Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Too Fat To Fight: The D.O.D. and Healthy Eating

The Defense department has gone on the offensive against obesity since it's landmark "Too Fat to Fight" study from 2010 (which you can access at the link provided). 75% of young adults do not meet the military requirements of fitness. 50 years ago, the concern was vitamin intake. Now, it's poor food choices and inactivity.

D.O.D. has some good online resources which you can find on the link above. They include nutrition and activity ideas for families, not just soldiers. Basically, they are making the case for national security by encouraging a healthy population. Can't fight if you're not fit.

One of the best suggestions from the article is slowing down from the fast pace and thinking more about what you are eating, as well as budgeting time to prepare fresh meals instead of frozen ones. It also suggests that "kid-friendly" meals are too chicken nugget and pizza heavy. Preparing foods yourself allows the family to have better decisions into how the food is prepared (less salt and fat, more fresh/raw foods, whole grains).

One final suggestion was limiting TV and computer time. So that's it for today- put down the internet based device you're holding and let's get moving!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Strength Training, Alzheimer's, and Walking

Now that's an odd title...

Yes, it appears that, based on some observational research, these things are related. In some research released today during the International Conference of the Alzheimer's Association, poor walking habits and awkward gait can be signs of cognitive inhibition. There is no longer sensitivity integration between different parts of the brain and the rest of the body. You can read more about this at USA TODAY

But Strength Training...

According to another study released at the same conference, major improvements were found in test subjects that engaged in weight training:
Participants were tested for cognitive executive functions such as attention, memory and planning. According to [a lead investigator], “the cognitive executive function and associated memory – those are the two traits most linked to dementia.”
At the end of the trial, those in the weight lifting group were most improved.

So what's the point...

The goal is early detection. Diagnosing someone suffering from poor gait can predict if they are at risk for Alzheimer's disease, where previous indicators had included falling. Falling is one way to indicate that motor systems in an older adult are beginning to fail. To have a predictor before that would increase the likelihood of preventive care being successful in deterring the onset of the disease, for example.
Read more about falling and Alzheimer's

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Getting a better night's rest

The Washington Post quotes a survey that many people, for various reasons, are reporting trouble with getting a good night's sleep. Sleep is an important part of normal biological function, helps with recovery, and contributes to proper metabolic function. Not sleeping enough at night can impact a person's ability to think clearly, perform tasks efficiently, affects focus and attention, and it makes you yawn an awful lot!

Sleep- it's good for you!
A excellent research project of the NIH in its Sport's Medicine journal chronicals many of the issues related to interupted sleep patterns as a result of shift work (link for article). Some negative affects of altered behavioral patterns, such as eating at night (mentioned in section 2.2) have links to obesity because of the low metabolic trends during the night hours. As the paper does note, there was some difficulty in gaining access to enough participants to fully study the effects of nocturnal workers versus the behior paterns and exercise habits of a regular work time population. The paper does stress that there is evidence that exercise helps to manage the stress and anxiety in some of their patients and recommends it as part of an overall holistic strategy for a healthy lifestyle.

Getting 7-8 hours of sleep has been recommended for as long as I can find (it's mentioned in the writings of Maimonides, so we are talking almost 900 years of such medical knowledge), but each person has to find the right balance of time based on their activity level. Associciate sleep with recovery time- if you feel refreshed and ready to go after a night's sleep, then you should feel recovered. If waking up is accompanied by muscle tightness, headache, dizziness, etc., then it is time to re-evaluate your schedule.