Health bites: Long lasting benefits of physical activity during youth

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 10:05am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 6:33pm

Long lasting benefits of physical activity during youth

Young adults who run or participate in other cardio fitness activities may preserve their memory and thinking skills in middle age, finds new research published in the journal Neurology

Nearly 2,800 healthy people with an average age of 25 underwent treadmill tests the first year of the study, and again 20 years later during middle age (43 to 55 years). The participants walked or ran as the speed and incline increased until they could not continue. At the first test, participants lasted an average of 10 minutes; that decreased by 2.9 minutes on average in the follow-up test.

Every additional minute completed on the first treadmill test corresponded to better scores on tests of verbal memory and psychomotor speed, even after adjusting for other factors such as smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol. 

People who had smaller decreases in their time in the follow-up treadmill test were more likely to perform better on an executive function test than those who had bigger decreases. 

“These changes were significant, and while they may be modest, they were larger than the effect from one year of ageing,” says study author David R. Jacobs Jr of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Shedding new light on weight management

The early bird catches not only the worm but also has a significantly lower body mass index (BMI). That’s according to a new study in PLOS ONE by Northwestern University, which has found that the timing, intensity and duration of light exposure during the day are linked to weight. 

For seven days, 54 male and female study participants with an average age of 30 wore a wrist actigraphy monitor that measured their light exposure and sleep parameters in normal living conditions, and kept food logs to track their caloric intake. 

Those who had greater morning light exposure had a significantly lower BMI than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day. This was independent of an individual’s physical activity level, caloric intake, sleep timing, age or season. It accounted for about 20 per cent of a person’s BMI. 

“Light is the most potent agent to synchronise your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance,” says study senior author Dr Phyllis C. Zee. “The message is that you should get more bright light between 8 a.m. and noon.”

Workplaces and schools should also have windows. Employees should be encouraged to go outside for lunch or breaks, and indoor lighting should be improved in the school and workplace, says Zee.

For heart health, always look on the bright side of life

The more depressed you feel, the more you’re at risk of heart failure, according to an 11-year study of nearly 63,000 Norwegians.

Data such as body mass index, physical activity, smoking habits and blood pressure, were first collected in 1995 from Nord-Trøndelag county for a large epidemiological study. Depression was assessed and ranked for severity using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

During the study period, nearly 1,500 people developed heart failure. After adjusting for factors such as obesity and smoking, it was found that compared to people with no symptoms of depression, those with mild symptoms had a 5 per cent increased risk of developing heart failure and those with moderate to severe symptoms had a 40 per cent increased risk.

Depression triggers stress hormones that induce inflammation and atherosclerosis, which may accelerate heart diseases, says Lise Tuset Gustad, first author of the study and an intensive care nurse at Levanger Hospital in Norway. The findings were presented last week at EuroHeartCare 2014 in Norway, an annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.