Thursday, December 3, 2015

Can You Exercise Too Much?

We hope you all enjoyed that uniquely American holiday - Thanksgiving - with good friends, family & an abundance of food.   The aftermath, however, is usually vows to "exercise more".  Here's some things to keep in mind before you ramp up the intensity.

Can you Exercise Too Much?  Researchers have been trying to find the sweet spot between too much and too little activity.  Obvious adverse effects of too much exercise – either in duration or intensity - are an increased risk of injury due to overuse & possible adverse effects on the immune system due to increased inflammation. Athletic trainers have always recommended one to two days a week of rest for the body to recover from hard training sessions.  Some studies have even found coronary changes in endurance athletes which could predispose to risk of arrhythmias and sudden death.  

Other signs of too much exercise - overtraining - are a lack of progress, chronic muscle soreness & fatigue, an increased resting heart rate, an increased susceptibility to infection, and injury.  These can lead to depression, burnout, and even mental breakdown.

Recent Research  Some of the latest research involves observational studies comparing a million healthy British women.  Those who were active at least once a week were found to have fewer heart attacks, strokes or blood clots in legs or lungs.  In this study, any kind of activity had the same effects as strenuous activity, but the headline grabber was that those who exercised everyday didn’t see more benefits.  In fact, those who exercised twice a week had about the same benefits as those who exercised six times a week.

A Danish study compared the death rates for joggers versus sedentary folks.  Light to moderate runners were less likely to die than non-exercisers.  However, strenuous joggers (fast pace, more than 2.5 hours a week) had a mortality rate similar to those who were sedentary.  The conclusion – higher doses of running may be unnecessary and may counteract the benefits found in lower rates of running.

A German study & a Mayo Clinic study found that those who were sedentary & those who exercised at a higher rate were more likely to die over a 10 year period.  However, the couch potatoes had a higher risk.

These studies caused headlines such as “Fast Running is as Deadly as Sitting on Couch” or “One Running Shoe in the Grave”, but raised many questions also.  One the one hand, the research was observational & showed correlation, not causation.  They were also meta studies where data from many studies were combined.  The studies included may have differed in the way information was gathered, and how the exercisers were categorized.  It was not examined if there was something different about those who exercised vigorously, as compared to those who did so moderately.

More Exercise - Good or Bad? The jury is still out since aerobic exercise is also known to improve other cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol & body weight.  Perhaps, high intensity exercise can benefit some aspects while negatively affecting other heart health factors.

In the US our problem is that of too much sedentary behavior, so such sensational headlines that imply exercise is bad for heart health should not be taken “to heart”.  Other studies have found that 400,000 Taiwanese exercisers lowered their mortality rate the more time that was put in.  One hundred minutes a day seemed to be the peak level for benefits.  For intense exercise, the plateau was 45 minutes, with no decrease in benefits with increased time.

It could also be that what's too much or too little varies from person to person.  Genetic differences could make some of us more susceptible to physical or cardiovascular problems.  Training differences could also be a factor.

Bottom line:  listen to your body, plan your recovery time, and follow the latest recovery protocols for exercise nutrition and time off.

Hippocrates said:  "If we could give every individ­ual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health."                                                                      Reference

Cranberries - A Year Round Friend    Although these colorful berries are having their heyday right now, its good to remember why they can be beneficial all year round.  

For urinary tract infections (UTIs), 10-15 ounces of cranberry juice may prevent bacteria from overtaking the urinary tract. Studies are actually equivocal but if your doctor's not available, a few glasses of cranberry juice may help.  Its thought that proanthocyanidins found in the berries may prevent bacteria from attaching to the lining of the bladder.

For oral health, the mechanism is thought to be similar.  However, sweetened cranberry cocktails are not likely to be effective.

Heart health may benefit from the antioxidants in cranberry juice.  These might prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol.  A small study showed effectiveness in type 2 diabetics.

Cranberry juice may prevent h. pylori,  the most common bacterium found in ulcers from sticking to the stomach lining.

And cranberry extracts have been shown to inhibit cancer cells in esophageal, colon & oral cancers.  However, it doesn't follow that cranberry juice will prevent these cancers.

Quick Cranberry facts:                                          Reference
  • Low in calories - 50 calories per cup of berries; 120 cal per cup of undiluted, unsweetened juice.
  • Fiber - about 5 gm per cup
  • Contain vitamin C
  • Most cranberry beverages are heavily sweetened.
  • Can be frozen for year round use
  • Cranberry sauces are high in calories - 200cal/cup.
  • Craisins are sweetened and are 370 calories per cup.
We're working on an index of 2015 articles and hope it will be in time for next month.  But for now, here is a recipe that uses cranberries to sweeten the possible bitterness found in Brussels Sprouts.  Since this recipe comes from the American Institute For Cancer Research you know its high in antioxidants and other healthy phytochemicals.

Brussels Sprout Slaw with Cranberries and Walnuts
3/4 lb. Brussels sprouts
1 Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (see Notes)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Trim bottom from sprouts and remove any loose or bruised leaves. Place shredding disk or fine slicing disk in food processor, and using feeder tube, gradually shred Brussels sprouts; there will be about 4 1/2 cups (see Notes). Transfer shredded sprouts to mixing bowl.

Add apple, cranberries, walnuts, salt, pepper and lemon juice and stir with a fork for 1 minute to combine well. Add oil and stir well. Cover and refrigerate slaw for 3 hours to overnight. Re-stir before serving. This slaw is best served within 24 hours.

  • If Meyer lemons are not available, use 1/4 cup regular fresh lemon juice.
  • If your food processor does not have a shredding dish, quarter Brussels sprouts vertically and place in food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Pulse until sprouts are finely chopped, stopping several times to scrape down bowl. Take care not to leave big chunks or to turn sprouts into mush.
Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 1/2 cup

Per serving: 120 calories, 7 g fat (1 g sat fat), 16 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 3 g fiber, 130 mg sodium.

© December, 2015, Fitness Spark Personal Training

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