Archive for the ‘Golf’ Category

Researchers at The University of Auckland have shown for the first time that the mere presence of carbohydrate solution in the mouth immediately boosts muscle strength, even before it is swallowed.

The results suggest that a previously unknown neural pathway is activated when receptors in the mouth detect carbohydrate, stimulating parts of the brain that control muscle activity and producing an increase in muscle strength.

Previous research had shown that the presence of carbohydrate in the mouth can improve physical performance during prolonged activity, but the mechanism involved was not known and it was unclear whether a person must be fatigued for the effect to be seen.

“There appears to be a pathway in the brain that tells our muscles when energy is on the way,” says lead researcher Dr Nicholas Gant from the Department of Sport and Exercise Science.

“We have shown that carbohydrate in the mouth produces an immediate increase in neural drive to both fresh and fatigued muscle and that the size of the effect is unrelated to the amount of glucose in the blood or the extent of fatigue.”

The current research has been published in the journal Brain Research and has also captured the attention of New Scientist magazine.

In the first of two experiments, 16 healthy young men who had been doing biceps exercises for 11 minutes were given a carbohydrate solution to drink or an identically flavored energy-free placebo. Their biceps strength was measured before and immediately afterward, as was the activity of the brain pathway known to supply the biceps.

Around one second after swallowing the drink, neural activity increased by 30 percent and muscle strength two percent, with the effect lasting for around three minutes. The response was not related to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream or how fatigued the participants were.

“It might not sound like much, but a two percent increase in muscle strength is enormous, especially at the elite level. It’s the difference between winning an Olympic medal or not,” says co-author Dr Cathy Stinear.

As might be expected, a second boost in muscle strength was observed after 10 minutes when carbohydrate reached the bloodstream and muscles through digestion, but no additional boost in neural activity was seen at that time.

“Two quite distinct mechanisms are involved,” says Dr Stinear. “The first is the signal from the mouth via the brain that energy is about to be available and the second is when the carbohydrate actually reaches the muscles and provides that energy,” says Dr Stinear.

“The carbohydrate and placebo solutions used in the experiment were of identical flavor and sweetness, confirming that receptors in the mouth can process other sensory information aside from the basic taste qualities of food. The results suggest that detecting energy may be a sixth taste sense in humans,” says Dr Gant.

In the second experiment, 17 participants who had not been doing exercise and were not fatigued simply held one of the solutions in their mouths without swallowing. Measurements of the muscle between the thumb and index finger were taken while the muscle was either relaxed or active.

A similar, though smaller effect was observed as in the first experiment, with a nine percent increase in neural activity produced by the carbohydrate solution compared with placebo. This showed that the response is seen in both large powerful muscles and in smaller muscles responsible for fine hand movements.

“Together the results show that carbohydrate in the mouth activates the neural pathway whether or not muscles are fatigued. We were surprised by this, because we had expected that the response would be part of the brain’s sophisticated system for monitoring energy levels during exercise,” says Dr Stinear.

“Seeing the same effect in fresh muscle suggests that it’s more of a simple reflex – part of our basic wiring – and it appears that very ancient parts of the brain such as the brainstem are involved. Reflexive movements in response to touch, vision and hearing are well known but this is the first time that a reflex linking taste and muscle activity has been described,” she says.

Further research is required to determine the precise mechanisms involved and to learn more about the size of the effect on fresh versus fatigued muscle.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Pauline Curtis
The University of Auckland

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

A new pair of studies compare step counts needed to meet 1) ACSM/CDC recommendations for moderate physical activity and 2) a one-mile mark. Both studies are useful as suggested step-based guidelines for meeting physical activity recommendations.

The first study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was designed to translate ACSM/CDC public health guidelines for 30 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity into steps. Researchers at San Diego State University and Arizona State University utilized commercial pedometers on a community sample of adults. Their results support an approximate 100 step/minute recommendation for minimally moderate intensity. To meet ACSM/CDC recommendations, this equates to 3,000 steps in 30 minutes, or three daily bouts of 1,000 steps in 10 minutes.

While pedometers are useful tools to measure step counts, this team notes pedometer-derived steps should be used with caution for gauging moderate intensity walking. Step counts associated with moderate intensity walking should be individualized based on stride length and level of fitness. ACSM defines moderate intensity walking as “brisk” walking, or “walking with purpose.” Walkers should be able to talk comfortably at a moderate-intensity level, but still feel exertion. Other definitions have included a pace at which you break a sweat and/or have a slight increase in your heart rate.

“Walking is one of the easiest forms of physical activity, and one that most people can do to meet recommendations for daily exercise,” said Simon J. Marshall, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “Most people have an instinct about the length of time or the distance they walk. A pedometer can help count steps, but when you also try to walk at least 1000 steps in 10 minutes on a regular basis, you may gain significant health benefits. For inactive people, setting smaller targets can help them start a program to meet general physical activity guidelines and enhance their health and wellness.”

In the one-mile study, researchers at Boise State University wanted to determine the number of steps individuals take while walking one mile at 20 and 15-minute paces and while running the same distance at 12, 10, eight, and six-minute paces. One mile (1,609 meters) step count varies at different walking and running speeds and can be predicted based on gender, pace, and height or leg length.

The average number of steps required to run/walk a mile ranged from 1,064 steps for a six-minute-mile pace in men to 2,310 steps for a 20-minute per mile walk in women. An interesting finding is that on average, individuals took more steps while running (jogging) a 12-minute mile than while walking a 15-minute mile (1,951 vs.1,935 steps, respectively). This finding is most likely related to the smaller distance between steps that people tend to take while jogging at the slower speed (12-minute mile) compared to walking at a 15-minute per mile pace.

“A ‘mile’ appears to be universally known as a marker of distance for walkers and runners to measure their activity achievements,” said Werner Hoeger, Ed.D., FACSM, lead author. “To estimate the number of steps required to walk or run a mile at selected speeds is likely to help people who monitor their steps with a pedometer with the objective of increasing their fitness by working up the miles.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

http://www.acsm.org

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say that practicing even small doses of daily meditation may improve focus and performance.

Meditation, according to Penn neuroscientist Amishi Jha and Michael Baime, director of Penn’s Stress Management Program, is an active and effortful process that literally changes the way the brain works. Their study is the first to examine how meditation may modify the three subcomponents of attention, including the ability to prioritize and manage tasks and goals, the ability to voluntarily focus on specific information and the ability to stay alert to the environment.

In the Penn study, subjects were split into two categories. Those new to meditation, or “mindfulness training,” took part in an eight-week course that included up to 30 minutes of daily meditation. The second group was more experienced with meditation and attended an intensive full-time, one-month retreat.

Researchers found that even for those new to the practice, meditation enhanced performance and the ability to focus attention. Performance-based measures of cognitive function demonstrated improvements in a matter of weeks. The study, published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, suggests a new, non-medical means for improving focus and cognitive ability among disparate populations and has implications for workplace performance and learning.

Participants performed tasks at a computer that measured response speeds and accuracy. At the outset, retreat participants who were experienced in meditation demonstrated better executive functioning skills, the cognitive ability to voluntarily focus, manage tasks and prioritize goals. Upon completion of the eight-week training, participants new to meditation had greater improvement in their ability to quickly and accurately move and focus attention, a process known as “orienting.” After the one-month intensive retreat, participants also improved their ability to keep attention “at the ready.”

The results suggest that meditation, even as little as 30 minutes daily, may improve attention and focus for those with heavy demands on their time. While practicing meditation may itself may not be relaxing or restful, the attention-performance improvements that come with practice may paradoxically allow us to be more relaxed.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Jordan Reese
University of Pennsylvania

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Penn Stress Management Program.

Energy bars, touted for improving athletic performance while providing the right combination of essential nutrients, may not always give endurance athletes the boost they expect.An Ohio State University researcher compared two popular energy bars and found that one of the bars didn’t give the moderate increase in blood sugar known to enhance performance in endurance athletes. Instead, its effect was much like a candy bar – giving a big rush of sugar to the blood, followed by a sharp decline.

“Theoretically, energy bars produce more moderate increases and decreases in blood sugar levels than a typical candy bar,” said Steve Hertzler, an associate professor of medical dietetics at Ohio State. “But these claims aren’t necessarily valid.” His study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Hertzler wanted to know how energy bars affected blood glucose levels. Glucose is a sugar that provides energy to the body’s cells – for example, red-blood cells and most parts of the brain derive most of their energy from glucose.

“Athletes – especially those involved in endurance sports – want to enhance performance, and energy bars claim to help keep blood sugar levels at a moderate level,” Hertzler said.

Volunteers had to fast for at least 12 hours before taking part in each of four experiments. Then, they ate one of four experimental “meals” consisting of either four slices of white bread; a Snickers bar; an Ironman PR Bar; or a PowerBar. Each experimental meal provided the same amount of carbohydrates (50 grams.)

Hertzler then tested the effects these foods had on blood glucose levels at 15-minute intervals for up to two hours after each experimental meal. The volunteers had to wait at least 24 hours between each experimental meal.

Hertzler measured each subject’s blood samples for glucose levels, to determine which food most raised blood sugar levels.

Both energy bars caused blood glucose levels to peak at 30 minutes, while levels peaked at 45 minutes after the bread and candy bar were consumed. Blood glucose levels declined steadily throughout the duration of testing for all foods but the Ironman PR Bar. This bar caused blood glucose rates to remain fairly steady, probably because of the moderate carbohydrate level of the bar, according to Hertzler.

“Though blood glucose rates peaked at 30 minutes with both bars, the high-carbohydrate energy bar – the PowerBar – caused a much sharper decline,” Hertzler said. “In fact, the decline was sharper than with the candy bar.” Much of the energy derived from the bread and the candy bar came from carbohydrate and the same was true for the PowerBar. While the bar is low in protein and fat, more than 70 percent of it is made up of carbohydrate (such as high-fructose corn syrup; oat bran; and brown rice). In contrast, 40 percent of the Ironman PR is comprised of carbohydrate (high fructose corn syrup and fructose.) The rest of the bar was comprised of 30 percent fat and 30 percent protein.

“The composition of this bar may have been responsible for the diminished blood glucose response,” Hertzler said. “Athletes involved in short-duration events who want a quick energy boost should eat a high-carbohydrate energy bar or a candy bar,” he suggests. “However, endurance athletes would do well to consume an energy bar with a moderate carbohydrate level.”

Hertzler conducted this study while at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He is continuing similar research at Ohio State.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Steve Hertzler
Ohio State University

Editor’s note: This research was funded by a grant from Kent State University. The researcher received no funding from either energy bar manufacturer.

Injuries occur to golfers of all ages and ability levels, and can significantly affect their golf game and daily life. Those who fail to warm up adequately appear to be putting themselves at greater risk of injury.

The survey involved 304 golfers, who revealed their golf activities, injury status and warm-up habits over a 12-month period. About a third of the golfers (111, or 36.5 percent) reported an injury, most frequently to the lower back, shoulder or elbow. Strains were by far the most commonly reported type of injury (37.8 percent). Other types of injuries included stiffness, inflammation, tendonitis, and sprains and, less commonly, pinched nerves, fractures, heel spurs and contusions or dislocations.

”Only a small percentage of golfers were shown to perform an appropriate warm-up prior to play or practice. The message isn’t getting across,” said Andrea Fradkin, lead author of the study.  “Golf professionals need to tell golfers to warm up, and not just hit balls.”

A full warm-up, she explained, consists of three components:
1. Aerobic exercise to increase muscle temperature
2. Sport-specific stretching (including stretching the shoulder, trunk, chest, lower back, hamstrings, forearm, and wrist)
3. Activity similar to the event, starting slowly and building in intensity (For golf, this might consist of air swings involving the club but not the ball)

Only three percent of golfers surveyed regularly performed two or more of the components, leaving them vulnerable to injury.

Fradkin and her colleagues noted that the frequency and types of injuries varied according to the golfers’ age and skill level. More experienced players—who play more often—tended to sustain more back injuries, while those with higher handicaps suffered more injuries to their hips, elbows and knees due to poor swing mechanics. Researchers noted that older golfers are likely to sustain more groin injuries due to a decrease in hip strength, and more knee and foot injuries due to degeneration of those joints.

According to Fradkin, this study underscored the results of her previous research into golfing injuries, while shedding new light. “This is the first study to look at the age, gender and handicap of injured golfers. Only two studies have looked retrospectively at injuries sustained over a 12-month period.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Communications and Public Information
American College of Sports Medicine

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Golfers averaged more than 13,000 steps in walking to play 18 holes, and even those using carts logged more than 6,000 steps. Guidelines published by ACSM and others recommend walking 10,000 steps per day to maintain cardiovascular fitness and effectively control weight.

“This illustrates an enjoyable way to get the health benefits of walking,” said Cristina Sanders, lead researcher for the study, who presented the findings as part of her graduate work at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. “Some people play golf for 40 or 50 years, and it can be quite beneficial.” While previous studies have measured the energy expenditure of individual golfers, this study thought to be the first using pedometers.

Researchers asked golfers at three courses to wear a pedometer while they played 18 holes and noted their height, weight, and handicap. They also noted number of players in each subject’s group, whether he would walk or use a cart, and which tee box he played. After the round, researchers recorded how many steps each golfer walked.

“We had expected that golfers using a cart might take one-quarter as many steps as those who walked the course,” Sanders said. “We were surprised to find that, depending on the course, cart users logged up to half as many steps.” Measuring each course by GPS (global positioning satellite) allowed researchers to calculate minimum course distances, including tee-to-green, green-to-tee, and intermediate path point distances (bridges, paths around lakes, etc.) for each tee box on every hole. These minimum course distances averaged 25 percent longer than the published course playing distances.

Walking golfers and cart golfers took 13,145 +/- 1,736 steps and 6,280 +/- 1,428 steps, respectively. Interestingly, Sanders and her colleagues found no correlation between step count and the golfers’ height, handicap or tee box. Self-reported weight of walking golfers, though, averaged about 8.5 pounds less than that of golfers who used carts.

The golfers in Sanders’ study were all men. She proposed that future research include women, who often play from different tees.  Also of interest, she said, would be a large-scale look into golfers’ energy expenditure, accounting for the extra effort associated with carrying clubs or using pull carts.

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Communications and Public Information
American College of Sports Medicine