How long does it take to get fit?

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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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I just noticed an interesting study from the May issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. German researchers had 18 untrained subjects go on a one-year, three-days-a-week walking and jogging program, and measured their progress during the year see how their fitness progressed. The key was that they controlled the intensity of the 45-minute sessions using heart rate, so that the subjects were “trying” at roughly the same level throughout the year.

So how long does it take to see real gains, and when do they start to plateau? Continue reading “How long does it take to get fit?”

More on sleep

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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Okay, I posted too soon about the sleep research, before I saw a couple of other interesting studies from the same conference (the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies). Continue reading “More on sleep”

Yes, sleep is good

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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A new Stanford University study asked five members of the women’s tennis team to extend their sleep times to 10 hours a night, and monitored the changes in athletic performance:

Results of the study indicated that sleep extension in athletes was associated with a faster sprinting drill (approximately 19.12 seconds at baseline versus 17.56 seconds at end of sleep extension), increased hitting accuracy including valid serves (12.6 serves compared to 15.61 serves), and hitting depth drill (10.85 hits versus 15.45 hits).

This is not earth-shattering news. Cheri Mah, the researcher involved, presented similar results on swimmers in 2008, and on basketball players in 2007. I also wrote a Jockology column about this research last summer.

Still, even though we all know about the benefits of sleep, that knowledge is usually a sort of abstract idea that “sleep is good” — so it’s interesting to see the benefits quantified (albeit not very rigorously). And it’s also interesting to see that the goal sleep time for hard-training athletes was 10 hours, a lot more than the eight hours most of us wish we could find time for.

How to swim faster without 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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You may remember the avalanche of world records in the swimming pool last summer in Beijing, thanks to the reduced drag of Speedo’s new LZR suits. (Olympic records fell in all but two events!) The Science of Sport has a very interesting post about how records are continuing to fall this year, thanks to an even newer generation of suits, such as the polyurethane-covered suit worn by Frederick Bosquet to break the 50m freestyle record (see picture):

So good are the new suits, that Bosquet, a man who had never, in 7 years, made an Olympic final, managed to smash 0.34 seconds off the old world record in the shortest event in the pool.

Continue reading “How to swim faster without training”

Exercise for back pain

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 biggest conference in sports science, the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, wrapped up last week in Seattle. It’ll take a few weeks to sort through the rubble and pull out the worthy new studies, but I figured I’d start with a University of Alberta study on back pain, since it’s something that will afflict about 80 percent of North Americans at some point in their lives.

Researchers took 240 people with chronic lower-back pain, and had them exercise with weights two, three or four days a week, or else not at all. The verdict:

“While it could be assumed that someone with back pain should not be exercising frequently, our findings show that working with weights four days a week provides the greatest amount of pain relief and quality of life,” said Robert Kell, lead author of the study…

Over the course of the 16-week study, the four-a-week group reduced pain by 28 percent, the three-a-week by 18 percent, and the two-a-week by 14 percent. Obviously we’ll need some more details of what, exactly, the exercise program consisted of — but it seems to jive with the general trend towards active recovery rather than immobilization.