In 1966 a legendary study from Dallas was published where they studied the effect of total inactivity for 3 weeks. After this 3 week period, the so-called “Dallas bed-rest study” found an increase in body weight, body-fat and a marked decline in fitness level. 30 years later they followed up the same participants and re-examined their health status. As one might expect after 30 years of aging, both body weight, body fat percentage and fitness declined from the happy 20s (before the 3 weeks of bed-rest). However, they found that they were in better shape after 30 years of aging than they were after 3 weeks of inactivity! What many researchers are asking now is if the decline in fitness associated with aging is caused by lower activity level with aging compared to activity level as young.
There is now plenty of evidence that prolonged sitting increases diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Some office workers who also sit when commuting can sit for up to 13 hours/day, and data shows that sitting kills more people than smoking.
In an analysis of 26,483 (14,209 women) healthy Norwegians, more than 7 hours of sitting/day increased the risk for heart disease by 35% with every additional hour of increasing the risk by 5%. The study was recently published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (MSSE).
The biological level ageing results from the impact of the accumulation of a wide variety of molecular and cellular damage over time. But these changes are neither linear nor consistent, and they are only loosely associated with a person’s age in years. There is no ‘typical’ older person and some 80 year-olds have physical and mental capacities similar to many 20 year-olds.
However, as we grow older our bodies are changing. We may grow a little rounder around the waistline, or wake in the night, or feel a little stiffer in the morning. Most of us have to start to use glasses, and slowly our hear turns grey. Some even loose it. As we grow older increased forgetfulness that not is impairing our daily life is considered to be a part of the normal aging process. Generally, information processing also slows as we grow older, and older people have more trouble multitasking. However, research find that problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes, also called cognitive impairment may increase the risk of later progressing to dementia. Still, some people with mild cognitive impairment never get worse, and a few eventually get better.
Non-adherence to exercise programmes and guidelines continues to be a massive public health challenge. As few as 5% of American adults achieve the current recommendation of 30 minutes a day of physical activity. The reasons for such widespread low activity levels are complex, but the prospects of a longer life expectancy and higher quality of life don’t seem to be enough to get a lot of people exercising.
Money makes the world go around, so the saying goes… but can it also get the scales to go down as well? The costs associated with obesity related illness are mind-boggling. A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute estimated the global economic burden of obesity to be around US$2 trillion a year, equivalent to 2.8% of global GDP, and nearly as costly as smoking, or armed violence, war and terrorism. If the costs of paying people to be active is less than the costs of an inactive lifestyle, then such a program would pay for itself.
This week I was really happy when I got the message that I was given the opportunity of presenting my research findings as a moderated poster at the Norwegian Research Councils conference in mental health and drug research in Tromsø (Norway). In practical terms this means that I was given eight minutes to present our preliminary findings from the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study in front of the audience.
Our results suggest that being physical inactive and depressed increases mortality risk with 50% in populations with and without established ischemic heart disease.
Every once in a while we here about this magic medicine. What about a drug to make your muscles stronger, your heart healthier, power-up metabolism, reduce body weight, improve blood flow in your brain and many other benefits? Wouldn’t that be great?
Although many people would say yes, we commonly meet many that are against that idea for a number of reasons. For example, it’s well known that physical activity levels have decreased dramatically in the past 100 years in almost all countries, so it’s been thought that a drug to ”copy” exercise would be just one more reason NOT to go out for a workout. And how about elite sports? Doping is an increasing problem in the field, so another pill to enhance performance could lead to more abuse of such substances. Or perhaps more important: if exercising promotes so many benefits for health, would the world really need an expensive drug that does (part of) the same thing?
eHealth and wearables are two emerging trends as demonstrated at The International Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies, held in Las Vegas every year. This year, 40% of the scene was dedicated to “wearables” (self-measuring devices). A Google search gives 45 800 000 hits about “health gadgets” that aim to help you stay fit and healthy.
How fit are you really? Try our fitness calculator here!
The wearable technology market, today at a $3- to $5 billion a year, is booming and it is expected to skyrocket to $30- to $50 billion in the next two to three years. ABI Research estimates that the total number of such devices will further grow from 16.2 million units in 2011 to 93 million units in 2017. Activity trackers are the most attractive segments within the market and are under continuous development. According to a recent report, Fitbit, Jawbone, and Nike FuelBand, shares 97 % of activity tracker market, and currently dominate this market. San Francisco-based Fitbit shipped 67 percent of all activity tracking devices in 2013. In the future it is expected that market for wearables will expand to other customer segments than fitness enthusiasts. A significant development of physiological instrumentation in combination with availability of mobile interaction platforms and computational power accelerates the trend. Numerous suppliers have jumped on this train to position themselves, with big brands in the forefront. However, despite feature-rich products, all these are unable to provide users the most important answer: Is my activity level sufficient to stay healthy?
In Norway, a qualifying course called “Exercise as medicine” is now offered to general practitioners in Oslo. In Trondheim, a similar course has alreadybeen offered for some years already. The course aims to strengthen GPs’ knowledge and use of physical activity in the prevention and treatment of various diseases. Internationally, the global health initiative “Exercise is Medicine”, initiated by the American College of Sports Medicine and American Medical Association, have contributed to elevating the status of exercise in general practice. What role can GPs have to encourage people to become more physically active?
There is no doubt about the fact that physical activity is good for you. Despite convincing evidences that physical activity and exercise is beneficial for your health, physical inactivity is today the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality.
Health organizations around the world are making a concerted effort to encourage the general population to start exercising or to increase the time spent exercising, while less attention have been paid to what we do the rest of the day. Time spent sitting is found to be a dependent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type2-diabetes and several types of cancer. As discussed in a previous blog post, a study from a British research group found that more than seven hours a day sitting increased the risk for developing cardiovascular disease by 147%, increased the risk for developing diabetes by 112%, and even the participants who exercised regularly had a 49% increased risk of dying prematurely.
Researchers in our group have found that current physical activity guidelines for health are insufficient to mitigate long-term weight gain. The study was published in British Journal of Sports Medicine, and are based on data from The HUNT study i Norway.
The current guidelines for physical activity for health benefits say that all adults should do moderate-intensity activity a minimum of 150 minutes, or vigorous-intensity activity for 60 minutes or more, each week. But do this level of physical activity prevent long-term weight gain?