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 Journal1 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. Men's Deaf Olympic Ice Hockey Team; 2) the health and fitness industry, by contributing to fitness magazines, consulting, presenting at health and fitness meetings such as the ACSM's Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition; and 3) as an occupational physiologist, in the areas of back injury prevention, ergonomics, workstation stretching, and prework warm-up.
Predictors of Anabolic Steroid Use
In this study, the researchers investigated the predictors of anabolic steroid use and if use of anabolic steroids caused emotional and behavioral problems later in life. Data were collected by surveying Norwegian high school students (age, 15 to 19 years) in 1994 with a follow-up survey in 1999 (N = 2,924). Survey questions asked are as follows: had they ever used steroids, had they ever been offered steroids, the number of times they had used steroids in the past 12 months, were they competing in sports, were they involved in sports, were they involved in noncompetitive sports, were they involved in power sports, hours spent training, perceived athletic competence, disordered eating, body mass index self-report, Body Areas Satisfaction Scale, perceptions of global physical appearance, romantic appeal, sexual involvement, age of first sexual involvement, illicit drug use, alcohol use, depression, and suicide attempts.
The results of the survey revealed that future anabolic steroid use was predicted by young age, male gender, previous steroid use, involvement in power sports, and frequent alcohol intoxication. The use of steroids did not predict future behavioral problems (1).
Walking Reduces Craving for Cigarettes
The purpose of this study was to examine if walking could mimic the effect of nicotine by changing the subjects' mood and reduce the craving to smoke a cigarette. In a crossover design, 15 subjects (all smoking at least 10 cigarettes/day) either walked at their own pace for 1 mile (approximately 15 to 20 minutes) on a treadmill or sat quietly on separate days. The subjects were asked not to smoke for 15 hours before walking or sitting quietly. Subjects were asked to imagine they were walking quickly to catch a bus but not to be out of breath, and they could go faster or slower if they wanted.
The results are exciting because the researchers found that after the walk, subjects felt less tension as measured with a Mood and Physical Symptoms Scale. In addition, there was a significant reduction in the desire to smoke during walking and for 20 minutes after the walk.
The researchers conclude by indicating that this is the first study to show that low-to-moderate intensity exercise can reduce the desire to smoke during and after exercise. They also speculate that the exercise may reduce the craving to smoke by having an effect on the "pleasure and reward" centers of the brain. Finally, they indicate that walking is a convenient, low-effort, and low-cost option for smokers to enhance their feeling of well-being and to reduce the craving for smoking (2).
Bench Press on a Swiss Ball
This study investigated the effect of performing a dumbbell bench press on a stable bench and on a Swiss ball. Fourteen subjects performed a dumbbell bench press using 60% of their one repetition maximum (performed on a bench) with a 2-second repetition audio cadence. Surface electrodes were placed on the right anterior deltoid, biceps, triceps, pectoralis major, rectus abdominus, and transverse abdominus. Subjects were positioned on the bench and ball, so that their thoracic and lumbar spine was supported, but the spine above the seventh cervical vertebrae was unsupported. The same surface height was used for both the bench and the ball, with the height of the ball ranging from 35 to 72 cm, so that the trunk was parallel to the ground and the knees bent at 90 degrees. Feet were hip-width apart, and shoulders started the movement abducted to 90 degrees.
The results of the study found that electromyographic activity was significantly greater for the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, and anterior deltoid when performing a bench press on a Swiss ball. The researchers conclude that the acute effect of performing a bench press on a Swiss ball is that there is increased activity of the stabilizing muscles (anterior deltoid, transverse abdominus, and rectus abdominus) but not of the prime movers (pectoralis major and triceps) (3).
Physical Activity in Schools
The purpose of this study was to describe a new program for increasing activity in elementary schools in the Canadian province of British Columbia and its implementation, feasibility, and fidelity and to evaluate the impact of the new program on physical activity in schools. The new program, called "Action School! BC" (AS! BC), provided tools for schools and teachers to create action plans to increase activity opportunities in six areas: school environment, physical education classes, classroom action, family and community, extracurricular activities, and school spirit.
Ten elementary schools were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: Usual Practice, Liaison, or Champion. Usual Practice was the usual physical activity and physical education. In Liaison, teachers had weekly contact with a school facilitator who provided mentorship and demonstrated activities, plus each classroom had action bins with enhanced resources. In Champion, the school facilitator provided training and support to the designated "Champion" teacher who activated and supported colleagues, plus they had action bins. The study took place for a period of 11 months, and physical activity was assessed with weekly activity logs. Feasibility and fidelity were assessed using action plans, workshop evaluations, teacher surveys, and focus groups with administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
The amount of physical activity was significantly greater in the Liaison and Champion groups (10 minutes more than Usual Practice). Action plans and activity logs showed fidelity to the model and moderate levels of compliance (75%). Teachers were highly satisfied with the training and support.
Benefits of the AS! BC included positive changes in the students and school climate (provision of resources, improved communication, and program flexibility). The authors conclude that the AS! BC model was effective and provided more opportunities for more children to be more active more often; therefore, it had the potential to improve the health and well-being of elementary school children (4).
1. Wichstrom, L. Predictors of future anabolic androgenic steroid use. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®
2. Taylor, A., M. Katomeri, and M. Ussher. Effects of walking on cigarette cravings and affect in the context of Nesbitt's paradox and the circumplex model. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
3. Marshall, P.W.M., and B.A. Murphy. Increased deltoid and abdominal muscle activity during swiss ball bench press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
4. Naylor, P.J., H.M. Macdonald, J.A. Zebedee, et al. Lessons learned from Action Schools! BC-an "active school" model to promote physical activity in elementary schools. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport