February 2007 Archives

A better time to exercise?

Been trying to fit in that workout? No time like the present, right? Well, maybe not.

Seems your body may respond better to physical exertion at certain times of the day. It's all about circadian rhythm — a kind of biological clock that's generated within your body and reset almost every 24 hours.

Circadian rhythms are in almost every organism — plant or animal. There are enough researchers interested in them that they have their own journal, where you can catch up on the latest research, like the effects of altitude on circadian rhythm of adult locomotor activity in Himalayan strains of Drosophila Helvetica or theories on how central fatigue may limit endurance capacities for race horses.

May sound a tad obscure. But there could be implications for people, too.

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Now that's extreme!

Every once in a while — ever since I put a few marathons under my feet — I'll get the urge to try something a little more physically taxing. Maybe an ultramarathon. Technically, that's anything longer than a marathon — anything beyond 42.2 kilometres.

There are a lot of 50 and 100-mile races across North America. And the grueling 135 mile (217 K) Badwater Ultramarathon. The start line is in Badwater — in the heart of Death Valley, California. It's 85 metres below sea level, the lowest point in the western hemisphere.

By the time you're done, you've climbed three mountain ranges for a cumulative vertical ascent of 3,962 metres — in temperatures that can hit 55 C. It can get so hot that the asphalt can almost melt the sole of your shoes. The current course record is 24 hours, 36 minutes and 8 seconds.

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Fitness — it's all in the head

So you think you're getting a good workout? Well, it could be that if you're convinced that what you're doing is making you fitter, you may actually be getting fitter — even if you're not really getting much of a workout.

It's like those drug trials — where half the people get the real drug the big drug company wants to eventually sell us and the other half get a dummy pill. Sometimes the folks on the placebo get the same benefits as the researchers expect from the people on the real medicine. It's called The Placebo Effect.

Turns out it may hold true for exercise as well.

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Trotting out another weight loss pill

So the U.S. Food and Drug Administration went and approved for the first time a diet pill that can be sold over the counter — south of the border.

Orlistat has been available for some time by prescription, intended for use by people over the age of 18 on reduced calorie, low-fat diets who are also on exercise programs. In clinical trials, for every five pounds people lost through diet and exercise, people using the drug lost an extra two to three pounds.

It works by preventing your body from absorbing about a quarter of the fat you consume during a meal — about 150 to 200 calories worth —. That's right — it hands that fat a quick pass from your system and through your intestines. Loose stools are common.

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Results may vary

After months of delay, Canada's new food guide was unveiled earlier this week — to mostly positive reviews.

It's the first update in 15 years — and the first time the guide told Canadians to limit their intake of junk food like cookies, pastries, potato chips, doughnuts and pastries. But there have been some pretty significant complaints, like the guide says nothing that would show us how to limit the number of calories we taken in and that a person following it could potentially gain a whole lot of weight.

In other words, it may not be much of a weapon in the war against obesity.

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Lose weight — without exercise

Yup, it's true. You can lie on the couch all day long, graze on snacks and still lose weight. That's right — no exercise required.

That's if you believe research recently published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Thing is, you'll have to reduce the calories you consume to lose that weight. And the less active you are, the more calories you'll have to cut.

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