Thursday, May 31, 2007

Progressive resistance training #1

I've been involved in a range of sports, including swimming, rowing, cycling and running. They all have their benefits, and just about any form of exercise is better than no exercise. But in terms of 'results for effort/time spent' none of them comes close to progressive resistance training (PRT).

Benefits of PRT include:

Prevents a decline in muscle strength
Without PRT adults lose 5-7 lbs. in muscle mass in 10 years. Numerous studies have shown that muscles can remain in good condition indefinitely when appropriate exercise is maintained.

Reduces back pain
Weak back muscles are the main risk factor for back pain. A number of studies have shown that patients with back problems had significantly less pain after a 10-week period of targeted exercise.

Increases bone density
Strength training has a positive effect on bone tissue, delaying and even reversing age-related osteoporosis.

Reduces arthritic pain
Fisher and others showed in a study of strength training undertaken by patients in their seventies with osteoarthritis of the knee that quadriceps strength increased by 35% after a 4-month training period and pain was reduced by 40%.

Improves metabolic rate
A 3-lb. increase in muscle mass increases metabolic rate by 7% and daily calorific consumption by 15%. Strength training increases metabolic activity and so reduces the likelihood of fat accumulation.

Improves glucose metabolic rate
Studies have reported an increase of 23% in the glucose metabolic rate after 4 months of strength training.

Aids digestion
The speed of food moving through the alimentary canal increases by 50% after 3 months of regular strength training.

Reduces blood pressure and blood fat levels
PRT stimulates the production and release of nitric oxide by the endothelial cells on the inside layer of blood vessels. When we exercise, the accelerated pumping of our hearts forces more blood to flow through our vessels. As this blood pushes its way along the lining of our vessels, the endothelial cells release more nitric oxide, helping to keep our blood vessels open.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Exercise reverses muscle ageing

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I'm convinced that progressive resistance training is the most effective form of exercise. I'm going to be blogging a series of articles explaining why, but by way of introduction, here's an article that my brother sent me a link to last week (thanks Gareth and Chantal).

BBC reports: [edited]

A twice-weekly trip to the gym may not just give you stronger muscles - it may give you younger muscles as well. Research on over-65s has shown that regular resistance training appears to reverse signs of ageing in the muscles.

Around 25 healthy adults over the age of 65 were given twice-weekly hour-long training sessions for six months. The results were compared with participants aged 20-35 years.

Before the sessions, which used standard gym equipment and a programme of 30 contractions of each muscle group, the older adults were 59% weaker than the younger adults. After the training the older adults were only 38% weaker.

The researchers also took tissue samples to look at changes in the mitochondria, the rod-like "power plants" that sit within every cell and generate energy.

The results showed the gene expression - the generation of functional proteins by a gene - declined with age. Exercise resulted in a reversal of the gene expression back to levels similar to those seen in the younger adults.

Dr Simon Melov, who co-led the research at McMaster University Medical Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, said: "We were very surprised by the results of the study. We expected to see gene expressions that stayed fairly steady in the older adults.

"The fact that their 'genetic fingerprints' so dramatically reversed course gives credence to the value of exercise, not only as a means of improving health, but of reversing the ageing process itself, which is an additional incentive to exercise as you get older."

Co-author Dr Mark Tarnopolsky added that a further four months of follow-up found most of the older adults were no longer doing formal exercise in a gym, but were doing resistance exercises at home, lifting soup cans or using elastic bands.

"They were still as strong, they still had the same muscle mass. This shows that it's never too late to start exercising and that you don't have to spend your life pumping iron in a gym to reap benefits."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Little Bo Peep's favourite snack

Cottage cheese is made by adding lactic acid to milk, creating a precipitate of casein proteins. The whey (The watery part of milk) is drained off, and the curds (the lumpy bits) are repeatedly washed to remove the lactose.

Cottage cheese is high in protein, vitamins B12 & B6, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, folate (a water soluble B vitamin) and riboflavin (another B vitamin).

A 100g serving of skimmed milk cottage cheese contains less than 90 calories, provides nearly 15 grammes of protein, 4 grammes of carbs and less than 2 grammes of fat. And because casein releases its amino acids slowly, you'll feel 'full' for longer.

One of President Richard Nixon's favourite breakfasts was cottage cheese smothered with ketchup and/or black pepper, but if, like me, that's triggering your gag reflex, it also goes very well with blueberries, apple pieces or raisins.

It also makes an excellent protein component in a main meal (serving suggestion: salad potatoes, tinned tomatoes and sweetcorn).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

5 minute jobs

Most weekday mornings I get up at 5.00am, make myself a cup of coffee, read a portion of Scripture, brush my teeth, (occasionally) shave, and get ready to drive to the gym for my morning workout.

The gym opens about 6.25 am. The journey to the gym takes about 22 minutes. I'm generally ready to alarm and lock my house by 6.00 am. However, sometimes I'm ready by 5.55 am. I could sit down and read for a few minutes. Or sit in the gym car park listening to my iPod. Or, I could do something more useful.

I've discovered that you can get a surprising amount of work done in 5 minutes, it can help 'break the back' of a lot of the repetitive chores that are a part of most of our lives.

Here are a few '5 minute jobs':

- wash up and dry some crockery, cutlery and glassware

- refuel your vehicle

- vacuum a room

- transfer recycled refuse to the relevant bins

- check and delete a number of SMS messages on your mobile phone

- load up the washing machine

- check/organise your fridge/cupboard contents

Thursday, May 17, 2007



- Exercises all major muscle groups.

- Improves cardio-vascular fitness and muscle strength.

- Burns LOTS of calories.

- Kind to joints.

- Strengthens lower back when performed properly.


- Proper rowing requires water, club membership, training and a boat.

- Good stationary rowing machines are expensive.

- If performed with bad technique, lower back can suffer.

- Very demanding.

- Stationary rowing is REALLY boring.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rip it up

I love magazines. I buy and read a lot of them. There was a time when, after reading them, I would carefully store them in date order so I could refer to them later.

However, a few years ago, I realised that Google was replacing my magazines as a major form of reference. So I applied my Getting Organised #1 principles, and bagged and dated a stack of them. Sure enough, I didn't miss them. In fact, I realised that once a magazine had been read, I hardly EVER picked it up again.

More than that (and this may well be an age thing), the following scenario became more common. I'd read a magazine. I would see an article I wanted to show someone else or refer to later. Or a review of a CD I wanted to buy. I'd finish reading the magazine, and promptly forget about them. Later in the day/week something would jog my memory, by which point I had completely forgotten where the article/review was.

So I have started doing something that goes against my upbringing. When I come across an article/review that I want to refer to later, I check the other side of the page to make sure there isn't something even more important on it, and then (gulp... sorry mum) tear the relevant section out.

At the end of reading the article I have a number of sheets that (like the cards I carry around with me) act as a visual reminder to act on them. When acted on, they can be consigned to the recycling bin.

When the next issue of the magazine arrives, the gutted version is consigned to toilet reading, and then the recycling bin.

Two final thoughts:

1. It is probably best to avoid doing this when impressionable 'young'uns' are around.

2. Once this becomes a habit, cultivate a mental check that the magazine you're about to gut belongs to you.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

30 minutes a day

Leisure Opportunities reports: [edited]

Whether its having sex, doing the gardening or taking the stairs, the British Heart Foundation is urging people to get moving in its latest campaign.

Backed by celebrities, the '30 a Day' campaign features light-hearted posters showing the different ways people can build activity into their daily lives such as washing the car or going for a swim. The campaign targets the over-50s and urges them to get active now, in any way they choose, so that they can maintain their independence in later life.

The move comes as a YouGov survey of UK adults aged 50-64 showed that almost a third of respondents said lack of time was the reason for their inactivity. However, three out of four said they would prefer to watch TV, read or use the computer if they had a spare 30 minutes in the day.

Dr Mike Knapton, director of prevention and care at BHF said: “Keeping fit doesn’t have to mean sweating it out at the gym and it’s never too late to start. We can all make excuses, but at the end of the day it’s up to individuals to make the change, to get up and to get active. Just 30 minutes a day can make all the difference.”

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fat facts

I can remember a time when people used to talk about how muscle 'turned into fat' if you didn't use it. That, along with 'spot reduction' (the idea that you can lose fat from a region of the body by exercising that region) has generally been consigned to the 'myth' category. Most people now know that fat and muscle are separate entities. And millions of abdominal crunches will burn calories, but not specifically from your tummy.

However, there is still a huge amount of ignorance about how the human body stores, uses and loses fat.

Human body fat is stored inside fat cells in a compound called triaglycerol. An average young male stores about 100,000 calories of energy in this way, and assuming he consumes the same amount of energy as he expends, that's the way it will stay.

If the little men in your body notice that you're eating less calories than you are burning, they instruct hormones and enzymes (just stupid, technical names for even littler men) that start a process called hydrolysis (or lipolysis).

This process splits the molecule of triaglycerol into glycerol and free fatty acids (FFAs). An enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase is the catalyst for this reaction.

The stored fat gets released into the bloodstream as FFAs and they are shuttled to the muscles where the energy is needed. An enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) then helps the FFAs get inside the mitochondria of the muscle cell, where the FFAs are employed in a complex sequence of energy-releasing chemical reactions.

Fat cells never disappear. When FFA’s are released from a fat cell, the fat cell shrinks, but remains there waiting to be replenished. Women carry more fat cells than men. And recent research has demonstrated that fat cells can increase both in size and in number.

They are more likely to increase during late childhood and early puberty, pregnancy and when extreme amounts of weight are gained.

An infant has about 6 billion fat cells. This number increases during early childhood and puberty. A healthy adult with normal body composition has about 30 billion fat cells. In the case of severe obesity, this number can be as high as 300 billion.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mix it up

Next time you are at a friend's house, browse their CD collection for albums by artists you've never heard of, ask if you can borrow them, and (assuming the answer isn't "Not until you bring me the last lot back") give them a listen.

If your friend keeps their music collection on iTunes, get them to make you a 'mix-CD' of their favourite songs.

If you have no friends, acquaintances or life-long enemies will have to suffice.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Getting organised #5

Time passes at the same rate for each of us, one precious second at a time. Most of us wish we had more time to do the things we want to do. So it makes sense to do the stuff that we have to do in as little time as possible.

For most of us, each day includes hundreds of tasks. Gaining a better understanding of how to deal with them can pay huge dividends.

So, when I wake up in the morning, I stumble downstairs and turn Kermit (my lime green espresso machine) on. While that is warming up, I put milk in a cup, and get the coffee pod ready (immediately returning the milk to the fridge, and putting the coffee pod wrapper in the bin, natch).

If the coffee machine is still not up to temperature, I put away cutlery that I washed up the night before, sort out recycling bins, tidy the worktop... until it is. I then add espresso to the cup, and put the cup in the microwave for 50 seconds. During that time I remove and bin the spent coffee pod, flush the machine through with fresh water, top up Kermit's water reservoir and get a protein bar from the cupboard.

If this is all painfully obvious to you, I'm really sorry. However, I know that a lot of people don't use the 'dead times' that occur during other tasks. By exploiting these times, things stay 'tidy' and 'done', the 'where is that...?' moments are avoided, and the extended tidying sessions are reduced.