You’ll need running shoes to see this theatre production

SleepNoMoreTravis and I have been blathering on over the years about the downsides of prolonged sitting. We may have even made a few of you as paranoid as we’ve become about keeping sedentary time down to a minimum. We’ve told you to drink plenty of water while at work so that you are forced to get up and go to the bathroom. We’ve suggested you have walking meetings, have a standing or treadmill desk, or at least a peddler under your desk to keep your feet moving. Hopefully, none of you have lost your jobs on account of our advice. We’ve even discussed the merits of stepping in place during commercial breaks if you happen to be spending your evening glued to the television.

But in some instances, prolonged sitting is just out of our control. On long-haul flights, for example, despite my best efforts to get up as often as I can and walk the isles, I still spent plenty of hours with my behind firmly planted in my seat. Those darn “fasten seat belt” lights seem to come on at the slightest whisper of turbulence, and depending on your seating arrangement, the passengers seated beside you might grow aggravated with your frequent request to get past them to “stretch your legs”.

I also believed enduring prolonged periods of sitting would apply when attending a theatre production. That is, until I attended Sleep No More in New York City. You see, in this show, which is loosely based on Shakespeare’s MacBeth, there is no stage on which the 20 or so actors perform and there are no seats in which the audience sits. Instead, actors and audience members interact with one another throughout 5 floors of a fictional 1940s hotel named the McKittrick. Multiple scenes occur concurrently throughout the vast space, and audience members are free to move around and do whatever they please.

But sitting, the audience does very little of. In fact, most of the time you are walking around the hotel, poking in and out of various rooms, playing with anything you want (books, piano, random clothes, rotary phones, etc.) And at other times, you are sprinting trying to follow the ensuing action.
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Category: Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour | 3 Comments

Help stop fat bullying

Today’s guest post comes from author Linnie von Rekowsky.

Imagine being spat at while hearing choruses of peers chanting ‘porky’, ‘puffy’ or ‘fatso’. Imagine being pushed, tripped and otherwise physically assaulted. For many overweight children (and adults) public humiliation is a painful, daily reality.

“Weight stigma can affect every aspect of a child’s life. Children who are bullied for their weight may want to skip school, avoid physical activity and avoid social interactions with their peers. The scariest part is that weight stigma may have long-lasting detrimental effects on both physical and mental health throughout the lifespan”, says Dr. Angela S. Alberga postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary.

Increased media attention and multi coloured shirt days (pink shirt day – feburary 26th, blue shirt day – October 7th, both marking anti bullying days) have drawn our attention to the bullying cause.

We can always do more.

As a former employee of the Canadian Obesity Network I have had the privilege of being a member of the Sandbox Project’s  Healthy Weights working group as well as CON’s representative in the Obesity Action Coalition working group on Weight Bias and Stigma.

I recently wrote my second children’s book ‘Pom Pom – A Flightless Bully Tale’ in the hope of putting bullies in their place.

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Category: Miscellaneous, News | 1 Comment

3 Ways to Bridge the Behaviour-Intention Gap

Today’s guest post comes from Chetan Mistry and Ryan Rhodes of the University of Victoria.  More on Chet and Ryan can be found at the bottom of this post. This post originally appeared on Fit After Fifty.

Nearly 80% of inactive adults want to be active, yet 50% fail to be active. This phenomenon is known infamously as the “intention-behaviour gap”. The “gap” seems to come full force each year when so-called “January Joiners” rush to the gym to fulfill new years resolutions. Well, January has come, and January has gone.  So what can you do to avoid being a “January Joiner” who falls off of the fitness train and into the “intention-behaviour gap”? Growing research evidence suggests 3 potential strategies to help you to stick to your resolutions.

1. “Find something you enjoy.”

Most people get into exercise for the benefits; weight loss and physical appearance. Yet, these benefits are not related to the actual behaviour or act of exercising, but instead to the long-term outcomes that could result. People may want the outcomes of exercise, but not necessarily the behaviour that goes with it. The people who stick with exercise are those who actually enjoy doing exercise. The reason these people enjoy exercise could be for one of many reasons. They may enjoy the actual activity. For example, some people who play sports enjoy the sport itself, so they continue to run, jump, or kick for the love of the game/sport. To add to it, some of these people play because important others play, too. Whether it be friends, partners or children, exercisers who continue to exercise do so because they enjoy the activity and spending time with the people they exercise with.

To stick to your new years resolutions in 2014, ensure that the exercise you are choosing is something you enjoy. If it isn’t, it is well worth trying something new. Even better, you could try something new with a friend or partner. If finding something new is not feasible, try adding something you enjoy to your current exercise to make it more bearable. Listening to music, watching a movie or TV show, or reading could help to make your next exercise session a more positive experience.

2. “Organize and know thyself”
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Category: News | Comments Off

Daylight savings time increases risk of heart attack. Here’s what you can do to avoid one.

heart-attackDid you know that adjusting the clock up by an hour in accordance with daylight savings time increases you chance of a heart attack?

Circadian rhythms are biological cycles that occur in humans, animals, insects, plants, and even bacteria with a period of approximately (circa) one day (diem). These rhythms are determined internally by a part of our hypothalamus and are synchronized perfectly to our 24-hr days by the sun and other cues. This internal clock mediates daily variation in everything from hormone levels, to sleep/wake cycles, feeding behaviour, thermoregulation, to bowel movements and cardiovascular function, among many others.

It is largely due to these predictable circadian rhythms that risk of a myocardial infarction (heart attack) is significantly highest in the morning (by about 40% as compared to other times in the day). Right as we awake, our cardiovascular system is in the most compromised state –systolic blood pressure and heart rate show the largest upward spike in the morning, blood vessels ability to dilate in response to increased blood flow is compromised (relative endothelial dysfunction), blood clots are more likely to form, and the ability to break them up is at its lowest point in the day. Is it any wonder then, that the first snowfall – shoveled early in the morning by people at risk – always leads to a spike in heart attacks?
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Category: News, Obesity Research, Peer Reviewed Research | 4 Comments

Parents play a big role in childhood sedentary time (but blaming them is not the way to go)

Today we have another episode of the Obesity Panacea podcast.  My goal with these podcasts is to interview a different health researcher every month (last month it was Atif Kukaswadia, aka Mr Epidemiology).

This month chat with Dr Valerie Carson.  Val is an absolutely fantastic researcher (she just recently became an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, one of Canada’s top research schools), and is pretty much the go-to person when it comes to sedentary behaviour and physical activity in children.

In this podcast Val explains why physical activity alone isn’t enough for healthy kids (it gives a huge bang for your buck, but you can only fit so much in your day).  She also discusses the delicate balance between educating parents and blaming them (which is obviously counter-productive).  And there are also a few tips for the grad students out there (if you want to be a productive grad student, Val is a very good person to emulate).

In the podcast Val and I discuss a couple of her papers: this one, looking at the way factors in the home influence young children’s screen time, and this one looking at differences in the relationship between self-reported and objectively measured sedentary time and health (as I mention in the podcast, this paper completely scooped one of my own PhD studies… but it all worked out in the end!).

You can find out more on Val’s research on the University of Alberta’s Behavioural Epidemiology Lab website. A reminder that email subscribers can listen to the podcast by visiting the blog.  If you enjoy the podcast, I’d also encourage you to subscribe via itunes.


Category: Obesity Research, Podcast, Sedentary Behaviour | Comments Off

Eat less meat to reduce your blood pressure

vegetablesA systolic/diastolic blood pressure >140/90 mmHg constitutes a diagnosis of hypertension. Across the blood pressure range from 115/75 to 185/115 mm Hg, every incremental increase of 20 mm Hg in systolic or 10 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure is associated with more than twice the risk of cardiovascular disease. Conversely, very modest reductions in blood pressure can lead to significant reductions in the risk of cardiovascular events. For example, as highlighted in the HOPE study, a 3 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure is associated with a 22% reduction in cardiovascular disease-related death, heart attack, or stroke over 4.5 years.

So how does one go about achieving a reduction in blood pressure?

Most experts suggest blood-pressure reducing medication along with lifestyle modification as the best method. Indeed, numerous studies suggest that modifiable lifestyle  factors, including a diet high in salt, excess body weight, limited physical activity, and alcohol intake, all play a role in increasing the risk of developing hypertension. For some time, it has also been suggested that switching to a vegetarian diet can help reduce the stress on your arteries.

In a recent meta-analysis (study of many studies) published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Yokoyama and colleagues looked at 7 controlled trials and 32 observational studies to examine the influence of a vegetarian versus an omnivorous diet on blood pressure. Their analysis included a whopping total of 21915 subjects!
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Category: News, nutrition, Obesity Research, Peer Reviewed Research | 6 Comments