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blog | Ejercicio y felicidad

 

La asociación del ejercicio, el deporte, el baile y muchas formas de movimiento con sentimientos de alegría o bienestar emocional y físico son bien conocidas.

A pesar de las grandes dificultades que existen en la vida moderna para ser físicamente activo, muchas personas han vivido en carne y espíritu propio la sensación de placer, del “well being” que se asocia con la actividad física.

Las explicaciones científicas son aún incompletas, pero hemos avanzado mucho. Durante el ejercicio ocurren millones de reacciones bioquímicas y fisiológicas que buscan optimizar el rendimiento físico y mental, así como reducir el dolor y la sensación de fatiga. Algunos de estos químicos se parecen al opio, a la morfina y se conocen como endorfinas o “morfina endógena”. Se destacan, por ejemplo, la dopamina y la serotonina, neurotransmisores cruciales en el manejo de la depresión, la ansiedad, el sueño y el apetito.

Recientemente se ha descrito un peptido (proteína) derivado del cerebro (BDNF), sobre el cual disponemos ya de miles de publicaciones. Y parece regular desde el cerebro cientos de reacciones neurohormonales.

Por otro lado, las ciencias del comportamiento humano, en especial la psicología, la sociología y la antropología, han aclarado los beneficios psicosociales de mantenerse activo sobre la autoestima, la autodeterminación, el logro de metas, la socialización y más.

La literatura es abundante en estudios sobre salud mental y actividad física. Para quienes no parece ser atractivo tener buena figura o un corazón más sano, pero sí quieren prevenir y tratar la diabetes o la hipertensión, podría ser interesante ser más productivo, mejorar el genio, las ganas de vivir, llorar menos y disfrutar más de las pequeñas y grandes cosas de la vida cotidiana.

 

JD

 

Este blog fue publicado en el periódico El Espectador en julio 13 – 2014

Fotografía de Vida Dimovska, usada bajo Licencia Creative Commons.

blog | Café, salud y ejercicio

 

La interacción entre el consumo de café, el rendimiento físico y mental, y la salud en general han sido estudiados desde la antigüedad. El café es sin duda una de las bebidas de más alto consumo en todo el mundo y nuestra frágil economía se ha beneficiado de ello en muchas ocasiones.

Para muchos, el trabajo, los negocios o la vida social serían difíciles de imaginar sin una taza de buen café. Por otro lado, la frecuente especulación basada en anécdotas u opiniones personales ha popularizado creencias y mitos que tienen poco o ningún soporte científico. Aun para algunos profesionales de la salud, el conocimiento y las recomendaciones sobre el consumo de café o sus componentes proviene de fuentes poco confiables.

Las razones para tanta confusión son comunes a otros hábitos. Lo más frecuente es una comprensión incompleta de las múltiples causas o factores que interactúan o favorecen la aparición de un síntoma o una enfermedad.

Veamos algunas asociaciones comunes: el café causa diabetes. No sólo no existe ningún estudio que lo demuestre, sino que se ha documentado recientemente, en grandes y rigurosos estudios, que los individuos que consumen más café tienen menor riesgo de desarrollar diabetes mellitus tipo 2.

¿Por qué la malinterpretación? Muchos individuos acompañan el café con un delicioso y mortal cigarrillo, que duplica el riesgo de diabetes y docenas de enfermedades. O al menos con una buena porción de pastelería rica en grasas y harinas que se asocian con sobrepeso y obesidad, los principales factores de riesgo para la diabetes. El café sin cigarrillo y con un peso normal puede protegernos de esta enfermedad.

Fotografía de P!XELTREE / Flickr, licencia CC.

Fotografía de P!XELTREE / Flickr, licencia CC.

Tampoco se ha podido demostrar un efecto negativo del café sobre la presión arterial. Más aún, las personas que consumen más café padecen menos de “stroke” o accidentes cerebrovasculares, el desenlace más temido para un paciente hipertenso.

En cuanto a las arritmias cardíacas y los síntomas digestivos, hay todo un esfuerzo de la investigación por aclarar las cosas. Hasta el momento no hay evidencia científica clara que permita concluir efectos nocivos del café en estos temas. La sensibilidad de cada persona a los efectos biológicos de la cafeína y los numerosos antioxidantes y sustancias activas contenidas en una tasa de café deben ser consideradas a la hora de dar una recomendación médica.

Fotografía de Joe St.Pierre / Flickr, licencia CC.

Fotografía de Joe St.Pierre / Flickr, licencia CC.

Por último, vale la pena resaltar los efectos favorables del café sobre el rendimiento físico y mental. La estimulación del sistema nervioso provoca mejores niveles de atención, concentración y velocidad de reacción que pueden ser críticos para un conductor, un operario, un ejecutivo o para un deportista competitivo.

 

JD

 

Este blog fue publicado en el periódico El Espectador en mayo 24 – 2014

Fotografías de 55Laney69P!XELTREEJoe St.Pierre, usadas bajo Licencia Creative Commons.

Exercise while traveling

 

ACSM current comment

Regular exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. The American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association, and other prominent organizations have issued recommendations to encourage individuals to establish and maintain participation in an exercise program. A potential impediment to an exercise program is the conflict that can be created by a business trip, which is a common event for many Americans. While it is not advisable for an individual to begin an exercise program while on a business trip, it is recommended that exercise habits be maintained while traveling.

Business trips can create a number of conflicts with your exercise program. It is important to recognize potential limitations so that you can plan accordingly and allow yourself to keep up your regimen. Here are some modifications in your exercise program that you might consider while traveling on business:

1. Consider exercise area and/or facility availability in your selection of lodging. If your exercise program includes a running component, you should be aware of restrictions that could exist in some urban areas. Ask hotel personnel for suggestions. If safe running routes are not available, you may find treadmill facilities in the hotel. Some hotels offer in-house exercise areas that might include weight training equipment, a swimming pool, and cardiovascular conditioning equipment. In some cities, perhaps a downtown athletic club will have an agreement with certain hotels whereby guests may use their facilities.

To prevent the muscular soreness that sometimes accompanies exercising new muscle groups or exercising differently (i.e. exercise equipment to which you are not accustomed), you may wish to reduce exercise intensity and duration. You may also consider packing such small pieces of exercise equipment as a jump rope or resistance bands.

2. Plan your trip schedule to include time for exercise. Business trips are fraught with time-crunched schedules and meetings and lunches that leave little extra time for the business traveler. However, there are a number of benefits to including time for exercise in your business trip itinerary. Exercise is known to be a stress reliever. Additionally, the distraction may even help you concentrate better and have the energy and focus to be more productive later. If a meeting is a must, then take attendees out for some exercise! This may provide a more informal setting to discuss matters while allowing you to maintain your exercise schedule.

3. Understand how reduced exercise time affects your fitness level. A common concern of exercisers who know they will not be able to exercise at all or as much due to restrictions imposed by their business trip is that they will suffer a reduction in their physical fitness level. It is important to understand that it is much easier to maintain your current level of fitness than it is to improve your fitness level. Current evidence suggests that you can take up to a week off from exercise training without any significant reduction in your fitness level. During longer trips you should be able to maintain your fitness with a regimen of either aerobic or strength training or both amounting to only twice a week, particularly if you maintain your exercise training intensity during this period of reduced training.

In conclusion, with advance planning and the willingness to make modifications to your exercise program, it is reasonable to incorporate exercise time into the schedule of a business trip. Because travel can be so disruptive to your normal schedule as well as other adjustments you must make (e.g., sleeping accommodations, food), this is NOT the best time to work on increasing your fitness level. Instead, the goal should be maintenance of your current fitness level.

 

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Physical Training for Improved Occupational Performance

 

 ACSM current comment

As athletes strive to improve their performance through effective training techniques, so too can workers benefit from optimally planned exercise training programs designed to boost occupational physical performance. Similar to athletics–where skill and fitness demands vary between that of the recreational and the professional athlete–occupational physical demands can vary among employment settings. Physically demanding occupations, such as those found in the armed services, emergency rescue professions, and construction and warehouse industries, require a high degree of physical fitness. Job performance in these occupations can be augmented by participation in formal exercise programs targeted at improving the musculoskeletal and/or cardiorespiratory systems.

Even less physically demanding occupations such as computer or clerical work can benefit from fitness and flexibility training. Tasks involving prolonged and repetitive pushing and pulling, holding, carrying, and lifting can lead to cumulative trauma disorders such as lower back pain, sprains, strains, carpal tunnel syndrome and neck pain. Physical training can be effectively used as both a prevention and rehabilitation tool in occupational settings. In addition to the well-known health benefits of being physically fit, physical training interventions can increase worker productivity by overcoming limitations in job performance due to inadequate muscle strength, power, endurance or aerobic capacity. Physical training can also prevent mismatches between job demands and physical capacities and decrease lost time due to injury-related absenteeism.

Conducting a Job Analysis 

The first step in physical training program design is the completion of a comprehensive job analysis. This analysis should identify the most physically demanding and frequently occurring job tasks (critical job tasks). It will help to refer to written job descriptions and training manuals, observe individuals performing the job and interview subject-matter experts (e.g., ergonomists and occupational therapists). Once the critical physically demanding tasks have been identified, additional information regarding the tasks must be recorded to include mass and distance of loads handled, forces and torques exerted, frequency and duration of task performance, and equipment used to complete the job task. Information specific to the worker must also be recorded, such as body position, movement, and muscle groups employed while performing the task. This information is then used to determine the requisite energy systems and fitness components needed for successful job performance. Based on this information, a physical training program to improve job performance can be developed.

Before initiating a rigorous physical training program, it is essential that employees obtain medical approval for exercise.

Types of Physical Training for Improved Occupational Performance 

Physical training programs for improving occupational physical performance typically assume one of two forms: 1) job- or task specific training and 2) generalized physical fitness training. Task-specific training is accomplished by performing the physically demanding tasks of the job. This must be done in a progressive manner. For example, if the main physically demanding task of a given occupation is to lift 20 boxes weighing 40 kg each from a pallet onto a waist-high shelf, this may be beyond the physical capacity of a new employee. The new worker may need to perform fewer lifts or may take longer to complete the task. Simply performing this task is a form of task-specific training. Once a worker is able to perform this task satisfactorily, the intensity of the exercise can be progressively increased to provide a continual training effect. This can be accomplished by manipulating the load lifted (resulting in strength gains), the lifting rate (resulting in aerobic gains), or the total number of repetitions (resulting in muscular endurance gains).

As the physical capacity of the worker increases (be it strength, cardiovascular endurance, or muscular endurance), the percentage of an individual’s maximum capacity utilized during the job task decreases. This, in turn, decreases the likelihood or risk of injury for that individual. Task-specific training is valid, and may provide improvement in task performance. The drawback is that it may be difficult and expensive to set up. A generalized physical fitness-training program is developed to improve employees’ overall health and physical fitness. The program emphasizes specific muscle groups and energy pathways needed for optimal job performance. For example, a job such as a luggage handler at an airport would involve moving many pieces of heavy luggage from a cart onto a belt, or from a moving belt into the belly of the plane. The periods of rapid lifting are followed by a short rest period while the handler drives the luggage to the next location.

This task is likely to have high strength and aerobic demands, and the individual may be required to work in confined postures. In this case, a general physical fitness program would involve progressive resistance exercise to increase strength and muscular endurance, as well an aerobic training component to improve aerobic capacity. The advantage of a general physical fitness training program is that it increases overall physical capacity and fitness of the individual. The training program is not narrowly focused, thus avoiding muscular imbalance. Increased physical capacity also may be generalized to other tasks. In other words, the employee may improve performance of other tasks, not just the one they were trying to improve. Generalized physical fitness training using standard exercise equipment reduces risk of injury compared with job-specific training. Ideally, a generalized physical fitness-training program is conducted in a corporate-owned or off-site fitness facility under the supervision of an experienced and certified allied health professional with a thorough knowledge of exercise training. One drawback to generalized physical fitness training is that the improvement in job performance is not so great as those obtained from task-specific training. The fact that improved performance may transfer to other tasks may offset this drawback.

Principles and Recommendations for Program Design 

In designing a physical training program for improving occupational performance, several fundamental program-design variables should be considered:

  • exercise selection and order
  • equipment used
  • specificity
  • frequency
  • sets
  • repetitions
  • rest intervals
  • duration
  • variation
  • progression

The main factors influencing these variables are the initial fitness and training status of the worker and the desired outcome and goals of the program (i.e., muscle strength, power, endurance, aerobic capacity, and motor performance).

Jobs with little variation and a high skill or technical component will show the greatest improvements with task-specific training programs, while jobs requiring a variety of body movements and utilizing the various components of muscle fitness will benefit mostly from general fitness programs. The worker or “occupational athlete” can derive as much benefit in terms of improved performance as the Olympic athlete can by participating in optimal physical training programs.

 

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