase in HDL cholesterol (“the good cholesterol”) without having any adverse affects on LDL cholesterol (“the bad cholesterol”). This applies to both the moderate low-carbohydrate intake of less than 40 percent of the total energy intake, as well as to the stricter low-carbohydrate diet, where carbohydrate intake is less than 20 percent of the total energy intake. In addition, the stricter low-carbohydrate diet will lead to improved glucose levels for individuals with obesity and diabetes, and to marginally decreased levels of triglycerides.”
A local newspaper also summarised the findings:
Butter, olive oil, heavy cream, and bacon are not harmful foods. Quite the opposite. Fat is the best thing for those who want to lose weight. And there are no connections between a high fat intake and cardiovascular disease.
On Monday, SBU, the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment, dropped a bombshell. After a two-year long inquiry, reviewing 16,000 studies, the report “Dietary Treatment for Obesity” upends the conventional dietary guidelines for obese or diabetic people.
For a long time, the health care system has given the public advice to avoid fat, saturated fat in particular, and calories. A low-carb diet (LCHF – Low Carb High Fat, is actually a Swedish “invention”) has been dismissed as harmful, a humbug and as being a fad diet lacking any scientific basis.
Instead, the health care system has urged diabetics to eat a lot of fruit (=sugar) and low-fat products with considerable amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners, the latter a dangerous trigger for the sugar-addicted person.
This report turns the current concepts upside down and advocates a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, as the most effective weapon against obesity.
The expert committee consisted of ten physicians, and several of them were skeptics to low-carbohydrate diets at the beginning of the investigation.
Many of the doctors and scholars on the committee were previously sceptical towards low carbohydrate diets, but have subsequently has their minds changes by the weight of the evidence. Professor Fredrick Nystrom, part of the committee and a doubter as to the benefits of a low fat diet quoted:
“I’ve been working with this for so long. It feels great to have this scientific report, and that the skepticism towards low-carb diets among my colleagues has disappeared during the course of the work. When all recent scientific studies are lined up the result is indisputable: our deep-seated fear of fat is completely unfounded. You don’t get fat from fatty foods, just as you don’t get atherosclerosis from calcium or turn green from green vegetables.”
The professor has also advised (as have we here at DDW for a decade!) a greatly reduced intake of carbohydrate rich foods that are also high in sugar and starch so that there are healthy levels of insulin, blood lipids and good LDL cholesterol. This means reducing or eliminating potatoes, sugars, pasta, whire rice, flour and bread while encouraging the eating of plant oils, nuts, butter, whole food dairy, oily fish and meats. Nystrom also stated:
“If you eat potatoes you might as well eat candy. Potatoes contain glucose units in a chain, which is converted to sugar in the GI tract. Such a diet causes blood sugar, and then the hormone insulin, to skyrocket.”
Note that when insulin is present in the blood stream fat will be stored but existing far stores will not be metabolised.
See previous DDW posts on this topic.
Finally, he stated:
There are many mantras we have been taught to accept as truths:
“Calories are calories, no matter where they come from.”
“It’s all about the balance between calories in and calories out.”
“People are fat because they don’t move enough.”
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
“Of course these are not true. This kind of nonsense has people with weight problems feeling bad about themselves. As if it were all about their inferior character. For many people a greater intake of fat means that you’ll feel satiated, stay so longer, and have less of a need to eat every five minutes. On the other hand, you won’t feel satiated after drinking a Coke, or after eating almost fat free, low-fat fruit yogurt loaded with sugar.
Older women who walk for just an hour a day could prevent cancer, says new research.
While it is well known that people who maintain an active lifestyle are lees likely to develop cancer and other life threatening diseases, this study was the first to look at the benefits of moderate exercise alone. Researchers at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta looked at data from 70,000 post-menopausal women aged from 50-74, half of whom reported walking as their only daily exercise. Within the group, those that walked for 7 hours a week were 14% less likely to have been diagnosed with cancer than those who walked for 3 hours or less. Women who were even more active - doing an hour of vigorous exercise a day on average – were at an even lower risk of developing cancer, by a whopping 25%.
25% of people who join a gym put on weight after doing do, almost certainly because they reward themselves with sweet treats or extra food afterwards, reports the Hufftington Post.
A survey of 1,000 gym users found that although 25% had lost weight since joining 49% said that their weight had remained the same; 35% said that they rewarded themselves with extra calories after a workout, usually in the form of chocolate or wine. 53% of gym goers said that the exercise had made them hungrier.
Most people in the survey went to the gym 3 times a week, but only burned an average of 300 calories per visit, while 4% did so little that they used no kore than 100 calories. That’s slightly more than the amount needed to stay alive while sleeping.
Many of you will have read about or seen HIIT on TV – high intensity interval training.
It makes us much fitter much faster than conventional training where you try to stay in the aerobic fat burning zone Jane Fonda style.
But HIIT also has another big advantage. Not only will it increase your fitness and decrease time spent exercising but it also surprises the appetite, making you less hungry. According to the International Journal of Obesity, subjects in a trial who did high intensity interval training for 30 minutes ate 170 less calories at a meal an hour later then subjects who had been exercising at a moderate intensity.
They also ate 100 fewer calories over the next 24 hour period. Even further appetite suppression was found to occur during weight bearing forms of cardio-vascular training like running or skipping.
A good example of this weight bearing HIIT would be skipping at absolute maximum for 20 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of slow jogging, then a 20 second sprinting shuttle run followed by 60 seconds slow jogging. Try to do 4 sets.Then try a circuit of power moves, 14 reps with no recovery: push ups, barbell dead lift, barbell bent over row, barbell clean and press. Go for 2-4 cycles with one minute active recovery between cycles.
HIIT has received some negative press recently, but so long as you are not new to exercise, have stable healthy joints and have warmed up properly…go for it!
Eating a diet that contains lots of broccoli can help or at least slow down the onset of osteoarthritis, says a new study. A team from the University of East Anglia
Has discovered that a compound found in the vegetable – sulphoraphane – blocks the activity of an enzyme that breaks down cartilage in the joints over time. This compound is also found in lesser quantities in brussels sprouts and cabbage.
“The results from the study are very promising” says Ian Clarke, a professor of musculoskeletal biology. “We have shown that this works in three laboratory models, and now want to show that it works in humans. It would be very powerful if we could”.
More than 5 million people in the UK suffer from osteoarthritis. The researchers are now embarking on human trials in which volunteers will be asked to dine on “super broccoli” – a broccoli that has been bred containing abnormally large amounts of the compound.
Even if the study is not yet conclusive, broccoli is already known to contain large amounts of vitamin C, fibre and micro-nutritnts known to have potent anti-cancer properties. So get munching!!
Some indulgences can actually be good for us. Sex may sharpen the mind even more than doing the crossword or a sudoku puzzle. This is according to a report from Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Dr Komisarek, in a university study, examined MRI imaging of female brains while they are having an orgasm.
“At orgasm we see a tremendous flow of blood to the brain. It brings all the nutrients and oxygenation needed for a boost to the brain. Puzzles and other problem solving do this in parts of the brain, but sex does it to the brain as a whole”.
So get at it.
PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) affects millions of women in the UK, and is a condition that effects how womens’ ovaries work.
There are three common features/symptoms that lead to the diagnosis of PCOS and it’s important to note that even two of the features can mean that you have the condition. These are:
A number of cysts that develop around the edge of the ovaries (polycystic ovaries)
A failure to ovulate properly (there can be problems in the release of eggs from the ovaries)
A higher level of male hormones than usual, testosterone hormones that are more active than normal
These can lead to the following symptoms: excessive body hair (hirsutism), irregular or light periods, problems becoming pregnant, weight gain,skin problems like acne and sometimes hair loss from the head
What are polycystic ovaries?
Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of benign or harmless cysts that are usually no bigger than 8mm each. Normal ovaries have only about half this number of cysts.
The cysts are under-developed follicles which contain eggs that have not reached full development. Often in PCOS, these follicles are unable to release an egg, meaning ovulation does not actually take place.
Many women have polycystic ovaries without having the syndrome (so without the symptoms). Some women have the syndrome, but have normal-looking ovaries on ultrasound. Over 60% of women with PCOS are overweight.
Causes of polycystic ovary syndrome
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it can often be hereditary.
Women who are overweight are more at risk of developing PCOS. Many women with PCOS have a family history diabetes and high cholesterol.
It’s also believed that insulin may play a role. Insulin is a hormone (a chemical messenger) that controls sugar levels in the body. As food is consumed blood sugar levels rise. Insulin is then released as a messenger, telling the cells to take in blood glucose and store it in the liver, muscles and also as fat. Only in the presence of insulin can we store fat properly. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their body, and/or insulin resistance which contributes both to the increased production and activity of male hormones and increased storage of fat, especially during spikes in blood sugars. These are most commonly brought on via consumption of starchy, processed carbohydrates and sugars.
Treating polycystic ovary syndrome
There’s no cure for PCOS, but the symptoms can be treated. Specific types of contraceptive pill may be prescribed to help regulate the menstrual cycle and improve hair growth. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight,couples with a reduction of high GI carbohydrates and sugars may help to control some of the symptoms.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with an increased risk of problems in later life, such as adult onset (type 2) diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
There are treatment options for infertility caused by PCOS. There’s also medication to increase ovulation and, in some cases, surgery.
Many women with fertility problems due to PCOS can still have a baby.
Losing weight with PCOS
When you have PCPS, reducing weight by just 10% can bring a return to healthy and regular periods. It will also help with insulin resistance and having too much insulin in the blood stream.
Step 1 – healthy eating
Insulin resistance mans that your body finds it difficult to deal with excess blood sugar levels. As your blood sugar levels become elevated by eating foods with high starch content and a high glycaemic index it makes sense to avoid these foods. These include all processed sugary snacks, starchy root vegetables (potatoes, sewed etc, but NOT sweet potato..That’s OK). All breads and of course pastries are to be avoided and surprisingly many fruits touted as healthy have too much fructose (fruit sugars) in them for your insulin resistance to handle. So avoid bananas, tomatoes, apples, pears, cherries and mangoes. Instead of these foods go for fruit with a lower GI and more fibre like berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries). Pulses are great (lentils are the best), beans, nuts and seeds all have lots of fibre, protein and a low GI. Vegetables are great, especially green ones and so are peppers, chillies and onions.
Lean meats are great, all salad leaves, and seeds too.
Step 2 – medication.
Several medications can help with PCOS.
Metformin (Glucophage). Metformin is a diabetes drug that helps the body use insulin more efficiently. It also reduces testosterone production. Some research has found that it can help obese women with PCOS lose weight.
Thiazolidinediones. The drugs pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (Avandia) also help the body use insulin. In studies, these drugs improved insulin resistance. But their effect on body weight is unclear. Also, the FDA has restricted Avandia for use in new patients only if they can’t control their blood sugar on other medications and are unable to take Actos. Current users can continue Avandia if they choose to do so. All patients using Avandia must review and fully understand the cardiovascular risks. Research has found that Flutamide (Eulexin), an anti-androgen drug, helps obese women with PCOS lose weight. It also improves their blood sugar levels. The drug can be given alone or with metformin.
Rimonabant (Acomplia). This obesity drug has been shown to promote weight loss in women with PCOS. Once women stop taking rimonabant, they tend to gain the weight back. But starting metformin after rimonabant can help women maintain their weight loss.
Step 3 – exercise
Blood sugar can be removed from the blood in only 2 ways. The first is through the release of insulin..but as POCS promotes insulin resistance then this is limited for sufferers. The second is exercise. Exercise immediately places demand for energy, using blood sugars and lowering high levels. Intense interval training can keep this effect going for several hours after exercise.
As the muscles are where blood sugar energy is stored, it makes sense to ensure that you have plenty of lean muscle to promote proper storage of energy (so not in the fat cells!). Thus strength training is important. The after burn effect of intense strength training will also help keep blood sugars low for extended periods after exercise.