Tag Archives: JAMA

‘Weekend Warriors’ Show Survival Benefits

Working out only on the weekends or otherwise compressing your total physical activity into one or two prolonged runs or a single vigorous basketball or soccer game each week could lessen your risks of dying prematurely almost as effectively as more frequent, shorter workouts spread throughout the week, according to an interesting new study of the so-called weekend warrior phenomenon.

As most of us have heard by now, the standard recommendation about how much exercise we should complete each week for health purposes is 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. Moderate exercise consists of activities like brisk walking or easy cycling that raise heart rates while still allowing us to talk to training partners, and vigorous activities are those like running, fast-paced cycling, and many team sports, including basketball and soccer, that raise heart rates into a zone where speaking is difficult.

Meeting these guidelines is associated with a substantially reduced risk of developing a wide range of diseases and dying too young.

The guidelines also suggest that, for practical purposes, people consider breaking the 150 minutes into five moderate 30-minute sessions each week or a comparable number of shorter, more vigorous workouts.

But many people apparently do not have the time or inclination to exercise five times per week. About a third of American adults engage in zero weekly exercise and others pack their workouts into one or two sessions on Saturday or Sunday, when they have more free time.

There has been little information, though, about whether the weekend warrior pattern of exercise lowers the risk for premature death as effectively as more frequent and generally shorter workouts.

So for the new study, which was published on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at Loughborough University in England and other institutions decided to delve into the exercise routines of tens of thousands of men and women already participating in the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Exercise Tied to Lower Risk for 13 Types of Cancer

Anyone who still needs motivation to move more may find it in a new study showing that, in addition to its other health benefits, exercise appears to substantially reduce the risk of developing 13 different varieties of cancer. That is far more types than scientists previously thought might be impacted by exercise. The comprehensive study also suggests that the potential cancer-fighting benefits of exercise seem to hold true even if someone is overweight.

The idea that exercise might change someone’s susceptibility to cancer is, of course, not new. Many studies have found that people who are physically active, either through exercise or while on the job, tend to be less likely to develop certain types of cancer than people who are sedentary.

But those studies primarily looked at associations between exercise and a few common malignancies, such as breast cancer in women, and colon and lung cancers in both women and men.

Whether physical activity, and more precisely, regular exercise, would also lower our risk for other cancers has remained an open question.

So for the new study, which was published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine, scientists with the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, as well as Harvard Medical School, and a number of other institutions around the world turned to a large trove of epidemiological health studies conducted in the United States or Europe.

To gain sufficient numbers now, the Cancer Institute researchers gathered data from 12 large-scale studies that, pooled together, involved 1.44 million men and women.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Are All Fitness Trackers Created Equal?

Many of us have invested in the wristbands or other wearable devices that tell us how many steps we’ve taken, calories we’ve burned and other information. But an interesting new study that compared activity monitors found that while some are accurate when measuring step counts, others are way off. And few are more accurate than the convenient and inexpensive apps you can find on your cellphone.

What’s more, the researchers say, while many of us hope that these activity trackers may motivate us to become more active and healthier, none of them has proved able to persuade reluctant exercisers to start and stick with a workout routine.

The promise of these devices obviously relies heavily on their accuracy and ease of use. If the trackers tell us that we have moved more or less than we actually do, our responses may not be appropriate or ideal. If, for instance, the monitor says that we have burned more calories than we actually have that day, we may overeat and gain weight. If, alternatively, the monitor says that we have taken fewer steps in a day than we actually have, we may become discouraged, blame the device, throw it in a drawer and stop walking for exercise altogether.

Similarly, if a fitness monitor is difficult to program, requires frequent charging, feels uncomfortable or is pricey, many people who might benefit from more exercise will avoid buying or wearing the thing. As the authors of the new study point out, only about 1 to 2 percent of Americans currently own an activity monitor, and many stop using the device within a few months of buying it.

A majority of Americans own a smartphone, however, and recently, a number of apps have become available that promise to measure someone’s steps, calories and so on, much the way a wearable fitness tracker does, but at a lower cost and, presumably, with greater convenience.

The accuracy of these phone apps, however, has not been established, especially in comparison to the accuracy of the dedicated fitness trackers.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary