JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Covid: Biggest risk factor is not being fat or diabetic — but sitting still

Could we halve the death rate if we just exercised 25 minutes each day?

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A lot of people were asked how much they exercised a couple of years ago. In follow up, about 50,000 went on to catch Covid last year. They were sorted into three levels of exercisers — the 7% most active consistently got 150 mins of week of something akin to “brisk walking” or more. The slowest moving 15% qualified as true couch potatoes — doing less than 10 minutes of exercise a week.

Sadly for the least active, they were 2.3 times more likely to need to go to hospital, 1.7 times more likely to be sent to the ICU and 2.5 times more likely to end up in the morgue.

These are pretty stark figures — making sedentary behaviour more risky than obesity, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure. Which all seems a bit surprising given how many hours of data collection and TV commentary has been spent on all the smaller risks. How did we manage to miss one of the most important variables there is?

Exercise is “one heck of an anti-viral”

If these results are correct, it suggests most […]

Older adults can still improve memory with high intensity exercise

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Just 4 sets of four-minute-long bursts of intense exercise was all it took for sedentary people aged 60 -88 to get an improvement in memory scores of up to 30%.

They worked out three times a week for 3 months, and the short sharp sets were better than 50 minutes of moderate exercise. Five hundred million years of evolution will do that — hone organisms to adapt to common stressors. And even if don’t need to outrun lions very often now, we still carry the genes that did.

This won’t surprise people who’ve been reading medical research papers. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) appears to be good for fat loss, anxiety, depression, improves blood vessel function, may slow Parkinsons, and colon cancer, is quicker, can restore glucose uptake in diabetic muscles in just two weeks.

Obviously the 30% memory boost mostly happens to people who start out sedentary. There may not be such spectacular gains for people who are already semi fit. But it only took 12 weeks.

Researchers at McMaster University who examine the impact of exercise on the brain have found that high-intensity workouts improve memory in older adults.

Researchers […]

Fitness consensus takes a hammering. For couch potatoes, 12 minutes a week makes you fitter

Sorry to do this, but now there are no excuses (apart from arthritis, amputation and angina).

Don’t read on if you are a conscientious objector to exercise. The “I don’t have time” excuse doesn’t wash anymore. Though, if you are habitually running to catch the bus, you can now call that an exercise program (when your doc asks, you can say you do the 1-AIT training regime from NTNU –– Trondheim).

If you are sedentary, new research from Norway suggests that if you do just four minutes of high-intensity training three times a week, within 10 weeks your peak ability to take up oxygen will have improved by 10%.

Do you care about VO2max? It’s a measure of aerobic fitness and it’s linked to that factor that trumps all others: “all cause mortality” (ACM). To put this study into perspective, a 10% improvement is only 10%. The fittest people have 100% higher VO2 max that the least fit (eg from about 20mL/kg/min to 40mL/kg/min). But even a 10% improvement in VO2 max can make a difference to your mortality.

A review of results from 102,000 people showed that if people are split into groups of “fitness” the least fit were […]