As fitness studio and gym owners, it’s crucial to stay on top of the latest research on exercise and physical activity. But with a sea of research out there, it can be a challenge to keep up with what’s most important for you and your members. We’ve combed through the latest studies to bring you the headlines you should know about this summer.
Exercise May Protect Our Brains From Alzheimer’s
Source: University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Release Date: June 26
The Gist: We can all take steps to protect ourselves from Alzheimer’s disease, even those of us who are at a high genetic risk, according to new research. The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, followed 93 adults with an average age of 64 who had at least one parent with Alzheimer’s disease, a genetic link to Alzheimer’s, or both.
Researchers found that glucose metabolism—the process by which fuel is given to brain cells—was better in at-risk participants who spent at least an hour a day doing moderate exercise. “The evidence shows that it’s never too late to take up and maintain a physically active regimen,” says senior author Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine and a researcher at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “It also suggests that the earlier you begin and the longer you continue it, the more benefits you tend to accrue.”
Source: Boston Medical Center
Release Date: June 20
The Gist: A yoga class designed for chronic low back pain patients was as effective as physical therapy for reducing pain and improving function, according to a study of 320 primarily low-income, racially diverse adults with chronic low back pain. Researchers from Boston Medical Center randomly assigned participants to 12 weekly yoga classes, 15 physical therapy visits or gave them educational literature about how to deal with low back pain. Patients who practiced yoga or went to physical therapy were less likely to take pain medication after 12 weeks, according to research published in Annals of Internal Medicine. Important to know: Researchers created a not-too strenuous yoga class just for back pain sufferers so patients should talk with a doctor before trying yoga to relieve their own symptoms.
A Positive Attitude About Your Exercise Routine May Help You Live Longer
Source: Stanford University
Release Date: July 20
The Gist: We’ve always been told that the power of positive thinking is key to success. It turns out it’s a pretty important part of your exercise routine and may give you the boost you need to keep going, according to a new study.
The research, published in the journal Health Psychology, suggests that the way you think about your workouts plays an important role in shaping your overall health. The study examined more than 60,000 adults over 16 years, looking at how physically active they were and their perceptions about their overall health.
Researchers found that people who compared their fitness progress with others—and saw themselves as less active— were 71 percent more likely to die sooner than those who perceived themselves as more active (even if their fitness levels were the same). The takeaway: Reward your fitness progress with daily affirmations and stop comparing yourself to others.
Boxers and MMA Fighters May Face Long-Term Brain Damage
Source: Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas
Release Date: July 13
The Gist: Boxers or mixed martial arts fighters who suffer blows to the head may endure long-term brain damage, a new study suggests.
The study found boxers and mixed martial arts fighters both have higher levels of brain proteins that reflect brain injury compared with retired fighters and non-fighters. Researchers compared blood samples taken from 291 active professional fighters, 44 retired fighters and 103 non-fighters. The data showed that active fighters had higher levels of two proteins that show signs of a brain injury.
“We can identify proteins in the blood that may reflect ongoing brain injury,” said study author Dr. Charles Bernick, associate director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. The findings, researchers say, can help determine which fighters are at risk of long-term brain complications, too.
Exercising in the Heat May Be a Waste of Time
Source: University of Nebraska at Omaha
Release Date: Ongoing research
The Gist: Working out in the heat is brutal for most of us. And now preliminary research suggests exercising in sweltering temperatures may not be as effective as exercising in a cooler environment. The study looked at exercise’s effect on a person’s mitochondria, which helps us produce the energy our bodies need.
Researchers looked at tissue samples from 36 participants before and after they exercised in hot and cold temperatures. What they found: The mitochondria in our bodies undergo very few changes after a workout in the heat. “In fact, the response [in heat is] about the same as if no exercise had occurred,” Dustin Silvka, study author and exercise physiology laboratory director at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, told The Huffington Post. That’s a pretty good argument to get to an air-conditioned gym stat on a grueling hot day.
Tai Chi Makes Us Stronger and Helps Us Avoid Falls As We Age
Source: University of Jaén in Spain
Release Date: July 24
The Gist: Tai chi is a gentle form of exercise that’s been described as “meditation in motion.” An ancient Chinese practice, its benefits include maintaining strength, flexibility and balance, improving immunity and lowering blood pressure.
New research, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, looked at potential ways to reduce the risk of falling in adults who were older or disabled in some way. In the study, researchers looked at the results of 10 randomized controlled trials analyzing the effect of tai chi compared to other ways to reduce the risk of falling, such as another form of low-intensity exercise. Tai chi classes were an hour long, and participants did them one to three times a week for 12-26 weeks.
The results: Tai chi helped reduce the rate of falls and injury-related falls in the first year of practice by about 43 to 50 percent respectively compared with other interventions. Older studies have linked tai chi with giving you a brain boost and lowering your risk for developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease—even more reason to give it a try.