Friday, November 19, 2010

Eat, sleep, massage: research tidbits


Lights out/shades down

If you habitually survive on less than seven hours of sleep a night, as one-third of U.S. adults report, and struggle with your weight, you might consider turning off the lights earlier. In recent studies, getting as little as four hours of sleep a night elevates the sympathetic nervous system and evening cortisol production, both of which increase fat stores. The hunger hormones, leptin and gherlin, are particularly affected. Lack of sleep lessens the production of leptin, which signals the brain about how much fat the cells need for energy. In turn, the hypothalamus, the brain center for hunger, mistakes this as a signal to eat more. With sleep deprivation, gherlin swings the other way and increases, stimulating hunger. Another wrench is thrown into the mix by decreased levels of the protein called peptide tyrosine-tyrosine, or PYY, secreted from the stomach, triggering, perhaps, a late-night reach for the refrigerator door. Last, chronic sleep deprivation interferes with glucose metabolism. Research also suggests that if you're weary, you're less inclined to do more physical activity and more inclined to fend off fatigue with high-calorie food. No wonder you might feel hungry all the time!

Front pull with hands facing out is best for lat pull-down

The pull-down machine is an excellent machine to use at the gym for back strength, as the broad, flat muscles of the lower back , the latissimus dorsi, extent, adduct and inwardly rotate your arms. Recently, researchers tested various combinations of arm and grip positions with electromyography to determine which grip trained the lats best. Their findings, published in the July issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, found that the larger joint movent at the shoulder was best with the bar pulled down in front of the face, palms facing away, for back strength. They noted safety concerns pulling the bar behind the head , as unnecessary stress is placed on the front shoulder. A narrow or wide grip had no significant effect on the electrical activity of the lats, and the findings from this study showed that the grip types were at similar levels for both the arms (bicep bracchi) and the trapezius, the large flat muscles of the upper back. While you're at it, since your weights are nearby, perform arm curls to keep your arms strong.


30 seconds and you're done: quick massage stretching

Flexibility is an important part of an exercise program, yet many people just don't stretch, for lack of time or because they are so stiff that stretching isn't a pleasant experience for them. Numerous studies have demonstrated how static stretching before exercise can actually diminish force production in sports that involve sprinting or jumping, so researchers took a look at massage as an alternative warm-up or cool-down in this recent study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The main finding was that 10- and 30-second massage at the musculo-tendinous junction increased flexibility without affecting performance. It's good news for athletes because including a 10- or 30-second musculotendinous massage to your stretching routine will improve range of motion. Now you can't say you never stretch!

Connie Aronson is a fitness specialist and certified personal trainer at the YMCA and High Altitude Fitness in Ketchum.

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