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Jan 18, 2013 : 21:39 IST
Rest as crucial as exercise for keeping fit

Short periods of rest are just as important as exercise itself, researchers say.
Stirling University sports scientists believe taking it easy now and again not only allows the muscles to recover, it also makes the body fitter faster.

Their study was of keen cyclists but they think that men and women who are simply trying to get a bit fitter could also benefit from building periods of rest into their exercise programme.

In the study, 12 cyclists were split into two groups. One did bursts of high intensity exercise, interspersed with short rest periods, three times a week. In each session, they pedalled hard, but below sprint pace, for four minutes, then stopped for two minutes, before repeating the pattern five times.

The second group rode continuously for an hour at a slightly easier pace, three times a week.

After four weeks, the two groups swopped programmes. Tests showed that the first programme, which involved a mixture of tough training and taking it easy, to be the most beneficial, leading to twice as big an improvement in power and performance.

“It is a case of training smarter. We found in these cyclists that if you can make the hard sessions harder and the easy sessions easier, then you will likely see better progress,” the Daily Mail quoted researcher Stuart Galloway as saying.

The researchers suggest that while high intensity is still important, it’s the combination with low intensity which has the biggest impact.

It is thought that muscles find it harder to recover from long periods of exercise, than from short bursts, even if they are physically tougher.

According to co-author Dr Angus Hunter, muscles may be fatigued more quickly when you work at high intensity but they recover more quickly too, which could leave people feeling less tired in between exercise sessions.

The study has been published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Botox better than steroids for treating painful foot condition


Physicians should turn to Botox rather than steroids to offer patients the fastest road to recovery, researchers say. Plantar fasciitis is the most frequent cause of chronic heel pain, leaving many sufferers unable to put their best foot forward for months at a time. Plantar fasciitis results when connective tissues on the sole of the foot, the plantar fascia, become painfully inflamed.

Physicians may suggest various therapies for this condition, including applying steroids, regular stretching exercises or injecting botulinum toxin A (BTX-A), also known as Botox. Steroid treatment is often used to treat plantar fasciitis, but it can cause complications. In an estimated 2-6 percent of patients, steroid treatment leads to the plantar fascia rupturing.

Researchers from the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon, Mexico devised a trial to compare steroid treatment with the botulinium toxin alternative, which works by blocking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, weakening the muscles for several months.

The researchers set up a prospective, experimental, randomized, double-blinded, and controlled clinical trial, where patients were treated either with steroids or with Botox for their painful feet. Both groups were shown the same series of physical exercises to help their recovery.

Initially the two patient groups appeared to be recovering at a similar rate. However, the Botox group then took the lead in scores relating to foot pain, function and alignment. After six months, patients who received Botox injections were the clear winners, demonstrating more rapid and sustained improvement than their counterparts on the steroid regime.

Athleticism may be linked to brain size


In a new study, researchers wanted to find out if athleticism is linked to brain size. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside performed laboratory experiments on house mice and found that mice that have been bred for dozens of generations to be more exercise-loving have larger midbrains than those that have not been selectively bred this way. Theodore Garland’s lab measured the brain mass of these uniquely athletic house mice, bred for high voluntary wheel-running, and analysed their high-resolution brain images.

The researchers found that the volume of the midbrain — a small region of the brain that relays information for the visual, auditory, and motor systems — in the bred-for-athleticism mice was nearly 13 percent larger than the midbrain volume in the control or “regular” mice. “To our knowledge, this is the first example in which selection for a particular mammalian behaviour — high voluntary wheel running in house mice in our set of experiments — has been shown to result in a change in size of a specific brain region,” Garland, principal investigator of the research project, said.

“Our finding that mice bred for high levels of voluntary exercise have an enlarged non-cerebellar brain mass and an enlarged midbrain, but do not show a statistically significant increase in overall brain mass or volume supports the mosaic theory of brain evolution,” Garland said.

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