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Running to music combats mental fatigue – study

Listening to music while running might be the key to improving people’s performance when they feel mentally fatigued, a study suggests.

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Listening to music while running might be the key to improving people’s performance when they feel mentally fatigued, a study suggests.

The performance of runners who listened to a self-selected playlist after completing a demanding thinking task was at the same level as when they were not mentally fatigued, the research found.

The study is the first to investigate the effect of listening to music playlists on endurance running capacity and performance when mentally fatigued.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used two tests to study how listening to music affected the running performance of eighteen fitness enthusiasts.

One test looked at the effects on interval running capacity – alternating between high intensity running and lower intensity jogging – with a group of nine physically active exercisers, and the other on a 5km time-trial with a group of nine trained runners.

The groups completed a 30 minute computer based cognitive test which put them in a mentally fatigued state before completing high intensity exercise. The runners were tested with and without self-selected motivational music.

Researchers assisted participants in choosing motivational songs with a pre-test questionnaire asking them to rate the rhythm, style, melody, tempo, sound and beat of the music.

Examples of songs participants listened to were: Everyday by A$ap Rocky; Addicted To You by Avicii; Run This Town by Jay-Z; Power by Kanye West; No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age; and Eye of the Tiger by Survivor.

During the exercise, heart rate and rating of perceived exertion were measured at multiple points.

The team took into account the results of a baseline test taken by participants which was without a mentally demanding test beforehand – and without the use of music.

The researchers found the interval running capacity among the mentally fatigued fitness enthusiasts was moderately greater with music compared to without music, and was the same as when the participants were not mentally fatigued.

The 5km time-trial performances also showed small improvements with self-selected music versus no music.

Researchers say the positive effects of music could potentially be due to altered perception of effort when listening to tunes.

Dr Shaun Phillips, of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education and Sport, said: “Mental fatigue is a common occurrence for many of us, and can negatively impact many of our day-to-day activities, including exercise. Finding safe and effective ways to reduce this negative impact is therefore useful.

“The findings indicate that listening to self-selected motivational music may be a useful strategy to help active people improve their endurance running capacity and performance when mentally fatigued. This positive impact of self-selected music could help people to better maintain the quality and beneficial impact of their exercise sessions.”

Researchers say there are opportunities for further study into how listening to music while running affects larger and different groups of people, in different settings, and using different exercise challenges. Work in these areas is ongoing at the University of Edinburgh.

The study is published in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.

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Fitness

Postmenopausal women can dance their way to better health

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures.

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Women often struggle with managing their weight and other health risk factors, such as high cholesterol, once they transition through menopause. A new study suggests that dancing may effectively lower cholesterol levels, improve fitness and body composition and in the process, improve self-esteem. Study results are published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures. As a result of all these changes, postmenopausal women often suffer from decreased self-image and self-esteem, which are directly related to overall mental health.

Physical activity has been shown to minimize some of the many health problems associated with menopause. The effect of dancing, specifically, has already been investigated with regard to how it improves body composition and functional fitness. Few studies, however, have investigated the effects of dance on body image, self-esteem, and physical fitness together in postmenopausal women.

This new study was designed to analyze the effects of dance practice on body composition, metabolic profile, functional fitness, and self-image/self-esteem in postmenopausal women. Although the sample size was small, the study suggested some credible benefits of a three-times-weekly dance regimen in improving not only the lipid profile and functional fitness of postmenopausal women but also self-image and self-esteem.

Dance therapy is seen as an attractive option because it is a pleasant activity with low associated costs and low risk of injury for its practitioners. Additional confirmed benefits of regular dancing include improvement in balance, postural control, gait, strength, and overall physical performance. All of these benefits may contribute to a woman’s ability to maintain an independent, high-quality lifestyle throughout her lifespan.

Study results are published in the article “Dance practice modifies functional fitness, lipid profile, and self-image in postmenopausal women.”

“This study highlights the feasibility of a simple intervention, such as a dance class three times weekly, for improving not only fitness and metabolic profile but also self-image and self-esteem in postmenopausal women. In addition to these benefits, women also probably enjoyed a sense of camaraderie from the shared experience of learning something new,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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Wellness

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

Exercise reduces risk of airway disease

Exercise appears to reduce the long-term risk of bronchiectasis, a potentially serious disease of the airways, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.

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Exercise appears to reduce the long-term risk of bronchiectasis, a potentially serious disease of the airways, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.

Bronchiectasis is characterized by repeated cycles of inflammation and exacerbations that damage the airways, leaving them enlarged, scarred and less effective at clearing mucus. This creates an environment ripe for infections. Risk increases with age and the presence of underlying conditions like cystic fibrosis. There is no cure.

Computed tomography (CT) is used to confirm or rule out the disease in patients with symptoms like shortness of breath and coughing up mucus. Bronchiectasis has also been found on CT in asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic individuals.

Little is known about factors that can reduce the risk of bronchiectasis. While some studies have tied higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness to a reduced risk of declining lung function and airway diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, its benefits in reducing the risk of bronchiectasis are unknown.

To examine the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and bronchiectasis, researchers analyzed data from the long-running Coronary Artery Disease in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. CARDIA was launched in 1984 across the U.S. to examine the risk factors for coronary artery disease in young adults.

The researchers looked at 2,177 healthy adults who were ages 18 to 30 years at the beginning of the study period. The study participants were followed up over a 30-year period with fitness tests and CT.

“We used year zero and year 20 cardiorespiratory fitness measured as exercise duration on a treadmill and ascertained bronchiectasis on chest CT at year 25,” said study lead author Alejandro A. Diaz, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate scientist at Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We assessed whether differences in treadmill duration between year zero and 20 were associated with bronchiectasis on CT at year 25.”

Of the 2,177 participants, 209, or 9.6%, had bronchiectasis at year 25. Preservation of cardiorespiratory fitness reduced the odds of bronchiectasis on CT at year 25.

“In an adjusted model, one minute longer treadmill duration between year zero and year 20 was associated with 12% lower odds of bronchiectasis on CT at year 25,” Dr. Diaz said. “Having preserved fitness at middle age is associated with lower chances of bronchiectasis.”

The researchers pointed to several possible explanations for the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and bronchiectasis. For one, a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness is linked with lower levels of systemic inflammation, which might help preserve the health of the airway. Good cardiorespiratory fitness also reduces the risk of certain diseases associated with bronchiectasis, such as asthma and pneumonia. Finally, high fitness levels may improve the ability of the airway to clear mucus.

The researchers observed a higher prevalence of bronchiectasis than found in previous studies. The difference may be explained by the use of CT for detecting bronchiectasis in the new study rather than the physician-based diagnosis used in previous studies.

“This study suggests that bronchiectasis on CT scans might be more frequent than previously thought,” Dr. Diaz said. “However, the clinical implications of finding bronchiectasis on CT scans in people with no or mild symptoms remain to be determined.”

The researchers are studying bronchiectasis in other populations like smokers to look for features of the airways and lung tissue associated with bronchiectasis flare-ups.

“These results amplify the benefits of fitness to human health when a sedentary lifestyle is a concerning world epidemic,” Dr. Diaz said. “It also highlights that fitness might be a tool to preserve lung health. The airways are challenged by what we breathe in every minute, and fitness may help to preserve lung health from injuries.”

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