Sport and memory go hand in hand

Press Release:

If sport is good for the body, it also seems to be good for the brain. By evaluating memory performance following a sport session, neuroscientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) demonstrate that an intensive physical exercise session as short as 15 minutes improves memory, including the acquisition of new motor skills. How? Through the action of endocanabinoids, molecules known to increase synaptic plasticity. This study, to be read in the journal Scientific Reports, highlights the virtues of sport for both health and education. School programmes and strategies aimed at reducing the effects of neurodegeneration on memory could indeed benefit from it. 

Very often, right after a sporting exercise – especially endurance such as running or cycling – one feels physical and psychological well-being. This feeling is due to endocannabinoids, small molecules produced by the body during physical exertion. «They circulate in the blood and easily cross the blood-brain barrier. They then bind to specialise cellular receptors and trigger this feeling of euphoria. In addition, these same molecules bind to receptors in the hippocampus, the main brain structure for memory processing,» says Kinga Igloi, lecturer in the laboratory of Professor Sophie Schwartz, at UNIGE Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Basic Neurosciences, who led this work. «But what is the link between sport and memory? This is what we wanted to understand,» she continues.  

Intense effort is more effective

To test the effect of sport on motor learning, scientists asked a group of 15 young and healthy men, who were not athletes, to take a memory test under three conditions of physical exercise: after 30 minutes of moderate cycling, after 15 minutes of intensive cycling (defined as 80% of their maximum heart rate), or after a period of rest. «The exercise was as follows: a screen showed four points placed next to each other. Each time one of the dots briefly changed into a star, the participant had to press the corresponding button as quickly as possible», explains Blanca Marin Bosch, researcher in the same laboratory. «It followed a predefined and repeated sequence in order to precisely evaluate how movements were learnt. This is very similar to what we do when, for example, we learn to type on a keyboard as quickly as possible. After an intensive sports session, the performance was much better.”

In addition to the results of the memory tests, the scientists observed changes in the activation of brain structures with functional MRI and performed blood tests to measure endocannabinoid levels. The different analyses concur: the faster individuals are, the more they activate their hippocampus (the brain area of memory) and the caudate nucleus (a brain structure involved in motor processes). Moreover, their endocannabinoid levels follow the same curve: the higher the level after intense physical effort, the more the brain is activated and the better the brain’s performance. «These molecules are involved in synaptic plasticity, i.e. the way in which neurons are connected to each other, and thus may act on long-term potentiation, the mechanism for optimal consolidation of memory,» says Blanca Marin Bosch.

Improving school learning or preventing Alzheimer’s disease 

In a previous study, the research team had already shown the positive effect of sport on another type of memory, associative memory. However, contrary to what is shown here, they had observed that a sport session of moderate intensity produced better results. It therefore shows that, as not all forms of memory use the same brain mechanisms, not all sports intensities have the same effects. It should be noted that in all cases, physical exercise improves memory more than inaction. 

By providing precise neuroscientific data, these studies make it possible to envisage new strategies for improving or preserving memory. «Sports activity can be an easy to implement, minimally invasive and inexpensive intervention. For example, would it be useful to schedule a sports activity at the end of a school morning to consolidate memory and improve learning?”

Improving academic learning or preventing Alzheimer’s disease 

In a previous study, the research team had already shown the positive effect of sport on another type of memory, associative memory. But, contrary to what is shown here, they had observed that a sport session of moderate intensity, not high intensity, produced better results. Thus, just as not all forms of memory use the same brain mechanisms, not all sports intensities have the same effects. It should be noted that in all cases, physical exercise improves memory more than inaction. 

By providing precise neuroscientific data, these studies make it possible to envisage new strategies for improving or preserving memory. «Sports activity can be an easy to implement, minimally invasive and inexpensive intervention. Would it be useful, for example, to plan a moment of sport at the end of a school morning to consolidate school learning,» Kinga Igloi wonders, who, with her colleagues at Sophie Schwartz’s laboratory, aims to achieve such practical objectives. 

Neuroscientists are currently pursuing their work by studying memory disorders, and in particular by studying populations at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. «Some people as young as 25 years of age may experience subtle memory deficits characterised by overactivation of the hippocampus. We want to evaluate the extent to which sports practice could help compensate for these early deficits that are precursors to Alzheimer’s disease.», conclude the authors.

Sport Participation for People with Fibromyalgia

Press Release:

Fibromyalgia and resistance exercise have often been considered an impossible combination. But with proper support and individually adjusted exercises, female patients achieved considerable health improvements, according to research carried out at Sahlgrenska Academy.

“If the goal for these women is to improve their strength, then they shouldn’t be afraid to exercise, but they need to exercise the right way. It has long been said that they will only experience more pain as a result of resistance exercise, that it doesn’t work. But in fact, it does,” says Anette Larsson, whose dissertation was in physical therapy and who is an active physical therapist at Närhälsan in Herrljunga.

As part of her dissertation, she studied 130 women aged between 20–65 years with fibromyalgia, a disease in which nine of ten cases are women. It is characterized by widespread muscle pain and increased pain sensitivity, often combined with fatigue, reduced physical capacity and limitation of activities in daily life.

About half of the women in the study (67) were selected at random to undergo a program of person-centered, progressive resistance exercise led by a physical therapist. The other 63 women comprised the control group and underwent a more traditional therapy program with relaxation exercises. The training and exercises lasted for fifteen weeks and were held twice a week.
Substantial improvements

“The women who did resistance exercise began at very light weights, which were determined individually for each participant because they have highly varying levels of strength. We began at 40 percent of the max and then remained that level for three to four weeks before increasing to 60 percent,” explains Anette Larsson.

More than six of ten women were able to reach a level of exercise at 80 percent of their maximum strength. One of the ten was at 60 percent; the others were below that figure. Five individuals chose to stop the training due to increased pain. The group as a whole had 71 percent attendance at the exercise sessions.

“On a group level, the improvements in the fibromyalgia group were significant for essentially everything we measured. The women felt better, gained muscle strength, had less pain, better pain tolerance, better health-related quality of life and less limitation of activities. Some of the women did not manage the exercise and became worse, which is also an important part of the findings,” says Anette Larsson.


Focus on individuals with fibromyalgia:
In the control group, the improvements were not as significant, but even there, hand and arm strength improved. The relaxation exercises probably led to reduced muscle tension in the arms and shoulders, which in turn allowed the participants to develop more strength.

The findings for the women in the resistance exercise group are affected by several factors, including the degree of pain and fear of movement before and during the exercise period. Progress for the group as a whole can largely be attributed to the person-centered approach, with individually adjusted exercises and loads and support of a physical therapist, according to Anette Larsson.

“An interview study we conducted shows clearly that the women need support to be able to choose the right exercises and the right loads; they also need help when pain increases. This requires, quite simply, support from someone who knows their disease, preferably a physical therapist.”

The Enigma of Shin Splints in Athletes

Shin splints is a bad term for a problem that is common in athletes, especially runners. The term just means ‘sore leg’ so it could be due to any one of many different problems, so as a term it should no longer be used. When the term is used, it is probably most often referring to the condition of medial tibial stress syndrome.

This problem is one of a stress reaction along the edge of the shin bone or tibia in the leg. Running is the most common cause of medial tibial stress syndrome. The symptoms can usually be palpated along the edge of the bone. Initially its typically not painful when running, but eventually it progresses to the stage that it i painful when running.

Typically the problem is one of the running technique and the runner can often benefit from a gait analysis and a running retraining program to change the way they run. Typically this will involve running with a wider base of gait.

Super Bowl Fans eat 11 000 calories each on game day

[PRESSWIRE] 29 January, 2020 – UK — New research released today reveals that the average football fan in the United States, will eat a staggering 10,821 calories and 180 grams of saturated fat this Super Bowl Sunday.

  • 7 in 10 football fans will overindulge this Super Bowl Sunday, with the average fan planning to eat food totaling 10,821 calories and 180 grams of saturated fat
  • Football fans are more likely to know the number of touchdowns or yards their quarterback has thrown this year, than their cholesterol figures
  • Less than half know that high cholesterol has no symptoms
  • New website reveals and ranks the healthiest States

The mind-boggling quantity is more than four and half times the recommended daily calorie intake – and equates to the same level of saturated fat a person should consume in a week. 

The research comes from LetsGetChecked, a leading direct-to-consumer at-home health testing and insights company, which polled 1,000 Americans who plan to watch this Sunday’s Super Bowl. The average fan said that on game day, they plan to eat:

  • 2.7 portions of hot wings
  • 3.2 slices of pizza
  • 2.1 portions of fries
  • 3.4 bags of chips
  • 1.9 portions of chilli
  • 2.4 burgers
  • 1.7 sliders
  • 2 hot dogs
  • 2.7 portions of nachos
  • 3 pieces of fried chicken
  • 1.8 ribs
  • 1.7 sausages
  • 1.6 slices of cake
  • 1.8 brownies
  • 1.8 bowls of ice cream
  • 2.3 portions of salad
  • 2.1 subs
  • 1.7 bags of sweets
  • 1.9 bars of chocolate

The huge amount of food can be partly accounted for by seven in ten (69 per cent) football fans saying they plan to overindulge on game day.

The figures are concerning, with health experts calling the consumption of food at this level, on any kind of regular basis, dangerous.

Dr Robert Mordkin, Chief Medical Officer for LetsGetChecked said: “Binge eating to this extent for any prolonged period of time can lead to a variety of health related issues such as weight gain and hypertension.  Both of these diagnoses are often seen in patients who have high cholesterol levels.”

The startling statistics show that many football fans have a far better knowledge of their team’s playing statistics than their own health statistics.

Some 40 per cent of those who consider themselves to be football fans can accurately recall how many yards their quarter back has thrown this year; 45 per cent know how many touchdowns they have thrown, and 38 per cent know how many yards their running back has rushed on average.

In contrast, just 36 per cent of Americans know what their own cholesterol level is.

The survey also revealed that most Americans do not have a grasp on the amount of saturated fat that exists within classic Super Bowl snacks.

Highlighting the lack of insight, the average football fan believes there are 6.4 grams of saturated fat in a burger, when in fact, there is on average 15. Additionally, respondents believe there to be 6.5 grams of saturated fat in a sausage, when the actual amount is 10. 

In total, a quarter (25 per cent) of football fans, have been diagnosed with high cholesterol. However, the figures could be far higher, as more than a fifth (21 per cent) have never been tested. This may be due to widespread misconceptions around symptoms of high cholesterol.

For example, a quarter of respondents (25 per cent) think that gaining weight is a symptom of high cholesterol, whilst 18 per cent believe shortness of breath is.

In addition, 15 per cent believe light-headedness and chest pain could be symptoms of a high-cholesterol. However, the reality is that there are no symptoms – something just 43 per cent of Americans know.

The advice from the National Institutes of Health and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute stipulates that men aged 45-65 and women aged 55-65, should have their cholesterol checked every one to two years. Both bodies recommend adults aged between 20 and 45 years of age should have their cholesterol checked every five years, while screening for children should start between nine and 11 repeated every five years – more frequent if there is a family history of the condition.

Dr Robert Mordkin, Chief Medical Officer for LetsGetChecked said: “First things first; we don’t want to make footballs fans feel guilty about a little overindulgence on Super Bowl Sunday. But the amount of food many fans plan to put away, is quite staggering and I would ask people to question if they need to be eating quite so much. It becomes a problem when the occasional overindulgence becomes a regular occurrence.

He continued: “The research shows that there are Americans that are currently in the dark about their cholesterol levels – in fact, more can recall complex player and team stats, than they can their own cholesterol level. High cholesterol is linked to various serious, sometimes fatal conditions such as heart attack and stroke. I encourage those that don’t know their cholesterol numbers to take control of their health and get screened. Knowledge is power and it’s only through knowing that we can really hope to take control of our health.”

The data forms part of an ongoing study that LetsGetChecked has been conducting into the way health varies from state-to-state. A new website launched today, allows users to compare, based on eight different health factors, which States are the healthiest.

Corns and Callus of the Feet in Athletes

Corns and calluses are due to too much pressure on an area of the foot. They are common in the general population and can be more common in those who play sports as the pressures on the feet are higher. If the pressure is more diffuse, then that typically causes a callus. If the pressure is more focused on a smaller area, then that typically causes a corn.

The too much pressure might come from the shoes if there is a foot deformity present. That deformity may be a bunion, hallux valgus or a hammer toe. If the pressure is higher under the ball of the foot, then that may be due to a prominent metatarsal head and result in a callus.

The only way to get rid of a corn or callus permanently is to remove the causes. A good podiatrist can easily remove the thickened skin of the corn and callus and this will give pain relief. However, they will come back unless the cause is removed.

There is a popular my that corns have roots that they grow back from if that root is not properly removed. They do not have roots. If a corn is removed properly by a podiatrist it will come back becasue the cause of the corn (the high pressure) is still there, not becasue there was a root that was left there by the podiatrist.

It may be that surgery, for example to fix something like a hammer toe, may be needed to remove the cause. A callus under the foot could be treated with a insole that remove pressure of the areas of higher pressure.

If you have a problem with a corn or callus, then see a podiatrist as to the best options to remove the cause so that it is no longer a problem.