Archive for exercise and health

Does routine exercise protect you from sedentary death syndrome?

There are multiple studies that show that inactivity is hazardous to your health.  Muscles at rest for prolonged periods of time release a host of inflammatory factors that literally start the process of decay.  Sedentary death syndrome refers to the slow death that people experience when they are inactive.  Believe it or not, daily exercise is not enough to keep us fit.  Being fit has more to do with how active we are throughout the day.  It’s what we do when we’re not exercising that determines our true level of fitness.  The average person sits for approximately 9 hours per day.  How about you?   Much of our understanding about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle comes from the research on television viewers.

Multiple studies have shown that too much TV time is associated with an increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and death by any cause.  According to a recent study, people who watch four hours or more per day are 80 percent more likely to die from heart disease and approximately 50 percent more likely to die in general. Each additional hour spent in front of the TV increased the risk of dying from heart disease by 18 percent and the overall risk of death by 11 percent.  I am certain that the most dangerous thing about watching television is that you tend to do it on your butt.  The most important finding from these studies is that regular exercise does not protect you from the disease and death associated with watching too much television.  In other words, regular exercise does not protect you from uninterrupted periods of sedentary behavior.

Given the above, I strongly recommend taking a whole day approach to physical activity.  Muscles in motion promote health and wellness.  Active muscles actually release anti-inflammatory factors that slow down aging and decrease the risk of disease.  Think of creative ways to incorporate more movement into your daily routines.  For example, one of my patients plans to walk with her boss during her daily meetings instead of sitting in a conference room.  Walk while you’re talking on the phone.  Walk to see your colleague down the hall instead of sending her an email.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re stuck at a desk, get up and walk around the office at least once per hour.

The bottom line is this: it’s not ok to exercise for an hour or two and then sit around for the rest of the day.  We recommend accumulating at least 10,000 steps before you hit the pillow each night.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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What Happens When You Combine Learning with Exercise?

When Susan and I were in medical school we learned a few things that have since been disproven.  For example, we were taught that we only have a set number of neurons or brain cells.  We believed that once a brain cell was lost due to injury or toxicity, it would never be replaced.  It is now know that, in healthy brains, the creation of new neurons is an ongoing and lifelong process.  Unfortunately, the number of new neurons we produce slowly declines with age. There is, however, something that we can do to prevent this “natural” decline in mental function.

An abundance of research shows that everyday forms of learning stimulate the brain cells to function at optimum levels.  The brain is stimulated by reading, learning new tasks, attending lectures, engaging in problem solving, and so on.  It’s not a total surprise that using your brain actually makes you smarter.  However, I am fascinated by the research that links exercise to intelligence.

It is well known that aerobic exercise in children is associated with better attention, improved memory, better decision making, and higher academic performance.  These benefits are also seen in young and elderly adults.  So, how does exercise make you smarter?  Answer: exercise increases the number of neural stem cells in the brain.  These stem cells ultimately develop into mature brain cells.  When you combine learning with exercise two things happen.  Exercise stimulates the production of neural stem cells and learning promotes the maturation of these stem cells into brain cells.  More brain cells allow for more storage of knowledge and information.

The bottom line is this: both learning and exercise are required to optimize intelligence and to prevent the natural decline in mental function. Grow ever smarter by exercising routinely and living a life filled with learning and exploration.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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From God’s Lips to My Ears

I want to be clear.  I am by no means trying to push my faith on anyone else.  I just want to share an experience that I had this morning. 

I usually get up between 5 and 5:30am so that I can exercise before going to work.  This morning I felt exhausted and miserable.  I was scheduled for an intense cardiovascular work-out and thought of multiple excuses for why I should take it easy on myself.  Just as I was getting ready to wimp out, I had a divine thought pop into my head.  “If my Son could endure crucifixion for your sins, I’m sure that you can handle a 30 minute work-out.”  Boy did that put things into perspective.  I dragged my tired butt to the basement and had one of the best workouts ever.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Are you active enough?

Our exercise physiologist, Mary Labuzienski, knew that I was writing a blog on physical activity and wanted to make sure that I was aware of  a deadly epidemic.  Sedentary Death Syndrome (SeDS) is a novel term used to describe the known relationship between physical inactivity and serious illness.  Sedentary muscles release inflammatory factors that are associated with cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, accelerated aging, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and so on.

Those who are active have fewer incidences of serious disease.  They also tend to report being happier and live longer.   A common question is, “how much activity is enough?”  Before answering this question, it’s important to make it clear that there is benefit with any increase in activity.  For example, it’s healthier to actually get off of the couch to change the channel than to use the remote.  It’s also important to draw a distinction between baseline activity and exercise.

Baseline activity is important because your muscles release anti-inflammatory factors when they are moving.  Muscles in motion promote health.  Those of you who have met with me know that my staff and I are big fans of wearing a pedometer.  We like pedometers because they give us an objective measure of activity.  We consider 10,000 steps per day to be a good foundation of baseline movement.

Exercise has to do more with increasing your performance from a strength, speed, and endurance standpoint.  I think that it’s easiest to break exercise down into 2 categories: endurance exercises (brisk walking, running, swimming, biking, etc.) and strength training (weight training, calisthenics, resistance bands, and so on).  Some of the benefits of endurance training include increased energy, a brighter outlook on life, help with weight loss/maintenance, and less pain.  Benefits of strength training include stronger muscles, increased metabolism, stronger bones, and better balance.

I recommend establishing a healthy baseline level of activity to guard against SeDS.  Once you have settled into a comfortable baseline activity routine, layer in endurance training.  I suggest working up a sweat for 30 minutes every other day.  (Exercise at an intensity in which you can only speak in short sentences).  Finally, after getting comfortable with an endurance routine, I would then begin strength training.  This should be done 2 to 3 times per week and should involve large upper and lower body muscles.

In summary, you gain tremendous health benefits from having a high level of baseline physical activity, however, these benefits increase with endurance exercise and strength training.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Running After Cancer

In my previous blog (Why I Run), one of the things I mentioned is how running helps me through many “life-stressors”- periods of depression, anxiety, sorrow, doubt, and pain.  Running definitely contributes to my mental health.  Though many people believe exercise supports emotional health, they might not consider it as a way to cope with major physical illnesses or challenges.  Let me tell you MY experience.

In September, 2008 (after multiple biopsies and countless ultrasounds) I had surgery to remove the right lobe of my thyroid. In my doctor’s mind, there really wasn’t any cause for concern, even though I had a nodule that had tripled in size over an eight-year period. All of the biopsies had come back either negative or indeterminate.

Well, guess what… I had thyroid cancer.  I try not to dwell on my experiences over those next few months, but treatment involved another surgery, a full body scan, and radiation.   Between the surgery and radiation, I had to go 7 weeks without any thyroid hormones.  If you don’t know what those control… well, everything. In that amount of time I gained 18 pounds, my hair fell out in clumps, I had NO energy, I was SUPER depressed, and was FREEZING cold. Plus, after all of that fun, I had my radiation treatment. After swallowing a radioactive capsule, I got to hang out by myself in our basement for 4 days, since I was now radioactive.

That was all rough, but the toughest part of all of this?  My doctor would not let me run.  At all.  She said it would be too hard on my heart. I tried to convince her NOT running was really hard on my heart (it was breaking!), but she remained unmoved.

So, between crying and praying, I daydreamed.  Almost every year since 2003, I have run the Indy Mini. It’s a 13.1 mile run where half-way through you get to run a lap on the Indy Speedway. It’s a really fun, loud, sunny race that I LOVE. And in my daydreams, I would picture myself either on the track or finishing the race triumphantly, sweaty and happy, but, most of all, healthy once again.

I’m betting you can guess how excited I was when I finally got the go-ahead to begin running again!! It was definitely not my easiest run, but it was my most glorious. And when I DID triumphantly cross the finish line 5 months later in Indianapolis, it was with tears of joy streaming down my face.

Cancer is a challenging diagnosis which affects people in many different ways. I’m very grateful mine was caught early, and that I have no complications. Running helped pull me through and recover.

Happy trails,

Krista

PS –Of course, God, my family, and my friends also helped me then as they do now!

Krista Greaves, RDMS, RTV, RT(R)

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Why I Run

Dr. Cavallo recently asked me why I run. My knee-jerk reaction was, I don’t know it’s just who I am. I started running for 7th grade track at the age of 13. I’m now 38 years old. I’ve pretty much never stopped except for brief respites for illnesses, injuries, and babies J

But, since HE asked me, I started thinking to myself. WHY DO I RUN?! Here’s what I have come up with.

First, there are the obvious physical reasons. Running has helped me maintain an optimal weight, stay strong, fight illnesses, and keep cardiovascular fitness.

Second, running has been good for my spiritual health. When I’m running by myself I usually spend that time praying and appreciating the beauty of nature or scenery around me.

Thirdly, and to me most importantly, running has greatly helped my mental fitness. My husband has at times begged me to go for a run if I’m cranky or if I have a lot on my mind, because I come back much happier and frequently more settled in my mind. Running has helped me cope with a wide range of emotions and experiences. I often refer to it as my therapy!

I’m VERY aware that running is not for everyone. If you don’t enjoy it, try something else! Go for a walk, ride a bike, take a fitness class, or there are TONS of really great fitness DVDs. Keep trying SOMETHING until you find something that you enjoy. YOU CAN DO IT, and I promise you will feel so much better on many levels!

Happy trails,

Krista

Krista Greaves, RDMS, RTV, RT(R)

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What we have in common with the great white shark

Scientists have been feverishly searching for the fountain of youth for as long as I can remember.  I’m fascinated by some of the research on aging and am most amazed by the impact that our muscles have on our rate of decline.  In short, your muscles can either keep you young and strong or accelerate aging and promote disease.  Please allow me to explain.

In a 2009 study published in the CHEST Journal, Dr. Henrik and associates showed that a lack of exercise was associated with high levels of systemic inflammation.  This inflammation is associated with multiple serious diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, arthritis, cancer, and accelerated aging.  In another 2007 study published in PLoS ONE, Melov and associates showed that physical exercise reverses aging in human skeletal muscle.

In their book, Younger Next Year, Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, MD do a wonderful job of describing how the lack of exercise results in the muscles releasing inflammatory factors that are associated with accelerated aging and at least 70% of serious diseases.   They rightfully proclaim that much of what we consider as aging is actually decay and that the decaying process is optional.  Although normal aging ultimately results in looking older, feeling old is preventable.  Between ages forty and fifty our bodies default to a state of slow and steady decay.  This decay is in large part due to the inflammation released into the blood stream from sedentary muscles.  This is a reversible state that is almost totally dependant on the status of our muscles.  When we exercise the muscles preserve their youthful function and release factors into our blood stream that result in a slowing in age progression and a significant reduction in the incidence in the above mentioned diseases.

Perhaps you have now figured out how we are similar to the great white shark.  We both die if we stop moving.  So how’s it going with you.  Are your muscles working for you or against you?

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

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