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Health Notes: Stop exercising and get depressed, daily activity big factor in weight loss, stronger necks may not prevent head injury

Health Notes: Mood changes when you stop exercising; daily activity can contribute to weight loss and maintenance; and stronger necks may not prevent head injuries.

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This is another in an occasional series of Health Notes reports begun in 2005 that will take a look at one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. We’ll focus on news you can use and present results in plain English, without all the techno-garble that can make many research studies seem overwhelming to read, let alone understand and explain to somebody else. Let us know what you think, what you would like to see, and how you’d like to see it!

>> Mood changes when you stop exercising

Start exercising = good. Stop exercising = bad — especially when a sudden stop for a week by those who exercise regularly makes them feel depressed and even more tired.

Normally, depression happens more frequently in people who are inactive, but if you make a regularly active person stop, he or she can develop the same symptoms of fatigue, irritability and tension, the study authors reported in a recent issue of the peer-reviewed journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

To figure out what would happen, researchers looked at a group of 40 men and women who normally worked out at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes. Half kept working out, while the other half was told to stop for two weeks. Mood was measured by a typical assessment tool called Profile of Mood States, among other tools, after both one week and two weeks. After just one week of exercise withdrawal, subjects began to show signs of depression, including fatigue, poor appetite, difficulty sleeping, low energy, irritability, sadness and self-criticalness.

Although there was no significant loss in fitness over two weeks, the most fit not only lost the most, but also showed the greatest negative changes in mood. 

So what? Often inactive people worry about how they’ll be so tired if they exercise since they think they are tired when they don’t. But the opposite really is true: You can gain energy when you exercise even at moderate levels and become less tired with regular exercise. The lesson also is, that unless forced to stop because of injury or medical reasons, it’s smarter to get in a little something a couple of times a week to help pep you up and keep you off the path to depression.

For the scientifically minded:Psychosomatic Medicine is the journal of the American Psychosomatic Association. This article appeared was in issue 68, volume 2, on pages 224-230, in March-April 2006. To see a detailed abstract of the study, click here.

>> Daily activity can contribute to weight loss and maintenance
There are those people you know who are constantly fidgeting, standing up, pacing around, and just simply not happy simply sitting. Seems that kind of activity – in other words, getting out of your chair more often each day for general lifestyle activity – can contribute greatly to weight loss and, therefore, maintenance.

This study, published in the journal Science, measured what has been termed NEAT, technically known as “non-exercise activity thermogenesis.” That translates into the calories you burn (thermogenesis) while not doing formal exercise. Researchers followed and measured the posture and movement of 10 lean men and women and 10 mildly obese ones. Guess what? Not surprisingly, the overweight subjects sat for 164 minutes more each day then the lean ones. That’s 2 hours 44 minutes. The lean participants were also “upright” 152 minutes more per day than the obese ones, but sleep times did not vary.

All that adds up to an average of 352 more calories per day used by lean subjects, which accounts for about 36.5 pounds a year. Yes, 36 pounds!

Researchers however aren’t exactly sure why the overweight subjects tended to sit or lie down more than the lean ones and are taking a harder look at that. They have reported it may be biological and not learned, but also speculate with the increase in the number of people who are overweight that our current environmental cues promote inactivity.

So what?Consumers should realize that formal and regular exercise is important to improve health and cardiorespiratory fitness, but that day-to-day movement, such as walking farther to get to a store or active gardening rather than watching TV, can give someone trying to lose weight a big foot up.

For the scientifically minded: The article was in the magazine, Science, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, issue 307, in January 2005. Click here to access the article’s abstract. Full Access requires fees.

>> Stronger necks may not prevent head injuries
A study out earlier this year from Temple University has debunked the myth that strengthening neck muscles could prevent head injuries. Researchers at the university worked with male and female soccer players to try to find out if a resistance training program of the neck muscles could acceleration forces during impact with the ball that are similar to the kind of acceleration a head can experience in a car crash.

Seems you could strengthen all you want, the acceleration, known to cause mental impairment and disability, didn’t go down, even though researchers for years have believed it helped.

“We did see a change in the player’s neck muscle strength but these changes made absolutely no difference in their ability to stabilize their heads when force was applied,” said lead researcher Ryan Tierney, Ph.D, in the journal magazine Science Daily.

So what? If a consumer or parent wants to know how to strengthen his or her neck or his or her child’s neck for playing soccer, make sure they are aware that it may not hinder the forces that can cause damage. However, the researcherin this case suggested that other types of training, including plyometrics, could help although research was needed in that area to be sure.

For the scientifically minded:The article was in the Journal of Athletic Training from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. To view the entire article in PDF, click here.