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The 5 minute 'Health' read - Lifestyle: recent research (December)

I read a fair amount of research and thought some people might be interested in recent studies that I've found helpful.  I plan to write a blog post pretty much every week, highlighting helpful material that has emerged in the previous couple of months.  I'll rotate through six topic areas ... Lifestyle, Positive Psychology, Relationships, Ageing, Psychedelics, and Meditation.  I also plan to write occasional posts where I go into more detail about particular related subject areas. 

Here, for example, are ten Lifestyle posts mostly published in the last few weeks.  I found it intriguing that in addition to expected benefits for depression & anxiety (see Singh et al below), there is growing evidence that episodes of exercise improve brain functioning within minutes ... and for wide-ranging age groups (see Kekäläinen et al, Legrand et al, Monserrat et al and Polevoy et al below). 

Currier, B. S., J. C. Mcleod, et al. (2023).  Resistance training prescription for muscle strength and hypertrophy in healthy adults: A systematic review and Bayesian network meta-analysis.   British Journal of Sports Medicine 57(18): 1211-1220.

Objective To determine how distinct combinations of resistance training prescription (RTx) variables (load, sets and frequency) affect muscle strength and hypertrophy.Data sources MEDLINE, Embase, Emcare, SPORTDiscus, CINAHL, and Web of Science were searched until February 2022.  Eligibility criteria Randomised trials that included healthy adults, compared at least 2 predefined conditions (non-exercise control (CTRL) and 12 RTx, differentiated by load, sets and/or weekly frequency), and reported muscle strength and/or hypertrophy were included.Analyses Systematic review and Bayesian network meta-analysis methodology was used to compare RTxs and CTRL. Surface under the cumulative ranking curve values were used to rank conditions. Confidence was assessed with threshold analysis.  Results The strength network included 178 studies (n=5097; women=45%). The hypertrophy network included 119 studies (n=3364; women=47%). All RTxs were superior to CTRL for muscle strength and hypertrophy. Higher-load (>80% of single repetition maximum) prescriptions maximised strength gains, and all prescriptions comparably promoted muscle hypertrophy. While the calculated effects of many prescriptions were similar, higher-load, multiset, thrice-weekly training (standardised mean difference (95% credible interval); 1.60 (1.38 to 1.82) vs CTRL) was the highest-ranked RTx for strength, and higher-load, multiset, twice-weekly training (0.66 (0.47 to 0.85) vs CTRL) was the highest-ranked RTx for hypertrophy. Threshold analysis demonstrated these results were extremely robust.  Conclusion All RTx promoted strength and hypertrophy compared with no exercise. The highest-ranked prescriptions for strength involved higher loads, whereas the highest-ranked prescriptions for hypertrophy included multiple sets.

Kekäläinen, T., M. Luchetti, et al. (2023). Physical activity and cognitive function: Moment-to-moment and day-to-day associations. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 20(1): 137.

Background The beneficial effect of acute physical exercise on cognitive performance has been studied in laboratory settings and in long-term longitudinal studies. Less is known about these associations in everyday environment and on a momentary timeframe. This study investigated momentary and daily associations between physical activity and cognitive functioning in the context of everyday life.  Methods Middle-aged adults (n = 291, aged 40–70) were asked to wear accelerometers and complete ecological momentary assessments for eight consecutive days. Processing speed and visual memory were assessed three times per day and self-rated evaluations of daily cognition (memory, thinking, and sharpness of mind) were collected each night. The number of minutes spent above the active threshold (active time) and the maximum vector magnitude counts (the highest intensity obtained) before each cognitive test and at a daily level were used as predictors of momentary cognitive performance and nightly subjective cognition. Analyses were done with multilevel linear models. The models were adjusted for temporal and contextual factors, age, sex, education, and race/ethnicity.  Results When participants had a more active time or higher intensity than their average level within the 20 or 60 minutes prior to the cognitive test, they performed better on the processing speed task. On days when participants had more active time than their average day, they rated their memory in the evening better. Physical activity was not associated with visual memory or self-rated thinking and sharpness of mind.  Conclusions This study provides novel evidence that outside of laboratory settings, even small increases in physical activity boost daily processing speed abilities and self-rated memory. The finding of temporary beneficial effects is consistent with long-term longitudinal research on the cognitive benefits of physical activity.

Lee, J. L. C., J. Xing, et al. (2023).  What is known from the published literature about yoga interventions delivered in community settings for older adults? A systematic scoping review.  Journal of Aging and Physical Activity 31(6): 1039-1050.

In recent years, mind–body exercises have arisen as a popular type of physical exercise among older adults in both Eastern and Western countries. In the last 10 years, yoga has been established as a key physical activity intervention for older adults. Thus, the literature on yoga interventions delivered in community settings for older adults warrants a formal appraisal. This scoping review synthesized information on intervention contents and outcomes and summarized data on attrition, adherence, and adverse events for community health practitioners. In addition, this review used the Template for Intervention Description and Replication and the Population, Intervention, Comparator, Outcome checklist to identify areas of depth and gaps in the literature on yoga interventions. [Free full text on ResearchGate].

Legrand, F. D., C. Albinet, et al. (2018).  Brief aerobic exercise immediately enhances visual attentional control and perceptual speed. Testing the mediating role of feelings of energy.  Acta Psychologica 191: 25-31.   

While the effects of acute exercise on mood and cognitive functions have been separately documented over the last decade, recent findings have pointed to a possible connection between affective responses to exercise and cognitive performance. The main objective of this study was to test whether the effects of acute exercise on cognition were mediated by changes in feelings of energy. One-hundred-and-one undergraduate students were randomized into one of two experimental conditions: 15 min of jogging at “moderate” intensity, or 15 min of relaxation/concentration (control condition). Perceptual speed, visual attentional control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility were assessed pre- and post-intervention in both groups via the Trail Making Test. Self-rated feelings of energy were also recorded pre- and post-intervention. Only completion time for the TMT-A significantly improved from pre- to post-intervention in participants who exercised compared with participants who practiced relaxation/concentration. No Group × Time interaction was found with regard to the other TMT variables. Finally, changes in feelings of energy were found to fully mediate the relationship between exercise and perceptual speed/visual attentional control. Taken together, our data suggest that a brief bout of moderate intensity exercise can improve the efficiency of certain cognitive processes through increases in feelings of energy, but further research is required to evaluate the duration of benefits and to determine whether these apply to other populations.

Monserrat Hernández, M., Á. Arjona Garrido, et al. (2023).  Influence of the practice of physical exercise and healthy eating on the vigour of university lectures.  Frontiers in Sports and Active Living 5.   

Introduction: Vigour at work is characterized by high levels of energy and high desire to make an effort at work. This article is the result of a research carried out with university teachers in Spain whose main objective is to show what type and frequency of physical exercise and diet influence Vigour.  Methods: The sample consisted of 121 subjects, 62% of whom were women and 37.2% men. A questionnaire was administered to collect information on sociodemographic data, physical exercise habits, eating habits and Vigour at work. Cross-tabulations of the dimensions of Vigour with sex, age and type of contract offered were performed. Spearman correlations and Correspondence Analysis are also carried out to provide information on the intensity and type of relationships between the Vigour dimensions. Finally, the influence of the frequency of physical exercise and diet on Total Vigour is investigated.  Results: The results show that the relationships between the dimensions are very strong (sig = 0.001). In addition, the practice of moderate-high intensity physical exercise and maintaining a good adherence to the Mediterranean Diet is related to high levels of Total Vigour (F = 7.955; sig = 0.006). As for the influence of the sociodemographic variables used, significant differences were only observed in the Physical Strength dimension for sex (X2 = 6.173; p = 0.046) and age (X2 = 9.449; p = 0.051) and, with respect to the type of contract, in Emotional Energy (X2 = 19.487; p < 0.001).  Discusión and conclusions: The main conclusions of our study show that practicing physical exercise of medium-high intensity four hours or more per week and a high adherence to the MD is more related to high Vigour levels than just eating well or just practicing exercise. And more studies are needed on the influence of sociodemographic variables on Vigour and its different dimensions.

Morgan, A., K. S. Noguchi, et al. (2023).  Physical and cognitive effects of high-intensity interval or circuit-based strength training for community-dwelling older adults: A systematic review.  Journal of Aging and Physical Activity 31(6): 1051-1074.   Many older adults do not achieve recommended amounts of aerobic or strengthening exercise and high-intensity interval or circuit-based strengthening may offer a time-efficient solution. This review sought to determine the effects of high-intensity interval/circuit strengthening on physical and cognitive functioning for community-dwelling older adults, and its associated adherence, retention, and adverse events. Six databases were searched to June 2022 and 15 studies (11 for effectiveness) were included. The current certainty of evidence is low to very low; upper body-focused physical functioning measures demonstrated small to large benefits and lower body-focused, self-report, and cardiovascular measures had mixed results. There was insufficient evidence (one study) to determine cognitive effects. The mean adherence rates ranged from 73.5% to 95.8%, overall retention across all studies (n = 812) was 86%, and no serious adverse events were reported, suggesting that this type of exercise is feasible for community-dwelling older adults.

Pallubinsky, H., R. P. Kramer, et al. (2023).  Establishing resilience in times of climate change—a perspective on humans and buildings.  Climatic Change 176(10): 135.   

With a contribution of 40% to the annual global CO2-emissions, the built environment needs to drastically reduce its impact, while also providing pleasant and healthy indoor spaces and protecting people from weather extremes. Over time, particularly in western and industrialized countries, buildings have evolved to shield occupants almost completely from outdoor conditions. As a consequence, humans have become so used to a constant, comfortable indoor environment that we struggle to cope with thermal fluctuations. The time has come to shift perspective, as the very protective character of buildings and provision of omnipresent comfort are neither feasible nor desirable any longer. An enormous amount of energy and resources are spent to provide tightly controlled thermal environments, often with the same target temperature all year round. However, being mostly exposed to constant, comfortable indoor temperatures can have negative impacts on health and deteriorate our human capability to deal with thermal challenges. Importantly, spending time outside the thermal comfort zone is known to enhance human thermoregulatory capacities and thermal resilience, while also improving metabolic and cardiovascular health. This perspective essay aims to draw attention to novel and yet underrepresented avenues of coping with climate challenges, both with respect to the built environment and humans. Allowing more thermal variation indoors will save precious resources, decrease the negative impact of building CO2-footprints, and stimulate physiological and psychological adaptation in humans, which can lead to improved resilience and health.

Polevoy, G., F. Cazan, et al. (2023).  The effectiveness of one “physical education minute” during lessons to develop concentration in 8- to 10-year-old schoolchildren.  Frontiers in Sports and Active Living 5.   

The demands of the school day, which includes multiple lessons, require sustained attention from students; this can be challenging, especially for young children. Concentration of attention is a critical cognitive function that impacts learning. This study involved 129 healthy schoolchildren aged 8–10 years (spanning grades 2 and 3) from a regular secondary school in Kirov, Russian Federation. A “physical education minute” (PEM), consisting of various physical exercises, was introduced during the middle of a regular lesson for the experimental group (EG), while the control group (CG) continued with their regular studies. Concentration and attention were assessed before and after the PEM using the Bourdon test. The Bourdon test results indicated a significant decrease in concentration during the lesson for the CG (p < 0.001), while the EG exhibited significant improvement in concentration after the PEM (p < 0.001). The effect size was large, demonstrating a substantial impact of this break for physical activity on concentration. It can be concluded that implementing a set of exercises in the form of a PEM in the middle of a lesson significantly improves concentration among students aged 8–10. This study underscores the effectiveness of integrating short breaks for physical activity into the daily classroom routine, ultimately benefiting students' attention, learning, and overall educational experience. Further research could explore additional factors affecting concentration and the long-term effects of the PEM on cognitive development.

Schuffelen, J., L. F. Maurer, et al. (2023).  The clinical effects of digital cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia in a heterogenous study sample: Results from a randomized controlled trial.  Sleep 46(11).   

Numerous studies worldwide have reported the beneficial effects of digital cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (dCBT-I). However, few focus on real-world study samples that reflect people in regular care. To test whether dCBT-I is suitable within German regular care, we designed a randomized controlled trial recruiting a heterogenous insomnia population.Participants aged ≥18 who met the criteria for insomnia disorder were randomized to 8-weeks dCBT-I + care-as-usual (CAU) or they were set on a waitlist + CAU. The intervention group was followed-up at 6- and 12-months. The primary outcome was self-reported insomnia severity, assessed with the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) at 8-weeks post-randomization. A one-way ANCOVA with baseline score as a covariate was fitted to determine group differences. Secondary outcomes included measures of daytime functioning, quality of life, depression, anxiety, dreams, and nightmares.Of the N = 238 participants (67.6% female), age range 19–81 years, n = 118 were randomized to dCBT-I and n = 120 to the control group. At posttreatment, the use of dCBT-I was associated with a large reduction in the ISI (Diffadj = –7.60) in comparison to WLC (d = –2.08). This clinical improvement was also reflected in responder and remission rates. Treatment effects were also observed for daytime functioning, quality of life, symptoms of depression and anxiety (ds = 0.26–1.02) and at long-term follow-up (intervention group only; ds = 0.18–1.65). No effects were found for dream and nightmare frequency.This study showed that dCBT-I reduces insomnia symptoms and improves daytime functioning in a heterogenous insomnia population in Germany with sustained long-term treatment effects in the intervention group. Our results underscore the potential of digital health applications, their suitability within regular care, and their role in facilitating widespread implementation of CBT-I as a first-line treatment for insomnia.

Singh, B., T. Olds, et al. (2023).  Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for improving depression, anxiety and distress: An overview of systematic reviews.  British Journal of Sports Medicine 57(18): 1203-1209.  

Objective To synthesise the evidence on the effects of physical activity on symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress in adult populations.Design Umbrella review.Data sources Twelve electronic databases were searched for eligible studies published from inception to 1 January 2022.Eligibility criteria for selecting studies Systematic reviews with meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials designed to increase physical activity in an adult population and that assessed depression, anxiety or psychological distress were eligible. Study selection was undertaken in duplicate by two independent reviewers.Results Ninety-seven reviews (1039 trials and 128 119 participants) were included. Populations included healthy adults, people with mental health disorders and people with various chronic diseases. Most reviews (n=77) had a critically low A MeaSurement Tool to Assess systematic Reviews score. Physical activity had medium effects on depression (median effect size=−0.43, IQR=−0.66 to –0.27), anxiety (median effect size=−0.42, IQR=−0.66 to –0.26) and psychological distress (effect size=−0.60, 95% CI −0.78 to –0.42), compared with usual care across all populations. The largest benefits were seen in people with depression, HIV and kidney disease, in pregnant and postpartum women, and in healthy individuals. Higher intensity physical activity was associated with greater improvements in symptoms. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions diminished with longer duration interventions.Conclusion and relevance Physical activity is highly beneficial for improving symptoms of depression, anxiety and distress across a wide range of adult populations, including the general population, people with diagnosed mental health disorders and people with chronic disease. Physical activity should be a mainstay approach in the management of depression, anxiety and psychological distress.



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