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Archive for July, 2009

Fixing tennis elbow with a “rubber bar” [updated with pics]

July 12th, 2009

[updated to include pictures of how to do the exercise]

The annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine is taking place right now in Colorado. Among the research being presented is a new approach to “tennis elbow,” which apparently affects three percent of the population. The study took 21 patients and gave them both the standard conservative treatment (stretching, ultrasound, massage, heat and ice), and then split them into two groups for wrist strengthening exercises:

The eccentric training group performed isolated eccentric wrist extensor strengthening using the rubber bar (Flexbar, Akron OH) while the standard treatment group performed isotonic wrist strengthening exercises.

Apparently the fancy rubber bar worked so well that they halted the trial early to let the controls get the good stuff, which is generally a sign that the researchers are seeing a very strong effect. Given how much of a nuisance tennis elbow can be, this seems like good news. The only problem is that I have no idea what an isolated eccentric wrist exercise with a rubber bar looks like. I’ve asked for some further description or diagrams to help clarify, and I’ll post them here when I get them.

Update: I just received a copy of the research paper, along with some pictures to illustrate the exercises. Read more…

“Jaked” suit chalks up more swimming records

July 10th, 2009

There’s a nice article in today’s Globe and Mail about Amanda Reason, the 15-year-old swimmer who set a world record in winning the 50-metre breaststroke at the Canadian world championships trials on Wednesday. Of course, records in swimming aren’t what they used to be, as I complained last month. Sure enough, the article notes:

Amanda has sliced chunks off her best times this year, something she credits to her new team and coach.

Others have also pointed to her new swimsuit, called the Jaked, which is the latest evolution in the skin-tight synthetic suits that helped swimmers break more than 120 world records in the past couple years. Read more…

How to drink during exercise: gulp, don’t sip

July 7th, 2009
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From an interesting interview with University of Pittsburgh sports nutritionist Leslie Bonci, the author of Sports Nutrition for Coaches, in the New York Times:

Q: Should we keep sipping fluids while we’re exercising?

A: How we drink can make a difference in how optimally we hydrate our body. A lot of people sip liquids, but gulping is better. Gulps of fluid leave the stomach more rapidly. It’s important to do this. It seems counterintuitive, it seems like gulping would cause a cramp. People are more likely to have stomach cramps sipping because fluid stays in their gut too long.

When you take more fluid in, gulps as opposed to sips, you have a greater volume of fluid in the stomach. That stimulates the activity of the stretch receptors in the stomach, which then increase intra-gastric pressure and promote faster emptying. This is why gulping is preferred.

Definitely news to me! The whole interview is worth a read, as a reminder of sports nutrition basics.

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How hard is a spinning workout?

July 2nd, 2009
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The latest Jockology column takes a look at “Spinning” — the indoor cycling classes whose popularity has rocketed over the past few years.

[T]he ingredients of a typical indoor cycling class somehow combine to lift workouts to heights that most participants wouldn’t achieve on their own. The alchemy of group exercise is well known to runners and aerobics classes, but spinning has found a recipe so powerful that researchers studying it have been forced to re-evaluate their definition of “maximal” exercise – and sound a warning for beginners who may wander into a class unprepared. [read the rest of the column]

I have to admit, the research on this topic surprised me. I knew people considered spinning to be a tough workout, but not “supra-maximal”! In the column, I focus on spinning compared to riding a stationary bike on your own — but I’d be interested to hear from serious cyclists about how spinning compares to a hard group ride on the roads. Does the same group dynamic apply outdoors?

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Cardio exercise gets more blood to the aging brain

July 1st, 2009

We’ve been told repeatedly in recent years that exercise is good for the aging brain. An interesting new study, due to appear in next week’s issue of the American Journal of Neuroradiology, offers a clear picture (literally) of why that is. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took brain images (magnetic resonance angiographs, to be precise) of two groups of seniors — one group consistently exercised at least three hours a week, the other reported less than 90 minutes of any type of physical activity weekly:

Aerobically active subjects exhibited more small-diameter [blood] vessels with less tortuosity, or twisting, than the less active group, exhibiting a vessel pattern similar to younger adults…

The brain’s blood vessels naturally narrow and become more tortuous with advancing age, but the study showed the cerebrovascular patterns of active patients appeared “younger” than those of relatively inactive subjects.

It’s a pretty small study (14 subjects), and it’s always worth asking whether there are other underlying factors that could explain both the higher activity levels AND the better blood vessels in one group. Still, the link between aerobic exercise and nice big blood vessels seems pretty logical. Next step: take some sedentary seniors, get them to start exercising, and see if the blood vessels in their brains get bigger.

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