Weekly fit news

Electric stimulation for the brain, how vibration can be a workout, and more

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

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

Can electric brain stimulation boost performance?

The science: A review of research out of the University of Kent looked into the effectiveness of an electrical brain stimulation technique, called transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), on athletic performance. Turns out, some of the research is actually promising.

Expert EQX insight: “A low level electrical current is run through the brain via electrodes placed on the head. The current is so weak you won’t feel anything, however it is enough to potentially prime your neurons for greater excitability, meaning they will fire faster and potentially longer. Since movement and activity originates in the brain, this has the potential to increase performance lasting up to 90 minutes. Periodic use to help push past limits and up capacity may be good, but overriding the brain’s protective mechanism on a frequent basis for a long time may not be a great idea—I stress may because there is still more research to be done.”

Is whole body vibration a form of exercise?

The science:A study done in mice, published in the journal Endocrinology,finds that whole body vibration (WBV)—a process where a vibration machine transmits energy to your body—was just as beneficial metabolically as a treadmill workout. For the mice…

Expert EQX insight: “While the results of this study may not be the most applicable to people, others have shown some benefit of WBV in improving bone mineral density in humans. The original vibration technology was, in part, designed for the space program as a means to counteract the effects of weightlessness on the astronaut’s bodies (loss of bone and muscle mass). Though it is not quite a replacement for other training styles, it can be an effective supplement to your program. If used properly, it can fit nicely into a warmup or as part of a circuit of different exercises (think: holding static positions like a squat). If you do try WBV out, ease into it. It may not create a lot of muscular fatigue up front but it can really stimulate your nervous system and leave you feeling drained if you do too much too soon.”

Can a vitamin D deficiency put you at risk for injury?

The science:A study out of the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) found that more than half of college football players competing in the NFL Combine had low levels of vitamin D. Inadequate levels, researchers say, left the athletes more likely to suffer a muscle injury.

Expert EQX insight:“Vitamin D plays a major role in the regulation and use of calcium in the body. While normally thought of in relation to bone strength, calcium plays a key role in the processes needed for muscle contraction. The good news is that we can directly impact our vitamin D levels through daily habits and nutrition. Try to get outside for a walk with skin exposed to the light; vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and through sun light our body naturally produces it. Since being outside midday isn’t always an option, eating vitamin D-rich foods like salmon, mushrooms, and dairy products, or supplementing with vitamin D are great nutritional strategies.

Can NASA-inspired infrared activewear help you recover better?

The story:At last weekend’s South by Southwest, British company KYMIRA Sport showcased some serious recovery gear: NASA-inspired activewear that’s supposed to absorb heat and infrared radiation from your body, and emit it back at a different wavelengths, according to Sports Illustrated. The result is a better recovery, the company says.

Expert EQX insight:“There is actually some pretty good research supporting the claims of using ceramic-infused garments to generate far infrared radiation (FIR) and stimulate recovery. Infrared light therapy has been around for a while now via powered devices. One application is in infrared saunas, which have been shown to have health benefits and some positive impact on people with arthritis and pain. What’s different about clothing fibers is that your body, from the heat it produces, powers the ceramic (which absorbs the body heat) to produce FIR back to you. The infrared light waves have been shown to penetrate the skin up to 1.5 inches and as a result stimulate circulation and the function of our mitochondria. Some of the reported benefits are reduced inflammation, potential antioxidant function, and increased removal of waste by-products resulting from intense activity and tissue repair. One study even showed that bed sheets woven with the ceramic fibers helped to improve the quality of sleep. There is still more research to be done. That said, this might be an easy and safe way to enhance recovery if you are pushing yourself in training or sport and want to be at your best.”

How important is running technique?

The study:Research in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise finds that running form can impact energy output and performance.

Expert EQX insight:“This study analyzed some common variables of running form. Some of the variables with the greatest impact were vertical travel of the pelvis, amount of knee bend when the foot hits the ground, shin angle of the contact leg, and stride (rate and length). For instance, if your knee bends too much on contact, you have more work to do to propel yourself forward with each step. However, by focusing on your running form, you have the potential to reduce the amount of work needed to get the same output. Since everyone’s needs are different and it can be hard to self-analyze, it might be a good idea to work with a coach a couple of times if you are looking to prep for a race. This could help ensure you get the most out of your runs.”