Adelaide’s country side
Two weekends ago I took a trip to Adelaide for the Exercise and Sports Science Association of Australia and the Sports Dietitians conference. I have been a bit delayed putting this entry together, as there where so many ideas and notes to shift through, I had a stint of procrastination. We also got to visit a few nice places in Adelaide too.
My reluctance was not due to how bored I was at the conference, quite the contrary. It was more that I was over whelmed with the information. There were a number of speakers that weekend, that presented some really interesting concepts and summaries of new research that is being conducted right here in Australia.
On day one Dr Danny Green provided an insight as to “Why exercise is better for your cardiovascular system than you think”. The stats on health where quite an eye opener, when it comes to cardiovascular disease we have major problems in Australia with the prevalence of this condition. Since 1967 deaths from cardiovascular disease has decreased, however it is still the number one cause of death in Australia.
He also mentioned the use of diabetes drugs in particular Metformin. This drug since it’s introduction throughout the population has decreased the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes. In fact only 35% of people developed diabetes after Metformin use. However only 25% of people developed diabetes when exercise intervention and lifestyle changes where made. Exercise decreased disease progression more effectively than drugs. Something so simple like going to the gym could save you from developing diabetes.
It’s a wonder why more medical doctors don’t refer to exercise physiologists and dietitians, instead of writing scripts for medications.
Wine grapes fermenting
Dr Green also goes on to examine how exercise improves heart disease exactly. One of the side effects of exercise is the production of nitric oxide (NO) by working muscles. NO is the cause of artery adaptation, both structure and function of the cardiovascular system is increased due to exercise. Meaning your heart gets stronger, enabling it to pump blood readily around the body and the structure of arteries increase in strength and diameter. In other words exercise as a therapy for chronic illnesses such as heart disease is extremely useful in a mired of ways. So get exercising!!
I found a real life pomegranate tree
Dr Mike Joyner was the first speaker on the second day of the conference, his presentation was called “Prolonged exercise: Proven life saver, but is it a potential killer?” I loved the quote used at the very opening of his speech:
“Civilisations die from suicide, not by murder”.
Pretty hard hitting but, true. We as a society are slowly killing ourselves (suicide) from self inflicted inactivity and poor eating habits.
One really interesting study he used to highlight the degree of inactivity in modern life, involved using the Amish religious group in America. For those who don’t know who the Amish are, they are a religious group who do not believe in the use technology or electricity. The religious community cultivates the land using old farming and living practices
The Amish community was used to demonstrate how much energy expenditure and physical activity humans would use 100-200years ago, compared to what we do in the modern world. The purpose was to show the huge disparity in the health of populations now, compared to back then due to lack of physical activity.
The Amish people wore pedometers to record the number of steps. The results were surprising. Men achieved 18,000 steps per day and women 14,000 steps. This was an estimation of 3.5hrs vigorous physical activity and 4.2hrs moderate physical activity daily. That’s huge!
Now compare those results to how much physical activity is recommended in the Australian activity guidelines: 150-300minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week (21- 42mins daily) and trying to increase incidental activity where possible (taking the stairs instead of the lift etc). You can now see why we have an obesity issue. Our little 30min walks in the morning before work, pales in comparison, to what our ancestors did before the invention of machines.
He goes on to say, that he believes the turning point for the obesity crisis was the 1980’s was when high fructose corn syrup was introduced in America and advent of cheap video games where available in house holds. People ate crappy cheap food and sat on their butts playing video games. At this point there was a huge increases in obesity levels across the western globe.
Lily pads at the Botanical Gardens
Dr Joyner also said that physical activity and fitness are not the same. As health professionals we tend to harp on getting fitter, it’s also a very popular craze among young people. Which is great, but it’s the low level ingrained day-to-day physical activity that we need to focus on more. People that participate in low intensity physical tend to live longer, than those with high fitness levels. His solution to the inactivity obesity issue is multifaceted. He believes there are
7 solutions to becoming more physically active with this population health model:
1. Build an active community: Building out door gyms, cycle pathways and promote public transport.
2. Insurance and other incentives: Higher insurance premiums for people who smoke and don’t exercise.
3. Sin taxes and restrictions: Taxing “sins” like junk food and reducing access to alcohol and smoking
4. Screen time: promote the reduction of TV and computer screen time
5. Education: Providing access to education on health for the lower socioeconomic groups in society to reduce health care burden and empower individuals.
6. Who-you-know (social contagion): This acknowledges that poor health clusters in areas. Obesity is more likely if the family or community is obese. We need to challenge what is perceived as normal ill health or behaviours and change it to an improved ideal on what health is meant to be
7. Social medical access: Providing medical access to all.
I would agree that this 7 point plan may be the winning formula to healing the obesity epidemic. If only we could implement this on a community wide level.
I sat in on a number of 3minute poster presentations, which included the up and coming work of many PHD students in Exercise physiology and medicine. It was quite interesting to see there was trending hot topics in the research at the moment, the most prominent one being HIIT.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is growing in popularity not only in the fitness industry but population wide. It’s a form of exercise that is short and effective, quite marketable to time poor people and quite a simple concept to grasp.
It involves short intense bursts of exercise in intervals, studies have used intervals of 30sec to 4min, with recovery periods also varying.
There were about 5-6 poster presentations on this topic using varying diseased population groups, along with varying work and recovery periods. The main concern coming from medicos in the audience was it’s usability in the general population, in terms of safety. Promoting high intensity exercise on some one with lets say heart disease without adequate supervision and monitoring from an exercise physiologist or Dr may be a dangerous recommendation to make.
Never the less, the studies showed promising outcomes. As little as 20-30min of HIIT training can improve health markers in diseased populations: diabetics, heart disease patients and obese individuals.
Note that traditional exercise prescription such as a steady state moderate intensity exercise programs like using the cross trainer for 40min, also produced the similar results. In terms of weight loss and health benefits, they are much the same.A longer but slightly easier program may be better in terms of safety if someone is left on their own.
So if you’re thinking HIIT is a magic bullet that’s going to save you from doing exercise every day, well sadly it’s not. It’s just another way to exercise. So far in my opinion, it’s better to be left to a clinically controlled and monitored environment if you have any medical conditions or are above the age of 40. Other wise if you fit as a fiddle, go for you life and have fun!
The view outside the window
Another key message was sedentary activity is basically killing us all, regardless of how much structured activity we do. Aim to reduce sitting and screen time. The average Australian watches approximately 5hrs of TV daily. Tragic really.
Somewhere to sit in the sun?
As a population we should all keep a firm reality check on what is considered healthy, because it seems a lot of us are delusional about our state of health. When people are asked to classify their health, most thought they were in a healthy condition despite having medically diagnosed conditions.
The danger of this is not so that we scare everyone about being unhealthy or making them feel bad. But with an overzealous perception of health, people become complacent and are less likely to do anything to improve their health. I guess it comes down the concept if its not broken, why fix it? When in reality 65% of the population is broken and defiantly needs fixing!
One of the cellars serving tables
It turns out one researcher Vincent Dalbo believes increasing self worth and value can increases healthy lifestyle choices. He questions weather the obesity epidemic is really a lack of self worth epidemic. He says to improve self worth, improve how do you care for yourself in a daily manner. This means brushing your hair, teeth, shaving and dressing nicely. Basically taking timeout for yourself, can in turn make you care enough about yourself to exercise. This is what he found in his study anyway.
New vintage teapot from Salvo’s shop on Rundel st
All in all the 3 days at the conference was quite interesting and as you can see we had a nice time in Adelaide. Was there anything in this wrap up that you found useful? Let me know.