In healthy individuals, bone quality – chiefly determined by bone mineral density – depends on factors such as sex, age, race, and diet. However, this can be modified by making lifestyle changes such as taking part in regular exercise.
A new study recently published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, led by researchers from Camilo José Cela University (UCJC), determines how training to compete in endurance races (from 10 km to marathons) can benefit bone density. The changes in the mechanical properties of the bone were measured using the stiffness or rigidity index, a variable that is directly related to bone density of the calcaneus (the heel bone that forms the foundation of the rear part of the foot).
Beneficial changes in bone mineral quality can be induced using mechanical stimuli related to the load that the bones bear, including those that require greater muscular forces (weight-bearing exercise) or high impacts (such as jumping). How running long distances positively impacts bones is not fully understood and requires further study.
Mother’s Depression Impacts Baby’s Development
Psychologists at Florida Atlantic University conducted a study to determine how levels of oxytocin – widely referred to as the "love" hormone – might vary in women with depression.
The research team followed moms-to-be from pregnancy through the first six months after delivery. Through surveys, home visits, and urine samples from mothers and their babies to determine their oxytocin levels, the researchers found that higher oxytocin levels in mothers may indicate higher oxytocin levels in infants, which occurs during breastfeeding and interactive touching.
They also looked at changes in the babies as they develop. These include how the baby's left and right sides of the brain communicate, which research has associated with emotional experiences and learning. Babies of depressed mothers appear to be either inheriting or developing patterns that are similar to their mother’s depression. They focus on negative emotions and withdraw from stimuli.
Many factors contribute to mental health. This research confirms that mothers-to-be should be screened for depression and treated for their and their babies’ health.
Stronger Heart, Younger Brain
Exercise is known to improve heart health, but did you know it’s also beneficial to the brain?
A recent study provides new clues about the heart-mind connection in older people. Having a fit, healthy cardio-vascular system protects against vascular dementia because increasing the heart rate through exercise does more than just deliver more oxygen to the brain; it also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and blood vessels in the brain.
A study published in Neurology based on data from over 800 adults with an average age of 65 associated higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels with better overall thinking ability, as well as better performance on memory, motor skills, and executive function tests. In another report published in the journal Neuroimage, participants underwent functional MRI testing to track changes when a region of the brain responds during various tasks. Researchers found stronger connections between different brain regions in people with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness.
What these findings tells us is that exercise can positively affect not only our physical, but also neurological health. If you’re 65 or older and even if you have a chronic health problem, try to be as active as your abilities allow in order to achieve optimum heart and brain health.