Putting your foot down on di­a­betes

Monthly Chronicle - - Health & Well-being -

The sim­ple act of walk­ing down stairs could help pre­vent di­a­betes, and the key could be some­thing known as ec­cen­tric ex­er­cise.

With more than one mil­lion Aus­tralians cur­rently liv­ing with di­a­betes and the num­ber ex­pected to rise to three mil­lion in 20 years, new re­search find­ings have the po­ten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the bur­den of this disease.

Push­ing down the risk of di­a­betes

Re­searchers from Edith Cowan Univer­sity’s School of Med­i­cal and Health Sciences re­cruited 30 obese el­derly women and put them on an ex­er­cise pro­gram, with half walk­ing up­stairs and the oth­ers walk­ing down­stairs.

Lead re­searcher Pro­fes­sor Ken Nosaka said that at the end of the 12-week pro­gram, the women who walked down the stairs showed im­prove­ments on sev­eral phys­i­o­log­i­cal mea­sures.

“They had sig­nif­i­cantly lower lev­els of rest­ing glu­cose, in­sulin and haemoglobin 1AC, im­proved oral glu­cose tol­er­ance test, and de­creased triglyc­erides and choles­terols to­gether with an in­crease of good choles­terol (HDL choles­terol) in their blood,” he said. “All of these changes will have low­ered their risk of de­vel­op­ing di­a­betes.

“While both groups recorded an im­prove­ment, it was sig­nif­i­cantly greater in the down stairs group,”

Ec­cen­tric ex­er­cise is key

The dif­fer­ence in group per­for­mance was at­trib­uted to what’s called ec­cen­tric ex­er­cise “which doesn’t mean go­ing for a run in a silly cos­tume” said Pro­fes­sor Nosaka.

“Ec­cen­tric ex­er­cise is where load is placed on the mus­cle while it’s length­en­ing, rather than short­en­ing. For ex­am­ple, walk­ing down stairs is ec­cen­tric ex­er­cise be­cause your front thigh mus­cles are length­en­ing when they’re placed un­der load, as op­posed to walk­ing up stairs in which the mus­cles are short­en­ing, per­form­ing mainly con­cen­tric con­trac­tions.”

Ad­di­tional ben­e­fits

As well as pro­tect­ing against meta­bolic syn­drome and di­a­betes, the re­searchers also found that the down stairs group’s phys­i­cal func­tion such as walk­ing abil­ity, bal­ance, bone min­eral den­sity, rest­ing heart rate and blood pressure all im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly more than the up stairs group.

“This is yet more ev­i­dence that not all ex­er­cise is cre­ated equal in terms of its health ben­e­fits,” Pro­fes­sor Nosaka said.

Any­one can be ec­cen­tric

There are lots of ways to in­cor­po­rate ec­cen­tric ex­er­cise into your life to en­joy the health ben­e­fits. Here are Pro­fes­sor Nosaka’s tips:

1. If you work in a tall build­ing, try tak­ing the lift up to work, but then walk down the stairs when you go home or head out for your lunch break.

2. Whether at work or home, ev­ery time you need the stairs, go down twice, for double the ben­e­fit.

3. If you’re us­ing weights at home or the gym, con­cen­trate on the low­er­ing the weights slowly, be­cause the low­er­ing ac­tion causes your mus­cles to per­form ec­cen­tric ex­er­cise.

4. Even sit­ting down in your chair slowly, makes your leg mus­cles con­tract ec­cen­tri­cally so by sit­ting down slowly you can get a bit of ec­cen­tric ex­er­cise.

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