Latest News & Research: 20 March 2018

This week: High fitness in middle age linked to hugely decreased dementia risk; Obesity paradox called into question again; Pedometer plus guidance leads to longer term fitness + more.

Fitness tracking boost to heart patient health

Research from the US has attempted to discover a way of maintaining the positive improvements to physical activity that cardiac rehab patients tend to lose after their formal rehab regimen finishes.

A 12-week program employed fitness trackers in tandem with telephone support (the mHealth program) for 16 heart disease patients that had completed a rehab program comprising medically guided exercise, diet coaching and lifestyle counselling. A group of patients that had completed the same program was used as a control, and didn’t receive the telephone support.

The control group’s peak fitness declined by 8.5%, whereas the supported group sustained their fitness levels, and even increased them fractionally.

Study co-author Brian Duscha, an exercise physiologist, said ‘While both groups were exercising above the government guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity at the end of cardiac rehab, only the mHealth group members were meeting this guideline 12 weeks after cardiac rehab.’

High fitness in middle age linked to hugely decreased dementia risk

Women with high levels of fitness in middle age are 90% less likely to develop dementia in old age than those who are moderately fit, according to a recent Swedish study.

For the study, 191 women were assessed regularly over a 44-year period. The lower number of highly fit women that did develop dementia did so at a much older average age – in their 90’s – than those with moderate fitness.

Although the study shows an association between fitness and mental wellbeing, rather than proves causation, study author Helena Hörder, PhD, from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, said ‘These findings are exciting because it's possible that improving people's cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia.’

Obesity paradox called into question again

The concept of the obesity paradox, namely, that it is possible to be overweight or obese without suffering higher risk of heart disease, has come under fresh scrutiny.

In his 2014 book The Obesity Paradox: When Thinner Means Sicker and Heavier Means Healthier Dr Carl Lavie espoused the theory that the people who fared the worst in terms of diabetes, heart disease and cancer were not just low in body fat, but were also low in muscle mass and cardio fitness. He argued that it isn’t just the presence of fat that is an issue for health, but also the lack of it.

Now, a study of almost 300,000 people published in the European Heart Journal has shown that risk of blood vessel and heart problems, including stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure, rose in conjunction with BMI, even before that measurement entered into the overweight and obese ranges.

Pedometer plus guidance leads to longer term fitness

A similar study to the pedometer one discussed above has also had similar findings.

Developing the habit of tracking your steps on a daily basis could lead to increased fitness in the longer term, according to recent research from the UK.

Whereas previous studies have found a link between monitoring activity and short term improvements in fitness, the new study by researchers from Brunel University and St George's, University of London found that when accompanied by exercise advice, pedometer-wearers were more likely to maintain higher daily step counts than those that didn’t receive such advice.

In one element of the study the researchers identified that after three years, the pedometer plus advice combination resulted in 600 more steps being taken daily, and 24 minutes additional vigorous activity weekly.

Study co-author Professor Christina Victor commented ‘Here we have new evidence that shows short, simple advice about regularly using a pedometer, whether that means getting leaflets through the post or speaking to a nurse, can increase physical activity 3 to 4 years later.’