Adding 3,000 extra steps a day can help older adults with hypertension significantly lower their blood pressure. About 80% of older adults in the United States have high blood pressure. Keeping it down can help protect against heart failure, heart attacks and strokes. “We’ll all get high blood pressure if we live long enough, at least in this country,” Linda Pescatello, professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, said in a university news release. “That’s how prevalent it is.” While her previous research had shown that exercise could have an immediate and long-lasting impact on blood pressure, this new study set out to learn whether moderately increasing walking — popular in this age group — could do the same. “It’s easy to do, they don’t need any equipment, they can do it anywhere at almost any time,” said co-author Duck-Chul Lee, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. The researchers focused on a group of sedentary 68- to 78-year-olds who walked about 4,000 steps per day. By adding in 3,000 steps, they would log 7,000 daily steps, in line with a recommendation of the American College of Sports Medicine. Getting “3,000 steps is large enough but not too challenging to achieve for health benefits,” Lee said in the release. Participants received kits with pedometers, blood pressure monitors and step diaries to track their…  read on >  read on >

Heart failure can make everyday activities and exercise tough to carry out, but yoga might be a beneficial add-on to standard care. A new study from India finds this ancient practice improves quality of life and cardio functioning. “Our patients observed improvement in systolic blood pressure and heart rate compared to patients who were on medication without yoga,” said lead study author Ajit Singh, a research scientist at Manipal Academy of Higher Education. (Systolic blood pressure is the first number in a blood pressure reading.) In heart failure, the heart muscle is either too weak or too stiff to pump properly. This can lead to fluid buildup, shortness of breath and other complications. How might yoga help? “Yoga is a combination of mind-body techniques, which is a set of physical exercises [asana] with breathing techniques [pranayama], relaxation and meditation that can be effectively used to stimulate physical and mental well-being,” Singh explained in an American College of Cardiology news release. For the study, the researchers enrolled 75 heart failure patients between the ages of 30 and 70 at a care center in South India. They had received recommended therapy for the previous six months to one year. Each had what’s called left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) of less than 45%, a sign of mild to moderate dysfunction, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.…  read on >  read on >

When it comes to staying trim, timing may be everything. That’s according to new research that found adults who routinely engaged in moderate-to-vigorous exercise early in the morning were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who worked out later in the day. “For individuals who exercise regularly, their body mass index [BMI] is 2 units lower and waist circumference is 1.5 inches shorter if they exercise in the early morning than in other times of day,” said study author Tongyu Ma, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H. BMI and waist circumference are considered two key measures of obesity risk. The upshot, said Ma, is that a “morning workout is a promising tool for weight management.” To explore the question, investigators tracked obesity status among nearly 5,300 adult men and women. All were enrolled in the ongoing U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, either between 2003 to 2004 or between 2005 to 2006. Each of the participants wore a hip accelerometer whenever they were awake for somewhere between four to seven consecutive days, including at least one day over the weekend. Based on activity routines, they were then categorized into one of three exercise groups: morning (642 participants), midday (2,456) or evening (2,187). In turn, waist circumferences were measured and BMI scores were calculated. BMI…  read on >  read on >

Playing sports can offer a lot of benefits for kids, but it’s also important to help protect them from injuries. Parents and coaches can make a big difference in helping kids play safely, according to Nemours Kids Health. The medical organization suggests starting with proper equipment. Use it, but also make sure the safety gear is the right size, fits well and is right for the sport. That includes helmets for baseball, softball, bike riding and hockey, as well as for inline skating or riding scooters and skateboards. Ask your child’s coach about the appropriate helmets, shoes, mouth guards, athletic cups and supporters, and padding, Nemours advised. Also ask about protective eyewear for racquet sports, field hockey, lacrosse, basketball, softball and baseball. This might include shatterproof glasses. Make sure protective equipment is approved by the organizations that oversee the sports. That means bike helmets with safety certification from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and hockey masks approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), for example. Take good care of this equipment so it holds up and continues working. Kids also need safe playing surfaces, including playing fields that are not full of holes and ruts that are a tripping hazard. High-impact sports, like basketball and running, should be done on surfaces like tracks and wooden basketball courts,…  read on >  read on >

Bolstering the notion that a strong body equals a strong mind, new research indicates that the more inactive seniors are, the higher their risk for dementia. The finding stems from a look at the onset of dementia among nearly 50,000 Brits. All were at least 60 years old when information about typical daily activity routines was entered into the UK Biobank database at some point between 2006 and 2010. Their risk for dementia was then tracked for an average of about seven years. “We looked into whether sitting too much can increase the risk of getting dementia,” said lead author David Raichlen, a professor of biological sciences and anthropology at the University of Southern California. “Turns out, if you’re sedentary for over 10 hours a day, there’s a higher risk.” Compared to spending nine hours a day on the proverbial couch, 10 hours of inactivity were associated with an 8% higher risk for dementia among seniors. And more inactivity was even riskier: Seniors who clocked 12 hours a day of inactivity — be it at one stretch, or over 24 hours — saw their risk for dementia spike by 63%. Those who sat around for 15 hours a day had a stunning 320% increase in dementia risk. The study doesn’t prove inactivity causes dementia, Raichlen stressed. It could be that other issues that might lead…  read on >  read on >

Therapies based on a hormone people make while exercising may be the next frontier in treating Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study. Researchers have found that the exercise-induced hormone irisin may reduce both the plaque and the tau tangles characteristic of the disease. Before this, this same team developed the first 3D human cell culture models of Alzheimer’s disease, which it was able to use in this new research into the impact of irisin on amyloid beta in the brain. Physical exercise had already been shown to reduce amyloid beta deposits in mouse models of Alzheimer’s, but it wasn’t clear how. The increase of circulating levels of the muscle-derived hormone irisin through exercise regulates glucose and lipid metabolism in fat tissue. It also increases energy expenditure by accelerating the browning of white fat tissue. Past research has shown that irisin is present in human and mouse brains. Its levels are lower in patients with Alzheimer’s. “First, we found that irisin treatment led to a remarkable reduction of amyloid beta pathology,” said study author Se Hoon Choi, of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Second, we showed this effect of irisin was attributable to increased neprilysin activity owing to increased levels of neprilysin secreted from cells in the brain called astrocytes,” he said in a hospital news release. Neprilysin…  read on >  read on >