Feb. 16, 2021

Smartphone apps boost exercise by users

Sometimes there’s a place for gizmos. This meta analysis looked for a link between smartphone apps/trackers and exercise among 7400 app users. The study concluded: They “seem to be effective in promoting physical activity.” Go for it. More at Brit J of Sports Medicine.

February 16, 2021

New report on running during Covid shows more miles, less intensity, more injuries
Researchers surveyed 1147 runners (66% F, av age 35). The runners said they were running more than the year before, but less intensely, with fewer hard workouts and less worry about  race fitness. They were 40% more likely to have an injury than previously. More at Plos One.

How to run a fast mile for 19 straight years … or 57 straight
Nick Willis broke an unofficial record last month when he ran a sub-4-minute mile for the 19th year in a row. There are also records for sub-5-miles (43 years, Steve Spence). And for sub-6 (57 years, Harry Nolan). It’s always good to stay fast in the mile, at any age. Here, each runner explains how he did it. More at Podium Runner.

Do you need to lift until you can lift no more?
There are endless debates about the best strategies for strength training. For example, do you have to lift “to failure.” Or can you stop short? This systematic review finds that “Resistance training not to failure may induce comparable or even greater improvements in maximal dynamic strength and power output.” More at J. of Strength & Conditioning Research. 

[Subscribe here. Free.]

Two proven ways to prevent runner’s knee?
In study after study, patellofemoral pain (runner’s knee) ranks at the top of the most frequent and troublesome injuries. So it would be great to protect yourself. Is this possible? This meta analysis looked at results from 11 studies in mostly military and young-athlete populations. It concluded that strengthening, stretching, and orthotics didn’t work. On the other hand, there was low-level evidence that knee braces and running technique changes (run more softly) “can reduce the risk of patellofemoral pain by 60%–79%.” More at British Journal of Sports Medicine. 

Secret to a pain-free marathon
Sorry, there isn’t one. According to this study of 1251 marathon runners, 99.8 percent of them felt pain at some point during their 26.2-mile efforts. (Which makes you wonder what’s wrong with the other 0.2 percent.) The pain tends to begin at 15+ miles, and to be most prevalent in the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles, which at least tells you where to focus your strengthening program. Women and men registered the same amount of pain. More at Frontiers in Sports and Active Living.

Nasal dilator fails to improve exercise efficiency
Nasal dilators have been around for a while now, and are frequently seen at road races, sometimes worn by elite competitors. These devices claim to improve air (and oxygen) flow through the nose. In this paper, researchers tested a device called the Turbine. They concluded that it “does not reduce the WOB [work of breathing] and has no effect on dyspnea or exercise capacity.” More at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 

More training is not better training
This study looked at the training of 99 triathletes getting ready for an Ironman-distance event. They all trained a lot, but the ones who trained the most did not perform the best. That’s the big message here. In fact, those who trained more than 20 hours a week finished slower than those who trained 14 hours or less. More at Physiology & Behavior.

Three steps to reduced Achilles tendon pain
In this RCT (randomized controlled trial), researchers took a group suffering from Achilles problems and gave some extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) ESWT while others didn’t receive ESWT. Both groups improved, because both also received eccentric-loading and stretching instructions. However, “Adding ESWT to this combined protocol resulted in significantly greater improvements in both the short and long term.” More at Foot & Ankle International.

Heart health good in 10 yr follow up of middle-aged half-marathoners
An Italian research group investigated the heart and general health of 35 amateur half-marathon runners 10 years after an initial assessment of the same subjects. Most of them were still entering half-marathons after this decade-long interval. Result: “This study suggests that a regular moderate–vigorous physical training over many years was beneficial in a group of middle-aged amateur half-marathon runners.” More at BMJ Open Heart.

Beets for better running
Beets, spinach, beet juice and other nitrate-containing foods have been extensively researched for a decade or so now. Many of the studies have concluded that these vegetable nitrates can lower blood pressure and improve running performance. This meta analysis and systematic review finds that “dietary nitrate seems to have a positive effect on muscular strength and muscular endurance.” The effect is small but real. More at Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

Time to act against air pollution for world health
It goes without saying that air pollution is a serious problem for runners, given all the breaths we take while training and racing. Air pollution is also being linked to an increasing number of chronic health problems. Here leading cardiovascular organizations--including the World Heart Federation and the American Heart Association--argue that it’s time to take serious action. Let’s join their efforts. More at World Heart Federation.

Can a recovery-analysis strap help you reach a new personal best?
Pay attention now: This story is essentially an ad for Whoop, a recovery-analysis strap that is free but apparently useless without a $24/month analytics membership. Ordinarily, I’d never mention a product like this, but the Whoop folks did something interesting. They conducted an 8-week “experiment” with runners who raced a 5K pre-Whoop and post-Whoop, and here they report the results. Non-Whoop runners improved by 2:30, while Whoop runners sliced off 2:41 and reported 34 percent less injury. “Advanced” and “elite” runners showed much more modest gains. And who wouldn’t get faster when given a glitzy band and software offer? Still, this is fun to read, because such side-by-side reports are rare. More at Whoop.

[Subscribe here. Free.]
That's it for now. Thanks for reading. See you next week. Amby