FRIDAY, Feb. 17 -- Exercising in young adulthood boosts bone density, new research suggests.
Researchers looked at the physical activity levels of over 800 Swedish men aged 19 to 24 and found that those who boosted their physical activity during that period also showed increased bone density in the hips, arms and lower legs and spine.
Young men whose physical activity decreased during that period had significantly more "brittle" bones, according to a University of Gothenburg news release.
Improved bone development, which occurs throughout childhood and into young adulthood, can reduce the risk for fractures and osteoporosis later in life.
The study was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
"The men who increased or maintained high levels of physical activity also developed larger and thicker bones in their lower arms and legs," study author Mattias Lorentzon, of the Sahlgrenska Academy's Centre for Bone and Arthritis Research, said in a news release. "These findings suggest that maintaining or, ideally, increasing physical activity can improve bone growth in our youth, which probably reduces the risk of fractures later on."
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
SOURCE: University of Gothenburg, news release, Feb. 13, 2012
MONDAY, Feb. 13 -- Here's another reason to get into shape: Physical activity may reduce the risk of dementia-related death, according to a new study.
Researchers assessed the health of more than 45,000 men and nearly 15,000 women, ages 20 to 88 years, in the United States and grouped them into one of three fitness categories -- low, middle or high.
After an average follow-up of 17 years, about 4,050 participants died. Of those deaths, 164 were attributed to dementia (72 vascular dementia and 92 Alzheimer's disease). Of those 164 deaths, 123 of the people were in the low-fitness group, 23 were in the middle-fitness group, and 18 were in the high-fitness group.
People in the high- and medium-fitness groups had less than half the risk of dying as those in the low-fitness group, the researchers concluded.
The study appears in the February issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
"These findings support physical-activity promotion campaigns by organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association and should encourage individuals to be physically active," study author Riu Liu said in a journal news release.
"Following the current physical-activity recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine will keep most individuals out of the low-fit category and may reduce their risk of dying with dementia," Liu added.
Liu conducted the study as part of her dissertation at the University of South Carolina. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
While deaths in the United States associated with heart disease, breast cancer and stroke have declined in recent years, deaths related to dementia and Alzheimer's rose 46 percent between 2002 and 2006, according to the release.
The study doesn't prove that exercise will prevent dementia, however. Other factors may also come into play.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, news release, Feb. 7, 2012
1 in 3 Adult Patients Advised by Their Doctor to Boost Physical Activity
By Matt McMillen
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
Feb. 9, 2012 -- A new report from the CDC shows that more patients are getting prescriptions for exercise from their doctors.
In 2010, 1 in 3 adults who saw a doctor or other health care professional was advised to increase their physical activity as a means of maintaining or improving their health. That's a significant increase over 2000, when less than a quarter of consultations included such advice.
"Trends over the past 10 years suggest that the medical community is increasing its efforts to recommend participation in exercise and other physical activity that research has shown to be associated with substantial health benefits," states the report, from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
It's an important development, the report indicates, because patients listen to their doctors. According to a 2008 study, overweight patients were nearly five times more likely to exercise if their doctors counseled them to do so. They were even more likely to keep active if their doctor followed up with them after the initial prescription.
Exercise lowers the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Yet, according to government estimates, only 3 in 10 U.S. adults get the recommended amount of exercise each week.
According to the report, doctors and other health professionals most frequently prescribed exercise to their overweight and obese patients. Nearly half of obese patients received such advice in 2010, compared to less than a quarter of healthy-weight adults.
Although Hispanic patients showed the largest increase in exercise recommendations, increases were seen across all races and ethnic groups, the report states.
Almost 30% of adults aged 85 and older received exercise advice in 2010, a nearly two-fold increase over the 10 years covered by the report. However, the largest number of adults receiving prescriptions for physical activity were those aged 45 to 74. Adults younger than 25 received the fewest.
The same upward trend can be seen among patients with chronic diseases, particularly those with type 2 diabetes, half of whom received exercise counseling from their doctors. In 2010, a significantly greater number of patients with heart disease and stroke risk, high blood pressure, and cancer received exercise advice compared to 2000.
Despite the rise in the number of patients being advised to get and stay active, the authors of the report acknowledge that there is a long way to go before such advice reaches a sufficient number of people.
"The prevalence of receiving this advice remains well below one-half of U.S. adults and varies substantially across population subgroups," the authors write.
SOURCES: Barnes, P. NCHS Data Brief, February 2012.Weidinger, K. Journal of Family Practice, June 2008.Health People 2020: "Physical Activity" Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Facts"
-- Although exercise should help improve your health, a medical checkup before you start an exercise program can help ensure a safe beginning.
The womenshealth.gov website offers this list of potential risk factors that should be evaluated by a doctor before you start exercising:
TUESDAY, Feb. 7 -- Getting and staying physically fit might help fend off heart disease even if you've put on a few pounds, new research suggests.
"If you would like to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, you want to be cautious about weight gain but at the same time concerned about maintaining or improving fitness," said study author Duck-chul Lee, a research fellow at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia.
Maintaining or improving fitness could somewhat counteract the increased risk of fat gain, researchers found. On the other hand, reducing body fat helped make up for the added heart-disease risk linked with losing fitness.
The study is published in the Feb. 14 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Experts have long known that both fatness and fitness affect heart-disease risk factors. However, the researcher say the new study is one of the first to look at how a change in fitness or fatness (or both) affects the development of these risk factors later. The new analysis allowed for fitness and fatness to be adjusted for each other, which isn't taken into account in many studies.
Lee and his colleague followed 3,148 healthy adults enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. All received at least three extensive medical exams from 1979 to 2006 at the Cooper Clinic, in Dallas.
They looked for any of three risk factors: high blood pressure, high cholesterol or metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of signs that raise the risk of diabetes and heart disease. To be diagnosed, someone must have at least three of the five signs: large waist (abdominal obesity), high triglycerides, low "good" cholesterol, high blood pressure and high fasting blood sugar.
Researchers measured fitness with a treadmill test and calculated body fatness with body-mass index (BMI) -- which takes height and weight into account -- and skinfold testing. Researchers looked at changes over time.
At the end of the study, 752 participants had high blood pressure, 426 had metabolic syndrome and 597 had high cholesterol.
Those who maintained or improved fitness over time had a lower risk of developing any of the three risk factors. Those who maintained fitness has a 24 percent lower risk of high blood pressure, 38 percent lower risk of metabolic syndrome and 25 percent lower risk of high cholesterol. Those who gained fitness reduced their risk of each about the same or slightly more.
Those who gained body fat were more apt to develop one of the risk factors than those who lost fat. Gaining fat put the men and women at 24 percent higher risk of getting high blood pressure, 52 percent higher risk of getting metabolic syndrome and 41 percent higher risk of high cholesterol.
Maintaining or improving fitness modified but did not eliminate the increased risk caused by fat gain. And reducing fat seemed to offset part of the higher risk linked with losing fitness.
Best possible scenario? "If you lose fat and gain or maintain fitness, you have the lowest risk of all three risk factors," Lee said.
Being fit and not being fat work independently to reduce risk factors, Lee said. If you can't improve with fitness or fatness? Try to at least maintain, he said.
The study provides some good news, said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. She is also a spokesperson for the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" campaign.
The study, she said, seems to be saying: "If you are fit, it sort of gets rid of some of the risk of being fat. If you are less fat, it gets rid of some of the risks of being less fit than you should be."
She sees this take-home message: "If you are going to be overweight, you have to be fit. Ultimately you have to pay attention if not to both at least to one."
SOURCES: Suzanne Steinbaum, D.O., attending cardiologist and director, Women and Heart Disease, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City, and spokeswoman, Go Red for Women, American Heart Association; Duck-chul Lee, Ph.D., research fellow, University of South Carolina, Columbia; Feb. 14, 2012, Journal of the American College of Cardiology