Being able to quick draw is probably the number-one skill in this sport

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

John Jackson is credited with founding the sport of archery dodgeball in 2011:

Also known as combat archery and archery tag, it’s grown to more than 1,300 locations throughout the U.S.

Rules differ state to state, but essentially when a referee blows a whistle, teams rush to a central dividing line, grab as many arrows as possible and attempt to hit their opponents while simultaneously dodging incoming fire. Unlike dodgeball, players can shield themselves behind inflatable obstacles. If players are hit, they’re eliminated and move to their team’s sideline. If they catch an arrow, the shooter is out and a sidelined teammate can return.

“At a distance, you can catch or dodge an arrow, but at close range you’re getting hit,” Mr. Reckner says. “The speed and force is comparable to a dodgeball thrown by an adult who is pretty good at dodgeball.”

The arrows are foam tipped:

Games consist of seven rounds, each of which may have different rules. For example, each team may have a target resembling a domino, with foam circles as dots. If a player shoots a foam circle out of the opposing target, an eliminated player on the shooter’s team can return to play. The round ends when one team has all players eliminated.

“It’s easy to think the most accurate shot wins, but really the game is more about being quick on your feet, being fast with the bow and having solid cardio conditioning,” Mr. Reckner says. The Cincy Aimbots have won a round in as little as 30 seconds, but Mr. Reckner says some last over five minutes. “Getting gassed in the middle of a round makes you an easy target,” he says.

Mr. Reckner started watching YouTube videos of Danish archer Lars Andersen:

To build speed, he lines up five arrows on the ground and attempts to pick up, load and fire all five within 10 seconds. “Being able to quick draw is probably the number-one skill in this sport,” he says. He repeats the drill 10 to 20 times. To build muscle memory, he loads an arrow on the bowstring and draws it back 25 to 50 times as quickly as possible.

Mr. Reckner says being able to hold an extra arrow is very useful—you become vulnerable when you attempt to grab an arrow from the gym floor. To build grip strength, he practices shooting while holding an extra arrow or two in his left hand. He also keeps three grip trainers of varying resistances in his living room. While watching TV, he’ll do three sets of 10 reps with each grip trainer. “I don’t have the biggest hands, so a strong grip helps me hold a bow and extra arrows,” he says.

He rides his Peloton bike four to five days a week, simulating hill climbs to build leg strength. “There is a lot of squatting during the matches, to either hide behind a low barrier or to pick up an arrow from the arena floor,” he says. He isn’t as committed to his strength routine and says he only uses his home gym one to two days a week, performing dead lifts, squats, bench presses and overhead presses.

Trekkers with the biggest lungs, the biggest spleens, and the biggest reduction in heart rate during a breath-hold were the least likely to develop symptoms of acute mountain sickness

Sunday, March 8th, 2020

Ever since reading James Nestor’s 2014 book Deep, Alex Hutchinson has been fascinated by the scarcely believable feats of freedivers:

Plunging 335 feet below the surface of the ocean and making it back on a single breath, or simply holding your breath for 11 minutes and 35 seconds, clearly requires a very special set of skills and traits.

But until a recent conference talk, I’d never considered whether those same characteristics might be useful in other settings where oxygen is scarce — such as the thin air of high-altitude trekking and mountaineering.

[...]

Schagatay’s initial research interest was in what she calls “professional” freedivers, as opposed to recreational or competitive freedivers.

[...]

These diving populations, Schagatay and others have found, share three distinctive characteristics with successful competitive freedivers, who take part in contests around the world sanctioned by AIDA, the international freediving authority:

Big lungs: In one study of 14 world championship freedivers, vital capacity — the maximal amount of air you can expel from your lungs — was correlated with their competition scores. The three best divers in the group had an average vital capacity of 7.9 liters, while the three worst averaged just 6.7 liters. And it’s not just genetic: Schagatay found that an 11-week program of stretching increased lung volume by nearly half a liter.

Lots of red blood cells: Divers do tend to have higher levels of hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen. That’s probably a direct result of their diving. Even if you just do a series of 15 breath holds, you’ll have a surge of natural EPO an hour later, which triggers red blood cell formation.

But there’s a more direct and immediate way of boosting your red blood cell count: squeezing your spleen, which can store about 300 milliliters of concentrated red blood cells. Seals, who are among the animal kingdom’s most impressive divers, actually store about half their red blood cells in their spleens, so they don’t waste energy pumping all that extra blood around when it’s not needed. When you hold your breath (or even just do a hard workout), your spleen contracts and sends extra oxygen-rich blood into circulation. Not surprisingly, spleen size is correlated with freediving performance.

A robust “mammalian diving response”: When you hold your breath, your heart rate drops by about 10 percent, on average. Submerge your face in water, and it will drop by about 20 percent. Your peripheral blood vessels will also constrict, shunting precious oxygen to the brain and heart. Together, these oxygen-conserving reflexes are known as the mammalian diving response — and once again, the strength of this response is correlated with competitive diving performance.

[...]

In a study published last year, they followed 18 trekkers to Everest Base Camp at 17,500 feet (5,360 meters). Sure enough, the trekkers with the biggest lungs, the biggest spleens, and the biggest reduction in heart rate during a breath-hold were the least likely to develop symptoms of acute mountain sickness.

The size of the spleen isn’t the only thing that matters — its benefits depend on a strong squeezing response to get all the red blood cells out. In a 2014 study of eight Everest summiters, they found that three repeated breath holds prior to the ascent caused spleen volume to squeeze, on average, from 213 milliliters to 184 milliliters. After the ascent, the same three breath holds caused the spleen to squeeze down to 132 milliliters. Prolonged exposure to altitude had strengthened the spleen’s diving response. In fact, there’s also evidence that simply arriving at moderate altitude will cause a sustained mild spleen contraction, as your body struggles to cope with the oxygen-poor air.

Getting there six days early helps

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

There are no shortcuts to feeling good at altitude, Alex Hutchinson (Endure) finds, as he summarizes a recent study:

One of the most pressing questions for people slotting mountain adventures into precious vacation is how much time they need to allot to acclimatization. Will arriving a day or two early make an appreciable difference to their performance and health? This is also, as it turns out, a crucial question for military personnel being deployed on mountain missions where they need to quite literally hit the ground running. Optimizing that calculation is the motivation for a new study from researchers led by Robert Kenefick at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, in Natick, Massachusetts, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The question the new study asks is: if you’re headed to 14,000 feet (4,300 meters) and need to perform well right away, is it worth trying to get there (or partway there) two days early? Specifically, the researchers had 66 volunteers complete a series of tests, including a 5-mile time trial on a treadmill set at 3 percent grade, at the altitude research lab on the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado. For the two days prior to the tests, the subjects were split into four groups who either camped in Pikes Peak National Forest at 8,200 feet, 9,800 feet, or 11,500 feet, or stayed at the research station at 14,000 feet. A previous study from the same group had found that spending six days at 7,200 feet did significantly improve performance after a rapid ascent to 14,000 feet, an approach known as staging. But who’s got six extra vacation days? The goal this time was to do it faster by going higher.

There was one other variable the researchers threw in. Exercising at altitude puts your oxygen-starved body in even greater stress, so adding some workouts during your acclimatization period might serve as an additional adaptive stimulus.

[...]

The result of all these machinations? A big fat nothing. All eight of the subgroups produced essentially identical results in the final testing at 14,000 feet.

[...]

But if we have to extract some general rules of thumb for mountain adventures from this body of research, I’d go with: getting there six days early helps; getting there two days early doesn’t; and, since we don’t yet know what happens between days two and six, you should err on the safe side and lobby for more vacation days.

Does owning a car hurt your health?

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Does owning a car hurt your health? To really answer that, you’d need a randomized trial:

But who’s going to assign long-term car ownership on the basis of a coin flip?

The city of Beijing, it turns out. Because of mounting congestion, Beijing has limited the number of new car permits it issues to 240,000 a year since 2011. Those permits are issued in a monthly lottery with more than 50 losers for every winner – and that, as researchers from the University of California Berkeley, Renmin University in China and the Beijing Transport Institute recently reported in the British Medical Journal, provides an elegant natural experiment on the health effects of car ownership.

Led by Berkeley economist Michael Anderson, the researchers followed 180 permit winners and 757 losers for roughly five years, and looked for differences caused by the acquisition of a car.

“The randomization of the lottery is what gives us confidence,” Anderson explained in a statement. “We know that the winners should be comparable to the losers on all attributes other than car ownership.”

Not surprisingly, the winners took 2.9 fewer rides a week on Beijing’s dense public-transit network, representing a 45-per-cent drop in usage. They also spent 24.2 fewer minutes each day day walking or biking than the non-winners, a 54-per-cent drop.

You’d expect these behaviour changes to have health impacts. Over all, the winners gained an average of just more than two kilograms, a difference that was not statistically significant. But the effects were more obvious when looking only at winners aged 50 or older: They gained an average of 10.3 kilograms, a statistically significant and worrisome increase.

Your two best strategies are to be really healthy and really rich

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

If you hope to live a long time, Alex Hutchinson (Endure) reminds us, your two best strategies are to be really healthy and really rich:

That’s the conventional wisdom and the statistics seem to back it up. But a surprising new study that links the longevity of Olympic athletes to their socioeconomic status offers a more nuanced picture of why elite athletes tend to outlive the rest of us. It’s not just about muscles and money — it’s also about the stress of competition, not only in sport, but in life.

Adriaan Kalwij, an economist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, combed through the records of every Dutch athlete who competed in the Summer and Winter Games between 1896 and 1964, excluding more recent years because most of those athletes are still alive. Using their birth dates, death dates and stated occupation, he was able to explore how socioeconomic status (SES) influenced their longevity.

The results, published in PLOS One in December, confirmed that the 934 Olympians outlived their age-matched Dutch peers by a few years, as other studies of elite athletes have previously found. They also found that the influence of SES has steadily increased over the past century.

In the oldest cohort of athletes, born between 1852 and 1899, SES had no significant effect on longevity. In a sense, Kalwij says, this is what you might expect of Olympians: “excellent innate health could make them ‘immune’ to a SES-lifespan gradient.”

But in the next cohort of athletes, born between 1900 and 1919, a gradient emerges. Those classed as low SES, such as unskilled labourers, lived on average five years less than medium (teachers, office workers) and high (lawyers, doctors) SES athletes.

And in the most recent cohort, born between 1920 and 1947, an even wider gap emerges: High SES athletes lived five years longer than medium SES athletes, who in turn lived six years longer than low SES athletes — a stunning difference of 11 years between the top and bottom group, despite their healthy youth.

What’s most surprising about this trend is that it’s going the wrong way. You’d expect that the strengthening of social programs such as universal health care and state pensions over the past half-century would have reduced the health penalty incurred by poverty. Instead, Kalwij’s results join a large body of data across numerous countries, including Canada, suggesting that the influence of social class on lifespan has been growing since the 1950s.

While there are numerous factors that could contribute to an SES-health gradient, including access to health care and behaviours such as smoking and drinking, Kalwij believes that psychological stress may play a role.

I think we need to keep in mind that socio-economic status changed dramatically over the 20th Century, from inherited wealth and titles to inherited traits.

Smooth-striding beauties sometimes finish at the back of the pack

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Running, Alex Hutchinson notes, is surprisingly complicated:

The physiologist and coach Jack Daniels once filmed a bunch of runners in stride, then showed the footage to coaches and biomechanists to see if they could eyeball who was the most efficient. “They couldn’t tell,” Daniels later recalled. “No way at all.” Famously awkward-looking runners like Paula Radcliffe and Alberto Salazar sometimes turn out to be extraordinarily efficient. Smooth-striding beauties sometimes finish at the back of the pack.

[...]

One solution to this problem is to slow it all down. Film a runner and watch the footage in slow motion. Or better yet, attach a bunch of markers to key joints, feed the data into a computer, and create a three-dimensional model of the runner’s stride, so that you can analyze every joint angle and acceleration at your leisure. That’s what biomechanics researchers have been doing for years now, trying to link certain gait characteristics — a knee that rotates inward more than usual, say — with particular injuries like patellofemoral pain or IT band syndrome. They’ve had hints of success, but overall the results have been somewhat muddled and hard to interpret.

[...]

They ran the data from 3D gait analysis of a bunch of runners, some injured and some healthy, through a form of artificial intelligence called unsupervised machine learning, to see if it could group the runners into categories based on their strides, and whether those categories would reflect the types of injuries the runners were subject to. The answers — yes to the first question, no to the second — are both worth thinking about.

Instinctive sleeping and resting postures

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

Michael Tetley presents an anthropological and zoological approach to the treatment of low back and joint pain, based on instinctive sleeping and resting postures:

If you are a medical professional and have been trained in a “civilised” country you probably know next to nothing about the primate Homo sapiens and how they survive in the wild. You probably do not know that nature has provided an automatic manipulator to correct most spinal and peripheral joint lesions in primates. In common with millions of other so called civilised people you suffer unnecessarily from musculoskeletal problems and are discouraged about how to treat the exponential rise in low back pain throughout the developed world. Humans are one of 200 species of primates.1 All primates suffer from musculoskeletal problems; nature, recognising this fact, has given primates a way to correct them.

The study of animals in the wild has been a lifelong pursuit. I grew up with tribal people and in 1953-4 commanded a platoon of African soldiers from nine tribes, who taught me to sleep on my side without a pillow so that I could listen out for danger with both ears. I have organised over 14 expeditions all over the world to meet native peoples and study their sleeping and resting postures. They all adopted similar postures and exhibited few musculoskeletal problems. I must emphasise that this is not a comparison of genes or races but of lifestyles. I tried to carry out surveys to collect evidence but they were meaningless, as tribespeople give you the answer they think you want. They often object to having their photographs taken, so I have demonstrated the postures.

Tetley was born in Kenya, where he encountered much worse Mau-Mauing than what Tom Wolfe described:

Mike, who was born and raised in Kenya speaking its native language Swahili, was conscripted to command indigenous troops in the King’s African Rifles as unrest began to spread throughout his homeland.

It was after Mau Mau militants ambushed a police truck that a battle erupted between the rivals.

A clash Mike so vividly recalls as it marked the last time he could appreciate the gift of sight before it was lost.

Remembering the battle, Mike said: “One of the Mau Mau threw a grenade at me and it landed by my foot. I jumped away from it and threw myself on the ground hoping that when it went off I wouldn’t get hit.

“The next thing I remember I was running flat out and I got a bullet in my right ear which came out of my right eye.

“My dad always said I didn’t have anything between my ears and now he’s got definite proof.

“The next thing I remember I fell over and as I picked myself up everything went black. I sat down and I can’t remember much more than that — not in a logical sense anyway.”

Dissatisfied with blasting their victim with a rifle — nearly killing him — the Mau Mau rebels returned armed with machetes to cut up Mike, who lay helpless on the ground nursing his wound. Powerless to defend himself, Mike has always owed his survival to an ally soldier, Reguton — with whom he still has regular contact — who shot dead the seven rebels.

“I was on the ground and they came forward with guns and knives and they tried to cut me up,” he said “Reguton had his gun and shot them and killed them. He killed seven of them from 25 yards — that’s very good shooting, particularly when you’ve only got 28 bullets in a magazine. From 25 yards he would have had three bullets for each person until they were on top of him — I’m very indebted to him.”

For Mike, vivid scenes of massacre and torture remain poignant in his memory. Images of bloodshed to which Mike was repeatedly exposed before he lost his sight have proved impossible to dispel from his mind.

More than 1,800 Kenyan civilians are known to have been murdered by the Mau Mau. Many of the murders of which they were guilty were brutal in the extreme and Mike recalled just one of the savage killings.

“I was walking back to my tent and there was a 12-year-old girl in the middle of the road with her throat cut. There was a note next to her which read ‘We’re not frightened of you, we’ll take you on, the army and the police. It was signed Corporal Kanwemba of the Mau Mau.”

Mike was transferred to a military hospital in England after the attack where he received the devastating news that he would never see again.

He enrolled in a physiotherapy course with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) — which brings us back to his paper:

Figure 1 shows a mountain gorilla lying on the ground on his side without a pillow — a position in which I have also seen chimpanzees and gibbons sleeping — and a Kenya African in a similar position on a palm leaf mattress on a concrete floor. Note how he uses his laterally rotated arm as a pillow and can listen out for danger with both ears.

Sleeping Figure 1A Kenyan

Sleeping Figure 1B Gorilla

When lying on one side you do not even need the arm as a pillow: when the lower shoulder is fully hunched, the neck is completely supported. I think the neck should deviate towards the ground as gravity then shuts the mouth, preventing insects from entering, and a little traction is applied to the cervical spine (fig 2, top). When the head is down, the vertebrae are stretched between two anchors and every time the ribs move through breathing the tension is increased, the vertebrae realign themselves, and the movement keeps the joints lubricated. Current thinking is to keep the spine straight by use of a pillow. Has anyone ever seen a gorilla shinning up a tree with a pillow? Note also the plantar flexed foot. A dorsiflexed foot rotates the knee and alters the Q angle (between the resultant pull of the quadriceps muscle and the patella tendon), producing uneven wear and, in time, pain.

Sleeping Figure 2B Side Lying Modified

Sleeping Figure 2A Side Lying

Tribal people do not like lying on the ground in the recovery position while wearing no clothes as the penis dangles in the dust and can get bitten by insects. When the legs are in the reverse recovery position (fig 2, bottom), the penis lies on the lower thigh and is protected. In this position the Achilles tendon of the leading foot can be inserted in the gap between the big toe and the first lesser toe to help correct a bunion.

When sleeping in the open in very cold climates and when the ground is wet, humans often resort to sleeping on their shins, like the Tibetan caravaneers photographed by Peter, Prince of Greece and Denmark, in 1938 (fig 3). Nature has not covered the anterior border of the tibia and the medial border of the ulna with muscle, so in this position there is only skin and bone in contact with the cold ground and heat loss is reduced. The body is also folded to conserve heat; both ears can listen for danger, be it lion or terrorist; and when the head is down gravity shuts the mouth and it is impossible to snore.

Sleeping Figure 3 Tibetans

Figure 4 shows the “lookout posture,” another position using the arm as a pillow to reset shoulder, elbow, and wrist: accessory joint movement is regained because the weight of the head resting on the arm is at right angles to the line of movement, producing a lateral glide. I have seen Howler monkeys using this position in Costa Rica

Sleeping Figure 4 Lookout Posture

Quadrupedal lying (fig 5) is ideal for stretching collagen fibre throughout the body. In the penis protect position, with the pelvis locked, the spine is rotated and flexed. With the elbows out sideways and the chest on the ground, many spinal lesions can be corrected gently using nature’s automatic manipulator. Animals are clever because they use the radiant heat from the sun to encourage relaxation of their muscles when they adopt this posture. In this photograph note that the dog’s sternum is in full contact with the ground but that of the human is not: this can be easily corrected by rotating the right arm medially to lower the sternum. It has been noted that guide dogs working in towns breathe the same pollutants as humans yet do not have asthma. Could this be because when they lie on their chests the kickback from the upper ribs keeps the corresponding vertebrae mobile, allowing the sympathetic system to work efficiently?

Sleeping Figure 5 Quadrupedal Lying

Arabs in the Sahara will sit in the position shown in figure 6 for hours and it keeps the forefoot aligned on the hindfoot, as the ischia rest directly on the calcanea and the feet point straight backwards. People who sit like this do not seem to get much osteoarthritis in their knees in old age. Cross legged sitting prevents arthritic hips. A flying doctor from Kenya remarked to me that over the years as local tribesmen became more civilised he more often saw arthritis of hips and knees.

Sleeping Figure 6 Sitting on the heels

The full squat, with the heels on the ground (fig 7) resets the sacroiliac joints; takes hips, knees and ankles through the full range; and can be very useful in treating backs. To start with, some Westerners have to hold on to a door frame.

Sleeping Figure 7 Full Squat

Largely anecdotal evidence has been collected by “old timers” for over 50 years from non-Western societies that low back pain and joint stiffness is markedly reduced by adopting natural sleeping and resting postures. This observation must be recorded to allow further research in this direction as these primitive societies no longer exist and the great apes living in the wild are heading for extinction. All we have to do is to be good primates and use these preventive techniques.

(Hat tip to Gwern.)

Two simple strategies for breaking bad habits are creating friction and changing cues

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Two simple strategies for breaking bad habits are creating friction and changing cues:

Physical distance is a simple source of friction. A 2014 study involved a bowl of buttered popcorn and a bowl of apple slices. One group of participants sat closer to popcorn than the apple slices, and the other sat closer to the apple slices. The first group ate three times more calories. The second group of participants could see and smell the popcorn, but the distance created friction, and they were less likely to eat it.

[...]

For example, researchers looked at the GPS data of people with gym memberships. Those who traveled about 3.7 miles to a gym went five or more times a month. However, those who had to travel around 5.2 miles went only about once a month.

[...]

Cues change naturally when you start new relationships, change jobs, or move. These offer a window of opportunity to act on your goals and desires without being dragged down by the cues that trigger your old habits.

For example, researchers found in a 2017 study that professional athletes whose performance had declined often improved after being traded to or signing with a new team. Another study found new residents of a small British town with strong environmental values mostly took the bus or cycled to work. But people who were not recent movers mostly drove even though they held similar values.

When cues change, it becomes easier to switch up your habits and routines.

It doesn’t collect data on how hard body parts are hitting the ground or other players

Friday, December 27th, 2019

Amazon-analyzed big data may not be enough to predict injuries in the NFL :

The Amazon Web Services partnership will try to close the gap with league-level data from the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, which capture location data, speed, and acceleration for every player on the field hundreds of times a minute through microchips in their pads. It also includes video footage of games, information on playing surface and environmental factors, and anonymized player injury data, according to the NFL. It doesn’t collect data on how hard body parts are hitting the ground or other players, which is one limitation, Binney says. But it can see, with granular detail, how and at what speed a player ran a play, changed direction, or made a tackle. The goal is to find out if any common elements of football are more likely than others to lead to any injury.

This stat caught my eye:

Currently, the injury count per game is holding steady at an average of six or seven.

That’s…high.

Heat training can boost your cool-weather performance

Monday, October 7th, 2019

A 2010 study from the University of Oregon found that 10 days of training in 104 degrees Fahrenheit boosted cyclists’ VO2max by 5 percent, Alex Hutchinson notes, even when the subjects were later tested in cool temperatures, and a new study out of Swansea University supports this finding:

The study involved 22 cyclists (all male, alas), all of whom were serious amateur cyclists training an average of 14 hours a week and competing regularly. The adaptation protocol was 10 consecutive days of cycling in the lab for 60 minutes at an intensity equal to 50 percent of their VO2max, with half of them in the heat group at a room temperature of 100.4 F (38 degrees Celsius) and the other half in a control group at 68 F (20 C). They also continued with their normal training outside the lab, subtracting their lab rides to maintain roughly the same training volume as usual. The outcome measure on the test days was VO2max, a marker of aerobic fitness that has a reasonably good correlation with race performance, tested at 68 F (20 C).

If you looked at the data right after the heat adaptation period, or even a couple of days later, you’d conclude that it makes you worse. The VO2max readings were lower. But three days after the heat adaptation, VO2max readings started to climb, and four days afterwards, they peaked at 4.9 percent higher than baseline, strikingly similar to the 2010 Oregon study. The control group, meanwhile, hardly saw any change.

CR is unpleasant to most humans

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Rapamycin is an immunosuppressant for transplant patients, but it’s also been found to increase lifespan in lab animals. Dr. Alan Green, who prescribes rapamycin for anti-aging purposes, recommends Blagosklonny’s paper, Disease or not, aging is easily treatable:

Is aging a disease? It does not matter because aging is already treated using a combination of several clinically-available drugs, including rapamycin. Whether aging is a disease depends on arbitrary definitions of both disease and aging. For treatment purposes, aging is a deadly disease (or more generally, pre-disease), despite being a normal continuation of normal organismal growth. It must and, importantly, can be successfully treated, thereby delaying classic age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and neurodegeneration.

[...]

As the simplest example, calorie restriction (CR) slows aging in diverse organisms, including primates [43-50]. Similarly, intermittent fasting (IF) and ketogenic diet (severe carbohydrate restriction) extend life span in mammals [48, 51-54]. CR (as well as carbohydrate restriction and IF fasting) improves health in humans [45, 48, 53, 55-62]. However, CR is unpleasant to most humans and its life-extending capacity is limited. Nutrients activate the mTOR (molecular Target of Rapamycin) nutrient-sensing pathway [63-65] and, as we will discuss mTOR drives aging, inhabitable by rapamycin. Rapamycin-based anti-aging therapies have been recently implemented by Dr. Alan Green (https://rapamycintherapy.com).

There’s a bit of circularity there.

See obstacles as opportunities

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

The PK Silver program sounds ludicrous at first, but parkour for seniors makes perfect sense, if your goal is to train up balance to prevent falls:

Mejia helps break down traditional Parkour moves into versions that are safe and manageable for the older crowd, and also challenge their balance, strength, and flexibility.

Nancy Lorentz, 56, who can effortlessly swing off a tree branch and go right into a somersault, created the program, called PK Silver, in 2016, hoping to share her love of Parkour while helping other people over 50 stay safe.

“We’re a fitness-and-falls prevention program that is Parkour-based,” she said, noting that 27,000 people die from falls every year and that using modified Parkour moves could help address that problem. Plus, she likes the Parkour philosophy.

“You just see obstacles as being opportunities,” she said. “Yes, there is an element of risk in it, but you can’t improve someone’s balance by keeping them on the couch all the time.”

Watch the video.

A chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Chess is physically demanding:

The 1984 World Chess Championship was called off after five months and 48 games because defending champion Anatoly Karpov had lost 22 pounds. “He looked like death,” grandmaster and commentator Maurice Ashley recalls.

In 2004, winner Rustam Kasimdzhanov walked away from the six-game world championship having lost 17 pounds. In October 2018, Polar, a U.S.-based company that tracks heart rates, monitored chess players during a tournament and found that 21-year-old Russian grandmaster Mikhail Antipov had burned 560 calories in two hours of sitting and playing chess — or roughly what Roger Federer would burn in an hour of singles tennis.

Robert Sapolsky, who studies stress in primates at Stanford University, says a chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day while playing in a tournament, three times what an average person consumes in a day. Based on breathing rates (which triple during competition), blood pressure (which elevates) and muscle contractions before, during and after major tournaments, Sapolsky suggests that grandmasters’ stress responses to chess are on par with what elite athletes experience.

“Grandmasters sustain elevated blood pressure for hours in the range found in competitive marathon runners,” Sapolsky says.

It all combines to produce an average weight loss of 2 pounds a day, or about 10-12 pounds over the course of a 10-day tournament in which each grandmaster might play five or six times.

Do the work, and push pretty hard

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Lifting to failure is generally better, but not always:

Amid the confusing torrent of advice about the best ways to build strength, I’ve taken comfort from a series of reassuringly simple studies from McMaster University over the past decade. Researcher Stuart Phillips and his colleagues have repeatedly demonstrated that if you do a series of lifts to failure — that is, until you can’t do another rep — then it doesn’t much matter how heavy the weight is or how many reps you do. As long as you’re maxing out, you’ll gain similar amounts of strength with light or heavy weights.

But there’s an interesting caveat to this advice, according to a new study from a team at East Tennessee State University led by Kevin Carroll, published in Sports: just because you can lift to failure doesn’t mean you always should.

Researchers have previously pointed out that it takes longer to recover from a strength training session when you go to failure than when you stop a few reps short, with negative neuromuscular effects lasting 24 to 48 hours. You also recover more quickly even if you do the exact same number of reps but take a little extra rest halfway so that you don’t quite hit failure. On the surface, this is a trivially obvious point: of course it takes longer to recover if you work harder! The question, though, is whether there’s something particularly damaging or exhausting about going all the way to failure that outweighs the positive training effect you get from working harder.

[...]

So, in summary, two groups doing almost the same training, except one group was hitting failure on the last set of each exercise in every workout. The initial results from this study were published last year, showing that the relative intensity group had greater improvements in maximum strength and vertical jump. The new paper adds a bunch of information based on muscle biopsies and ultrasound, showing a greater increase for the relative intensity group in overall muscle size, the size of individual muscle fibers, and the presence of several key molecular signals of muscle growth.

Before we conclude that failure is bad, there’s one other detail of the training program that’s worth mentioning. While the failure group was hammering away three times a week, the relative intensity group was doing two harder (though not to failure) workouts and one easier workout each week. For example, a max strength workout of three sets of five reps might start at 85 percent for the two hard workouts, but then drop to 70 percent for the easier one.

This seems like a whole different variable thrown into the mix, and it reminds me of a study from Marcas Bamman’s group at the University of Alabama at Birmingham a couple of years ago. In a big study of older adults, he found that doing two harder workouts and one easier workout each week produced better strength gains that just two hard workouts or just three hard workouts a week. He suggested that lingering inflammation in the muscles made the subjects unable to fully benefit from three hard workouts a week. Instead, doing a third easier workout added some fitness gains compared to just two weekly workouts, but still allowed the muscles to recover.

So to me, the message from the new study isn’t necessarily that lifting to failure is bad. It’s that lifting to failure all the time might be counterproductive (and especially so as you get older, Bamman’s results suggest). The point Phillips has been trying to make is that, for the vast majority of us, all the variables that make your head spin — sets, reps, one-rep max percentages, and so on — are utterly minor details compared to the main goal of simply doing the work, and sometimes pushing pretty hard.

You have your parents’ tendons

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

You have your parents’ tendons:

A study from Ritsumeikan University, home to one of the top collegiate running programs in Japan, looked at injury risk in 24 elite long-distance runners. The researchers weren’t concerned with mileage levels, shoe type, stretching routines, or any of the usual factors we associate with running injuries. Instead, they were focused on spit.

Over the past decade or so, a series of studies have suggested that certain gene variants can affect the structure of your collagen fibrils, the basic building blocks of tendons and ligaments. Some versions of these genes make you less likely to develop problems like Achilles tendinopathy; others make you more likely. Researchers have found, for example, that rugby players who make it to the elite level are more likely to have the tendon-protective gene variants, presumably because those who don’t are more likely to have their careers derailed by injury.

In the new Japanese study, the athletes were asked about their history of tendon and ligaments inflammations and injuries during their university career, then gave a spit sample for DNA analysis. The injury data was compared to five specific variants in four different genes that have previously been associated with tendon and ligament structure. For three of the five variants, those with the “bad” version were indeed significantly more likely to have suffered tendon and ligament injuries. (The fourth variant didn’t have any predictive value in this group, and the fifth didn’t yield any information because all the runners in the study had the same version of the gene.)

Given previous research, these results aren’t particular surprising. The question is what you do with this information. There are companies that offer personal genetic testing that includes some of these gene variants (COL5A1 was the best predictor in this study), so you can find out your status and…do what, exactly?

In a review of the field a few years ago, some of the leading researchers suggested  that, rather than getting a DNA test, you should simply be aware of whether you have a personal or family history of tendon and ligament injuries. Either way, it’s worth thinking about what you would change in your training if you suddenly discovered that your tendons were, say, 10 or 20 percent more likely to get inflamed compared to the average person. If you think you would start doing more stretching or strengthening or icing or “listening to your body” or whatever, then my question is simple: why aren’t you doing that already?