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5-minute workout lowers blood pressure as much as exercise, drugs

The ultra-time-efficient maneuver known as High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST) could play a key role in helping aging adults fend off cardiovascular disease.

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Working out just five minutes daily via a practice described as “strength training for your breathing muscles” lowers blood pressure and improves some measures of vascular health as well as, or even more than, aerobic exercise or medication, new CU Boulder research shows.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, provides the strongest evidence yet that the ultra-time-efficient maneuver known as High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST) could play a key role in helping aging adults fend off cardiovascular disease.

In the United States alone, 65% of adults over age 50 have above-normal blood pressure – putting them at greater risk of heart attack or stroke. Yet fewer than 40% meet recommended aerobic exercise guidelines.

“There are a lot of lifestyle strategies that we know can help people maintain cardiovascular health as they age. But the reality is, they take a lot of time and effort and can be expensive and hard for some people to access,” said lead author Daniel Craighead, an assistant research professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology. “IMST can be done in five minutes in your own home while you watch TV.”

Developed in the 1980s as a way to help critically ill respiratory disease patients strengthen their diaphragm and other inspiratory (breathing) muscles, IMST involves inhaling vigorously through a hand-held device which provides resistance. Imagine sucking hard through a tube that sucks back.

Initially, when prescribing it for breathing disorders, doctors recommended a 30-minute-per-day regimen at low resistance. But in recent years, Craighead and colleagues have been testing whether a more time-efficient protocol–30 inhalations per day at high resistance, six days per week–could also reap cardiovascular, cognitive and sports performance improvements.

For the new study, they recruited 36 otherwise healthy adults ages 50 to 79 with above normal systolic blood pressure (120 millimeters of mercury or higher). Half did High-Resistance IMST for six weeks and half did a placebo protocol in which the resistance was much lower.

After six weeks, the IMST group saw their systolic blood pressure (the top number) dip nine points on average, a reduction which generally exceeds that achieved by walking 30 minutes a day five days a week. That decline is also equal to the effects of some blood pressure-lowering drug regimens.

Even six weeks after they quit doing IMST, the IMST group maintained most of that improvement.

“We found that not only is it more time-efficient than traditional exercise programs, the benefits may be longer lasting,” Craighead said.

The treatment group also saw a 45% improvement in vascular endothelial function, or the ability for arteries to expand upon stimulation, and a significant increase in levels of nitric oxide, a molecule key for dilating arteries and preventing plaque buildup. Nitric oxide levels naturally decline with age.

Markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, which can also boost heart attack risk, were significantly lower after people did IMST.

And, remarkably, those in the IMST group completed 95% of the sessions.

“We have identified a novel form of therapy that lowers blood pressure without giving people pharmacological compounds and with much higher adherence than aerobic exercise,” said senior author Doug Seals, a Distinguished Professor of Integrative Physiology. “That’s noteworthy.”

The practice may be particularly helpful for postmenopausal women.

In previous research, Seals’ lab showed that postmenopausal women who are not taking supplemental estrogen don’t reap as much benefit from aerobic exercise programs as men do when it comes to vascular endothelial function. IMST, the new study showed, improved it just as much in these women as in men.

“If aerobic exercise won’t improve this key measure of cardiovascular health for postmenopausal women, they need another lifestyle intervention that will,” said Craighead. “This could be it.”

Preliminary results suggest MST also improved some measures of brain function and physical fitness. And previous studies from other researchers have shown it can be useful for improving sports performance.

“If you’re running a marathon, your respiratory muscles get tired and begin to steal blood from your skeletal muscles,” said Craighead, who uses IMST in his own marathon training. “The idea is that if you build up endurance of those respiratory muscles, that won’t happen and your legs won’t get as fatigued.”

Seals said they’re uncertain exactly how a maneuver to strengthen breathing muscles ends up lowering blood pressure, but they suspect it prompts the cells lining blood vessels to produce more nitric oxide, enabling them to relax.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Seals $4 million to launch a larger follow-up study of about 100 people, comparing a 12-week IMST protocol head-to-head with an aerobic exercise program.

Meanwhile, the research group is developing a smartphone app to enable people to do the protocol at home using already commercially available devices.

Those considering IMST should consult with their doctor first. But thus far, IMST has proven remarkably safe, they said.

“It’s easy to do, it doesn’t take long, and we think it has a lot of potential to help a lot of people,” said Craighead.

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Wellness

Vegans who lift weights may have stronger bones than other people on a plant-based diet

The researchers found vegan participants who did resistance training exercises such as using machines, free weights, or bodyweight resistance exercises at least once a week had stronger bones than those who did not. They also found vegans and omnivores who engaged in resistance training had similar bone structure.

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People on a plant-based diet who do strength training as opposed to other forms of exercise such as biking or swimming may have stronger bones than other people on a vegan diet, according to new research published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

About 6 percent of people in the US are vegans. Recent research shows a plant-based diet can be associated with lower bone mineral density and increased fracture risk.

“Veganism is a global trend with strongly increasing numbers of people worldwide adhering to a purely plant-based diet,” said Christian Muschitz, M.D., of St. Vincent Hospital Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria. “Our study showed resistance training offsets diminished bone structure in vegan people when compared to omnivores.”

The authors compared data from 43 men and women on a plant-based diet for at least five years and 45 men and women on an omnivore diet for at least five years. Omnivores eat meat as well as plant-based foods.

The researchers found vegan participants who did resistance training exercises such as using machines, free weights, or bodyweight resistance exercises at least once a week had stronger bones than those who did not. They also found vegans and omnivores who engaged in resistance training had similar bone structure. 

“People who adhere to a vegan lifestyle should perform resistance training on a regular basis to preserve bone strength,” Muschitz said.

Other authors of this study include: Robert Wakolbinger-Habel of the Vienna Healthcare Group and the Medical University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria; Matthias Reinweber of the Vienna Healthcare Group; Jürgen König, Daniel König and Rochus Pokan of the University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria; and Peter Pietschmann of the Medical University of Vienna.

The study received no external funding.

The manuscript, “Self-Reported Resistance Training is Associated with Better HR-pQCT Derived Bone Microarchitecture in Vegan People,” was published online, ahead of print.

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Health

Tips for walking 20,000 steps a day

To walk 20,000 steps a day you’ll need to cover a total of 10 miles. This may seem like a lot, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds.

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To walk 20,000 steps a day you’ll need to cover a total of 10 miles. This may seem like a lot, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. Here are a few tips to help you reach your goal:

Invest in a Good Pair of Shoes

The first step to walking 20,000 steps a day is to make sure you have the right equipment. Investing in a good pair of walking shoes will help to prevent blisters and injuries, and make the walk more comfortable overall.

Make Walking Part of Your Daily Routine

To reach your 10-mile goal every day, make walking a part of your daily routine. This might mean taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from where you’re going so that you have to walk more. You can also try waking up a few minutes earlier each morning to fit in a walk before you start your day.

Join a Walking Group

If you’re having trouble finding time to fit in 10 miles each day, consider joining a walking group or taking part in a local 5k race. This will help keep you motivated and provide social support along the way.

Start Small

Don’t try to walk 20,000 steps all at once. Start with a smaller goal, such as 5,000 steps per day, and gradually increase your mileage as you become more fit. This will help you avoid injury and burnout.

Stay Hydrated

Make sure to stay hydrated while walking by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This will help you feel more energized and prevent dehydration-related issues, such as muscle cramps or fatigue.

The Bottom Line – BetterMe Can Help You Walk More, Every Day

If you’re looking to improve your overall health, walking 20,000 steps a day can help. This simple form of exercise offers a host of health benefits, from improved sleep and digestion to reduced stress and anxiety. To reach your goal, use the BetterMe Blog as a guide and stay committed every day. With enough dedication, you can achieve your fitness goals and transform your body for the better.

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Health

How can the self-employed tackle burnout? Expert shares top tips

Self-employed people such as business owners or freelancers may be more susceptible to burnout due to long working hours and the weight of responsibility that they carry.

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With workers returning to the office in their greatest numbers since the pandemic, the number of people suffering from burnout or stress-related illnesses is also on the rise.

Self-employed people such as business owners or freelancers may be more susceptible to burnout due to long working hours and the weight of responsibility that they carry. 

For many work and life have become intertwined, fortunately, Private Rehab Clinic Delamere has shared tips on how you can tackle burnout when self-employed and the common signs.  

How you can tackle burnout

1. Set Goals and Priorities

Having a mountain of work, with no plan in place to move forward can sometimes feel overwhelming. It can help to take a step back to assess which of your tasks need prioritising, and which ones will help you to achieve your goals.  

2. Speak to Your Colleagues or Clients

Being honest with the people that you are working with or for, about your mental health can often make things a lot a lot easier. You may be surprised at how understanding other people are of your situation.

By being open with others, you will have a better understanding of what to expect from each other, meaning that you will have a stronger professional relationship going forward.

3. Ask for Help

Never be afraid to ask for help if you feel that your stress is becoming too much to handle and you start to show signs of burnout. Getting external advice through counselling or therapy can give you a new perspective on a situation to guide you through any problems.

If you do not feel comfortable with counselling, then simply reaching out to friends and family can be enough to help you talk through your problems.

4. Schedule Time-Off

Sometimes when work life is becoming too stressful, all you need to do is take a short break from it all. Returning to work after a much-needed break can give a person a more positive mindset.

Those who are self-employed are often in charge of their own schedule and can over look the need to take holidays. In fact, some surveys have shown that nearly one in ten business owners go up to five years without taking a holiday.

5. Consider Changing Things

If your line of work is causing you constant stress and it feels that there truly is no way out, then it may be worth considering if you are genuinely following the right career path for you.

It may be the case that you do not need to change your career path altogether, but that your daily work routine simply needs to be altered. Consider making small changes such as your place of work. If you are stuck in an office or at home all day, you may benefit from finding a co-working space or coffee shop to work in.

Sometimes changes can be as simple as investing in new equipment or simply taking more regular breaks from your working day. By implementing these small changes you are less likely to burnout from stress.

6. Put Self-Care First

Work-life can be demanding, especially for any self-employed people who are under pressure to meet deadlines for various clients. However, when we demand too much of ourselves, it can be damaging to our physical and mental health.

Remind yourself that you come first. Maintaining a healthy sleeping and eating pattern, while keeping up a rewarding social life and strong relationships is more important to your mental well-being than anything you do while on the clock. 

Spotting the signs of burnout

1. Feeling Tired All The Time

If you are waking up feeling exhausted and find that you are still feeling drained even after you have been awake for a few hours and a cup of coffee in your system, then this may be a sign that you have burnout.

2. Lack of Motivation

During burnout, a person may find themselves completely withdrawn from their workplace or work tasks. Simply going through the motions while at work without any kind of motivation – or taking no joy whatsoever from your accomplishments at work – could indicate that you are experiencing burnout.

3. Recurring Health Problems

A person suffering from burnout may experience frequent and recurring headaches and muscle pains, as well as feelings of indigestion and stomach aches.

4. Feeling Irritable

Finding yourself easily irritated or frustrated, even by small things, and then snapping out at others is a possible sign that you are carrying too much stress from work.

6. Self-Deprecating Feelings

When someone is suffering from burnout it can have serious effects on their mental health. A person can have a heightened sense of self-doubt, feel like a failure and even experience impostor syndrome.

A person with burnout may also experience increased feelings of isolation and detachment from their colleagues, friends and family.

7. Increased Procrastination

When burnout occurs a person may find themselves avoiding their responsibilities, regardless of how small those responsibilities may be. Instead, a person will fill their time with procrastination and indulging in comforting distractions.

8. Coping Mechanisms

During burnout, a person may be more likely to turn to other comforts and coping mechanisms such as comfort eating junk food or even consuming alcohol and/or drugs. Engaging in any habit excessively to cope with stress may be a sign of burnout.

9. Change in Sleeping and Eating Habits

Stress can mess with our natural cycle and someone who is experiencing unnaturally high levels of stress may find that their sleeping habits are altered as they end up staying up late and sleeping in.

A person may also find themselves skipping or avoiding regular meal times, having a loss of appetite at some points in the day, or craving comforting junk food at others.

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