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Hoping to learn more about how inactivity affects disease risk, researchers at the University of Missouri recently persuaded a group of healthy, active young adults to stop moving around so much. Scientists have known for some time that sedentary people are at increased risk of developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. But they haven’t fully understood why, in part because studying the effects of sedentary behavior isn’t easy. People who are inactive may also be obese, eat poorly or face other lifestyle or metabolic issues that make it impossible to tease out the specific role that inactivity, on its own, plays in ill health.
So, to combat the problem, researchers lately have embraced a novel approach to studying the effects of inactivity. They’ve imposed the condition on people who otherwise would be out happily exercising and moving about, in some cases by sentencing them to bed rest.
But in the current study, which was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the scientists created a more realistic version of inactivity by having their volunteers cut the number of steps they took each day by at least half.
They wanted to determine whether this physical languor would affect the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. “It’s increasingly clear that blood sugar spikes, especially after a meal, are bad for you,” says John P. Thyfault, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, who conducted the study with his graduate student Catherine R. Mikus and others. “Spikes and swings in blood sugar after meals have been linked to the development of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”
So the scientists fitted their volunteers with sophisticated glucose monitoring devices, which checked their blood sugar levels continuously throughout the day. They also gave the subjects pedometers and activity-measuring armbands, to track how many steps they took. Finally, they asked the volunteers to keep detailed food diaries.
Then they told them to just live normally for three days, walking and exercising as usual
Exercise guidelines from the American Heart Association and other groups recommend that, for health purposes, people accumulate 10,000 steps or more a day, the equivalent of about five miles of walking. Few people do, however. Repeated studies of American adults have shown that a majority take fewer than 5,000 steps per day.
The Missouri volunteers were atypical in that regard. Each exercised 30 minutes or so most days and easily completed more than 10,000 daily steps during the first three days of the experiment. The average was almost 13,000 steps.
During these three days, according to data from their glucose monitors, the volunteers’ blood sugar did not spike after they ate.
But that estimable condition changed during the second portion of the experiment, when the volunteers were told to cut back on activity so that their step counts would fall below 5,000 a day for the next three days. Achieving such indolence was easy enough. The volunteers stopped exercising and, at every opportunity, took the elevator, not the stairs, or had lunch delivered, instead of strolling to a cafe. They became, essentially, typical American adults.
Their average step counts fell to barely 4,300 during the three days, and the volunteers reported that they now “exercised,” on average, about three minutes a day.
Meanwhile, they ate exactly the same meals and snacks as they had in the preceding three days, so that any changes in blood sugar levels would not be a result of eating fattier or sweeter meals than before.
And there were changes. During the three days of inactivity, volunteers’ blood sugar levels spiked significantly after meals, with the peaks increasing by about 26 percent compared with when the volunteers were exercising and moving more. What’s more, the peaks grew slightly with each successive day.
This change in blood sugar control after meals “occurred well before we could see any changes in fitness or adiposity,” or fat buildup, due to the reduced activity, Dr. Thyfault says. So the blood sugar swings would seem to be a result, directly, of the volunteers not moving much.
Which is both distressing and encouraging news. “People immediately think, ‘So what happens if I get hurt or really busy, or for some other reason just can’t work out for awhile?’” Dr. Thyfault says. “The answer seems to be that it shouldn’t be a big problem.” Studies in both humans and animals have found that blood sugar regulation quickly returns to normal once activity resumes.
The spikes during inactivity are natural, after all, even inevitable, given that unused muscles need less fuel and so draw less sugar from the blood.
The condition becomes a serious concern, Dr. Thyfault says, only when inactivity is lingering, when it becomes the body’s default condition. “We hypothesize that, over time, inactivity creates the physiological conditions that produce chronic disease,” like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, regardless of a person’s weight or diet.
To avoid that fate, he says, keep moving, even if in small doses. “When I’m really busy, I make sure to get up and walk around the office or jog in place every hour or so,” he says. Wear a pedometer if it will nudge you to move more. “You don’t have to run marathons,” he says. “But the evidence is clear that you do need to move.”
Make it: Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl and toss thoroughly.
Make it: Combine tuna with parsley, lemon, oil, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Wrap in tortillas and top with spinach.
Make it: Stir together beans and salsa. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes. Place warm bean mixture, guacamole, and lettuce on tortillas and roll up. Serve with grapes on the sid
Running is an aerobic exercise. The word “aerobic” literally means “with oxygen.” To get oxygen into the lungs, you need to breathe. While this should seem obvious, some runners have a shallow or labored breathing style. In some cases, this may result in severe muscle cramps, side stitches, poor performance or premature fatigue.
Furthermore, shallow breathing can sometimes result in a state of anxiety. Since many people run for purposes of relaxation, this is counter-productive. Additionally, anxiety causes physical tension, and tension can drain energy. That’s less energy you have for your workout.
1. Deep Breathing
Most runners only make use of the upper two thirds of their lung capacity. However, diaphragmatic breathing, which fills the lower part of the lungs, can increase a runner’s aerobic capacity, reduce stress and even eliminate the dreaded runner’s cramps.
Deep breathing exercises can be performed prior to a run or during a run. However, depending on when they are performed, there is a slight variation in technique. Prior to a run, take a deep breath in through the nose and hold for five counts. Then, slowly release the breath through the mouth. Holding the breath during a run is not recommended. Simply breathe in for five counts, and then breathe out for five counts. Keep in mind that it is not always easy to breathe through the nose while running. If this is the case, go ahead and breathe through the mouth.
Many runners do not realize that while they run, they are holding tension in their shoulders, wrists, hands and jaws. The exhalation phase of the deep breathing exercise is a good time to release this tension. As you exhale, you can shake out your hands, roll your shoulders and open your mouth to relax your jaw.
2. Cadenced Breathing
Although cadenced breathing may be difficult to master, it can be an excellent way to coordinate your breathing patterns with your running movements. In fact, elite runners use this method as a means of ensuring an even rhythm to their running. Most elite athletes use a 2-to-2 breathing cadence. This means that they take two steps per inhale, and two steps per exhale. At the end of the race, they might switch to a 2-to-1 cadence, which involves a two-count inhalation followed by one-count exhalation.
However, the 2-to-2 and the 2-to-1 breathing patterns may cause novice runners to get a bit light headed. If this happens, try a 3-to-3 breathing pattern.
3. The Cleansing Breath
When you wake up feeling congested, it may be difficult to motivate yourself for a run. Provided that you are not seriously ill, the cleansing breath can open your sinuses and clear out congestion, which might make it easier to go for a run.
The cleansing breath is borrowed from yoga. Use the two middle fingers of your left hand to close off your right nostril. Breathe in for four counts through your left nostril. Then, use your thumb to close the nostril. Hold the breath for four counts, and then release your fingers from your right nostril, and let the breath out for eight counts.
Repeat the process on the right nostril, using your right hand to close off the left nostril. After you’ve repeated the exercise a few times, you might want, and in fact be able to blow your nose.
(By Lisa Marie Mercer )