Tag Archives: Physical exercise

Fitness Article : Running Makes you Smarter

There is a post on the New York Times about exercise making you smarter. I guess we always known people who exercise excessively as Richard-Simmons type happy and non-stop irritating or some bulgingly muscular meat-head that looks increasingly in a intellectual soliloquy with their biceps.

But way before all the hype and specialisation on fitness, the greatest thinkers were fit people as well. Socrates was a renowed and athletic warrior as well as one of the worlds greatest thinkers as was Marcus Aurelius . Arnold Schwartzenegger sure had street smarts as well as intelligence to be governor, despite his over bulked up body while the list of athletic and intelligent people go on. Do intelligent people become fit or does fitness lead to greater intelligence ? Here are parts of the article to answer your question

How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain

So, last year a team of researchers led by Justin S. Rhodes, a psychology professor at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, gathered four groups of mice and set them into four distinct living arrangements. One group lived in a world of sensual and gustatory plenty, dining on nuts, fruits and cheeses, their food occasionally dusted with cinnamon, all of it washed down with variously flavored waters. Their “beds” were colorful plastic igloos occupying one corner of the cage. Neon-hued balls, plastic tunnels, nibble-able blocks, mirrors and seesaws filled other parts of the cage. Group 2 had access to all of these pleasures, plus they had small disc-shaped running wheels in their cages. A third group’s cages held no embellishments, and they received standard, dull kibble. And the fourth group’s homes contained the running wheels but no other toys or treats.

All the animals completed a series of cognitive tests at the start of the study and were injected with a substance that allows scientists to track changes in their brain structures. Then they ran, played or, if their environment was unenriched, lolled about in their cages for several months.

Afterward, Rhodes’s team put the mice through the same cognitive tests and examined brain tissues. It turned out that the toys and tastes, no matter how stimulating, had not improved the animals’ brains.

“Only one thing had mattered,” Rhodes says, “and that’s whether they had a running wheel.” Animals that exercised, whether or not they had any other enrichments in their cages, had healthier brains and performed significantly better on cognitive tests than the other mice. Animals that didn’t run, no matter how enriched their world was otherwise, did not improve their brainpower in the complex, lasting ways that Rhodes’s team was studying. “They loved the toys,” Rhodes says, and the mice rarely ventured into the empty, quieter portions of their cages. But unless they also exercised, they did not become smarter.

Why would exercise build brainpower in ways that thinking might not? The brain, like all muscles and organs, is a tissue, and its function declines with underuse and age. Beginning in our late 20s, most of us will lose about 1 percent annually of the volume of the hippocampus, a key portion of the brain related to memory and certain types of learning.

Exercise though seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay, much as it does with muscles. Although scientists thought until recently that humans were born with a certain number of brain cells and would never generate more, they now know better. In the 1990s, using a technique that marks newborn cells, researchers determined during autopsies that adult human brains contained quite a few new neurons. Fresh cells were especially prevalent in the hippocampus, indicating that neurogenesis — or the creation of new brain cells — was primarily occurring there. Even more heartening, scientists found that exercise jump-starts neurogenesis. Mice and rats that ran for a few weeks generally had about twice as many new neurons in their hippocampi as sedentary animals. Their brains, like other muscles, were bulking up.

But it was the ineffable effect that exercise had on the functioning of the newly formed neurons that was most startling. Brain cells can improve intellect only if they join the existing neural network, and many do not, instead rattling aimlessly around in the brain for a while before dying.

One way to pull neurons into the network, however, is to learn something. In a 2007 study, new brain cells in mice became looped into the animals’ neural networks if the mice learned to navigate a water maze, a task that is cognitively but not physically taxing. But these brain cells were very limited in what they could do. When the researchers studied brain activity afterward, they found that the newly wired cells fired only when the animals navigated the maze again, not when they practiced other cognitive tasks. The learning encoded in those cells did not transfer to other types of rodent thinking.

Exercise, on the other hand, seems to make neurons nimble. When researchers in a separate study had mice run, the animals’ brains readily wired many new neurons into the neural network. But those neurons didn’t fire later only during running. They also lighted up when the animals practiced cognitive skills, like exploring unfamiliar environments. In the mice, running, unlike learning, had created brain cells that could multitask.

Just how exercise remakes minds on a molecular level is not yet fully understood, but research suggests that exercise prompts increases in something called brain-derived neurotropic factor, or B.D.N.F., a substance that strengthens cells and axons, fortifies the connections among neurons and sparks neurogenesis. Scientists can’t directly study similar effects in human brains, but they have found that after workouts, most people display higher B.D.N.F. levels in their bloodstreams.

Few if any researchers think that more B.D.N.F. explains all of the brain changes associated with exercise. The full process almost certainly involves multiple complex biochemical and genetic cascades. A recent study of the brains of elderly mice, for instance, found 117 genes that were expressed differently in the brains of animals that began a program of running, compared with those that remained sedentary, and the scientists were looking at only a small portion of the many genes that might be expressed differently in the brain by exercise.

Whether any type of exercise will produce these desirable effects is another unanswered and intriguing issue. “It’s not clear if the activity has to be endurance exercise,” says the psychologist and neuroscientist Arthur F. Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois and a pre-eminent expert on exercise and the brain. A limited number of studies in the past several years have found cognitive benefits among older people who lifted weights for a year and did not otherwise exercise. But most studies to date, and all animal experiments, have involved running or other aerobic activities.

Whatever the activity, though, an emerging message from the most recent science is that exercise needn’t be exhausting to be effective for the brain. When a group of 120 older men and women were assigned to walking or stretching programs for a major 2011 study, the walkers wound up with larger hippocampi after a year. Meanwhile, the stretchers lost volume to normal atrophy. The walkers also displayed higher levels of B.D.N.F. in their bloodstreams than the stretching group and performed better on cognitive tests.

In effect, the researchers concluded, the walkers had regained two years or more of hippocampal youth. Sixty-five-year-olds had achieved the brains of 63-year-olds simply by walking, which is encouraging news for anyone worried that what we’re all facing as we move into our later years is a life of slow (or not so slow) mental decline.



Fitness Article : The Abs-olute Truth Part I

I guess the centre piece of every well defined body is the abdominal muscles, a bulging set of six packs which show superior genetics, discipline or dieting. And in fitness, many people would like to train to get that centre piece and see that as the end-all in the training.

It isn’t that difficult, but it also requires hours of dedication per week as well as a sensible diet plan. And you can stow away the myths that some hi-tech equipment would help you achieve abs with 8 minutes flat, or some diet mix would help you.

Well, there’s this one equipment that will DEFINITELY help you get an instant six pack, except that its a bit ridiculous and would be only good for a laugh.

Instant Six Pack Abs – For about 10 minutes

But seriously, you cant buy fitness instantly, though you can fake it. But why deprive yourself of the joy of exercise and go through dubious shortcuts. It defeats the purpose of the journey – its like telling people that you can become an expert on a subject matter by reading just one book. Like I always say, fitness is the journey, you have to enjoy the journey and all the benefits would come naturally. And now on to the “short cut” methods and their efficacy.

The Lowdown on these “Short-Cuts”

TV Advertised , Ab-cruncher type machines

These come in many forms, and they all promote a rocking motion of the body to enhance the flexion of the abdominal muscle and cradle your neck, making the exercise easy and giving you a nice tight feeling on your waist, and all in 8 minutes a day.

What you dont see is the fine print that says this should be conbined with a sensible diet a an hour of exercise 4 tims weekly in the box, which would make the money back guarantee almost impossible to get back unless you expend real effort. But by buying this product you dont expect to put in any substantial sweat meets the ground (1-2 hour hard workout) kind of effort would you ?

These exercises work by creating an easy abdonminal exercise, but you dont need easy abdominal exercise to get stronger abs. Lifting weight or running would use your abs in substantially more useful ways than an ab specific machine. The abs are not powerful muscles but rather muscles that are quite fatigue resistant and strong by themsleves. They are not visible because they are covered by fat and not that they are weak.

The only real and compelling reason to strength your core (not just abs which i will explain later) is to have greater back support and stability which will help in all aspects of movement, sports and daily life, and there no specific one exercise to do it. Over-strengthening the abdominal muscles would only cause potential for more injury if the rest of your muscles are not strengthened in proportion. Which leads us to the next point.

Diet Pills and Powders 

They have been around for some time, each diet powder promising that you will lose 5 kgs of weight if you follow their strict diet plan and take their miracle powder – which is made from safe herbs and ingredients. Basically, its like paying for overpriced dubious vitamins and a diet plan.

Like exercise equipment, these diet pills and powders come with a nice disclaimer, which says that you have to follow the strict diet plan (which is at a restricted 1000 Kcal or less). Meaning even without the diet pills and powders, you can lose 1kg per week or more. Maximum weight loss recommended is about 1 kg (2 lbs) per week. To lose 1 kg, you theoretically have to cut back on 3850 calories per week or 550 calories per day. But these diets make you cut about 1000kcal per day. (Normal Intake is about 2000-2500 Kcals).

Essentially, you are paying to starve.

Furthermore, alot of the ingredients in these diet pills are not tested, diet pills are not FDA regulated because they are viewed as supplements and not drugs. Thus, they could get away with claims like lose 100kg in 1 day and still get your money. Alot of the ingredients contain substances which might not be good for your liver, there are documnted instances which led to liver failure and death.

Popular Fat busting drug Hydroxycut under big brand name Muscle Tech

“Hydroxycut is the most popular brand of weight-loss supplement, selling approximately 1 million units per year. On May 1, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) issued a warning after some Hydroxycut products were linked to liver damage, rhabdomyolysis, and at least one death. The manufacturer then agreed to recall the products. Shortly after the recall, Hydroxycut was “reformulated” with reportedly some different ingredients and placed back for sale.

Many more of these untested drugs by smaller companies up for a quick buck are making huge claims with harmful substances. So before you put these in your body, ask youself.

“Would i waste time and money and health on untested diet pills and powders that will only make me rely on them in the long run, or should i stop relying on quick fixes and start putting in the time and effort on the things that i know will work and will be beneficial for me in the long run”.

More on Fitness Article: Ab-solute Truth Part II (How to get a six pack and keep it).