Bracko, Michael R. Ed.D., FACSM
Michael R. Bracko, Ed.D., FACSM, is an exercise physiologist and director of the Institute for Hockey Research and the Occupational Performance Institute in Calgary, Canada. He is an associate editor for ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal® and works in three areas: 1) sports physiology, where he conducts research on the performance characteristics of female ice hockey players, teaches high performance skating, and serves as physiologist for the University of Alberta Women's Hockey Team and the U.S. Deaf Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team; 2) the health and fitness industry, by contributing to SELF Magazine's online Forum and by presenting at health and fitness meetings such as the ACSM's Health & Fitness Summit & Exhibition; and 3) as an occupational physiologist, in the areas of injury prevention, ergonomics, workstation stretching, and prework warm-up.
Married Men and Women Are More Active
The purpose of this study was to investigate how marital status affected physical activity in 3,075 well-functioning white and black men and women aged 70 to 79 years. Physical activity levels were reported at baseline using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Total physical activity was calculated, and participants were classified as "low active" (expending <1,000 Kcal/week) or "high active" (expending >1,000 Kcal/week) kilocalories.
When comparing married men with unmarried men, married men reported higher levels of exercise participation. In spousal pairs, "high active" men were almost three times as likely to have an equally active spouse when compared with "low active" men. Likewise, married women had higher levels of total physical activity than unmarried women.
Perhaps the most important conclusion is that getting a married couple to exercise may be easier when both are involved. In addition, it may be important to specifically target single older adults to get motivated to exercise (1).
Art and Science of Exercise
In an editorial, William J. Kraemer, Ph.D., FACSM, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, writes that the field of applied sports and exercise science continues to grow, and in the next decade, many more questions will be answered about exercise prescription. He goes on to indicate that the health/fitness professional is ahead of exercise scientists by trying new exercise programs and obtaining anecdotal evidence, but these programs need to be validated scientifically. Interaction and communication between the practitioners and the scientists need to occur because the link between the two is important for progress to be made in the area of exercise prescription.
Dr. Kraemer states, "While the practice of strength and conditioning will always rely on the art and creativity of the professional to implement the science, a factual basis for practice is needed similar to the process a physician uses in patient treatment decisions which include history, preliminary testing, understanding of the medical literature, a needs analysis, and then an initial treatment with follow-up evaluations until the treatment goal is met. It is up to each scientist and practitioner to dedicate themselves to continued communication and interactions in the research process to move the field forward." Dr. Kraemer concludes by saying, "Let's continue to be passionate about our work and the exciting new discoveries that lie ahead in our field" (2).
Twice a Day Versus Once a Day
In this study from the University of New Hampshire, the researchers investigated the differences between people who exercised twice a day for 15 minutes per session, compared with a group who exercised once a day for 30 minutes per session (12 weeks). There were 17 men and 20 women, 29 to 65 years old, in good health, and were all low to moderately active. After the initial 12 weeks, the groups switched training protocols for another 12 weeks. Both groups were pretested and posttested on the following variables: high-density and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, body composition with skinfolds, waist and hip circumferences, blood pressure, submaximal treadmill walking economy, and a walking V̇O2max test.
Subjects in both groups exercised aerobically: walking, jogging, cycling, cross-country skiing, rowing, and stair climbing, 4 days a week. During the first 2 weeks, the subjects exercised at an intensity of 50% to 60% of heart rate reserve. In weeks 3 and 4, exercise intensity was 60% to 70% of heart rate reserve, and from weeks 5 on, the exercise intensity was 70% to 80% of heart rate reserve.
After 12 weeks, the following results were found: the once-a-day group was 96.6% compliant with exercise and the twice-per-day group was 96.3% compliant. In the twice-per-day group, treadmill walking economy improved, diastolic and systolic blood pressure decreased, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol improved. In the once-per-day group, only diastolic blood pressure decreased. O2max increased 4.5% and 8.7% in the once-per-day and twice-per-day groups, respectively. After crossing over (after 12 weeks), V̇O2max increased 3.6% and 7.7% in the once-per-day and twice-per-day groups, respectively. There was no change in skinfold measures or circumferences in either group.
The authors concluded that both once-per-day and twice-per-day exercise groups showed improvements in fitness, but the twice-per-day group showed greater improvements in more variables. Exercising twice a day for 15 minutes per session can be helpful for beginning exercisers, older adults, individuals with disease, and postsurgery patients, as well as for apparently healthy adults of a wide age range (3).
Improved Self-Efficacy of Older Adults
In this interesting and unique study, the researchers investigated the benefits of adding a psychological empowerment component to strength training in community-dwelling older adults. Subjects were 12 men and 26 women, 60 to 81 years old, sedentary, had self-reported difficulty in one or more activities of daily living, and had a stable residence for 3 months. Initial testing involved strength efficacy, desire for physical strength, and leg extension strength. Strength efficacy was assessed by the certainty subjects had in their ability to successfully lift various amounts of weight with arm curl and leg extension. Desire for strength was assessed by the subject's desire or motivation to lift different amounts of weight six times. Leg extension score was based on what weight the subjects thought they could lift 10 times.
The subjects were placed in two groups: (1) traditional strength training and (2) psychological empowerment intervention. The traditional strength training group worked out 2 days per week with Nautilus machines, performed two sets of 11 exercises, and, once a week at home, performed similar exercises using Therabands. The interaction between exercise instructors and subjects was limited to instruction and supervision. The psychological empowerment intervention group did the exact same exercises and exercise protocol but was in pairs when exercising, had group-mediated counseling, and received specific and positive feedback on their exercise form, effort, and ability from an instructor.
The results showed that the psychological empowerment intervention group made a greater change in their desire for upper body strength compared with the traditional strength training group; however, there was no difference in desire for lower body strength. Both groups improved their self-efficacy for strength, but the psychological empowerment intervention group reported larger upper and lower body strength efficacy gains than the traditional strength training group. There were no differences in leg extension strength.
The authors concluded that it was an advantage for older adults to receive strategies to improve psychological empowerment during a weight training program. Psychological empowerment intervention during weight training may be a promising way to increase physical activity in older adults and decrease risk for disability.
1. Pettee, K.K., J.S. Brach, A.M. Kriska, et al. Influence of marital status on physical activity levels among older adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
® 38(3):541-546, 2006.
2. Kraemer, W.J. Twenty years and still growing. Message from the editor-in-chief. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
3. Quinn, T.J., J.R., Klooster, and B.C. Focht. Two short, daily activity bouts vs. one ling bout: are health and fitness improvements similar over twelve and twenty-four weeks? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
4. Katula, J.A., M., Sipe, W.J. Rejeski, et al. Strength training in older adults: an empowerment intervention. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise® 38(1): 106-111, 2006.