Weekly fit news

What you need to know about faulty fitness trackers, organ massages, and more

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In this installment of the weekly news series, Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, addresses some of the week’s fitness research and news stories.

Is high-intensity cardio most effective for slowing aging?

The science:A new study in Cell Metabolism suggests that high-intensity interval exercise prevents cellular agingthe most by boosting mitochondria.

Expert EQX insight:“This is a great study showing one of the many ways the body adapts to cardiovascular training to improve health. Mitochondria are known as the ‘powerhouse’ of the cell. When oxygen is present, they are responsible for producing ATP, our primary source of energy in the cells. As we age, our body’s ability to produce energy via mitochondria decreases. This research shows that with training, we can stall and/or reverse some of those natural declines. In the study design, the participants trained at a pretty high intensity. Since the body always seeks to make things easier for itself, it responded to the training by forming more mitochondria so it could produce energy at a rate that would match what is needed for the activity. It is the same reason why we form calluses on our hands if we do a lot of manual work: The body wants to prepare for the future. The ability to adapt and overcome is one of our greatest attributes as humans.”

Can yoga ease depression symptoms?

The science: Bi-weekly yoga sessions and at-home practice throughout the week helped to ease people’s symptoms of depression, according to a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. For tough-to-treat cases, researchers even say time on the mat could rival the effectiveness of therapy and antidepressants.

Expert EQX insight: “In general, exercise provides a host of benefits that can help counteract the effects of depression; it can break down chemicals caused by stress, boost the production of serotonin which helps regulate mood, provide bursts of endorphins, give you a sense of control and accomplishment, provide a physical outlet, and allow you to focus on something good for yourself rather than your problems. A key point that tends to be specific to yoga is mindfulness. Inherent in some yoga practice is mindful movement and meditation. This could help create a safe environment for you to start to engage with your problems and reduce stress. In the end though, if you are dealing with depression, the best option is to find a form of exercise that you enjoy.”

How accurate are trackers in measuring your heart rate?

The science: When compared to chest strap monitors, wrist wearables don’t appear to be as accurate in measuring heart rate, according to a study by the American College of Cardiology. In fact, the latter were sometimes up to 34 beats a minute off.

Expert EQX insight: “Choosing the right monitor may depend on how important tracking your heart rate is for your program and your goals. If you are just looking to check your beats per minute sporadically, or you are training at lower, steady intensities, then going with the wrist-worn optical sensors will likely meet your needs. Plus, you don’t have to wear a chest strap, which some find uncomfortable. However, if accurately knowing your heart rate is a key part of your training (you spend time in specific heart rate zones or track quick responses in HR throughout the workout) then the chest strap monitor is hands down the best option. It tends to be more accurate at all intensities and responds quicker to changes in intensity. Plus, if desired, they can connect via Bluetooth to a variety of machines, like treadmills, bikes, and stairmills.”

What’s the best way to train for a windy race?

The science:You can train all you want for a race but sometimes, the weather presents an obstacle. Runners competing in the Foulées des 2 Rives 14K in Brest, France, weren’t just up against the clock, but also 40-plus MPH winds, according to Runner’s World.

Expert EQX insight: “The best way to train for a windy race, unfortunately, is to train in windy conditions. This may not be the most enjoyable training experience, but when you are getting ready for an event, you want replicate the stresses of the day as close as possible. Just as you wouldn’t train only in a pool if you are going to swim an open water race, you wouldn’t just train in calm conditions if you know the race is going to be windy. It essentially ensures you know what to expect, mentally and physically, when race day comes. With that said, you don’t need to run every day in a wind tunnel (or may not have access to windy conditions). You can replicate the challenge by find some subtle hills outside or elevating your treadmill to a 2 to 4 percent incline.”

Is sitting really so bad for you?

The science: A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to everything from heart disease to cancer and even early death. But a new study in the BMJ found that, over a timespan of 13 years, sitting wasn’t associated with an incidence of diabetes.

Expert EQX insight: “The best way to counteract all that sitting at your desk is to add a good variety of movement to your day—and this doesn’t mean stand all day, either. The big issue with sitting isn’t the actual sitting, it is the length of time you spend in the static position; which in this case is hips flexed and shoulders rounded forward toward a computer. Your body eventually adapts to this position knowing that this limited range is all you need to get through the day. The ideal strategy to break this response is to create a habit of moving periodically so your body is forced to change its position and posture. This keeps your tissues loose and hydrated. A couple easy tips to put this into practice are standing any time you have a conference call, setting an alarm to remind you to change position every 20 to 30 minutes, or committing to 1 to 2 minutes of stretches each hour for the upper and lower body. Plus, by adding periodic movement, you will also feel less restricted when you train, making your workouts more effective.”

What is an organ massage?

The science:According to Vogue, the wellness trend du jour is something called organ massage, more formally known as visceral manipulation.

Expert EQX insight: “Organ massage is essentially gentle manual therapy targeted on the connective tissue surrounding your organs, not actually massaging your organs. The main goal is to improve the natural movement of your organs to increase function, leading to a host of potential benefits, such as reduction in pain, improved digestion, and reduced post-surgical adhesions. It functions from the point of view that the body is a single entity where there are fascial connections throughout. If we have a restriction in one area, the body must accommodate and work around it. A scenario where visceral massage is often used is following abdominal surgery where scar tissue may be present. Some studies have shown that this technique can help to reduce pain after weeks of treatment. At this point, however, the research is still not definitive enough to say if it is necessary outside of some very specific circumstances. Though it may not be needed, it is generally considered safe. If you are interested in it, make sure you only work with a very experienced and well-trained therapist.”