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 Years ago people with asthma were told to limit their exercise, for fear it would set off an asthma attack. Now research suggests that the best thing you can do for asthma (to control symptoms) is to get regular exercise year round - here 30 minutes per day, whether walking, biking, or other moderate activities. From Science Daily:

Just 30 minutes a day: Regular exercise relieves asthma symptoms

Millions of people suffer from asthma. Many report having poor control of their symptoms. Fortunately, new research shows there is a simple antidote: 30 minutes of exercise a day, year-round.

In a study recently published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research, experts from Concordia University, the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal and several other institutions analyzed the exercise habits of 643 participants who had been diagnosed with asthma. Results were overwhelmingly clear: those who engaged in optimal levels of physical activity on a regular basis were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to have good control of their symptoms, compared with those who did no exercise. The workout doesn't have to be strenuous...."Just 30 minutes a day of walking, riding a bike, doing yoga -- anything active, really -- can result in significant reduction of asthma symptoms."

Traditionally, people with the condition have been discouraged from exercising because of a belief that it triggers shortness of breath and attacks. Bacon explains that simple precautionary measures can be taken to avoid the discomforts that can be caused by physical activity. "The issue of exercise-induced bronchospasm is real -- but if you use your releaver medication, blue puffer, before you exercise, and then take the time to cool down afterwards, you should be okay," he says. "Even if you have asthma, there's no good reason not to get out there and exercise."

That's a message Bacon hopes resonates. Within his sample group of 643 individuals, a whopping 245 reported doing no physical activity. Only 100 said they engaged in the optimal 30 minutes a day...."We need to keep in mind that doing something is better than nothing, and doing more is better than less. Even the smallest amount of activity is beneficial."...."Our study shows that those who were able to engage in physical activity on a regular basis year-round benefit most," says Bacon. If necessary, he suggests finding an indoor place to move, whether it's the gym, a staircase or a shopping mall.

As long as sensible precautions are taken starting a new fitness regime in old age can be beneficial even for those with existing health problemsOnce again, research results finding that some daily physical activity (here 30 minutes 6 days a week) is linked to a lower risk of death (here 40% lower risk from any cause for elderly men). The researchers said the increased physical activity levels was as good for health as giving up smoking, and the men who regularly engaged in moderate to vigorous activity lived on average 5 years longer then sedentary men. In this study the men had been observed over a 12 year period. From Science Daily:

Half hour of physical activity 6 days a week linked to 40 percent lower risk of early death

Thirty minutes of physical activity -- irrespective of its intensity -- six days a week is linked to a 40 percent lower risk of death from any cause among elderly men, finds new research. Boosting physical activity levels in this age group seems to be as good for health as giving up smoking, the findings suggest.

The researchers base their findings on people taking part in the Oslo Study, which invited almost 26,000 men born between 1923 and 1932 for a health check in 1972-3 (Oslo I).Some 15,000 agreed....These were categorised as sedentary (watching TV/reading); light (walking or cycling, including to and from work for at least 4 hours a week); moderate (formal exercise, sporting activities, heavy gardening for at least 4 hours a week); and vigorous (hard training or competitive sports several times a week).

Some 6000 of the surviving men repeated the process in 2000 (Oslo II) and were monitored for almost 12 years to see if physical activity level over time was associated with a lowered risk of death from cardiovascular disease, or any cause, and if its impact were equivalent to quitting smoking.During the monitoring period, 2154 out of the 5738 men who had gone through both health checks died.

The analysis indicated that less than an hour a week of light physical activity was not associated with any meaningful reduction in risk of death from any cause. But more than an hour was linked to a 32% to 56% lower risk.

Less than an hour of vigorous physical activity, on the other hand, was linked to a reduction in risk of between 23% and 37% for cardiovascular disease and death from any cause.The more time spent doing vigorous exercise the lower the risk seemed to be, falling by between 36% and 49%.And men who regularly engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity during their leisure time lived five years longer, on average, than those who were classified as sedentary.

It is important to identify protective factors as well as risk factors for cataracts because cataract surgery is the only treatment for cataracts. Cataracts are a medical condition resulting in clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye, which results in blurred vision. From Medscape:

Physical Activity May Reduce Cataract Risk

High levels of total and long-term physical activity, as well as specific types of physical activity, may decrease the risk for age-related cataract later in life, researchers report in an article published in the February issue of Ophthalmology. Of 52,660 men and women 45 to 83 years of age who completed questionnaires to assess physical activity as part of two large population-based cohorts, 11,580 developed age-related cataract during a 12-year follow-up period...

Participants with the highest quartile of physical activity had a 13% decreased risk of developing cataracts relative to those with the lowest levels of physical activity, after adjustments for multiple factors including fruit and vegetable intake, antioxidant supplement use, and alcohol intake ...In addition, increased amounts of long-term total physical activity both at 30 years of age and at the beginning of the study (mean age, 59.4 years) decreased the risk for cataract by 24% compared with low levels of activity, according to the researchers .

When the investigators looked at specific activities, they found that walking or bicycling 60 minutes per day or more decreased the risk for cataract by 12% compared with hardly ever walking or bicycling, and work or occupational activity requiring heavy manual labor decreased the risk for cataract by 16% compared with mostly sedentary occupations. Compared with individuals reporting less than 1 hour of leisure time inactivity per day, those who were physically inactive for 6 or more hours of leisure time daily were 27% more likely to develop age-related cataract, they write.

"Our results on different types of physical activity suggest that being physically active on a regular daily basis may contribute to decreased risk of cataract, rather than short weekly episodes of exercising/training," Selin explained in an interview with Medscape Medical News.

Keep in mind that statin use is linked to increased risk of cataracts. From Science Daily:

New study strengthens evidence of connection between statin use and cataracts; any risks should be weighed against benefits

Another excellent reason to start walking more and increasing daily physical activity. So get out there and walk, walk, walk...From Science Daily:

Significant link between daily physical activity, vascular health

As millions of Americans resolve to live healthier lives in 2015, research from the University of Missouri School of Medicine shows just how important diligent, daily physical activity is. The researchers found that reducing daily physical activity for even a few days leads to decreases in the function of the inner lining of blood vessels in the legs of young, healthy subjects causing vascular dysfunction that can have prolonged effects.

Paul Fadel, associate professor of medical pharmacology and physiology, and John Thyfault, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, also found that the vascular dysfunction induced by five days of inactivity requires more than one day of returning to physical activity and taking at least 10,000 steps a day to improve.

"We know the negative consequences from not engaging in physical activity can be reversed," said Fadel. "There is much data to indicate that at any stage of a disease, and at any time in your life, you can get active and prolong your life. However, we found that skipping just five days of physical activity causes damage to blood vessels in the legs that can take a prolonged period of time to repair."

"Inactivity is typically going to lead to people being overweight and obese," said Fadel. "The next step after that is insulin resistance which leads to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease."

The researchers studied the early effects on the body's blood vessels when someone transitions from high daily physical activity -- 10,000 or more steps per day -- to low daily physical activity, less than 5,000 steps per day. Five thousand steps is the national average, but only half of the daily recommendation from the U.S. Surgeon General. The researchers found going from high to low levels of daily physical activity for just five days decreases the function of the inner lining of the blood vessels in the legs.

Counting steps and daily physical activity is different than defined exercise, such as working out at the gym. While there are significant benefits to defined exercise, Thyfault and Fadel's research is based on what amounts to 30 minutes of moderate activity per day.

What if a doctor said you could avoid years of taking medication (and all their side effects and cost), better heart health, and avoid a heart attack by adopting some lifestyle changes. Could you do it? Would you? How to avoid 4 out 5 heart attacks, from Medical Xpress:

Healthy lifestyle choices may dramatically reduce risk of heart attack in men

Following a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight and diet, exercise, not smoking and moderating alcohol intake, could prevent four out of five coronary events in men, according to a new study publishing today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

While mortality from heart disease has declined in recent decades, with much of the reduction attributed to medical therapies, the authors said prevention through a healthy lifestyle avoids potential side effects of medication and is more cost effective for population-wide reductions in coronary heart disease. 

For the study, researchers examined a population of 20,721 healthy Swedish men aged 45-79 years of age and followed them for 11 years. Lifestyle choices were assessed through a questionnaire exploring diet, alcohol consumption, smoking status, level of physical activity and abdominal adiposity (belly fat). Men in the study with the lowest risk were non-smokers, walked or cycled for at least 40 minutes per day, exercised at least one hour per week, had a waist circumference below 95 centimeters, consumed moderate amounts of alcohol, and followed a healthy diet with a regular consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains and fish.

The researchers found a clear reduction in risk for heart attack for each individual lifestyle factor the participants practiced. For instance having a low-risk diet together with a moderate alcohol consumption led to an estimated 35 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to the high-risk group, those who practice none of the low-risk factors.

Men who combined the low-risk diet and moderate alcohol consumption with not smoking, being physically active and having a low amount of abdominal fat, had 86 percent lower risk. Researchers found similar results in men with hypertension and high cholesterol levels.

The burden of cardiovascular disease could be significantly reduced through programs targeted to men and promoting low-risk lifestyle choices. Even in those who take medication, an additional reduction in risk for chronic heart disease has been observed in those with a healthy lifestyle.

From John M., a cardiac electrophysiologist, who expressed his frustration with unnecessary heart disease, and commented on this study on drjohnm.org:

Let’s stop the unnecessary treatment of heart disease

There are many reasons doctors suffer from burnout and compassion fatigue. One of the least-mentioned of these reasons is that much of what we do is so damn unnecessary. In the US, the land of excess everything, caregivers, especially cardiologists, spend most of our time treating human beings that didn’t need to have disease.

Let’s be clear and honest: Lifestyle-related disease is largely unnecessary.

These days, there is so much unnecessary disease that caregivers, especially cardiologists, rarely see it. We look past the obesity right to the cholesterol number and ECG. And then we pull out the prescription pad for the guideline-directed pills. Just typing that causes me angst.

More research on the benefits of exercise. From Medical Xpress:

An hour of moderate exercise a day may decrease heart failure risk

In a new study reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure, researchers say more than an hour of moderate or half an hour of vigorous exercise per day may lower your risk of heart failure by 46 percent. Heart failure is a common, disabling disease that accounts for about 2 percent of total healthcare costs in industrialized countries. Risk of death within five years of diagnosis is 30 percent to 50 percent, researchers said.

Swedish researchers studied 39,805 people 20-90 years old who didn't have heart failure when the study began in 1997. Researchers assessed their total- and leisure time activity at the beginning of the study and followed them to see how this was related to their subsequent risk of developing heart failure. They found that the more active a person, the lower their risk for heart failure. 

From Medical Xpress:

Workers who exercise lower health risks, cost less

Get moving: just 20 minutes of exercise a day dramatically lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease, even for employees with a high risk of developing those conditions.

A University of Michigan study looked at the impact of exercise on 4,345 employees in a financial services company that had just started a workplace wellness program. Roughly 30 percent of employees were high risk and suffering from metabolic syndrome, a dangerous cluster of risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease. Overall, about 34 percent of U.S. adults have metabolic syndrome.

The study found that when the high-risk employees accumulated the government-recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, their health care costs and productivity equaled that of healthy employees who didn't exercise enough, said Alyssa Schultz, a researcher at the Health Management Research Center in the U-M School of Kinesiology.

"It was a real surprise, the level of protection physical activity gave to people with metabolic syndrome," Schultz said. 

Research done in mice, but may apply to humans. From Science Daily:

How physical exercise protects the brain from stress-induced depression

Physical exercise has many beneficial effects on human health, including the protection from stress-induced depression. However, until now the mechanisms that mediate this protective effect have been unknown. In a new study in mice, researchers show that exercise training induces changes in skeletal muscle that can purge the blood of a substance that accumulates during stress, and is harmful to the brain.

"In neurobiological terms, we actually still don't know what depression is. Our study represents another piece in the puzzle, since we provide an explanation for the protective biochemical changes induced by physical exercise that prevent the brain from being damaged during stress," says Mia Lindskog, researcher at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet.