Archive for the ‘Conditioning’ Category

ATHENS, Ohio – Men over 60 may be able to increase their strength by as much as 80 percent by performing intense weight training exercises, according to physiologists involved in studies of the health benefits of weight lifting. The researchers also have found that older men gain strength at the same rate as men in their 20s.

In a study of 18 men ages 60 to 75, Ohio University physiologists found that subjects who participated in a 16-week, high-intensity resistence training program on average were 50 percent to 80 percent stronger by the end of the study. None of the participants had engaged in weight lifting prior to the study. Researchers also observed improvements in the seniors’ muscle tone, aerobic capacity and cholesterol profile.

These are some of the latest findings from a decades-long examination of the impact of exercise on the health of men and women of all ages. When researchers compared the strength gains of the elderly participants in this study to findings from other studies they’ve done of college-age men, they found that changes in strength and muscle size were similar in both age groups. The findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Gerontology.

“There have been a number of research projects that have come out over the years that suggest there is no age limitation to getting stronger from resistance training,” said Robert Staron, co-author of this study and an associate professor of anatomy in the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It’s become obvious that it’s important to maintain a certain amount of muscle mass as we age.”

This new study also suggests that elderly men can handle heavy workloads over a long period of time. Participants – who all were in good health and closely monitored during testing and training – performed leg presses, half squats and leg extensions twice a week to exercise the lower body. When the men began the study, they were able to leg press about 375 pounds on average. After the 16-week period, they could take on about 600 pounds. Studies elsewhere have involved low-intensity exercises over a shorter term.

In addition to the increase in strength, researchers found that weight lifting had a beneficial impact on the participants’ cardiovascular system. Tests on an exercise treadmill showed that their bodies used oxygen more efficiently after weight training.

“The individuals run until they are completely exhausted, and it took longer for them to reach that point after resistance training,” Staron said.

Blood samples taken before and after weight training also showed favorable changes in participants’ overall cholesterol profiles, he said, including increases in HDL cholesterol levels and decreases in LDL cholesterol levels.

Losing muscle tone and strength is not uncommon for many senior citizens, Staron said, but this research suggests that a lack of physical exercise can contribute to the problem.

“Certainly, inactivity does play a role in contributing to the decrease in muscle mass,” Staron said. “If we can maintain a certain level of strength through exercise, our quality of life should be better as we age.”

Before beginning a weight lifting regimen, it’s a good idea to consult a physician, Staron advised, adding that it’s also important to learn proper weight lifting techniques. Staron and his colleagues now have turned their attention to how certain weight training routines impact young people.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Andrea Gibson
Ohio University

Collaborators on this project are Fredrick Hagerman, Robert Hikida and Thomas Murray of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, former graduate student Seamus Walsh, Roger Gilders of the College of Health and Human Services, Kumika Toma of the College of Arts and Sciences and Kerry Ragg of the Student Health Service.

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University Park, Pa. — Girls and boys are now equally caught up in the social pressure for a muscular body image currently lauded in popular culture. A Penn State researcher contends those pressures are leading girls and boys down unhealthy avenues such as the misuse of anabolic steroids.

“Young girls have always had to struggle against the media stereotypes of stick-thin models or voluptuous sexuality, but with the rising popularity of women sports, girls are bombarded with buffed body images,” says Dr. Charles Yesalis, professor of health policy and administration, and exercise and sports science at Penn State, and editor of the newest edition of the book “Anabolic Steroids in Sports and Exercise.” “Now, young boys face pop culture musclemen like The Rock and Steve Austin, given the influence of professional wrestling shows.”

“The current film ‘Charlie’s Angels’ sports karate-kicking women in cool clothes,” he added. “Today’s children look with envy at the physiques of actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, and Linda Hamilton, whose roles call for a muscular build. Hollywood stars are openly taking Human Growth Hormone (HGH) injections to combat aging.”

In addition, children are entering competitive sports at younger ages and many working families have children signed up in two or three sports. Parents, coaches and young athletes are facing growing violence in amateur athletics. The pressure to win at all costs continues to weigh heavily on children, Yesalis notes.

The concern is that many youths will take shortcuts to achieving a muscular build by using anabolic steroids. Female athletes also are pressured to achieve low body fat to excel in their sport. The Penn State researcher has seen evidence that the pressures are reaching down to young children. For example, the book cites figures from the Monitoring The Future Study, a national-level epidemiological survey conducted annually since 1975. Approximately 50,000 8th, 10th and 12 graders are surveyed each year.

The MTF data shows that during the 1990s, anabolic steroid use among 12 graders –both boys and girls – rose to an all-time high with more than 500,000 adolescents having cycled – an episode of use of 6 to 12 weeks – during their lifetime. And the percentage of girls alone doubled in the same period.

A 1998 study of 965 youngsters at four Massachusetts middle schools found that 2.7 percent admitted to taking illegal steroids for better sports performance. That included some boys and girls as young as 10 years old. “This year’s Olympic doping scandals and the epidemic of anabolic steroids in professional baseball just glorify and justify steroids to impressionable youths,” Yesalis notes. “The use of anabolic steroids has cascaded down from the Olympic, professional and college levels to high schools and junior high schools and now middle schools for athletes and non-athletes alike. ”

“Anabolic steroids are made to order for a female wanting to attain a lean athletic body. While most drug abuse has outcomes that tend to discourage use, females who use anabolic steroids may experience a decrease in body fat, increased muscle size and strength, and enhanced sports performance,” he says.

Girls and boys misusing anabolic steroids may win approval and rewards from parents, coaches and peers, but don’t realize there are long-term negative effects on their health, particularly girls, according to Yesalis. Young girls face potential permanent side effects of male hair growth or baldness, deepening of the voice, the enlargement of the clitoris as well as the known risks of heart and liver diseases.

Published by Human Kinetics, the book incorporates the latest research, experience and insights of 15 experts on the scientific, clinical, historical, legal and other aspects of steroid abuse and drug testing. New information looks at the effects of steroids on health, particularly that of women.

This year, trials of East German doctors, coaches and officials reveal records of systematic doping of young athletes without their own or parents’ knowledge. In 1974, officials’ plan to turn the tiny Communist nation into a superpower in sports included giving performance-enhancing drugs to all competing athletes including children as young as 10 years old. The indictments included 142 former East German athletes who now complain of health problems. In media reports, several female athletes report incidents of miscarriages, liver tumor, gynecological problems and enlarged heart, all showing up decades after the steroid misuse.

“Our society’s current strategy for dealing with the abuse of anabolic steroids in sport primarily involves testing, law enforcement and education,” Yesalis says. “But our efforts to deal with this problem have not been very successful. Unless we deal with the social environment that rewards winning at all costs and an unrealistic physical appearance, we won’t even begin to address the problem.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Vicki Fong
Penn State

Recipe to recover more quickly from exercise: Finish workout, eat pasta, and wash down with five or six cups of strong coffee.

Glycogen, the muscle’s primary fuel source during exercise, is replenished more rapidly when athletes ingest both carbohydrate and caffeine following exhaustive exercise, new research from the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology shows. Athletes who ingested caffeine with carbohydrate had 66% more glycogen in their muscles four hours after finishing intense, glycogen-depleting exercise, compared to when they consumed carbohydrate alone, according to the study, published by The American Physiological Society.

The study, “High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is co-ingested with caffeine,” is by David J. Pedersen, Sarah J. Lessard, Vernon G. Coffey, Emmanuel G. Churchley, Andrew M. Wootton, They Ng, Matthew J. Watt and John A. Hawley. Dr. Pedersen is with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, Dr. Watt is from St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. All others are with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT) in Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

A fuller audio interview with Dr. Hawley is available in Episode 11 of the APS podcast, Life Lines, at www.lifelines.tv. The show also includes an interview with Dr. Stanley Schultz, whose physiological discovery of how sugar is transported in the gut led to the development of oral rehydration therapy and sports drinks such as Gatorade and Hi-5.

Caffeine aids carbohydrate uptake  

It is already established that consuming carbohydrate and caffeine prior to and during exercise improves a variety of athletic performances. This is the first study to show that caffeine combined with carbohydrates following exercise can help refuel the muscle faster.

“If you have 66% more fuel for the next day’s training or competition, there is absolutely no question you will go farther or faster,” said Dr. Hawley, the study’s senior author. Caffeine is present in common foods and beverages, including coffee, tea, chocolate and cola drinks.

The study was conducted on seven well-trained endurance cyclists who participated in four sessions. The participants first rode a cycle ergometer until exhaustion, and then consumed a low-carbohydrate dinner before going home. This exercise bout was designed to reduce the athletes’ muscle glycogen stores prior to the experimental trial the next day.

The athletes did not eat again until they returned to the lab the next day for the second session when they again cycled until exhaustion. They then ingested a drink that contained carbohydrate alone or carbohydrate plus caffeine and rested in the laboratory for four hours. During this post-exercise rest time, the researchers took several muscle biopsies and multiple blood samples to measure the amount of glycogen being replenished in the muscle, along with the concentrations of glucose-regulating metabolites and hormones in the blood, including glucose and insulin.

The entire two-session process was repeated 7-10 days later. The only difference was that this time, the athletes drank the beverage that they had not consumed in the previous trial. (That is, if they drank the carbohydrate alone in the first trial, they drank the carbohydrate plus caffeine in the second trial, and vice versa.)

The drinks looked, smelled and tasted the same and both contained the same amount of carbohydrate. Neither the researchers nor the cyclists knew which regimen they were receiving, making it a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment.

Glucose and insulin levels higher with caffeine ingestion
The researchers found the following:  
  • one hour after exercise, muscle glycogen levels had replenished to the same extent whether or not the athlete had the drink containing carbohydrate and caffeine or carbohydrate only
  • four hours after exercise, the drink containing caffeine resulted in 66% higher glycogen levels compared to the carbohydrate-only drink
  • throughout the four-hour recovery period, the caffeinated drink resulted in higher levels of blood glucose and plasma insulin
  • several signaling proteins believed to play a role in glucose transport into the muscle were elevated to a greater extent after the athletes ingested the carbohydrate-plus-caffeine drink, compared to the carbohydrate-only drink

 Dr. Hawley said it is not yet clear how caffeine aids in facilitating glucose uptake from the blood into the muscles. However, the higher circulating blood glucose and plasma insulin levels were likely to be a factor. In addition, caffeine may increase the activity of several signaling enzymes, including the calcium-dependent protein kinase and protein kinase B (also called Akt), which have roles in muscle glucose uptake during and after exercise.

Lower dose is next step  

In this study, the researchers used a high dose of caffeine to establish that it could help the muscles convert ingested carbohydrates to glycogen more rapidly. However, because caffeine can have potentially negative effects, such as disturbing sleep or causing jitteriness, the next step is to determine whether smaller doses could accomplish the same goal.

Hawley pointed out that the responses to caffeine ingestion vary widely between individuals. Indeed, while several of the athletes in the study said they had a difficult time sleeping the night after the trial in which they ingested caffeine (8 mg per kilogram of body weight, the equivalent of drinking 5-6 cups of strong coffee), several others fell asleep during the recovery period and reported no adverse effects.

Athletes who want to incorporate caffeine into their workouts should experiment during training sessions well in advance of an important competition to find out what works for them.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Christine Guilfoy
American Physiological Society

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function to create health or disease. The American Physiological Society (APS) has been an integral part of this scientific discovery process since it was established in 1887.

A University of Colorado at Boulder study of a space-age, low-gravity training machine used by several 2008 Olympic runners showed it reduced impacts on muscles and joints by nearly half when subjects ran at the equivalent of 50 percent of their body weight.

The new study has implications for both competitive runners rehabilitating from injuries and for ordinary people returning from knee and hip surgeries, according to Associate Professor Rodger Kram of CU-Boulder’s integrative physiology department.

Known as the “G-Trainer,” the machine consists of a treadmill surrounded by an inflatable plastic chamber that encases the lower body of the runner, said Kram. Air pumped into the chamber increases the pressure and effectively reduces the weight of runners, who are sealed in the machine at the waist in a donut-shaped device with a special zipper and “literally lifted up by their padded neoprene shorts,” he said.

Published in the August issue of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics, the study is the first to quantify the effects of running in the G-Trainer, built by Alter-G Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif., using technology developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. The paper was authored by Kram and former CU-Boulder doctoral student Alena Grabowski, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although G-Trainers have been used in some sports clinics and college and professional sports training rooms since 2006, the new study is the first scientific analysis of the device as a training tool for running, said Grabowski.

“The idea was to measure which levels of weight support and speeds give us the best combination of aerobic workout while reducing the impact on joints,” said Kram. “We showed that a person can run faster in the G-Trainer at a lower weight and still get substantial aerobic benefits while maintaining good neuromuscular coordination.”

The results indicated a subject running at the equivalent of half their weight in the G-Trainer at about 10 feet per second, for example — the equivalent of a seven-minute mile — decreased the “peak” force resulting from heel impact by 44 percent, said Grabowski. That is important, she said, because each foot impact at high speed can jar the body with a force equal to twice a runner’s weight.

Several former CU track athletes participating in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing have used the machine, said Kram. Alumna Kara Goucher, who will be running the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races in Beijing, has used the one in Kram’s CU-Boulder lab and one in Eugene, Ore., for rehabilitation, and former CU All-American and Olympic marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein also uses a G-Trainer in his home in Oregon. Other current CU track athletes who have been injured have tried the machine in Kram’s lab and found it helpful to maintain their fitness as they recovered, Kram said.

For the study, the researchers retrofitted the G-Trainer with a force-measuring treadmill invented by Kram’s team that charts vertical and horizontal stress load on each foot during locomotion, measuring the variation of biomechanical forces on the legs during running. Ten subjects each ran at three different speeds at various reduced weights, with each run lasting seven minutes. The researchers also measured oxygen consumption during each test, Kram said.

Grabowski likened the effect of the G-Trainer on a runner to pressurized air pushing on the cork of a bottle. “If you can decrease the intensity of these peak forces during running, then you probably will decrease the risk of injury to the runner.”

The G-Trainer is a spinoff of technology originally developed by Rob Whalen, who conceived the idea while working at NASA Ames as a National Research Council fellow to help astronauts maintain fitness during prolonged space flight. While the NASA technology was designed to effectively increase the weight of the astronauts to stem muscle atrophy and bone loss in low-gravity conditions, the G-Trainer reverses the process, said Grabowski.

In the past, sports trainers and researchers have used climbing harnesses over treadmills or flotation devices in deep-water swimming pools to help support the weight of subjects, said Kram. Harnesses are cumbersome, while pool exercises don’t provide sufficient aerobic stimulation and biomechanical loading on the legs, he said.

Marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain is currently using a G-Trainer in her high-altitude training base in Font-Remeu, France. Radcliffe is trying to stay in top running shape while recovering from a stress fracture in her femur in time for the 2008 Olympic women’s marathon on Aug. 17, according to the London Telegraph.

Kram and Grabowski have begun a follow-up study of walking using the G-Trainer. By studying subjects walking at various weights and speeds in the machine, the researchers should be able to quantify its effectiveness as a rehabilitation device for people recovering from surgeries, stress fractures and other lower body injuries, Kram said.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Rodger Kram
University of Colorado at Boulder

Boosting an exercise-related gene in the brain works as a powerful anti-depressant in mice—a finding that could lead to a new anti-depressant drug target, according to a Yale School of Medicine report in Nature Medicine.

“The VGF exercise-related gene and target for drug development could be even better than chemical antidepressants because it is already present in the brain,” said Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry and senior author of the study.

Depression affects 16 percent of the population in the United States, at a related cost of $83 billion each year. Currently available anti-depressants help 65 percent of patients and require weeks to months before the patients experience relief.

Duman said it is known that exercise improves brain function and mental health, and provides protective benefits in the event of a brain injury or disease, but how this all happens in the brain is not well understood. He said the fact that existing medications take so long to work indicates that some neuronal adaptation or plasticity is needed.

He and his colleagues designed a custom microarray that was optimized to show small changes in gene expression, particularly in the brain’s hippocampus, a limbic structure highly sensitive to stress hormones, depression, and anti-depressants.

They then compared the brain activity of sedentary mice to those who were given running wheels. The researchers observed that the mice with wheels within one week were running more than six miles each night. Four independent array analyses of the mice turned up 33 hippocampal exercise-regulated genes—27 of which had never been identified before.

The action of one gene in particular—VGF—was greatly enhanced by exercise. Moreover, administering VGF functioned like a powerful anti-depressant, while blocking VGF inhibited the effects of exercise and induced depressive-like behavior in the mice.

“Identification of VGF provides a mechanism by which exercise produces antidepressant effects,” Duman said. “This information further supports the benefits of exercise and provides a novel target for the development of new antidepressants with a completely different mechanism of action than existing medications.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Jacqueline Weaver
Yale University
Nature Medicine

Lower muscle mass and an increase in body fat are common consequences of growing older.

While exercise is a proven way to prevent the loss of muscle mass, a new study led by McMaster researcher Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky shows that taking a combination of creatine monohydrate (CrM) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in addition to resistance exercise training provides even greater benefits.

The study to be published on Oct. 3 in PLoS One, an international, peer-reviewed online journal of the Public Library of Science, involved 19 men and 20 women who were 65 years or older and took part in a six-month program of regular resistance exercise training.

In the randomized double blind trial, some of the participants were given a daily supplement of creatine (a naturally produced compound that supplies energy to muscles) and linoleic acid (a naturally occurring fatty acid), while others were given a placebo. All participants took part in the same exercise program.

The exercise training resulted in improvements of functional ability and strength in all participants, but those taking the CrM and CLA showed even greater gains in muscle endurance, an increase in fat-free mass and a decrease in the percentage of body fat.

“This data confirms that supervised resistance exercise training is safe and effective for increasing strength and function in older adults and that a combination of CrM and CLA can enhance some of the beneficial effects of training over a six month period,” said Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine.

This study provides functional outcomes that build on an earlier mechanistic study co-led by Tarnopolsky and Dr. S. Melov at the Buck Institute of Age Research, published in PLoS One this year, which provided evidence that six months of resistance exercise reversed some of the muscle gene expression abnormalities associated with the aging process.
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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Veronica McGuire
McMaster University

Trying to reap the health benefits of exercise? Forget treadmills and spin classes, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies may have found a way around the sweat and pain. They identified two signaling pathways that are activated in response to exercise and converge to dramatically increase endurance.

The team of scientists, led by Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Ronald M. Evans, Ph.D., a professor in the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory report in the July 31 advance online edition of the journal Cell that simultaneously triggering both pathways with oral drugs turned laboratory mice into long-distance runners and conferred many of exercise’s other benefits.

In addition to their allure for endurance athletes, drugs that mimic the effects of exercise have therapeutic potential in treating certain muscle diseases, such as wasting and frailty, hospital patients unable to exercise, veterans and others with disabilities as well as obesity and a slew of associated metabolic disorders where exercise is known to be beneficial.

Previous work with genetically engineered mice in the Evans lab had revealed that permanently activating a genetic switch known as PPAR delta turned mice into indefatigable marathon runners. In addition to their super-endurance, the altered mice were resistant to weight gain, even when fed a high-fat diet that caused obesity in ordinary mice. On top of their lean and mean physique, their response to insulin improved, lowering levels of circulating glucose.

“We wanted to know whether a drug specific for PPAR delta would have the same beneficial effects,” says Evans. “Genetic engineering in humans, commonly known as gene doping when mentioned in connection with athletic performance, is certainly feasible but very impractical.”

An investigational drug, identified only as GW1516 (and not commercially available), fit the bill. When postdoctoral researcher and lead author Vihang A. Narkar, Ph.D., fed the substance to laboratory mice over a period of four weeks, the researchers were in for a surprise.

“We got the expected benefits in lowering fatty acids and blood glucose levels but no effect, absolutely none, on exercise performance,” says Narkar. Undeterred, he put mice treated with GW1516 on a regular exercise regimen and every day had them run up to 50 minutes on a treadmill.

Now the exact same drug that had shown no effect in sedentary animals improved endurance by 77 percent over exercise alone and increased the portion of “non-fatiguing” or “slow twitch” muscle fibers by 38 percent. The result, while very dramatic, gave rise to a vexing question: Why is exercise so important?

First and foremost, exercise depletes muscles’ energy store, a chemical known as ATP. In times of high demand, ATP releases all its energy and forms AMP. Rising AMP levels alert AMPK, a metabolic master regulator, which acts like a gas gauge that the cell is running on empty and revs up the production of ATP. “That led us to consider whether AMPK activation was the critical trigger that allowed PPAR delta to work,” recalls Narkar.

Usually, AMPK can be found in the cytoplasm, the compartment that surrounds the nucleus, but the Salk researchers’ experiment revealed that some exercise-activated AMPK molecules slip into the nucleus. There they physically interact with PPAR delta and increase its ability to turn on the genetic network that increases endurance.

“It essentially puts a turbo charge on PPAR delta, which explains why exercise is so important,” says Evans.

Then came the ultimate couch potato experiment. The researchers fed untrained mice AICAR, a synthetic AMP analog that directly activates AMPK. After only four weeks and without any prior training, these mice got up and ran 44 percent longer than untreated, untrained mice. “That’s as much improvement as we get with regular exercise,” says Narkar.

“Exercise in a pill” might sound tempting to couch potatoes and Olympic contenders alike, but the dreams of the latter might be cut short. Evans developed a test that can readily detect GW1516 and its metabolites as well as AICAR in blood and urine and is already working with officials at the World Anti-Doping Association, who are racing to have a test in place in time for this year’s Summer Olympics.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Gina Kirchweger
Salk Institute

The study was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Hillblom Foundation and the National Institute of Health.

Researchers who contributed to the work include postdoctoral researchers Michael Downes, Ph.D., Ruth T. Yu, Ph.D., doctoral candidate Emi Embler, B.S., research associates Michael C. Nelson, B.S., Yuhua Zou, M.S., Ester Banayo, and Henry Juguilon, in the Gene Expression Laboratory, doctoral candidate M. Mihaylova, and assistant professor Reuben Shaw, Ph.D., in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, assistant professor Yong-Xu Wang, Ph.D., at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Massachusetts, and professor Heonjoon Kang, Ph.D., at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Seoul National University, South Korea.