Do we spend more hours lounging than our ancestors the hunter gatherers? Actually, we don’t, so what is different about how we spend our off hours that makes us more vulnerable to sickness? It seems that although our ancestors spent only a few hours hunting and gathering foods their off hours were not spent in the sitting position. They would actually rest in a squatting position. In study after study it is becoming more obvious that it is sitting that is a major contributor to sickness and inflammation. In studying the Hadza tribe of Tanzania, scientists noted that although they are very active for a number of hours hunting and digging up tubers, they wondered if how they spent their down time was the reason why they were in such perfect health. In a study published by The National Academy of Sciences, scientists placed fitness trackers on tribespeople ranging from age 18 to 61. What they found was that they were inactive for almost 10 hours every day. This is equal to the population in the modern world. What they also found was that the Hadza spent their off hours either squatting or with knees bent and butt to the ground. As a result, tests showed that the activity in leg muscles remained constantly high. It is believed that sitting reduces the activity of certain enzymes that could possibly contribute to serious illnesses. Maybe we should look at our children and remind ourselves how easy it was to take a break by simply squatting.
Can our bodies retain a memory of past fitness? Many of us may be accustomed to being much more active then we have been in the past few weeks. A new study suggests, that even in this situation that we are experiencing, our muscles are able to recall past fitness. That is once we are able to resume our past regimen, our muscle memory will speed up the process to regain our past fitness. Swedish researchers performed an experiment with young men and women who had never played sports or formally exercised. They were put through extensive leg training exercises using machines and were instructed to use only one leg. This was performed for a period of 10 weeks. They then stopped their training for 20 weeks. When they returned to the lab, biopsies were taken from both legs to measure muscularity and strength. They were then put through an intensive leg training session and again biopsies were taken to check once again for gene markers relating to muscle health and growth. What they found was that the trained leg had remained sturdier. The muscle cells in the trained leg had become more genetically and metabolically tuned to strengthen and grow. Of course, this was a limited study in which only one leg was trained but it does show that fitness training is not so easily lost after a decreased period of training.
Can exercise build immunity against viral outbreaks? Recent research is showing that even a single exercise session can amplify our resistance to germs. Why are some people able to handle this pandemic better than others? Could it be that some of us are immune to the disease or do others just have a stronger immune system? Could this be the reason why the effects are less severe to some? Should we remain active as the virus spreads or does over activity defeat the purpose. In the 1980’s it was believed that marathon runners exhausted their immune systems and left themselves open to infections. More recent studies have shown that runners and endurance athletes actually increase and strengthen their lung capacity. The information gathered from the “Open Window” theory performed through the help of animals and people suggested that that immune cells flooded the bloodstream after an intense workout. However, they then disappeared as quickly as they appeared leaving us more vulnerable to infection. Recent more sophisticated testing showed that these immune cells do not leave the body but merely travel to other parts of the body which may be more vulnerable to infection such as the lungs and heart. Afterwards they once again returned to the bloodstream. There is mixed evidence on the effects of exercise and immunity, but it can’t hurt to stay as active as possible during these troubled times. This does not mean that all the safety precautions that are being advised should be ignored. Listen to Dr Fauci if you want to be really tuned in to what is happening.
There is controversy among fitness professionals over which exercise routine will produce fat loss. Some believe in HITT (high intensity interval training) which involves a few minutes of strenuous exercise or SIT (sprint interval training) which involves only a few seconds of extremely strenuous exercise. Both are followed by a short period of rest and then repetition of the pattern several times over. These sessions usually last about 30 minutes which include stretching before and after. Others believe in endurance training which usually lasts a period of 40 minutes and is performed on either a bike, treadmill or by jogging. Researchers from Brazil and Britain gathered information from 36 studies which involved 1000 participants. The results were published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine. There was minimal difference in the amount of body fat loss within all the groups. The interval training group lost slightly more fat mass. The participants who did not show a loss of weight showed an increase in muscle mass which meant fat loss was replaced by muscle. This opens the possibility that choice of exercise is extremely flexible. Preference and availability in schedule should be taken into consideration, if fat loss is your goal. But do not lose sight of the fact that exercise, no matter what type, improves blood pressure, blood sugar control and overall aerobic fitness which is most important.