Exercise Science: A Translational Science?

My wife likes to take the piss out of me. When I was working through my graduate degree, and people asked her what I’m studying, she’d say, “Exercise science. I know, it sounds like a made up degree.”

She’s not wrong; “exercise science” does sound a bit nebulous to the point of gnostic wisdom. However it’s important to understand that most people think they have a clue about exercise and they simply do not. It’s a bit like Parkinson’s Law of Triviality: people have bodies, therefore they think they know how to exercise said body. Given the state of health in the United States, it should be clear that we have little in the way of cultural norms to maintain fitness, and even less cultural wisdom to get people on the right track.

Frankly, exercise is complicated stuff by the simple fact that you have to account for so many variables in so many subjects (body of knowledge subject, not human being subject). This is why exercise science is actually a translational science, a cross disciplinary, scientific research driven by the need for practical applications of science.  This type of science is often used in medicine and pharmaceuticals, because you need people to figure out how to take lab discoveries to trial as quickly as possible, and also to take these discoveries into best practice perhaps even faster. This came about because it takes an average of 24 years for a lab discovery to primary care setting, so long that “breakthroughs” that can save many lives leave so many dying before they can be applied.

The same seed is what has created a movement in health and human performance departments at universities to move away from terms like “exercise physiologist/biomechanist/kinisiologist” toward a unifying umbrella of “Exercise science.” This is because those are all part of what you study at the graduate level and then some. I made a picture with a mouse to illustrate the breadth of subject matter I learned in my studies (click for full size):

Exercise Science DIagram

Now if I walked into a lab that was devoted to any of those pursuits, I’d be dangerous. In the context of the human body and how it responds to an exercise stimulus, I’m better than any of those experts. I’m taking what they’re studying, mixing it with what others from totally different fields are studying, and attempting to mold a best practice that gets at the good stuff as efficiently as possible. I’ve been trained to be the ultimate generalist when it comes to understanding the human body and its response to exercise, which is exactly what an exercise science curriculum should do.

Yes, it sounds made up, but it’s really the shortest description of what it is we do!

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

On Growth Hormone, Muscle Gain, And Recovery

 

Such is the cascade

This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to growth hormone function in the face of diet and exercise. Rather, I’m going to suss out some of the misconceptions that clients are laboring under, based on some questions I’ve recently had.

Growth hormone (GH) is a hormone which has an effect on both tissue growth and fuel mobilization. GH is released in response stressors like exercise, reductions in blood glucose, and both carb restriction or fasting. Shock of shocks, GH is a growth promoting hormone, increasing protein synthesis in the muscle and liver. GH can only carry out these actions through Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which it stimulates the liver to release in the presence of insulin. To put it another way: high GH without high insulin equals little to no IGF-1.

So what about GH as it pertains to training and recovery? Well, before I get into research on how GH is released throughout the day and in response to training, I want you to know that at the end of this article I attached a list of studies that show the result of injecting GH on muscle mass and performance. Give it a look after this article.

So training does result in a GH increase. In fact it’s big in untrained subjects (10 fold increase above baseline), it’s not quite as big in trained guys (4-5 fold increase) (1,2). The thing is that it’s super brief, like back to baseline levels in an hour brief (3). Sounds great though, right? Five times higher than baseline? Here’s the thing: GH released during sleep is up to 20 times above baseline and lasts a lot longer, up to 3 hours (4). Finally, I’ll just quote this meta analysis on the subject of GH and athletics:

Claims that growth hormone enhances physical performance are not supported by the scientific literature.

What about GH’s role in fat loss? Doesn’t GH need to be elevated to move fatty acids for energy use?  Well, take a look at this study of individuals with hyperinsulimia in which they lost 20lbs in 60 days.  The drastically elevated insulin *should* have blunted the GH, which *should* have trapped the FFA’s for all eternity…but it didn’t seem to matter because they were eating less. This is why all of those “GH Diet” scams are successful: if your calories are low enough AND you’re injecting GH you’ll lose a bunch of fat. But it’s the low calories that let this happen, not the GH per se.

But I hear you all the way through the internet: I want to make sure I get whatever tiny cookie of benefit GH has to offer…should I avoid carbs after a workout to keep GH high?

Did a caveman tell you this? I really with this paleo myth would die, be buried, and be discovered by Jack Horner’s great^20 grandchild as an anthropological study of how little we knew.

Here’s the thing: GH is made higher post workout with the inclusion of carbs. So am I suggesting a big huge spike in insulin, meaning a metric ton of carbs post workout? Nay, but since you no longer have to worry about blunting GH, why not ensure protein synthesis occurs? A very small increase in insulin is needed to start protein synthesis, which is to say that a whey shake would get the job done very adequately.

Books have been written on this subject, but there’s not been Earth-shattering changes to this suggestion: if muscle gain and recovery are really really important to you, just eat a nice meal sometime soon after you train. You don’t have to rush it either; the post-workout window of opportunity is large enough to drive a truck through…just don’t decide to fast for 16 hours after the workout and you’ll cover your bases

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

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Dynapenia: The Real Problem With Not Resistance Training

women-muscle-mass1-e1355934724840-28641_500x300

At Efficient Exercise, we use the term “Sarcopenia” when discussing why new clients should endeavor into resistance training. This is Latin for “poverty of the flesh,” which really means age and/or inactivity-related losses in muscle mass. This was thought to be a primary driver of things like osteoporosis and obesity, even associating the term “sarcopenic obesity.”

However, this implies a sufficiency issue: just have enough muscle mass and you’re insured against many of the future losses that come with simply having the muscle. However, this did not explain why people of varying levels of muscle mass were experiencing these symptoms with prolonged inactivity. This is a bit like how skinny people can be “obese” as far as visceral fat to lean body mass ratio. There’s  a hormonal milieu that can only be accounted for through the lens of use rather than presence.

At EE, we’ve always focused on maintaining muscle mass through aging, but it’s become increasingly clear that what matters most about muscle is the use rather than the amount. It makes sense that the focus was on sufficient muscle mass, as we were unable to measure any element of the tissue that communicated with the rest of the body…they were merely motors. Now we understand that muscle is in fact our largest endocrine organ, releasing hormones and signaling agents called myokines that communicate with the rest of the body to set the thermostat, so to speak, regarding the importance of muscle tissue and how it should be treated by the rest of the body.

Let me explain.

Go back to my first paragraph and the term “sarcopenic obesity.” The literature on this topic is totally interesting and the first thing that jumps out is that both muscle and fat tissue are very active endocrine tissues.  The second thing that stands out is that these endocrine actions are almost in direct opposition to each other, like colonies in competition for energy resources. This is different than the old “auto-regulation” model that the body would partition based on substrate and availability, like when the muscles were replete with nutrients, the fat was a dump for whatever was left. This is now turning out to be incorrect.

In this review of sarcopenic obesity, researchers lay out all of the signalling mechanisms that fat and muscle use to facilitate endocrine communication. If you wrote down all of the mediators and their effects in separate columns labeled “muscle” and “fat” you’d see that they’re in competition.  Age seems to dictate which tissue has the competitive advantage. When you are young, muscle has the competitive advantage over adipose tissue and the advantage slowly shifts toward fat as the years go by, largely because you pass childbearing years and your Darwinian Fitness reduces (or “evolution stops giving a damn” to quote evolutionary biologist Michael Rose). As you lose muscle, the signalling from fat mass becomes greater, begetting more fat mass, increasing the signal further as muscle continues to whither and reduce their signalling.

So the signalling from fat mass is largely due to the volume of fat mass. However, it turns out that muscle signalling is not due to the presence of the tissue itself (a sufficiency), but rather from the use of said tissue. This means that is actually a reduction in muscle quality, which means less strength, than correlates more with aging than merely having enough muscle tissue. The term for this is dynapenia which literally means “poverty of power.”  It is the loss of strength which reduces the quality of our contractions, which reduces the signalling for resources, which reduces the partitioning of nutrients to muscle tissue and increases the partitioning toward fat mass, which begets more fat mass. A recent literature review demonstrates that strength is lost more rapidly than mass as we age. Considering it’s the very strength that would, for example, help prevent a fall or maintain balance through aging, this fact of rapid loss is especially important.

Strength precedes the signal and the signal is in proportion to the use of said strength. If you’re using a high intensity of effort on a regular basis, you’ve set the stage to maintain your strength, muscle tissue, and tip the balance toward lean mass instead of fat mass as we age.

Keith’s Ancestral Health Symposium talk is live!

Hey gang,

I’ll keep this short: both Keith and I presented at the AHS14 event this past month at UC Berkeley. He spoke about how things we often associate with astronauts were not invented by NASA and pontificates about how we may use civilian equipment, namely something like our ARX equipment, to preserve bone mass and muscle tissue during prolonged microgravity exposure. Take a look!

 

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

Ancestral Health Symposium 2014 Review

AHS

I’m back from the wild, wooly West and looking forward to telling you all about it. Actually, both Keith and I had speaking spots this year and as soon as his talk is available online, I’ll share it via the blog.

But let’s back up a moment: what’s the Ancestral Health Symposium? Is AHS some sort of caveman conference?

RudiCavemanLegis

Not exactly; rather it’s a conference that gathers researchers, clinicians, and laypersons who are interested at human health through the lens of the human ecological niche.

So you know how they make the animal landscapes in a zoo to be a close to the environment that the species evolved in throughout its genetic development? Yeah, it wasn’t always that way and zookeepers eventually figured out that they lived longer and stronger when they environment was no longer mismatched.

Human beings are no different and we’ve largely built environments that divorce us from the environmental stimuli that help to facilitate health and wellness. This doesn’t mean that we need to act like cavemen or attempt to find the “perfect” human diet (that’s a blog post for another time); just know that there are broad categories of stimuli that we need to check in and interact with on a regular basis to help ensure the right biological cues for health.

So having said that, let me give you a bit of the background of the AHS. Keith and I spoke back in 2011 at the first ever symposium, where we talked about what we do at Efficient Exercise in the context of the healthcare system in general. We differentiated how exercise is akin to a swim coach, which rehab & medicine are akin to a lifeguard. Tasking a lifeguard with teaching someone how to swim is outside the scope of what they’re trained to do, just as asking a physician to teach people to thrive is outside the scope of your average physician’s capability. The system is setup for them to be the arbiters of sick care, seeing as many people per day as possible who have something ill about them. If they can slip one or two notes about lifestyle in at the end of a visit, it’s often discarded by the “fix me, doc” patient attitude. This is cultural, deeply engrained.

The rest of the conference was a hodgepodge of people and ideas occupying a “paleo” space on the internet. It was lots of fun but certainly not focused yet; that takes time and more conferences.

After finishing my graduate degree, I had the time and the topic to present at AHS 2014. The symposium had grown in scope and rigor; it wasn’t enough to just be interested in this stuff; you had to present questions and topics with academic rigor. Doing your homework was required, as was questioning your assumptions. This made for higher quality presenting on average than seen in previous years. It was also a lot of fun to talk with everyone so interested in their subject matter.

My talk was titled “Resistance Training, Brain Structure, and Brain Function.” In this, I gave a brief explanation of resistance training’s historical place in the exercise science literature, discussed the bleeding edge of research with resistance training pertaining to brain structure and function, before wrapping it up with how this is evolutionarily relevant, and where the research can go from where it currently is, before making suggestions based on the literature. This is not “Skyler’s biased interpretation of the literature,” but the protocol that most frequently correlated with these changes in the literature. I can’t turn an is into an ought; it is what it is no matter what others would like it to be.

I hope you find the talk enjoyable.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

Iatrogenesis: A Response From Dr. Phillip Alexander

In the January 27th post entitled, “Small Health Habits Make a Big Difference,” I laid out the 10 leading causes of death in the United States according to the CDC. I recently received a response from Dr. Philip Alexander on this very topic:

Skyler…on the CDC’s own website, they freely admit that the list of the Top 10 Leading Causes of Death always leave out the real #3 cause. I’ve added it below. Sometimes hospitals can be very dangerous places!

 

  • Heart disease: 597,689
  • Cancer: 574,743

 

The medical profession: 225,000

Non-error drug adverse events 106,000

Medication errors in hospitals 7,000

Other errors in hospitals 20,000

Unnecessary surgery 12,000

Hospital-acquired infections 80,000

 

  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
  • Diabetes: 69,071
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364

 

Incidentally, in 1990 Alzheimer’s Disease wasn’t even in the top 20. In 1999 it was #7, in 2004 it was #6, and is now #5. Medicare says that by 2020 50% of the long-term facility beds in the US will be Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s 50% now. All the others are stable or slightly improving (as in the graph below), but with a frightening increase in Alzheimer’s.

It’s all lifestyle, and we know how it happens and how to prevent it.

Disease Changes

So we’ve learned two things: 1) Dr. Alexander never does anything halfway and, 2) treatment is a serious killer. What Dr. Alexander is talking about is called Iatrogenesis, which is where harm comes from the healer. The human body is incredibly complex, as discussions with my physician clients always elucidates. Historically we’ve take a statistical approach to treatment and treatment methods, that is a clinical trial shows that X percent of patients respond to Y treatment, and side effects were less than the benefit, so the treatment is viable. No clinical trial, no matter how huge, can account for the ever growing number of patients physicians are seeing, especially as boomers age into Medicare. There will be somebody who, because of their unique makeup, responds exceedingly poorly to a treatment and becomes part of the statistic above.

However, there is also the patient side of the equation, expecting the physician to “Do Something” when they see them. This is made worse by social ranking systems like Yelp where a patient can boil a physician’s ability down to a 5 star rating system based on one visit. If you’re in a position where you’re effectively arguing with a patient who expects to be prescribed something, you may very well just write the most benign script available and move onto the next patient in your overcrowded day. That’s “Murica for you: give me drugs or I’ll have your head on Yelp.

The human body is not beholden to our temporal expectations as much as we’d like it to be. What may take weeks we want in days, and this leads to some of the ill-advised treatment that results in harm above. To quote my friend Doug McGuff:

My favorite mantra is….”Don’t just do something, stand there!”. We must always be cautious about intervening when mother nature is not taking her course as fast as we would like it. The greater your sense of urgency to act, the more you should wait.

This is not to say that you should do nothing, but that you should understand that not everything has a clean, linear treatment or recovery process and sometimes waiting is the most prudent course of action. That’s why they call it the “art and science of medicine,” folks.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

 

Health and Longevity: The Most Impactful Changes Are The Simplest

During this year’s PaleoFX conference, I had the opportunity to eat and shoot the shit with one Ben Greenfield. More importantly, I had the opportunity to do the same with his wife, Jessa. Great people, super passionate about helping people improve their lives and health, and a lot of fun to be around when fish skins are part of the menu.

Ben knows a LOT about the human body. He’s also part of a small cohort of people I know who have willingly had needle biopsies done just to see how many mitochondria their muscle tissue has added as a result of being in chronic ketosis (Ben has, if I recall correctly, triple the mitochondria in his muscle tissue as your average bear). He considers himself an “ancestral athlete” but doesn’t attempt to live in a cave or only train body weight because of it. He sums this up in his article: “The 10 Rules of the Ancestral Athlete.” Note, there are likely some borderline Not Safe For Work photos on that website. However, the article is great and is a long form version of something Doug McGuff likes to say:

Fred Flintstone diet with a George Jetson workout.

Ben has done a LOT of experimentation to push the limits of health and performance, much in the same way any Olympic athlete does building up to the Olympics every four years. However, Ben is curious about the outcome, as his paycheck isn’t nearly as large for all the noodling he’s wont to do. Truth be told, we’re all nerds about this stuff, but the reality is that very little of the nerding amounts to any significant improvements in health and longevity over getting the simple stuff done, consistently. Take a look below, where I plot the time/effect interval for a variety of health marker improvements that result from exercise:

Exercise per week

The curves are fairly steep: doing enough, regularly, leads to the largest changes in health outcomes. After that, it’s a lot of mental masturbation for a paltry change in outcomes. In numbers above, you have to train 350% more per week to achieve 28% more result over what 1 hour each week gets you. If you’re an Olympic athlete looking for performance, that’s worth it. But if you’re not, that’ s a waste of time, especially when you factor in all of the wear and tear that comes with that effort.

Ben even admits as much in the article. He talks about how his wife is very laissez-faire about her training and how much better it is for health:

I’m not arguing that there’s no value to rigidity, self-control, knowledge, and self-discipline, but I suspect that if we both stay on the same path, my wife will probably outlive me and have a higher quality of life in the process.

If you didn’t read the article, the context is that Jessa trains when she feels like it, eats real food when she’s hungry, and doesn’t stress about it. But she does these small things regularly with big result. She’s in great shape.

It’s the simple changes that result in the biggest health outcomes long term. This is why restrictive diets are an abject failure in the research world, why so many people hate “training,” and why this country is in really poor condition. It’s also why those who did the simple habits regularly in the Alameda 7 Study or the Blue Zones are those living the longest.

Simple is not easy, but it’s a whole mess easier than making things really complicated not much more gain.

 

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

The Elderly Need More Exercise? Yes And No.

stephen-jepson

 

An interesting discussion over at Doug McGuff’s message board regarding exercise and aging. This comment was of interest:

I suggest that the sedentary elderly require more exercise, not less. I am one such. A few minutes a week is not going to do it for sarcopenia or anything else. If I train once a week I cannot maintain my condition, strength,metabolic benefit, motivation or momentum. Nor can you if the rest of the time you are inactive.

Here was my response to this statement:

And I disagree; I think the elderly need more activity, not exercise. Further, the health education research is clear: in the elderly, physical activity and self-efficacy track side by side. The more confident a person is in their abilities, the more physically active they are; the more physically active they are, the more confident they are in their abilities.

If you make a person stronger in your studio, they’re more confident in their ability to do other activities. This is what Doug talks about when he says people want to move more after training for a number of months. Get strong and you’ll get more active relative to your starting lifestyle.

I’ll even make it a nice soundbite: have you ever heard the phrase “a stronger athlete is a better athlete?” The same is true of human beings throughout aging, that is a stronger human is a better (more active, more healthy, more resistant to cancer/metabolic disease/disability) human. (Emphasis mine…just now!)

There is a nugget of wisdom in there that I want people to pay attention to: “relative to your starting lifestyle.” If a person is doing zip and they start a once per week strength training routine that then leads them to take leisurely strolls because they enjoy it, they’re going to do a whole lot better for themselves compared to where they started as far as disease prevention and injury risk reduction. If you had a crazy triathelte at the same advanced age add the same dose of exercise, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. There’s a survivorship bias discussion that will be addressed another time, but here’s my advice: don’t take advice from an endurance athlete who has been training “all of their life” as the gospel…there’s more at play than just hard work!

I digress; elderly individuals should look at their training as an upside-down oil funnel: the widest, part is going to be activity that is very low in intensity but very high in frequency. It seems this is where one can start making a semantic argument that this too is “exercise.” However, it’s really just being a good human animal and setting a functional path: if you move a certain way today, you’ve got a good chance of moving that way tomorrow. The middle part of the funnel is going to be mobility work as maintaining joint free range of motion is paramount for maintaining activity levels. When looking at barriers to exercise, the less mobile people are, the larger their barriers to exercising become. For example, those with mobility limitations cite “poor health, fear and negative experiences, lack of company, and an unsuitable environment as barriers to exercise…”. Performing joint mobility work for 10-20 minutes a day, hell even starting at 5 minutes per day, when mobility is still pretty good will go a long way to maintaining mobility, which maintains activity levels and exercise efficacy. Finally, the tip of the funnel is exercise training, preferably of a high intensity nature. Muscle is the most plastic tissue in the body, the largest endocrine organ we have, and creating a sufficient degree of demand will improve all aspects of a person’s physiology. By its nature, it cannot be sustained for very long and requires a prolonged recovery period. That’s fine, as it means more time for the activities the person would rather be doing, which is going to set the table for continuing to do the activities until the day they die. All good stuff!

So no, the elderly do not need more exercise; they need just enough exercise to produce a body that feels good doing lots of physical activity that a person would rather be doing. Maybe this advice will produce a few more Stephen Jepsons in the world and how cool would that be?

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

“Focus in, y’all”

rocks

We live in a world where we are forced to be externally attentive, to focus on things outside of ourselves, be it mind or body. Part of what makes Efficient Exercise so efficient is that we’re concentrating the stimulus to maximize the result. Another component of the maximization process is creating a space where the effort of a client can be maximized via the environment. I discussed this in my post about keeping it cold.

Another component of this is the use of having a client sit still when they first come in the gym. The vast majority of the day, people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. To combat this, I typically have a client just. Sit. Still. Really. I stick them on the first piece of equipment they’ll be using, tell them to “Focus. Leave everything else outside during this workout.” While they do that, I set up the rest of the workout. In my studio, there is no music, do other trainers, and the only distraction is the line of people in the Popeye’s drive-thru across the street. Total aside: you wouldn’t believe the number of Bentley and Rolls Royces I’ve seen in that drive-thru. Money doesn’t always buy the finer things in life!

Anyway, what I’ve found with clients is that those who do this have much better workouts than those who do not. If a client is late for whatever reason and cannot just sit still for a bit before their workout, they tend to have a lower quality, lower control workout. They’re already thinking about their next “thing” because they’re late. As a result, their subjective workout quality suffers.

There is some research to indicate that the use of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) facilitates increased physical activity, but so far as I can tell there’s no peer-reviewed studies on the effect of MBSR on workout performance. Further, there are some individuals who have tried to combine the two into a system of sorts (“Focus Intensity Training” comes to mind), but performing BBS or a Slow/HIT has a large swath of mindfulness at its creamy center: you have to be mindful of your breathing, mindful of your turnarounds, mindful of your speed, mindful of your tendencies to wiggle and want to heave, mindful of your behavior near fatigue…basically you’re mindful the whole time.

The thing is that if you don’t start by just slowing down before the workout, you’re trying to catch up. It’s like the exercise is happening to you rather than you facilitating the exercise. So take a moment before your next workout to focus in, y’all. Not some sort of long meditation; just sit quietly focusing on your breathing with the intent of being fully present for your workout. It’ll do you well.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

“Why do you keep it so COLD in here?!”

At my studio, we keep things pretty cold. Anywhere from 64 to 68*F throughout the year. You’d likely wonder what’s the point, as most places seem to be encouraging more heat: hot room yoga, Xfit boxes with the bay doors open in summer, boot camps in the screaming summer sun, etc. It’s rather different compared to these other places, so what’s the deal?

During my first certification and job, it was basically “People work harder in the cold.” That was the answer I got, and while true, it didn’t tell me why they were able to work harder in the cold. It was sort of a “handed down from on high” commandment; I wanted the science. And during graduate school I found it.

While probably not the first researcher to study this, the man whose research work is most focused on exercise and environment is Lars Nybo. His research has dealt with how hyperthermia (exceedingly warm conditions in the human body) changes muscle function, brain function, and human performance. I’m going to discuss a little slice of his research and then provide the bigger picture for EE clients.

In his study, “Hyperthermia and central fatigue during prolonged exercise in humans” Nybo demonstrates how hyperthermia changes force output, regardless of fatigue. Two groups of trainees cycled for 1 hour in either a thermoneutral environment, or a hyperthermic environment. After 1 hour of exercise, the trainees were then put on a knee extension machine and encouraged to exert as hard as possible to measure the force output of the thigh musculature. Take a look at the result:

F3.large

So what the heck are you looking at? The top graph (“A”) shows the rate of force output decline difference between the hyperthermic group and the thermoneutral (control) group. Also in that graph, you can see lines that spike up from the trending measure line, which is where the researchers actually electronically stimulated the tissue to measure it’s true maximum force output. Remember: muscle force is not just what the tissue can actually produce, but also what the central nervous system will allow or is capable of at the moment. You can see this difference in graph B, where the hyperthermic group is significantly less forceful compared to the control, as far as a percentage of what the tissue is capable of producing. Finally, the third graph (“C”) shows the surface measure of muscle activation; again, a clear reduction, thus reduced force.

So what this shows is that the hotter the environment is, the less forceful the muscular contractions are, NOT because the tissue is less capable but because the central nervous system is reducing force output or work. This makes sense: the harder (or more) the work, the more heat produced. The already hyperthermic environment means that hyperthermia is a very real threat, so your body “turns down the volume” to keep that from happening.

In the context of training, there are a LOT of variables that are trying to be optimized during a session. If you’re going to only train once or twice per week in a “formal” fashion, the environment needs to be optimized as best as possible for the task. By keeping the room cool, not only are we able to appeal to those who don’t like sweating, we’re also able to facilitate harder work. This deeper stimulus is what allows us to have less frequent workouts with the same, or better, result. It’s not arbitrary: the cold is a big reason why we’re so efficient.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

 

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