Is Extra Sleep the Key to Better Endurance Performance?

Newswise — Most athletes believe sleep is important for recovery, yet the importance of sleep for endurance athletes has remained unclear. This study examined nine endurance athletes under three experimental conditions: normal sleep, sleep restriction and sleep extension. Each condition required endurance cycling time-trials to be undertaken on four consecutive days, whereby nightly sleep was manipulated on intervening nights. Results showed that athletes better maintained endurance performance after three nights of sleep extension (8.5 hours per night). Compared with normal sleep (7 hours per night), an extra 90 minutes of sleep per night, over three consecutive nights, improved performance by an average of nearly two minutes (58.7 minutes vs. 56.8 minutes). This study also found that endurance performance was impaired after just two nights of sleep restriction (5 hours per night). This study is the first to show the benefits of sleep extension for endurance performance and highlights the importance of cumulative sleep time for endurance athletes. Findings are particularly pertinent for endurance athletes required to compete over consecutive days, including cyclists during multi-day stage races. More broadly, other athletes competing over consecutive days (e.g., baseball players) or undertaking congested competition schedules may also benefit from sleep extension. View the abstract or contact the investigator.


Are Females Strong Enough to Drive a Race Car?

Driving a race car is stressful. Drivers must make split-second decisions at speeds in excess of 200 mph while being exposed to vibration, noise, three-to-four times the force of gravity and cockpit temperatures in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. During competition, racing drivers will have heart rates of 170 beats per minute, core body temperatures of 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and three-to-seven pounds of sweat loss. Popular media has suggested that this stress is too fatiguing for females, and women should not drive race cars. In this study, investigators measured heart rate, skin temperature, core temperature and calculated physiological strain of male and female race car drivers during competition. Investigators found that closed cockpit cars are more fatiguing than open cockpit cars. However, females did not fatigue more than the males. Thus, there is no physiological reason why females should not drive race cars nor compete against males. View the abstract or contact the investigator.


Balance – Lose It to Use It! How Tripping on a Treadmill Can Help Reduce Falls

Falls are a global problem. Exercise reduces falls in older adults, but usually requires balance, strength or aerobic training. Researchers discuss treadmill-based balance training, which mimics real-life balance challenges (e.g., trips and slips) in a safe setting. Adults practice and learn from these simulated real-life situations. Benefits from only one to four training sessions can last more than a year. This is much more efficient and feasible than traditional strength, balance and fitness exercise over several months. Researchers focused on treadmill-based balance training in healthy older people and in patients with neuropathology (e.g., stroke and Parkinson’s). They provide a new view on how small amounts of this perturbation-based balance training will relate to the effects on falls in daily life. Researchers argue that in neurological populations, more training is required to see improvements in reactive balance. This includes how people can transfer what they have learned in the lab to their home settings. Overall, treadmill-based balance training is a promising option for populations with an increased fall risk. View the abstract or contact the investigator.


A Time to Eat and a Time to Exercise

Modern-day lifestyle permits access to food around the clock. Concurrently, we spend much of each day inactive, often sitting for prolonged periods. Such a lifestyle disrupts the body’s internal rhythms, predisposing many individuals to chronic metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes. Compliance to current diet and exercise guidelines is low. A recent variation of a fasting diet for weight control, known as time-restricted eating (TRE), where all food is consumed within eight-to-10 hours during waking, has been associated with many positive effects on metabolic health, including reductions in weight and improvements in blood pressure, glucose and insulin levels. Exercise induces multiple and comparable benefits as TRE. If these effects are additive is not known. View the abstract or contact the investigator.


Poor Fitness among Students Attending Schools in Deprived Neighborhoods

Large differences in health exist across U.S. communities. Some are linked to environment–the places where we live, work and play. People in more deprived places tend to have a greater risk of heart disease, shorter life expectancy and poorer fitness levels, a strong health marker. In this study, researchers examined the relationship between poorer places and fitness in a diverse sample of more than 44,000 school-aged youth. This research, led by the University of South Carolina, looked at school and fitness data from the South Carolina FitnessGram project for the 2015-16 school year. The findings showed that nearly one out of two students had an unhealthy fitness level. Additionally, fitness was related to poorer places. The odds of having a healthy fitness level was 25-34% lower among students attending schools in poorer places compared to students in affluent locations. Findings were observed for boys, white students and high school students. The findings were not observed for students of other gender, race and grade level. Efforts to increase youth fitness are needed, especially among students attending schools located in poorer places. View the abstract or contact the investigator.


Greater Health Benefits of Physical Activity with Better Measurement

Does anybody REALLY remember how physically active they were in the past year, or even past month? Researchers have long recognized this problem of remembering past physical activity; however, using a questionnaire where people self-reported was the only practical way to measure physical activity in large groups. Now, researchers can collect physical activity through wearable monitors like accelerometers. This new tech raises the question of whether the widely accepted health benefits of physical activity are even greater than previously thought, given more accurate measurement. To answer this question, researchers had 2,291 healthy black and white men and women, ages 38-50 years, complete a physical activity questionnaire and wear a monitor for seven days. Data from the monitor showed that the most active people had a lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes and a somewhat lower chance of developing high blood pressure during the next 10 years. These decreased risks were not detected with the questionnaires. Thus, using a monitor to collect information may lead to a better understanding of the importance of physical activity in disease prevention. View the abstract or contact the investigator.


Lung Abnormalities Limit Exercise Capacity in People with Hear Failure

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to supply the body with needed amounts of oxygen. People with heart failure have trouble doing daily activities like exercise. This limitation to exercise advances the progression of heart failure. In this review, authors state that, contrary to expectations, the heart is not responsible for the exercise limitation. Instead, evidence shows that lung disorders contribute to the poor exercise capacity. Interventions to treat lung disorders may improve exercise tolerance for those with heart failure. View the abstract or contact the investigator.