Exercise can alter your DNA, study claims

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Although inherited DNA genes cannot be changed, the way that that genes express themselves can be altered by individual actions, it is said.

A work out can positively affect the way cells interact with fat stored in the body, a new study published in the journal PLOS Genetics found.

The genes have attached ‘methyl groups’ which affect what is known as ‘gene expression’. These can be influenced in various ways, such as exercise, diet and lifestyle.

Lead author Charlotte Ling, Associate Professor at Lund University Diabetes Centre, in Sweden, said: “Our study shows the positive effects of exercise, because the epigenetic pattern of genes that affect fat storage in the body changes.”

Researchers looked at the DNA of 23 slightly overweight but healthy men aged around 35, who didn’t regularly exercise, after attending spinning and aerobics classes for six months.

They found that changes had taken place in 7000 genes, over a third of the average total of 20,000.

A closer look revealed genes linked to diabetes and obesity, also connected to storing fat, had also been altered.

“We found changes in those genes too, which suggests that altered DNA methylation as a result of physical activity could be one of the mechanisms of how these genes affect the risk of disease.

“This has never before been studied in fat cells. We now have a map of the DNA methylome in fat,” Professor Lind said.

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The real benefits of juicing

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John Lewis has seen a 60 per cent rise in the sale of juicers, they say due mostly to the celebrity juicing fad led by super bodies including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Miranda Kerr.

And they’re now stocking 10 times the amount of juicers compared to last year in anticipation of a pulped fruit and veg frenzy.

“Juicing is a huge trend for us this year in response to high levels of customer demand for juicers,” explains Jonathan Marsh, head of buying for Electricals at John Lewis.

But what about the hotly contested health benefits? According to juicing aficionado Joe Cross, founder ofwww.rebootwithjoe.com and creator of documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead , the payback can be life changing.

His documentary, which airs tomorrow night at 8pm on Channel 5, follows Cross trading in junk food for juicing for 60 days in order to shift weight and cure himself of his auto-immune disease. Watched by five million people, this film has since inspired a new generation of ‘juicers,’ says Cross.

So here we ask the expert himself, what exactly is the lowdown on health boosing juicing, and how can we too reap the benefits? Here Cross explains.

Why? Juicing can be enormously beneficial for health, and can also help you lose weight as part of a balanced diet plan.

It supercharges your nutrient intake by providing your body with pure micronutrients, vitamins and enzymes – with none of the bad stuff that constitutes processed food.

By putting the most nutritious fuel into your system possible, you can kick start your metabolism and give your body a break from all of the strange chemicals you’ve been challenging it to process until now.

How? There are various ways of introducing juicing into your diet, but I would always recommend a ‘Reboot’ period at the start of your programme. This constitutes a period of time where you commit to drinking and eating only fruits and vegetables, herbal teas and water in order to loose excess weight, improve your skin and vitality as well as boost your immune system to help keep you fit and healthy.

Essentially you’re giving your body a chance to “rest” by introducing only liquids and no fibre. You don’t want to do that forever but giving your body a short break from the hard work of digesting a “modern” diet can do a world of good!

Which? Now, with juicing there is no “one size fits all”, so the best way to approach it is to find what works for you! Take a look at your lifestyle – do you prepare meals for your family? Do you have the time and space to juice regularly? Can you get out of attending social events where food is the centerpiece for a period of time? etc.

You can do a juice-only programme for five, ten, 15 days or more, or you can just commit to replace one meal daily. But the real point is to find a way to get more and more plant food into your body.

Who? Above all else, support is key if you are going to juice for a period of time – tell friends, family and colleagues so they can help you avoid temptation. It can be hard to stick to at times, but the results are absolutely worth it.

What? When it comes to ingredients there is a plethora to choose from to suit your tastes and to help you get the nutrients you require most.

If weight loss is your goal then opt for what I call “Quickstart” fruits and vegetables, such as kale, which has amazing benefits, lots of plant protein and is even readily available in the winter. Apples really help first-time juicers get accustomed to fruit/vegetable combinations and ginger has great flavour and is perfect for detoxifying.

The list goes on and on, but if you want my handy guide to ingredients log on here www.rebootwithjoe.com .

Joe’s Five Tips To Better Juicing:

Save time 
Prepare your fruits and veggies the night before if you plan on making a morning juice by selecting the ingredients for your juice, washing the produce, placing them in a storage container in the fridge and assembling the juicer in your kitchen so it’s ready to go.

Store in the fridge 
Juice will keep for 24-48 hours in the fridge (72 hours is maximum time suggested). If you are travelling, transport your juice in a cooler.

Fill your container full 
Fill juice to the top of your preferred container to prevent oxygen from getting in, which can deplete the nutrients.

Freeze 
Freezing is also an option, but less desirable than refrigeration. If you do freeze your juice do it immediately after juicing. Thaw in the refrigerator.

Wash produce thoroughly 
Unwashed produce can be contaminated with bacteria so this is an important step in the juicing process.

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Joe Cross, the juicing aficionado.

Top 10 health and fitness holidays 2012

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A few days’ kayaking around stunning Hebridean islands will do more for your muscles – and your soul – than a couple of weeks on a rowing machine in a gym ever could. Award-winning adventure specialistWilderness Scotland has extended its Scottish Sea Kayak Trail – listed as one of National Geographic’s 50 Tours of a Lifetime in 2011 – to explore the southern section between the sand-fringed isle of Gigha and Oban. Those worried about aching limbs will be pleased to learn that a bed, hot shower and excellent pub meal await at the end of each day on the water. The six-day trip costs £845pp, including breakfast and packed lunches, all equipment and guide, with four departures between 26 May and 1 September.

If that doesn’t sound challenging enough for you, how about kayaking around the Sound of Arisaig, camping on an uninhabited island and living off the fat of the land (think campfire meals of shore-gathered mussels with seaweed) and a nip of whisky to ward off the evening chill. Five nights’ kayaking and bush camping costs £625-£650 pp.

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UK-based Field Skills (fieldskills.com) specialises in remote and fairly hard-core expeditions in Borneo, Ladakh and Morocco – but it also runs a number of mini, taster trips on its doorstep, in the Lakes. On the Lakes Adventure Weekend you’ll set up an unsupported camp in the woods, spend the night in a hammock, go for a hefty hike and pick up some new skills along the way (navigation, preparing a fire lighting, camping). The two-day trip, running 12-13 May, costs £170pp and includes meals, instruction and activities.

Careful though – this is the sort of experience where, warmed by the campfire after an exhilarating day out hill walking, you find yourself signing up for a two-week jungle survival challenge.

Field Skills is one of a number of small, local activity and adventure specialists listed on muchbetteradventures.com.

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Wild Fitness (wildfitness.com) started out running luxury bootcamps in Kenya with a fairly strict programme of activities – barefoot running, circuits on the beach, sea swims – aimed at getting results, with experts on hand to offer advice and motivation. Last year it extended its reach to the rather less exotic, but more accessible, location of the Isle of Wight where it has distilled its philosophy into a fitness boosting weekend. The Threethree-day “energizer course” involves early morning runs, boxing sessions in the woods, breathing classes and beach games. It is based at Northcourt, a lovely old manor house in an area of outstanding natural beauty, where healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Trips start in April, and cost from £650pp for a shared room (a single superior room is £1,085), including all activities and meals (these early bird prices are valid for bookings made before 31 January).

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Now here’s a challenge for 2012 – walk round Wales. Come May, you’ll be able to do just that, thanks to a major project that has linked up several long-distance paths creating a continuous 870-mile route round the coast of Wales. The official launch of the Welsh Coast Path is planned for 5 May but many stretches can already be walked, and details of some of the best walks, both short and long in each of the regions, can be found at ccw.gov.uk (a dedicated website will be launched when the path opens).

They include 13.8-mile Great Orme Circular Trail, which affords fantastic views across the whole north Wales coastline or the six-mile RSPB Rhossili Coastal Trail in Gower, south Wales, a mix of dramatic cliffs, beach and wild seascape.

Or check out Ramblers Cymru for organised guided walks. Another way to stretch your legs and breathe in some salty sea air is to take part in one of several Welsh walking festivals, including those in Gower,Snowdonia and Monmouthshire.

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Fancy seeing where this summer’s Olympics will take place? Then join this marathon walk across London. Discover Adventure, has launched aone-day, 26-mile trek setting off from the Olympic Park in Stratford (home to the Olympic stadium and village). Going at your own pace (the walk takes between eight and 12 hours), you’ll pass Lords Cricket Ground (host to the archery events), Hyde Park (triathlon and marathon swimming) and the Horse Guards Parade Ground (beach volleyball) before culminating at Greenwich Park and the North Greenwich Arena/the O2 (equestrian events and the modern pentathlon). Leaders will be on hand to steer you in the right direction and there will be designated snack stops. Trips depart 13 May and 1 September 2012 and 31 August 2013. Registration fee is £49pp.

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Triathlons have moved beyond the realm of professional athletes and become increasingly popular among “ordinary” people looking for a sporting challenge. If you’ve got your sights set on completing one this year, but need some guidance, a triathlon camp could be just the ticket.Adventure in the Alps offers a week-long retreat hosted by current world champion Christine Hemphill, with one-on-one assessment and video analysis.

Based at a chalet on the shore of Lake Annecy from 12-18 May, the £1,200pp price includes all training – incorporating a mini triathlon, six nights’ full board, snacks and water, personal assessment and transfers. Flights (to Geneva), one dinner, insurance and spa treatments are extra. The company also offers running camps, walking holidays, yoga, tai chi and pilates retreats as well as a fitness retreat specifically for over-50s.

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I’m going for a run. I may be some time … Running Wild has launched aguided trail run across the northern part of New Zealand’s South Island. Covering a daily average of 25km over five to six hours, the eight-day trip starts with a 26km run along the northern end of the Queen Charlotte Track, and ends with 35km along the Abel Tasman coastal track – taking you on breathtaking routes through beech forests, alongside beautiful lakes, over ridge tops and around high alpine tarns. The trip departs 25 February and costs NZ$2,850pp (about £1,430) including full board accommodation, guiding and portage of luggage. Running Wild also organises customised trips.

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Riding through pastures and meadows, past lakes and streams with the stunning Dolomites as your constant backdrop, you will barely notice your fitness levels rising on this mountain biking holiday, so distracted will you be by the idyllic scenery. Over eight days you will be guided across the Dolomites, over-nighting in mountain rifugios. Organised by The Healthy Holiday Company (0845 458 0723,thehealthyholidaycompany.co.uk), trips are bespoke, with no set departure date, and start from £1,390pp based on a minimum group of two, including accommodation, meals, bike hire and guiding for the week. Flights (to Innsbruck) and transfers are extra. Details of the trip will be on the new website launching next week.

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Feel pretty confident in the water? How about swimming from Britain to the US? That’s the British Virgin Isles to the US Virgin Isles – but, still, thisSwimtrek trip around idyllic Caribbean isles and cays features some of the longest daily swims in the company’s portfolio. Island hopping through pristine waters, swimming over reefs and along coasts, there’s also time out of the water for guided walks and technique analysis. If you like the idea of this Caribbean holiday, you’d better get your flippers on – there are just four places left on the 30 March departure. Based at theLeverick Bay Resort on Virgin Gorda (pictured above), the trip costs £1,200 including all breakfasts and lunches, but not flights or evening meals.

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This might stretch the definition of healthy for some, but for anyone after a gentle trip where you can go at your own pace in your own company, this is perfect. New from On Foot Holidays is a self-guided walk along the 65km Rhine Gorge (graded medium-hard), focusing on the waterway’s lesser-known west bank (the RheinBurgenWeg) as well as on the well-trodden east side.

Walking between the gorge’s 20 castles and fortified, Unesco-sanctified villages, there are plenty of beer gardens and Riesling vineyards en route for anyone who likes to keep their spirits up with a glass or two of the local tipple. Available May–October, the trip costs from £670pp including eight nights’ B&B, one dinner and route information. Travel extra.

The all-diabetic cycling team going against type 1

Team Novo Nordisk, the world's first all-diabetic cycling team.

Phil Southerland started cycling for one reason – so he could eat a chocolate bar. “I started riding so I could eat,” he says. “I was just a young boy, exploring the neighbourhood, taking up time so I could go eat another bar.”

Junk food was banned in Phil’s house: he’s had type 1 diabetes since he was seven months old, so his body doesn’t produce insulin – the hormone responsible for enabling our cells to convert glucose into fuel. Organ failure and diabetic coma are the biggest short-term risks, while long-term complications include blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease and nerve damage – sometimes leading to amputation.

These can be avoided with early diagnosis and good control – yet Phil’s parents were told by doctors it was unlikely he’d live beyond 25. And by 12, lured by the school snack machine, he had developed a potentially dangerous taste for Snickers bars. But he soon realised that cycling seemed to make his insulin injections work better – and what began as an innocent pedal around his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, led to a passion. By 19 he was competing for his university – and was in excellent health.

“In 2003, I’d just won a big championship, and another racer, Joe Eldridge, came over and introduced himself,” says Phil. “He said I was a real inspiration. He had diabetes and was struggling.” They became friends and, under Phil’s influence, Joe took control of his condition.

“His life changed, his confidence changed,” says Phil. “As he told me this, he said, ‘You’re my hero, and because of you one day I’ll see my grandkids grow up.'” Their meeting proved mutually inspirational. Phil had an idea – to set up a pro team consisting solely of cyclists with type 1. “I thought the bike could be a powerful platform to spread this message of empowerment,” he says. In 2005, Team Type 1 was launched, and a few years later they won Race Across America, a cycling competition covering around 3,000 miles.

The win made history. Not only was the team the first of its kind, but the fact they were doing so well in competition was also groundbreaking, as pro athletes with diabetes were practically unheard of until relatively recently. Last year, the team joined forces with Novo Nordisk, a healthcare company which marketed the first ever synthetic insulin treatment. Now Team Novo Nordisk, it has over 100 members from countries all over the world, including a women’s cycling team and triathletes, who will between them compete in over 500 competitions during 2013.

“Changing Diabetes” is emblazoned on their jerseys. Phil’s idea was to empower type 1 athletes, but also to raise awareness and highlight the importance of exercise, inspiring anybody with diabetes, athlete or not.

“When I was growing up, there weren’t really professional athletes with diabetes that I knew about, and having diabetes was an impediment to getting a professional contact,” says Phil. “Fast forward to 2013 and if you’re a really good cyclist and have diabetes, now your chances of getting a contract are just about the same as somebody without diabetes.”

The men’s pro cycling team, which has 17 riders, race full-time, on salaries. Others have day jobs, competing in their spare time. Some, such as 20-year-old Stephen Clancy from Ireland, were already serious athletes before their diagnoses. He was climbing the ranks when he found out he had type 1 last year. At first, he feared his dreams were shattered. “The doctors weren’t very inspiring,” he recalls. “One of them said cycling might complicate my blood sugar control, and suggested I try riding for a mile at a time.” After making enquiries, he was invited to spend two months with Novo Nordisk’s development team in the US and was signed up.

Glucose control, however, isn’t just about diet and insulin injections. Lots of factors, including temperature, general health, stress and activity levels, come into play – which is why frequent monitoring is so important. For racers, this poses the problem of monitoring during a race. The team use continuous monitors – small implants under their skin which transmit a reading to a credit-card sized monitor in their jersey pockets. It beeps if levels drop or spike and insulin is needed; the cyclists also carry insulin pens and simply administer a quick jab, all while pedaling. Aside from that, the team look after themselves pretty much the same way as any pro athlete would.

While their motivation – to win races – is the same as for any cyclist, the added bonus is that they’re beating diabetes at the same time. Phil’s evangelical about the wider benefits of exercise – that being fit is hugely important in warding off the complications associated with diabetes, and that the mood-boosting powers of exercise can help people with diabetes feel in control.

There isn’t much clinical data on exercise and type 1, but this is something Phil would like to see change. In 2011 he founded theDiabetes Sports Research Institute and is working with doctors to promote his message.

“We’re in a society where there’s a pill for everything,” he says. “I think every doctor should tell people, diabetic or not, to get out there and exercise.” Meanwhile, the team is going from strength to strength. It has just held its first junior development camp and, as its profile continues to rise, type 1 athletes from all over the world are knocking on the door. “Exercise is the drug that’s never prescribed,” says Phil. “We wear ‘Changing Diabetes’ on our jerseys, and that’s what we hope to do.”

Sing – it’s good for you

Caroline Redman Lusher, founder / director of Rock ChoirFor the uninitiated, choirs may seem comfy, middle-aged and the ultimate in conformity. But there is much more going on behind that group of women harmonising on Ave Maria, their T-shirts emblazoned with crotchets and the beaming smiles. When I look at a choir I see a group of people giving themselves permission to politely scream in public – and in doing so making themselves feel amazing.

Researchers from Sweden have discovered what us in the choir business already know: that being in a choir helps you to breathe better. Some reports have concluded that choirs could very well be the new yoga. Soon our gyms will be full of people singing; Nike will bring out a Sing n Sweat app; there’ll be 10k sings (though I’ve got no idea how that would work). But could this be a serious option for anyone who loathes other forms of exercise?

It’s definitely one for your fitness toolkit, with Heart Research UK saying that singing is a “great aerobic exercise; giving both your heart and lungs a fantastic workout”, when they launched their Sing For Your Heart campaign. Another study into choirs by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health in 2008 concluded that local authorities and the NHS need to provide more options for community singing “especially from midlife onwards” because there is so much evidence it keeps people healthier.

There are already a wealth of choirs to help rehabilitate, such as Sing For Joy – a choir for people with Parkinsons. Or the completely open project the Gathering, where anyone, musicians or otherwise, can just go along and make any noise they like. One of its founders, Maggie Nichols, told me that parents of autistic children had brought them along to a Gathering because it was a place where their noises were totally accepted. Their noise was considered peaceful, harmonious even, and their families had much needed respite from being stared at in the street or constantly apologising.

No need for sweat in the brain gym

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RESEARCH sourced from the American Academy of Neurology suggests that during later years, people who read books, played games, participated in computer activities and even did craft activities had a 30-50% decrease in their risk of developing memory loss compared to those who did not do those activities.

Here are some ideas for your own Brain Gym.

Explore new horizons

Whether that be new environments, new books, new languages, new social groups or even new hobbies.

Get excited about the possibilities of increasing your wisdom and becoming a know-all.

Learn a new physical skill

Staying active will keep your heart pumping and let that oxygen-rich blood surge around your body and fill your brain with much-needed H20.

Try a dance class, aerobics classes, Tai Chi, body boarding, trampolining or even juggling.

Practice doing two or three tasks at once

This one is probably a new concept for the men reading this article as women apparently do this their entire lives.

Multi-tasking is like mental juggling and keeps those neurons firing.

If you’re having trouble with this one be warned you will be looking for trouble if you ask a woman to explain it to you.

Keep your memories alive

Write your life story. Open those memory pathways and draw those memories to the forefront of your mind.

Enjoy and relish your past. Your family will love to read your history and maybe surprised and unaware of just what you got up to.

Sharpen your pencil

Sharpen your mind by regularly doing puzzles like Jumbled Words.

These are regularly seen in magazines and newspapers.

The harder the puzzle the stronger your brain becomes when you solve it or try to solve it.

Switch hands

Make friends with your less dominant hand by doing simple tasks using it.

This will stimulate neural pathways with tasks that may be second nature with your dominant hand but a whole new ball game to your less dominant hand.

Try brushing your teeth, switching your knife and fork or writing.

Laugh

Laughing stimulates five different parts of your brain, so laugh often to help keep your brain from aging.

So if you’ve been reading this article and already forgotten what it’s about then you might need to oxygenate your brain with some exercise and start creating your own Brain Gym today.

 

Muscle matters if you want to boost your physical strength

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Physical strength is one area of health and fitness that is often overlooked by older adults.

We talk about fitness, stretching and balance, but strength exercises provide so many other benefits.

This article is aimed in particular at strength training for older women (however it is just as important for men and the information is the same).

As we age we lose muscle density (the thickness of our muscles).

As this density decreases it causes our metabolic rate (the rate we burn energy) to slow down.

This results in a tendency to gain body fat and it all starts from as early as our 20s.

In a nutshell, decreased muscle density = lower metabolic rate = gain in body fat + brittle bones + unstable joints + loss of strength + loss of stamina + loss of confidence.

Research has proven that starting a strength- training program will reverse all of this.

Strength training could be body weight exercises, eg. squats, push-ups or yoga, or it could be equipment- based using therabands, hand weights or equipment you would find in a health club.

At our club we have a large range of older adults who attend classes or do a program that has been designed for them, two to three times a week.

About 99% of the participants in these classes are women.

These women know that to reduce their body fat, improve their muscle density, bone density, stamina and confidence they need to attend these classes and/or do their programs.

They are guided, supported and educated on the benefits of strength training and they reap the rewards.

They are strong, empowered and, dare I say, sexy women who love what they’ve lost and adore what they’ve gained.

They know that what they do is one of the best investments they can make for their health and fitness.

They have found their Mrs Hercules and carry themselves with pride.