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For years people have searched for ways to prevent cancer, which occurs significantly more with age. A recent study conducted in 5 European countries offers hope that some simple steps could reduce the incidence of invasive cancer up to 61 % in older adults (over 70 years of age).

The 3 year long study tested individual and combinations of vitamin D3, marine omega-3, and a simple home strength exercise program and found that the combination of all 3 (vitamin D3 + marine omega-3 supplements + exercise) reduced the incidence of invasive cancer by 61 percent. In other words, it prevented cancer.

What they took: Persons in the double-blind (no one knew who was in what group) study were randomly assigned to one of 8 groups with the intervention alone or combined: daily supplements of 2000 IU of vitamin D3, and/or daily 1 g of marine omega-3s, and/or a simple home strength exercise program compared to a placebo/control group. NOTE: The marine omega-3s supplements used were algae-based (EPA + DHA ratio: 1:2), and not fish oil.

Even though there were over 2000 participants in the study, the numbers were too low to see if there were effects on certain types of cancers. Can only say there was a reduction in invasive cancers when all 3 interventions were combined. Looking at the study report, it is unclear how frequently and how many of the home-strengthening exercises were done each week.

Other studies: As the researchers note - other studies have had mixed results on vitamin D3 and omega-3 supplements, which are typically fish oil. A major review in 2020 of 27 studies using fish oil supplements (for a total of 113,557 participants) found little or no benefit regarding cancer or cancer death, and a 2021 review of 5 studies found increased risk of atrial fibrillation. So once again, we'll see... Three years (the length of this study) is a short time regarding cancer.

Bottom line: While vitamin D3 and fish oil supplements are being debated over their health effects, all studies find health benefits from exercise and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, some fish, and olive oil. Also, vitamin D3 is superior to vitamin D2, and that taking it daily is better than a mega-dose occasionally (e.g., once a month). Getting some sunlight (vitamin D) is also recommended.

From Medical Xpress: A combination of three simple treatments may reduce invasive cancer risk by 61% among adults aged 70+

A new study published in Frontiers in Aging found that a combination of high-dose vitamin D, omega-3s, and a simple home strength exercise program (SHEP) showed a cumulative reduction by 61% in cancer risk in healthy adults aged 70 or older.  ...continue reading "Study Suggests Simple Steps To Reduce Cancer Risk In Older Adults"

The studies are coming fast and furious about how all daily physical activity has health benefits. Ordinary daily activities that cause a person to move, such as housework, vacuuming, washing dishes, gardening, walking, cooking, even showering - all count. (On the other hand, reading and computer use do not.)

A recent study by University of California researchers found a higher rate of heart disease, stroke, and death in older women who have less than 2 hours each day of "daily life movement" (daily physical activities) compared to those who have more than 4 hours per day. At the start of the study 5416 women (63 years or older, and without heart disease) wore an accelerometer to measure their daily movements for 1 week, and then their health was followed for more than 6 years.

The researchers found that higher amounts of daily life movement or "being up and about" were associated with a lower risk of major cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular death in older women. In other words - all movement (and not just exercise) counts towards cardiovascular disease prevention.

From Science Daily: Daily activities like washing dishes reduced heart disease risk in senior women

Seniors take note, running or brisk walking is not the only way to reduce the risk of heart disease. Simply being "up and about" performing routine activities, referred to as daily life movement, including housework, gardening, cooking and self-care activities like showering can significantly benefit cardiovascular health. ...continue reading "Ordinary Daily Activities Can Have Health Benefits"

Many people think that only exercises done in a gym, in exercise classes, or with exercise equipment can improve health. But no! Any physical activity is good, which means ordinary walks and household tasks or housework are beneficial. And the more frequently you do them, the more beneficial.

Studies show that physical activity from housework tasks (e.g., vacuuming) are associated with improved cognition, increased brain volume, and executive functioning of the brain in older adults, and with less frailty. Higher levels of physical activity are linked to a reduction in early death and heart diseases. Heavy household tasks (e.g. vacuuming, window cleaning, scrubbing, painting) have more benefits than light household tasks (e.g., dusting, ironing, doing laundry, washing dishes, cooking).

I know, I know - no one wants to get up and do such household tasks as vacuuming, but think of it as exercise class replacement.

A commentary (and video) by Dr. Stephan Martin discussing studies showing housework improving health and fitness. From Medscape: Housework Can Increase Brain Volume and Physical Fitness

Physical activity is a panacea: it protects against cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Very active people are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, and the prevalence of dementia is apparently lower for them.  ...continue reading "Physical Activity of Housework Has Health Benefits"

The CDC (Centers for Disease ) recently released another bit of gloomy news about Americans - that 25% of adults report being physically inactive. Being physically inactive means that they don't do any physical activities outside of work. This means no walking for exercise, no gardening, no bicycling, nothing.

There were differences according to where a person lives - from a low of physical inactivity of 17.7% of people in Colorado to a high of 49.4% in Puerto Rico. There were regional variations with the South reporting 27.5% of adults being physically inactive and with the West the least (21.0%).

There were also differences in physical inactivity levels by race and ethnicity. Overall, Hispanic adults (32.1%) reported the most physical inactivity outside of work, and non-Hispanic Asian adults the least (20.1%). The results were from large-scale health-related telephone surveys (called Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System or BRFSS), with more than 400,000 adults interviewed each year.

Why the concern with physical activity? Numerous studies find that physical activity results in better health, for example in lower risk of diabetes, better brain health, and lower risk of heart disease. Some researchers call exercise or physical activity a "magical bullet" in warding off heart disease.

Dr. Ruth Peterson, Director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, stated that:

“Getting enough physical activity could prevent 1 in 10 premature deaths. Too many people are missing out on the health benefits of physical activity such as improved sleep, reduced blood pressure and anxiety, lowered risk for heart disease, several cancers, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease)."

How much physical activity is best? CDC guidelines state that adults should have at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes of moderate intensity workouts each week. This includes brisk walking! All physical activity counts, for example, bicycling, gardening, fast dancing, exercise classes.

Jan. 20, 2022 CDC news release: CDC Releases Updated Maps of America’s High Levels of Inactivity

Atrial fibrillation (a quivering or irregular heartbeat) can be very frightening for the person experiencing it. This heart arrhythmia disorder can be treated with medicines or surgical ablation, but new research suggests that it also can be improved after 6 months of exercise - about 3.5 hours per week.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide randomly assigned 120 patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) to either receive an exercise regimen for 6 months or no exercise regimen. All persons received "usual medical care". [Note: it is not clear what usual medical care involved.] After 6 months and at 12 months, the exercise group had a lower incidence of recurrent AF  and less severe AF symptoms. The exercise helped maintain normal heart rhythm.

The exercise group had supervised exercise once per week for 3 weeks, and then every other week for 3 months, as well as an exercise plan to follow at home. The goal was to increase aerobic exercise up to 3.5 hours per week. Supervised exercise session were higher intensity to increase cardiorespiratory fitness, and home based  exercise was of moderate intensity (e.g. walking, indoor cycling, swimming).

Bottom line: Exercising up to 3.5 hours per week might improve and control AF so that medications or surgery are not necessary.

From ScienceDaily: Exercise maintains normal heart rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation

A six-month exercise programme helps maintain normal heart rhythm and reduces the severity of symptoms in patients with atrial fibrillation, according to late breaking research presented at ESC Congress 2021. ...continue reading "Atrial Fibrillation Can Be Improved With Exercise"

There is another great reason to try to lose weight if you are overweight or obese - being overweight or obese lowers blood flow to the brain in older adults. Yikes! However, one bit of good news from a study of 495 adults (average age 69) was that increased physical activity (brisk walks count!) can reduce or eliminate this association.

This could help explain why obesity increases the risk for a number of conditions as a person gets older, such as heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.

The study was part of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. The average BMI (body mass index) was 28, which is considered overweight. One finding was that each 1 cm increase in waist circumference was associated with the same reduction of brain (cerebral) blood flow as 1 year of advancing age. (Yes, brain volume and blood flow typically diminish with age in older adults. So you want to prevent it as much as possible.)

The study found that higher levels of physical activity can reduce or remove this association of overweight & obesity and reduced brain blood flow. So if it's not possible to lose weight - then get really physically active!

How much exercise is beneficial? The researchers recommend at least 1.5 to 2 hours per day of "being active", that is, doing activities that require "moderate" effort - this means breathing somewhat harder than normal (e.g. brisk walking, cycling at a regular pace, carrying light loads). Equally beneficial is to get some "vigorous activity" which results in breathing much higher than normal (e.g., digging, aerobics, fast cycling, carrying heavy loads). But any and all movement is good!

Medical Xpress: Researchers find obesity linked to reduced blood flow to the brain

A new study from scientists at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin reveals important findings, indicating that being overweight or obese significantly reduces blood flow in the brain. The study also shows that increased physical activity can positively modify, or even negate, this reduction in brain blood flow. ...continue reading "Overweight and Obesity Is Associated With Reduced Blood Flow In the Brain"

Another reason to get more active - a new study finds that being physically inactive (a couch potato) is associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and ICU admission for COVID-19, and death from COVID-19. The researchers concluded that being consistently inactive should be viewed as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes, and that it is a "stronger risk factor than any of the underlying medical conditions and risk factors identified by the CDC except for age and a history of organ transplant". Yikes!

On the other hand, being physically active at least 150 minutes per week, and this includes brisk walking, is linked to lower rates of all of the above. Some activity (but under 150 minutes per week) is also better than none, but 150 minutes or more is better. The researchers state that besides vaccinations, social distancing, and mask wearing - being physically active is the single most important action individuals can take to prevent severe COVID-19 and its complications, including death.

The 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of physical activity per week are the recommended US Physical Activity Guidelines for adults, and include moderate and vigorous physical activity. It includes brisk walking. This can be achieved in less than 1/2 hour per day!

The researchers point out that health benefits of regular physical activity include: improved immune function, lower incidence of viral infections, as well as lower intensity and cases of death from viral infections, lowers the risk of chronic inflammation, improves cardiovascular health, increases lung capacity, muscle strength, and improves mental health. Which is why it is not surprising that persons getting a good amount of physical activity each week also generally have fewer problems with COVID-19 infections.

From CNN: Reduce risk of severe Covid with regular activity, study says. Here's how to get in 22 minutes of exercise daily

Some excerpts from the study at British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM): Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48,440 adult patients

Abstract: Objectives To compare hospitalisation rates, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and mortality for patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive, doing some activity or consistently meeting physical activity guidelines.  ...continue reading "Reduce Your Risk of Severe COVID-19 Infection By Being Physically Active"

Once again a study finds that more exercise and less sitting improves glucose metabolism and so reduces the risk of diabetes. Is anyone surprised anymore by the health benefits of physical activity?

A study conducted in Finland found that in 660 adults 67 to 69 years of age, those who were most active throughout the day had the fewest glucose metabolism disorders (e.g. impaired glucose tolerance) and their insulin sensitivity was better - when compared to less active adults, especially sedentary couch potatoes. The best is to be active and move around a lot during the day, and not just be physically active during a short period.

Other studies find that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is about twice as common in sedentary adults compared to active older adults. Study after study finds that increasing physical activity (as compared to being sedentary or less active) improves a person's health numerous ways and lowers the risk of all sorts of diseases.

From Medical Xpress: Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and less sitting reduce the risk of diabetes in older adults

According to a recent study, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and less sedentary time improve glucose metabolism and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in older adults. Based on the results, it is important to encourage older adults to avoid sedentary time and increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to improve their glucose metabolism. 

...continue reading "Increase Physical Activity to Lower Risk of Diabetes"

An recent study from University of Saskatchewan researchers found that stretching exercises were better than brisk walking for lowering high-normal blood pressure or moderately elevated blood pressure. However, walking was more effective than stretching for reducing waist size.

The researchers randomly assigned 40 male and female adults (average age 61 years) with high normal or moderate hypertension (130/85–159/99 mm Hg) to either 8 weeks of whole body stretching exercises or brisk walking (on outdoor trails or a treadmill) for 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week, for 8 weeks. The stretching exercise routine included 21 exercises for the shoulders, chest, legs, arms, hips, and back. Each stretch was done twice and held for a 30-second duration with 15 seconds of rest between stretches.

Other studies have also found stretching exercises effective in reducing blood pressure. A possible reason is that when muscles are stretched, blood vessels are also stretched, and this may lead to structural changes in blood vessels. By reducing arterial stiffness, there is improved blood flow, and ultimately reduced blood pressure.

The researchers suggested adding stretching exercises to an aerobic exercise program or brisk walking for additional health benefits. By the way, stretching exercises are similar to yoga, which also lowers blood pressure.

From Medical Xpress: Stretching more effective than walking to lower high blood pressure, study finds

A new University of Saskatchewan study has found that stretching is superior to brisk walking for reducing blood pressure in people with high blood pressure or who are at risk of developing elevated blood pressure levels.  ...continue reading "Stretching Exercises Can Help Reduce Blood Pressure"

Doctors now have an easy test for determining your heart health, according to European researchers. Anyone can take the test - just need access to staircases and wear comfortable sneakers or shoes. The test: time it takes to climb 4 flights of stairs or 60 steps.

According to the researchers, the best is being able to climb the stairs at a fast pace, without stopping, in 45 seconds or less (heart health!). A sign of poorer ("suboptimal") heart health is taking 1 1/2 minutes or more to do it. The researchers go on to discuss how heart health is linked to risk of death over the next ten years.

From Science Daily: Test your heart health by climbing stairs

Climbing four flights of stairs in less than a minute indicates good heart health, according to research presented at EACVI -- Best of Imaging 2020, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).   ...continue reading "Climbing Stairs Is An Easy Test Of Heart Health"