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LIFE

Our bodies were made for running; exercise improves memory in older adults

Cartilage found to regenerate in long-distance runners; new fathers face mental health risk

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 November, 2015, 2:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 November, 2015, 11:19am

Imaging identifies cartilage regeneration in long-distance runners

It seems the human body was built for ultra-distance running. German researchers followed 44 runners participating in the 4,487km Trans Europe Foot Race. Over 64 days, the athletes ran every day, starting in southern Italy and ending in the North Cape in Norway. Participants underwent MRI scans every three to four days, as well as other examinations. With exception to the patella joint, nearly all cartilage segments of knee, ankle and hind-foot joints showed a significant degradation within the first 1,500 to 2,500 kilometres of the race. “Interestingly, further testing indicated that ankle and foot cartilage have the ability to regenerate under ongoing endurance running,” says Dr Uwe Schutz of the University Hospital of Ulm. “In general, we found no distance limit in running for the human joint cartilage in the lower extremities.” MRI investigations of the soft tissues and bones of the ultra-runners’ feet showed a significant increase of the diameter of the Achilles tendon. “We found no relevant damage to bone or soft tissues in the 44 runners,” Schutz says. “The human foot is made for running.” Brain MRI revealed about a 6.1 per cent loss of grey matter volume in the runners at the end of the race, but after eight months the volume returned to normal levels.

Mental health risk for new dads

Anxiety around the arrival of a new baby is just as common as postnatal depression, and the risks for men are nearly as high as for women, according to new research by the Australian National University. Mental health researcher Dr Liana Leach reviewed 43 separate studies and found it to affect about one in 10 men, about half the rate for women. “Having a new baby is a time of great adjustment for many parents, and it is normal to be nervous, but anxiety can become a problem when it persists for extended periods and interferes with everyday functioning,” says Leach. Symptoms of anxiety can include worrying or feeling keyed up much of the time, feeling irritable, and fears for the baby’s safety. Physical symptoms can include a racing heart, feeling sweaty, poor sleep and poor appetite. There is good help available and people should in the first instance contact their GP, Leach says. “Couples should be aware of their mental health right from when they realise they are pregnant. Early intervention reduces the severity and duration of symptoms.”

Study links physical activity to better memory among older adults

Older adults who take more steps either by walking or jogging perform better on memory tasks than those who are more sedentary, finds a new study by Boston University Medical Centre. The study included 29 young adults (aged 18 to 31) and 31 older adults (aged 55 to 82) who wore a small device called an ActiGraph, which recorded information including how many steps each took, how vigorous the steps were and how much time it involved. Participants also completed neuropsychological testing to assess their memory, planning and problem-solving abilities. The researchers found that older adults who took more steps per day had better memory performance. The association between the number of steps taken was strongest with a task that required recalling which name went with a person’s face – the same type of everyday task that older adults often have difficulty with. In young adults, the number of steps taken was not associated with memory performance.