“I am Interdisciplinary Studies major with a focus in Applied Exercise & Health Studies,” I tell people when they inquire about my schooling. Usually I get a common response of, “Okay, so what does that entail?” Oh, a whole lot of wonderfulness.
I started my journey as an IDS major a tad late to the game, coming in as a second semester junior. Conflicted by the narrow and specific subject matter of my current major, Exercise & Sport Physiology, I wanted more. As my essay accounts, I wanted to not only possess the scientific understanding of exercise and the effects it has on the body, but also have the ability to promote such behavior in addition to other aspects of health to others. This desire led me to IDS where I was able to fashion a major that included the strongest components from both Exercise & Sport Physiology and Health Promotion. As part of the IDS curriculum, I was tasked with two capstone projects – a research article and an applied project.
For my research article, I chose to look at physical activity and its correlation to longevity. We are all relatively aware of the benefits we can receive by being physically active, but the idea that we can actually increase our lifespan due to such behavior change, was something I wanted to address. In pursuing this topic, I uncovered a plethora of insight ranging from the leading sports that promote longevity to advice from the longest living people and their relationship with physical activity. My initial approach and goal in writing this article, was to provide a research-based summary regarding the topics of physical activity/exercise in hopes to motivate individuals toward living a more active lifestyle. Confident this intention was met, the process also solidified my understanding of physical activity and further reinforced my own desire to sustain a healthy and active lifestyle.
Now I may not seem like the typical IDS student in that the major I created does not support a specific career or future field of study, but rather a broad range of specialities. Instead of entering the department with a clear vision as to what I wanted to pursue upon graduation, I came in with widespread interests for my curriculum. My applied project reflects this, as I chose to shadow 5 different professionals within the areas of health and human performance, in hopes to paint a clearer image of what I see for my future or perhaps what I don’t see. My project provides a write-up and reflection of my day with each individual, alluding to my take-aways from each. In shadowing a physical therapist, a strength & conditioning coach, a chiropractor and whole food nutritionist, a registered dietician, and an athletic trainer/physician extender, I had the opportunity to experience a day in each of their lives, ultimately providing me with that clearer image for my future. This project had an invaluable impact on my growth as both a student and individual, so much so that it has allowed me to be content with the unknown, but excited for the continued process of exploration.
Closing One Chapter To Open Another
Nearing my final semester as an undergraduate student, I can’t imagine closing this chapter of my education any other way. In immersing myself in Interdisciplinary Studies, I have been challenged with fashioning my own major and providing justification for its creation, I’ve been given the freedom to facilitate some of my own learning through extensive research and a self-directed, explorational applied project, and most importantly, I have rediscovered my love of learning. My IDS journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been worthwhile. No longer am I intimidated by the future and the recurring question, “What’s your plan after graduation?” I found a comfort and excitement in knowing my options are expansive and there really is no rush in finding the answers to such questions. There is something beautiful in the uncertainty of my path, and I owe a great deal of that feeling to IDS.
Onto the next chapter…
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I ask from the words of Mary Oliver. Think on that. What if I told you that you could extend your life by adding just a few more minutes of activity, would you do it?
My trepidation of dying sprouted from the realization that anyone I hold dear in my life along with myself, could at any minute find out our lives are running on borrowed time. Now I’m not talking about the hundreds of thousands of deaths that result from accidents, but the ones currently ranked as the leading causes of death: cardiovascular disease and cancer due to physical inactivity. This realization has triggered fear, but more importantly has motivated me to become the healthiest version of myself I can be, while advocating for others’ health in the process. As Plato accounts, “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” I want to save and preserve my body for as long I can, and engaging in consistent physical activity herein lies my opportunity to do so. Want to join me?
Targeting the fields of Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion, this work aims to provide insight on the relationship between physical activity and lifespan. It takes a deeper look into physical activity recommendations and the outcomes of its engagement in hopes to educate and motivate those who need an extra push to get moving.
My Relationship with Physical Activity & Exercise
Growing up in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire, surrounded by a natural playground, my childhood was busy. Whether I was building forts in the woods, sledding down farm fields, or fishing at our favorite campgrounds and swimming holes, I was consistently active. As grade school progressed and organized sports made an appearance, spanning from 4th grade all the way to college, I can’t recall a time when physical activity wasn’t a key component of my life.
Looking back on those childhood years, it wasn’t until junior and senior of high school that I began to distinguish physical activity from exercise. Yes, I was playing soccer and continually doing barn chores around the house, but additionally, I started to incorporate more structured opportunities for activity like running, biking, and purchasing my first gym membership. I knew that exercising was good, just not how good. That came later.
In pursuing a degree in Applied Exercise & Health Studies as well as my recent engagement and dedication to a Bootcamp facility in North Haverhill, NH., exercise has become the essence of my life. I know that may sound like an embellished statement, but there is no better way to phrase it. Having both immersed myself in its science and actual application, I’ve found my niche – my escape from the stressors of life. I want to live a long and healthy life and by sustaining my love for physical activity and exercise, I can do just that.
To understand the validity behind physical activity and its impacts on health, we must first look to the history books. Exercise, fitness, physical activity, whichever term you prefer to use, was at one time performed as a means of survival during prehistoric times of hunting and gathering. Reaching as far back as 10,000 BC, Lance Delleck and Len Kravitz relay in their article The History of Fitness, that upon successful completion of a hunting and gathering mission, they would then journey on for anywhere between 6 to 20 miles to celebrate with neighboring tribes. This Paleolithic pattern of pursuit and celebration demanded a high level of fitness (Delleck & Kravitz, 2002). The prevalence of fitness followed through into the Neolithic Revolution from 10,000 to 8,000 B.C., the Ancient Chinese and Indian Civilizations from 2500 – 500 BC, and boomed for the Ancient Greeks from 2500 – 200 BC. Perhaps no other civilization has held fitness in such high regard as Ancient Greece, for they believed that development of the body was equally as important as development of the mind (Delleck & Kravtiz, 2002).
We move further along the timeline with a noticeable trend of fitness following each civilization and group. Martin Luther and John Locke espoused the theory that high fitness levels enhanced intellectual learning during the Renaissance from 1400 – 1600 AD (Delleck & Kravtiz, 2002) and leaders of our nation such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson made it a point to highlight the importance of fitness for health and mind. Benjamin Franklin supported physical activity and the incorporation of resistance training for health purposes, while President Thomas Jefferson took exercise to a whole new level. He was quoted to say, “Not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise, and the weather shall be little regarded. If the body is feeble, the mind will not be strong,” (Delleck & Kravtiz, 2002). I knew I liked him.
America in the 20th century has to be referenced as well as is heralded the beginning of a new era in fitness (Delleck & Kravtiz, 2002). World War II was a huge turning point for fitness when it became aware to the public that almost half of the draftees were rejected or given non-combat positions due to their poor physical fitness performance tests. Ouch. The end of the Cold War is when fitness really took a turn however, after receiving the embarrassing results that 60% of children failed at least one test in muscular strength and flexibility, launching a new campaign among U.S. political leaders to promote health and fitness among the nation’s youth, (Delleck & Kravtiz, 2002). A contributor to the cause was the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), founded in 1954 that has since been proactive and dedicated to helping people live longer, healthier lives.
If you’re interested, feel free to compare and contrast the physical activity recommendations of famous authors in history such as Hippocrates, John Sinclair, and Walter Camp with the link below. From them we can identify an underlying trend: that physical activity should be conducted, but in moderation. Spanning from 400BC to 2017, the incorporation of physical activity has consistently been recommended; a huge indicator of its importance if you ask me.
Before we move too far ahead, let’s define a few terms. Unbeknownst to many, there is a significant difference between “physical activity” and “exercise.” The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “physical activity” as being any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure (WHO 2017). Examples of physical activity therefore include activities such as walking, cycling, gardening, participating in sports, and any movements alike that make your body move and burn calories.
The term “exercise” however, takes a different meaning. Acting as a subcategory for physical activity, exercise is planned, structured, repetitive and purposeful in the sense that the improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is the objective (WHO 2017). Gym rats, they engage in “exercise.”
Why am I distinguishing between the two? Because there may be some confusion as to what our bodies need in order to increase lifespan. This confusion lies in the amount and type of physical activity we should engage in versus what we actually endure. For some, it may be too much and for others, not nearly enough.
Here are a few statistics to paint a better picture regarding physical inactivity and its devastating effects.
Disease. Cancer. Diabetes. Death. All dangers that people are at risk for due to physical inactivity. What’s the barrier then that stands in the way of people’s desire to be healthy? Perhaps it’s laziness or lack of education that prevents them from seeing the consequences of keeping their body that was born to move, immobile. That may be a question for another time, but lets dig deeper into the effects of physical inactivity and how life expectancy might be affected were the stats to favor a more active population.
In an interview with the Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. I-Min Lee, conducted by April Cashin-Garbutt, Dr. Lee spoke of her findings targeted at the relationship between physical activity and life expectancy. With 1/3 of the world’s population currently inactive, Dr. Lee tried to estimate how many deaths would be prevented if every inactive person became active along with how much longer those individuals therefor might live. From these findings, it was discovered that 5.3 million deaths worldwide would be removed and on average, life expectancy would increase by 0.68 years (Cashin-Garbutt, 2012). To put these statistics into perspective, Dr. Lee compared them to the risk factors associated with smoking and the detrimental effects it has on health. Worldwide, 5 million smoking-related deaths occur each year, therefore, inactivity, in causing 5.3 million deaths per year, is comparable to smoking as far as health dangers are concerned (Cashin-Garbutt, 2012).
Behind the Scenes
It is safe to assume that the majority of people understand that being physically active can help lead a long and healthy life, but some may not understand why. What happens behind the scenes, or inside our bodies when we engage in physical activity that promotes this lifestyle? Let’s look at our muscles. When our brain calls on our muscles to move and perform certain activities such as running or weight-lifting, they rely on two forms of energy to follow through with these requests – glucose and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the biochemical way our bodies utilize and store energy. As our muscles call on these sources, their supplies will inevitably run out, requiring the need for oxygen to help create more ATP. If and when the body no longer has an efficient amount of oxygen to provide the muscles, lactic acid will form and tiny tears will occur, aiding the growth and strength of the muscles as they heal (Mercola, 2013). Muscles not only provide strength and balance to everyday activities in our lives, but according to new UCLA research, “the more muscle mass older Americans have, the less likely they are to die prematurely,” and “building muscle is important for decreasing metabolic risk,” (Rivero, 2014).
Serving as the essential component to our existence as human beings, oxygen is called upon by muscles during physical activity “as much as 15 times more than when you’re at rest,” (Mercola, 2013). Breathing rate therefor increases until the muscles that surround the lungs are unable to move any faster. This peak in oxygen delivery is classified as one’s VO2 max, the maximum amount of oxygen one can use during intense exercise (Mercola, 2013). To make it simple, the higher your VO2max, the more fit you are, and “there is convincing evidence that a moderate or high level of cardiorespiratory fitness reduces the risk of all-cause and CVD (cardiovascular disease) mortality in both men and women,” according to Mortality trends in the general population: the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology (Oxford, England).
What about the heart? Given that this organ is either classified as being “strong” and “healthy” or at risk for cardiovascular disease, the importance of attention we give it can not be stressed enough. The more one engages in physical activity, the easier time the heart has pumping oxygenated blood throughout the body, ultimately decreasing the risk of heart disease. Watch this video to better understand the inner workings of the heart during exercise and its beneficial effects over time.
Benefits Speak for Themselves
It is mind boggling to me how many people remain inactive despite knowing the risk factors that are associated with their poor behavior choice. “Being physically active is important to prevent heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers,” (AHA, 2017) yet people ignore the stats and remain glued to their couches and electronics. Regular and adequate levels of physical activity improve muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness, improve bone and mental health, aid in energy balance and weight control, reduce falls risk, and reduce risks of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and various types of cancer, (WHO, 2017) and still 5.3 million deaths occur annually due to physical inactivity (Cashin-Garbutt, 2012). Darren E.R. Warburton, Crystal Whitney Nicol, and Shannon S.D. Bredin’s research article Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence, published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine , attests that “there is incontrovertible evidence that regular physical activity contributes to the primary and secondary prevention of several chronic diseases and is associated with a reduced risk of premature death,” (Warburton, Nicol, & Bredin, 2006).
The physical activity recommendation numbers today are not absurd. In fact, on the contrary, they are very attainable. The American Heart Association (AHA) distinguishes fitness into four types: endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance training. While these four types of exercises don’t need to be performed everyday, the variety and performance of each is essential for the maintenance of a fit and healthy body.
Endurance or aerobic exercises are activities that increase your breathing and heart rate including: fast walking, running, biking, cycling, swimming, sporting events, etc. You can think of moderate exercise as being able to talk but not sing while engaged in the activity, and vigorous exercise would be the ability to only speak a few words before needing to take a breath.
According to the AHA, the recommendation for overall cardiovascular health in adults is to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-aerobic activity at least 5 days a week for a total of 150 minutes, or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days a week for a total of 75 minutes (AHA, 2017). In children ages two and older, the AHA recommends they engage in “at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied (AHA, 2017).
The AHA recommends people engage in moderate-to-high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days a week. Strength training includes exercises such as squats, lunges, and push-ups, in addition to the utilization of different exercise modalities such as free weights, resistance bands, nautilus machines, and bodyweight. Strength training or “lifting” can often catch a bad rep as some people associate it with big muscles and bulking, and while that is an intended goal for some individuals, there are many other benefits that don’t require you to bulk. Strength training is helpful in gaining muscle strength but more importantly, it “helps prevent osteoporosis, improves your range of motion, and ability to perform functional (day-to-day) movements and when done properly, can act as a form of aerobic exercise and even help you lose weight,” (Mercola, 2014).
People need to remember that there’s more to strength training than bicep curls and goblet squats; it’s essential for maintaining your ability to live independently as you age for it has been shown to slow cellular aging as well, (Mercola, 2014). The impacts of strength training on cellular aging is so powerful that in a study conducted on an elderly population, it was said to essentially, “turn back the clock 10 years” by reversing oxidative stress, “an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants,” (Mandal, 2017) and returning 179 genes to their youthful level (Mercola, 2014).
If you’re interested in learning more about the biomarkers of aging, here’s a video and lecture presented by Skylar Tanner describing those factors that we have the ability to control.
Flexibility is an essential component to health and quality of life. By incorporating stretching exercises or flexibility activites such as pilates or yoga, our bodies are given the chance to reach its optimal fitness level by decreasing risk of injury and conditions like arthritis and other serious illnesses.
Recommendation: 10-30 seconds per stretch, repeat 3-5 times (AHA, 2015).
In the US, about 1 in 3 adults over age 65 fall each year (Buettner, 267). A statistic as such confirms the rationale for having recommendations put in place. Good balance helps to prevent falls, primarily in older adults and aids in the performance of our everyday activities such as walking and going up and down the stairs (AHA, 2014).
Try out this balance test provided by the AHA to see where your balance strength lies!
Common Falsehoods About Exercise
We’ve heard them all, but lets set a few straight…
Lifting Heavy Weights Will Make You Bulk
No, no, no. Women especially, are concerned that if they lift weights their muscles will blow up and they’ll no longer have a lean figure, but that could not be farther from the truth. Considering the fact that females do not possess the levels of testosterone that are required to bulk, a few resistance training days will only make their muscles stronger and more toned. As Linda Melone a CSCS states in her article, The Worst Fitness Advice You Hear All The Time, “muscles burn calories at rest, so the more muscle you have the higher your metabolism—in other words, the only thing that will make you bulk up is if you start overdoing it in the food department,” (Melone, 2014).
Yoga will give you longer muscles
It is true that forms of exercise like yoga and pilates aid in the stretching and mobility of our muscles, but they will not and can not make our muscles longer. Muscles are attached to bone by tendons and have a fixed origin and insertion point—you cannot therefore lengthen a muscle (Melone, 2014).
Running is the best way to lose weight
While running is a recommended form of cardiovascular exercise, it does not serve as the best mode in losing weight. The key lies in a combination of cardio and strength training (again, recommended to lose weight, not bulk). As accounted by the American College of Sports Medicine, “a 140-pound woman jogging at 5 mph burns 173 calories in 30 minutes”, but “by comparison a ‘moderate effort’ circuit training routine burns 215 calories per 30 minutes,” (Melone, 2014) i.e. run some and lift some!
Leading Sports that Support Longevity
Are there specific sports out there that may help us live longer? According to Amanda McMillan, there are three. Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, McMillan reports on the study by relaying that “after an analysis of more than 80,000 people, fans of racquet sports, swimming, and aerobics came out on top,”(MacMillan, 2016). The participants, ages 30 and up were followed for nine years after being asked about the physical activity they had engaged in over the last four weeks, be it walking, gardening, cycling, running, etc. Over the nine-year span the findings showed that in the racquet sports category, people who said they’d played in the past four weeks had a 47% lower risk of death from any cause compared to those who hadn’t, as well as a 56% lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke, (MacMillan, 2016). In addition, those individuals who swam and participated in aerobics, “saw significant benefits compared to those who didn’t: they were 28% and 27% less likely to die from any cause, respectively, and 41% and 36% less likely to die from heart disease and stroke,” (MacMillan, 2016).
Every Minute of Exercise Could Lengthen Your Life by 7-8 Minutes
Just read that line one more time. I was skeptical the first couple perusals. “Not only do you get the time back; it comes back to you multiplied — possibly by as much as seven or eight or nine,” reports Carey Goldberg is this article on commonhealth.legacy.wbur.org. Reintroducing Dr. I-Min Lee who published a paper on “Leisure time physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity and mortality: a large pooled cohort analysis,” she explains and confirms that according to her data, “a middle-aged person who gets the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise — defined as the level of brisk walking — can expect a 1-to-7 return: seven extra minutes of life gained for each minute spent exercising,” (Goldberg, 2013). The curve of gain does taper off at some point, but overall, more strenuous exercise has approximately double the effect, meaning that 75 minutes of jogging has roughly the effect of 150 minutes of brisk walking, (Goldberg, 2013) and the more time you spend moving, reflects the time you spend living.
Leisure Time Physical Activity
Now I’ve talked a lot about moderate-to-intense “exercise” and the recommendations that our society should aim to engage in every week, but what if the key to longevity was not in the amount of structured exercise we got, but by the amount of leisure time physical activity instead, regardless of body weight? Heads are turning, I imagine. Pulled from a study by a team of researchers by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), looking at the association between leisure-time physical activity and life expectancy, they found that people who engaged in leisure-time physical activity had life expectancy gains of as much as 4.5 years (Moore, et al., 2012). Lead author, Stephen Moore, Ph.D. of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics explained, “Regular exercise extended the lives in every group that we examined in our study—normal weight, overweight, or obese…Our findings highlight the important contribution that leisure-time physical activity in adulthood can make to longevity,” (Moore, et. al., 2012).
The Blue Zones
Did you know there are regions in the world where men and women are not only living past 100, but are thriving day to day? These regions are called the “Blue Zones,” and with thanks to author and National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner, we have been given insight into the lives of these centenarians, learning their lifestyle and secrets for healthy aging. Longevity for these people does not take work, it takes consistency and treating their bodies with the fuel and feedback it desires for optimal performance over time.
These longest lived people span across the world residing in Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Okinawa, Japan. Dan Buettner traveled to each region, listening to stories and uncovering essentially, the “recipe for longevity” in his travels. While his findings showed a strong correlation to diet and quality of life, the first lesson formulated from his expedition, was to move naturally. Again we reference research found that supports leisure-time physical activity increases life expectancy, and the Blue Zones mimic that. “Longevity all-stars don’t run marathons or compete in triathlons; they don’t transform themselves into weekend warriors on Saturday morning,” explains Buettner, “instead, they engage in regular, low-intensity physical activity, often as part of a daily work routine,” (Buettner, 267). The male Sardinians for example, worked as Shepherds and received their natural movement from hiking, and the Okinawans from gardening hours on end.
We all have that list of people that we wish we could meet, or have a conversation with, celebrities, relatives that have passed away, etc. and Marge Jetton is on mine. At 100 years old, Marge begins her day at 4:30 am with a mile walk, a stationary bike ride, and some weight lifting, (Buettner, 142). Impressive, right? There is a lot to be taken away from Dan Buettner’s journey throughout the Blue Zones, be it diet, lifestyle or exercise, but the one take away about longevity and the people that live the longest that I find to be most inspiring is this: “The calculus of aging offers us two options: We can live a shorter life with more years of disability, or we can live the longest possible life with the fewest bad years,” (Buettner, 298). The choice is yours.
In this TED Talk, Dan Buettner talks about his experience visiting each Blue Zone and “how to live to be 100.”
One More Time: Get Moving
If there is one take-away from this paper to stress, it’s the understanding that you do not have to be a gym fanatic or marathon runner to live a long life. You do however, need to move. Walk the dog, take the stairs over the elevator, spend 10 extra minutes in the garden, whatever it may be, up that heart rate and get the blood flowing throughout those muscles. Our bodies are made to move, and when we do, they love us for it! Longevity is strongly correlated to physical activity and health is a feeling, not a look. We place so much emphasis on health being an “image,” when in actuality, being truly “healthy” comes from the physiological functioning of our bodies and how we aid in its livelihood. We all have a choice in the matter, to live sedentary or active lifestyles, but it’s my sincere hope that more value is placed on the later. Stand up, start walking, and choose to be a Marge Jetton in this huge playground we have the potential to use for years and years to come.
American Heart Association. (2015). Physical Activity Improves Quality of Life. American Heart Association, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Physical-activity-improves-quality-of-life_UCM_307977_Article.jsp#.WgI08tN97sE
Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. 2012. Print.
Chashin-Garbutt, A. (2012). Lack of physical activity and life expectancy: an interview with Dr. I-Min Lee. Retrieved from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20120730/Lack-of-physical-activity-and-life-expectancy-an-interview-with-Dr-I-Min-Lee.aspx
Dalleck, L. & Kravitz, L. (2002). From primitive to present times, how fitness has evolved and come of age. Retrieved from http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-history-of-fitness
Goldberg, Carey. (2013). Every minute of exercise could lengthen your life seven minutes. CommonHealth. Retrieved from http://commonhealth.legacy.wbur.org/2013/03/minutes-exercise-longer-life
Lee, D., Artero, E. G., Sui, X., & Blair, S. N. (2010). Mortality trends in the general population: the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness. Journal of Psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 24(4_supplement), 27–35. http://doi.org/10.1177/1359786810382057
MacMillan, A. (2016). These 3 sports may help you love longer, researchers say. Health Media Ventures, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.health.com/fitness/sports-for-longer-life
Mandal, A. (2017). What is oxidative stress? News-Medical. Retrieved from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Oxidative-Stress.aspx
Melone, Linda. (2014). The worst fitness advice you hear all the time. Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.prevention.com/fitness/the-worst-fitness-advice-you-hear-all-the-time
Mercola, J. (2014). The 7 best strength exercises you’re not doing. Peak Fitness. Retrieved from https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/10/31/7-best-strength-training-exercises.aspx
Mercola, J. (2013). This is what happens to your body when you exercise. Peak Fitness. Retrieved from https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/09/20/exercise-health-benefits.aspx
Moore SC, et al. (2012). Leisure time physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity and mortality: a large pooled cohort analysis. PLoS Medicine. November 6, 2012. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335.
Rivero, Enrique. (2014). Older adults: build muscle and you’ll live longer. UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved from http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/older-adults-build-muscle-and-271651
Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174(6), 801–809. http://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.051351
World Health Organization (2017). WHO, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs385/en/
“We are going to be building a Personal Learning Network using Twitter!” Uh, say what now?
I was enthused, can you tell? I should not have pre-judged this statement before giving my PLN a chance to formulate however, for it has served as the most eye-opening and beneficial piece of technology that I’ve ever worked with. Want to read up on the latest rehab techniques used by physical therapists or find a quick summary of the health benefits you get from eating coconut, start browsing twitter. Home to millions and millions of users, Twitter serves as a resourceful platform to connect and share knowledge between people across the world.
My PLN started off weak. I won’t say that it has transformed into a thing of beauty since the start of the semester, but I am impressed by the amount of connections and resources I have continually compiled, strengthening not only my knowledge within my disciplines of study, but my connections to people and the professional world. I used to associate Twitter with gossip, inappropriate advertisements, and a virtual community that made people anti-social. Now while that may be true in some cases, through my experience with Twitter and building my personal learning network, the virtual world you create can be as unprofessional or professional as you want. As the weeks went by, the amount of irrelevant memes and pictures of animals were replaced by research articles, new findings in disease research, and the latest successes in physical rehab.
Social media accounts like twitter are what you make of them, and I for one am glad I was nudged in the right direction when fashioning mine.
Check out a summary of my Twitter network HERE!
A senior capstone project that provides a glimpse into the lives of five professionals within the fields of Health and Human Performance.
When presented with the task to complete an applied project as part of my senior seminar class, I was overwhelmed by the breadth and freedom it could entail. What I did not realize however, was the potential impact that that freedom would have on my future education. Once a medical biology major on a Pre-Physician Assistant track to an Exercise & Sport Physiology Major with an rocky plan post undergrad, to finally an Interdisciplinary Studies major with a focus in Applied Exercise & Health Studies, my interests have been in constant turmoil and revision.
Has this project cemented a plan come May, then? Well, no. But, because of this project that I was granted the freedom to fashion, I have uncovered entirely new fields of interest and taken yet another step in narrowing down the direction of study I wish to further discover. I’ve come to appreciate the power of holistic care and wish to further seek out professions that treat the body, not symptoms. How did I come to this? My discovery lies in the lives of these five.
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
You could argue that this endeavor solely benefitted me and my educational experience, or you could think for a minute and digest all the ways this project has in fact, impacted the future of education. Besides this project and write-up serving as a testament to the accomplishments of each individual I had the pleasure of spending a day with, (essentially a way to brag about how incredible and inspiring they are), it more importantly serves as an avenue for students, bridging them from their studies to the real world after graduation with the hope of finding some clarity along the way. How does anyone really know what they want to pursue in life if they’ve never experienced and seen first hand what a day in their believed “dream job” is like?
Prior to being an aspiring Occupational Therapist, my sister worked for an independent school children ages 5-14, that takes an alternative approach to education. Catering to all learning styles, their pedagogical approach is geared toward project-based learning where students take the driver’s seat. Termed “Journeys of Discovery,” this approach similarly reflects the opportunity I was granted by conducting this project. It is self-designed and supports my educational discovery every step of the way. Education is evolving and I believe that approaches such as “Journeys of Discovery” and real life experience such as job shadowing, apprenticeships, etc. are the key to maximizing our education. In practicing authentic learning, our scope of knowledge has the potential to grow exponentially and instead of entering the real world with an insecure idea or plan, we are at the very least granted the confidence to be creative in our continued search. My journey throughout this project changed the way I view education and it is my hope that it will help facilitate a movement towards the integration of experience-based learning in education and future curriculums.
Challenges: The first challenge of this project began with the search for potential professionals to shadow. Who should I shadow? What professions am I most interested in learning more about? Will they be able to accommodate me? These were all questions that had me preoccupied for quite some time. Overall however, the biggest challenge was time management. As a full-time student and commuter, the task of balancing my studies, work, and not only choosing which individuals to shadow, but allotting out an entire day to observe them took careful planning and execution. No longer was I committed to work and school, but to these five individuals that so graciously offered their time to host me.
Strengths: The strengths to this project stemmed from communication. I am one who would much rather talk face to face with someone, but this project had me communicating in a number of other ways. Of course on the day I shadowed each individual we engaged in face to face conversations, but the process up until that point required many emails and phone calls (two forms of communication I try to avoid). I surprised myself however, and was successful in scheduling meetings, rescheduling them at times, all while being conscientious of my pre-existing commitments to class and work schedule.
Outcomes/Improvements: My initial intention for this project was to shadow 10 professionals in their field. At the time, 10 sounded attainable, but the more I booked shadow days I found that my schedule was overflowing and if I wanted to report back a strong amalgamation of my day with each individual, I would need to narrow down that number. I finalized the project with five and am grateful for doing so because it allowed for more time showcasing these professionals and the work they do. In terms of improvement, I think that instead of transcribing some of their interview questions, I could have showcased their insight through video recordings, which would have provided a better sense of connection to the individual compared to a professional head shot.
The biggest lesson I learned throughout the process of this project is the importance of early action and follow-up. I spent a great deal of time researching professions and individuals in those fields instead of being proactive and reaching out to them right away to land a meeting. I think I could have been more productive by contacting each professional early on, even if we scheduled weeks down the road, rather than trying to contact someone each week and waiting for a reply. Additionally, after meeting with an individual I would have started their write-up soon after, instead of waiting until all my visits had been conducted. This would have facilitated the process more effectively as each visit would have been fresh in my mind and I wouldn’t have been worried by a build up of work at the end of the semester.
Yesterday, on December 3, 2017, I had the opportunity of attending the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Northeast Regional Conference at the University of New England in Biddeford, ME. Serving as UNE’s inaugural conference (mine as well), I was excited for the experience and the amount of knowledge I would gain from the reputable speakers.
My expectations were met after listening to the numerous presentations, those of which were:
(Along with a selection of 3 presentations during lunch)
Of those, I attended:
1. “Sitting up Tall” is a mechanical myth for breathing
Advice from Michael Mullin: To take a more effective breath, assume a relaxed and comfortable position and allow for the breath to extend into the chest and belly. Sitting up tall can actually hinder the ability to maximize this breath because the ribs lose their openness and it will result in primarily chest breathing.
2. Look at the system, not the symptom
When training, diagnosing, or rehabilitating an athlete, patient, or client, we must first look at their system before attempting to cure the symptom. Example: someone with a shoulder impingement may have a musculoskeletal imbalance (mechanical imbalance) which is causing their shoulder to be impinged, so address the imbalance and train the muscles and skeleton back to balance before resorting to a surgery that could have been avoided.
3. If You Jump, You Need to Land!
Too much emphasis is placed on the “jumping” or “acceleration” phase during a jump, but the “landing” or “deceleration” phase is just as if not more important. Correct landing and positioning is important in preventing injuries and because there is greater risk of injury during eccentric muscle movements (deceleration or landing phase), people need to pay attention to how they are performing such movements.
It was early November of 2013 when I got my first taste of true devastation. My high-school varsity soccer team had made it to the NHIAA semi-final tournament and anyone that knows the small community of Woodsville, knows how huge that was for our school. I took a hit from an opposing player in the first few minutes of the game, unbeknownst of how serious the hit was to my knee at the time. “My kneecap just slipped out again, it’ll be fine within a day or so,” I thought. I hobbled along the sideline testing it out for the remainder of the game as I watched my teammates battle a tied game that ended in a penalty shot kick-off. I was out for the game, but if we won the shoot-out I knew that I would have a chance to make an appearance to the final that next weekend. We did win the shoot-out and we did head to the championship game that next weekend, but we did not win. I had decked my knee out with a bionic-looking brace that restricted quite a bit of range of motion but I was determined to play. Despite the disapproving talk made by the announcers, my coach put me in the game only to watch me stumble with every couple steps. We went into another penalty kick shoot out only the second go around, the win was not in our favor. It was my senior year and I was unable to exert my 110% for the team in those last two games as an Engineer. My heart was broken and the MRI results that I received a few weeks later revealed that my knee was too.
The collision I believed to be a simple knee subluxation or sprain at the time was actually a complete ACL tear. The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament is the structure deep within the knee that connects the femur to the tibia and provides stability for rotational movements that the knee sustains. (It is shown in the image to the left.)Without this ligament, forceful cutting and pivoting movements common in soccer, football, hockey, etc. become very difficult if not impossible.
I bring up this story of my past because I fit the statistics found in research on the occurrence of ACL injuries. ACL injuries today whether a complete tear of sprain, most commonly occur in adolescent females. Supported by this website, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 45,000 female athletes age 19 and younger reported an ACL injury in 2006. Additionally, it is said that females are 8 times more likely to experience and injury to the ACL than males.
Why is this? Many studies suggest it has to do with hormonal and anatomical differences in females compared to males when participating in exercise or sports. A list of these differences that most females posses are as follows: Wider pelvis, more elastic ligaments, slower reflex time, greater quadriceps to hamstring ratio, and changes to estrogen levels.
Having a wider pelvis makes females more prone to ACL injuries because their femurs, or thigh bones angle downward at a sharper angle than males do. This sharp angle then puts pressure on the inside of the knee causing the ACL to tear or rupture during movements such as landing. Females are said to have more “give” to their ligaments as well which increases the risk of injury due to excessive joint motion and flexibility. Slower reflex time is said to contribute to an increased risk of ACL injury because the time it takes muscles to respond during a contraction in females is about a millisecond slower than in males. Another risk factor for females in sustaining ACL injuries is their lack of hamstring strength. Typically females will possess stronger quadriceps and so this uneven ratio between quads and hamstrings can place stress on the ACL as the hamstrings cannot compensate for the power produced by the quads. Lastly, changes in estrogen levels in females is a huge risk factor in that when females are experiencing a menstrual cycle, their estrogen levels can rapidly change, affecting the overall strength of the ACL itself along with other ligaments in the body.
So, why am I telling you about all the risk factors that make females WAY more prone to ACL injuries? For one, to simply make you aware of them, but two, to enforce how important healthy behaviors and training are in your everyday life to help decrease the risk the best we can. Of course I am not implying that a young female attempt to change her natural estrogen levels, but I can weigh heavily on the importance of incorporating some resistance training into workouts to better balance out the muscle ratio between the hamstrings and quadriceps.
Can you reduce your risk of ACL injury? ABSOLUTELY!
Here’s a video by SafeKids that showcases Ali Krieger, a U.S. Women’s Soccer player performing 7 preventative exercises to reduce the risk of ACL injuries. Along with these exercises, athletes should also perform neuromuscular training, practice proper jumping and landing techniques, and wear proper footwear or orthotics if necessary.
At just 17 years old my world seemed to have flipped upside down, but from that disorientation I have been become hungry for knowledge and learned to respect not only the power of sports, but the power of our bodies when we care for it pre and post injury. Shown below is my transformation before surgery to making the college soccer team.
Have you ever considered that maybe your personality affects your physical activity? Well it does. My Exercise & Health Psychology class touched on this topic last week and it has resonated with me now for days.
You have probably all been posed with the question, “What personality type are you, A or B?” Whether you are the competitive, fast-talking, ambitious type A, the relaxed, creative, quality of over quantity type B, or maybe a little bit of both, your relationship with physical activity probably reflects that.
I’ll share with you that while I possess traits from A, on the personality spectrum I reside strongly on the Type B side. The behavior pattern of a Type B personality in regards to exercise is one that enjoys the process. They are reflective, creative, persistent regardless of achievement, and less competitive than Type A personalities. Being devoted to exercise, I can agree that of those described traits I am strongly motivated by the process and will persist regardless if my goals are met or not. An unmet goal will only push me harder to reach it the next go around.
The behavior patterns of Type A personalities in relation to exercise take a more intense role. These patterns often produce anger, hostility, perfectionism, competitiveness, and achievement striving individuals. These individuals are more goal driven and go-go-go 100% of the time.
When we compare these two personality types and their effects on exercise, we can look at a number of factors. For example, the risk of cardiovascular disease is greater for those possessing a Type A personality than those with Type B. Additionally; Type A personalities will typically output more effort and intensity into their exercise and activities when compared to Type B but the adherence rates to those activities are lower than the rates of Type B.
This insight does not deem one personality type to be better than the other, but rather points out where are strengths and weaknesses lie on the continuum. It can not only provide us with some helpful information in analyzing our physical activity and exercise status, but our mere existence as individuals and the driving factors that get us moving!
What side does your personality weigh down on?
Recognize it — learn from it — and use its strengths in all forms of your life!
When you think of fiber, what foods come to mind?
Hopefully images of fresh fruit, veggies, and whole grains pop up, but it wouldn’t be surprising if what you’re imagining are the notorious “Fiber One” bars or cereals that line the shelves of our grocery stores.
In Allison Aubrey’s article published on the National Public Radio’s website, she addresses the current controversy between naturally fiber-filled foods and those foods that have had processed, isolated fibers added to them. The predicament at hand? That is currently being addressed by the FDA to determine whether foods with added dietary fiber such as pastas, granola bars, cereals, etc., should be allowed to be printed on Nutritional Fact Labels because they do not contain the natural fiber properties and nutrients that come with it. All in all, the FDA is arguing that the nutritional deficiencies of such food can not be covered up by adding isolated fibers to the already processed foods, and why should they?!
Why is this such a controversy you may ask? The answer lies in the Food Industry’s marketing tactics surrounding fiber. Of course we know that an apple is always the healthy way to go when looking for a fiber-rich snack, but how are those health behaviors going to be effected when food labels showcase foods like Del Monte Fruit Cups or Fruit Snacks (which contain added fiber such as cellulose that cannot be digested) as having “no added sugar” and being “high in fiber?” We can probably assume that parents are going to purchase the less expensive and nutrient lacking product because of that marketing tool. Think about it. What fruit or vegetable has a sign or sticker on it touting its fiber content? Not one – but sugar dense cereals can boast about theirs? Something is wrong with this picture. Luckily the FDA is tackling this debate full force and we can be hopeful that if the outcome sways in support of the Food & Drug Administration, other nutrition-based controversies will be addressed in the future as well.
As I was scrolling through Twitter, (a new challenge I’ve been undertaking) I came across a BBC News article on child and teen obesity that had been retweeted out that instantly held my attention. Researchers are calling obesity in young children and teens the “new norm.” The new norm? How depressing is that..
This article that BBC news published by Michelle Roberts, opens with the statistic that 124 million boys and girls across the world are “too fat.” With the highest obesity rates scaling in from Polynesia and Micronesia, two subregions of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean, East Asia’s numbers have been climbing as well. These increasing trends researchers are seeing in obesity across the world is growing and growing fast. They are even saying that if such trends continue, obesity rates will surpass underweight rates.
So. Moves for Change?
Absolutely. Dr. Fiona Bull from the World Health Organization, or WHO has already begun this movement by promoting more physical activity and cutting back on calorie-dense and nutrient-poor foods. Her efforts have proved significant, as already 20 countries have placed a tax on drinks high in sugar. So what can we do to advocate for this movement? Well, first and foremost, we can practice what we preach. The initial step in implementing change is making sure those individuals implementing such changes are practicing healthy eating and exercise behaviors. Think about it. What child is going to listen to their parents or teachers who tell them to eat their fruits and vegetables daily, if they never see their role models eating these types of food themselves?
Preaching to the Choir
Perhaps voicing these concerns and hopes for improvement are redundant and perhaps it is easy for me to support organizations like WHO and advocate for better diet globally because I’ve been fortunate to grow up with healthy options and opportunities throughout my childhood, and even today, but I strongly believe that regardless of social class, economic status, etc., you have the potential to gear your life in the direction of health. The desire to change lies within. So lets get started.
Applied Project: A Day in Their Lives
Have you every wondered what a typical day in a surgeon’s life is like? Or how a Strength and Conditioning coach has the energy to work with individuals and athletes day in and day out, and not get sick of working out? Well, for my applied project I will be attempting to answer these questions and get a sneak peak of a normal day in the lives of professionals like these. I plan to observe and interview a wide range of people in their respected fields, all of which I could pursue with my IDS major if so inclined. These fields will range from observing an Athletic Trainer first assisting in knee replacement surgery, to a Dietician outlining nutrition plans for their clients. After my observations I will conduct an interview of the individual about their journey and career thus far, in addition to their aspirations for the future.
I have always lived through the desire to “have a little bit of everything,” and this project mimics that. I am pursuing this project to get an idea of some of the possibilities that exist for my future and hopefully distinguish which of those fields I could see myself thrive in. I want to experience the different careers associated within Exercise Science and Health as well as hear from professionals about their voyage through their fields. Additionally, it will give me the opportunity to showcase these individual’s accomplishments and stories. It will be through this project that I can attain all of that.
To conduct this project, I will be observing a different professional in their specialty at least every other week, with an interview embedded into each visit. Upon completion of those visits, I will be creating a professional profile of each individual and their line of work that will then be uploaded to my website for viewing!
The Inspiring “Conclusion”
As an IDS major, I have already swayed from the typical career bound student. I am passionate about learning and with that comes a passion to find a line of work that I could thrive in. With an Applied Exercise and Health Studies major and a project such as this to accompany it, I am confident that that dream job will be that much closer of being found. As an interdisciplinary studies student I have broke the status quo and I hope to continue reinventing myself again and again through knowledge and experience gained.
The “Timeline” (starting NOW)
Week 1/ Oct 2
Week 2/Oct 9
Week 3/Oct 16
Week 4/Oct 23
Weeks 5-10/Oct 30-Nov 27
Week 11/Nov 27
Week 12/Dec 12
**If you’re interested in understanding a little bit more about my inspiration for this project, here’s my IDS essay that outlines the major I have created!
Research Article: What is the “right dose” of physical activity/exercise to promote one’s life’s longevity?
For my research article, I am hoping to find the answer to or at least strengthen my knowledge on the topic of exercise and longevity. How much is enough? How much is too much? The research I do for this article will address these questions and grant me the ability to share that knowledge with others.
Would you like to live your longest possible life, because I know I would. Exercise and physical activity is key for our health and research shows that it increases our lifespan, but I want to know at what intensity we all should be moving. By finding the answer to this question I can not only improve my quality of life but also educate others on how to improve theirs. Bottom line: this is a win, win topic that I want to uncover and if I do, it can only create good in our lives.
To investigate this topic, I plan to use online resources such as scientific articles and journals that discuss physical activity’s relation to lifespan. I also plan to refer to the American Heart Association that provides guidelines on exercise for all ages, which will help to outline the minimum amount people should be receiving. Additionally, I plan to use David Buettner’s book, “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” as a reference in support of my research.
The “Inspiring Conclusion”
Simply put, I want to the live the healthiest life I can while I can, and gaining insight on my exercise practices is one way to ensure this goal. Integrated into my major is a health promotion component, which is supported by this research as I can begin to educate others with my findings.
The “Timeline”(starting NOW)
Week 1/Oct 2
Week 2/Oct 9
Week 3/Oct 16
Week 5-10/Oct 30 – Nov 27
Week 11/Nov 27
Week 12-13/Dec 4 – Dec 12