Latest News & Research: 31 July 2018

This week: Exercise slashes chronic disease risk – if you do enough; ‘Easy’ knee push-ups do have value; Could 5:2 diet benefit people with diabetes

Exercise slashes chronic disease risk – if you do enough

New research has shown that older adults who exercise above current recommended levels have a reduced risk of developing chronic disease compared with those who do not exercise.

Researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research interviewed more than 1,500 Australian adults aged over 50 and followed them over a 10-year period.

People who engaged in the highest levels of total physical activity were twice as likely to avoid stroke, heart disease, angina, cancer and diabetes, and be in optimal physical and mental shape 10 years later, experts found.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath from the University of Sydney, said the data showed that adults who did more than 5,000 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET minutes) each week saw the greatest reduction in the risk of chronic disease. It should be noted that this is a very large amount of physical activity, especially for older adults, with this many MET minutes equating to over 10 hours per week of running.

‘Essentially we found that older adults who did the most exercise were twice as likely to be disease-free and fully functional’ Gopinath said.

‘Our study showed that high levels of physical activity increase the likelihood of surviving an extra 10 years free from chronic diseases, mental impairment and disability.’

Currently, the World Health Organization recommends at least 600 MET minutes of physical activity each week (equivalent to a more achievable 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes of running.)
‘With ageing demographics in most countries, a major challenge is how to increase the quality and years of healthy life’ Gopinath said; ‘Our findings suggest that physical activity levels need to be several times higher than what the World Health Organization currently recommends to significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease.

‘Some older adults may not be able to engage in vigorous activity or high levels of physical activity. But we encourage older adults who are inactive to do some physical activity, and those who currently only engage in moderate exercise to incorporate more vigorous activity where possible’ she concluded.

The full paper is available online at Nature Scientific

Source: University of Sydney


‘Easy’ knee push-ups do have value   

The long-standing attitude that knee push-ups provide no real benefit for building upper body strength is unfounded according to new exercise research published this month in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics.

Jinger Gottschall, Associate Professor at Penn State University and lead researcher of the study, says knee push-ups are in fact beneficial for building and maintaining strength, and she now has the scientific evidence to back it up.

‘Knee push-ups have been considered the easy version without the same benefit as toe push-ups, but now we have the data to demonstrate the benefits for safe training’ Gottschall said. 

The results show that while the overall muscle activation was greater during the toe push-ups – due to the extra load on the upper body – the contribution from each of the muscles was similar for the two variations. This means that you are training the target muscles in the same way, just using less load when you are on your knees.

This is good news for people who cannot safely or successfully perform push-ups on their toes with a full range of motion.

‘Our advice to many people for whom this is the case – don’t leave push-ups out of your workout because you cannot perform them on your toes. Knee push-ups are a valuable alternative to toe push-ups in order to give your chest, shoulders and arms a quality workout, at the same time strengthening the muscles of the core’ Gottschall said.

In the study, 12 healthy male participants who completed strength training twice per week were measured using electromyography (EMG) signals while performing push-ups on both the knees and the toes.

EMG records the electrical activity of muscle using surface electrodes attached to the skin. The study participants completed a five-minute warm-up on a stationary bike and then completed a series of push-ups on the knees and toes as well as bench presses.

Researchers also concluded that if a person performs enough knee push-ups to reach a point of fatigue, they will eventually become strong enough to do push-ups on the toes – again because the muscle activation pattern in both types of push-ups is similar.

Gottschall recommends that once a person is confident doing 16 push-ups on the knees, he or she is then ready to try push-ups on the toes.

‘If you can comfortably do 16 knee push-ups, our message is to start trying to do a couple on your toes and see how you feel. If you need to, revert back to the other style until you gradually build up your strength over time to be able to do more on your toes than your knees’ she said.

The study also found push-ups to be more effective as a functional exercise than the bench press, with participants experiencing 51% more activation of the abdominal muscles when completing push-ups versus bench press repetitions. Functional exercises train muscles to do everyday activities safely and efficiently and often involve the integration of limb muscles with those in the core.

Les Mills International supported this research study at FITOLOGY, a group fitness and cycling studio located at State College, Pennsylvania.

Source:  Les Mills Asia Pacific


Could 5:2 diet benefit people with diabetes?

People with type 2 diabetes are just as likely to lose weight and control their blood glucose levels if they follow a 5:2 diet than an ongoing daily calorie-restricted diet, according to an Australian study.

In a paper published in JAMA, lead author PhD student Sharayah Carter from the University of South Australia says intermittent fasting could be a solution for people with diabetes who find it difficult to stick to a diet seven days a week.

Her findings are based on a year-long clinical trial of 137 people with type 2 diabetes, half of whom followed a 5:2 diet and the others an ongoing restricted diet, consuming between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day.

The study is the first long-term clinical trial comparing the different diets of people with type 2 diabetes. Fasting on two non-consecutive days, consuming between 500-600 calories, and then eating normally for five other days each week not only results in weight loss, but also improved blood glucose control. While fasting is safe for people with diet-controlled type 2 diabetes, for those using insulin and other oral medications likely to cause hypoglycaemia, blood glucose levels need to be monitored and medication doses changed accordingly, the study authors caution.

Sharayah’s co-supervisor, UniSA Professor of Nutrition Peter Clifton, said healthcare costs relating to diabetes cost the world around US$673 billion each year – $14.6 billion per year in Australia alone – and are increasing.

‘It is the 21st century’s health epidemic and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system. Conventional weight-loss diets with daily energy restrictions are difficult for people to adhere to so we must look for alternative solutions’ Clifton said.

Source: University of South Australia