Fetal training regimens

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As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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Over the last few years, there have been a bunch of articles with titles like “Marathon moms raise the post-natal bar,” charting changing attitudes about exercise during pregnancy. In general, the information provided is anecdotal — after all, there are understandly strict limits on what regimens you can inflict on pregnant women in the name of science. So it’s interesting to see this study, presented by researchers from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society.

The researchers were aiming to see whether maternal exercise improves the cardiovascular health of the fetus, with the “exercise” group performing moderate intensity aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times per week. Sure enough, fetal heart rate was lower in the exercise group. Interestingly, the researchers also suggest that maternal exercise could help the development of the autonomic nervous system. This part is less clear to me — but perhaps it’s a topic that’s worth digging into a little more deeply. Certainly, it’s encouraging to see some hard data emerging in a very hard-to-study area.

A successful Easter egg hunt won’t interfere with training

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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The reputation of the humble egg, so long considered a cholesterol time-bomb, has been gradually rehabilitated by a series of studies over the past several years. In honour of Easter, I thought I’d mention one of these studies, from the January issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Researchers from the University of Connecticut put 12 subjects through a 6-week endurance exercise program. Half of them ate 12 eggs a week, the other half ate none. The result: both groups improved good cholesterol by 10 percent and decreased bad cholesterol by 21 percent — and there was no discernable difference between the egg and no-egg group. Happy Easter!

Jockology: compression garments

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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This week’s Jockology column on compression garments is now up on the Globe site. I’ll be interested to see what people think, because it covers a lot of ground. The science behind compression socks is very different from the science behind compression shorts — not to mention Allen Iverson’s compression arm sleeve, and the full-body compression suits that companies like Skins are hyping — so it’s hard to generalize about whether compression garments in general work.

I was pretty skeptical when I started researching this column, but I uncovered a lot more research than I expected — and I also heard some pretty ringing endorsements from, among others, William Kraemer, one of the very big names in sports research. On the other hand, given the impossible-to-blind nature of compression garments, I can’t quite shake my worries that it’s all a big placebo. Anyone have personal experience with this stuff?

How fast to run if you’re stranded in the desert

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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I had an interesting interview this morning with Karen Steudel of the University of Wisconsin’s Hominin Locomotion Laboratory, for an upcoming feature in Canadian Running magazine. She’s the researcher who caused a stir a few weeks ago with a study revealing that each person has an “optimum running speed” where we burn the least number of calories per mile (nicely summarized by Dan Peterson of 80percentmental here). Until now, strange as it may seem, researchers thought that it would take you exactly the same number of calories to run a mile, no matter what pace you ran at.

Steudel’s real interest is in whether our ancestors a few million years ago were efficient enough runners to chase animals for hours until they collapsed of heat exhaustion, a technique known as persistence hunting. But she’s well aware that the idea of an “optimum speed” might be of interest to runners (and she’s apparently receiving tons of e-mail asking for training advice!). The optimal paces in her study were about 7:14 per mile for men and 9:14 per mile for women — but with just nine subjects, the study is too small to take those numbers too seriously. However, she’s now back in the lab working on a new study trying to determine how limb length affects that optimal speed — another result that will be of interest both to evolutionary biologists and runners.

So what do we do with this information? Well, I’ve often pondered the scenario where you’re stranded in the desert with no food, 100 miles from the nearest aid, and you have to decide what your strategy is. Do you run? Walk? How fast? Seems like if you know your optimal pace, you can maximize your odds…

Future tech: read on the treadmill with “stabilized text”

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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treadmill-readingThere’s a big conference on human-computer interaction going on in Boston right now. Not a hotbed of sports-related research, but I noticed this fantastic research project from Purdue University’s Healthcare and Information Visualization Engineering (HIVE) Lab:

ReadingMate: An Infrared-Camera-Based Content Stabilization Technique to Help Joggers Read While Running on a Treadmill.”

The contraption monitors the bobbing of your head, and makes the text that you’re trying to read bob up and down on a screen, so that it seems to you that it’s not moving at all. Seems unlikely, but… Continue reading “Future tech: read on the treadmill with “stabilized text””