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  • therealchesty 8:00 am on January 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: BDNF, , Brain, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, , , Hippocampus, , New Year, Physical exercise   

    Another Year Older, Another Year Wiser? 

    This year I want to exercise more, but not because I want to lose weight! I hear many resolutions at the beginning of a new year to shed unwanted kilos. These are made with the notion that effort will be required, and with such a resolution must come a resolve for active pursuit. We already know this, right? So I’m not writing with any advice on maintaining this resolution into the new year, and I’m certainly not going to be addressing the success rate of such goals that are set over and over as the fireworks erupt on January 1!

    What about the ability to absorb and retain information? I don’t often hear this as a resolution, and even less so in relation to an exercise program. Even though we embark on a new year with fresh expectations to change our world, reality is that most of us return to surroundings of familiar stimuli that do not generate physiological expansion of the mind.

    Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein found in the brain with the function of building the circuitry of cells by which the brain functions. It is responsible for ensuring adequate storage space for any new information that is to be taken on board. In the absence of BDNF, new information is rejected from the brain in the same way that items are rejected from an already overflowing storage locker. It just can’t fit in! Learning difficulties are reported in people where BDNF is deficient. This is due to cellular breakdown within the brain, which brings about a scattering of messages and a reduced ability to focus.

    Clinical evidence is now showing us that exercise not only increases the presence of BDNF in the brain, but that there is a close correlation with the accumulation of exercise. Higher exercise levels (frequency and duration) are associated with higher levels of BDNF in the Hippocampus – the long term storage area of the brain where memories are filed – effectively creating more storage space in the brain via the addition of new storage units.

    The essence of this is much the same as the resolution to lose weight in the new year – effort is required to make yourself smarter! Don’t leave it to chance through the ticking away of another year in the hope that experience from time on earth will bring about wisdom. A proactive approach to build and fill brain cells with new information will ensure you end the year wiser than you began.

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  • Scott Wood 3:54 pm on January 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: core training, ,   

    Low Back Pain and the Lazy Multifidus 

    Chances are that you, the reader, have experienced low back pain to some extent, or know someone who has. I am confident in this as the stats say that 80% of Australians will experience low back pain in their life time, and 25% of us are right now! Pretty alarming, but there is good news. Almost all back pain is mechanical in nature- what this means is that muscles have stopped working the way that they should- some have switched off that should be active and stabilising our spine, whilst other, bigger, stronger muscles have tightened up to do this important job. One of those important muscles that switches off is the multifidus. Without boring you with details, this muscles basically cascades up the spine and functions to provide control and stability at a very fine level. Research has found this muscle tends to be dysfunctional (switched off) in people experiencing low back pain. Research has found also that sitting in a slouched posture for an extended period of time can seriously disrupt this muscles function- in fact this posture can result in multifidus switching off for up to 24 hours! What if you are sitting at a desk in this position every day at work? You’d imagine the consequences wouldn’t be great.

    So what can you do to avoid developing a lazy multifidus? Firstly, try to sit with good posture as much as possible, but more importantly, don’t sit in one position for too long, move around, stand up every twenty minutes or so. Set a reminder on your computer if that helps. Secondly, learn how to activate your abdominal muscles from a Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist, or skilled Personal Trainer. Learning to activate what we would call, the ‘inner unit’ (transversus abdominis, multifidus, pelvic floor and diaphragm), then how to integrate this with activation of our stronger, more peripheral stabilising muscles is an invaluable skill that can alleviate and prevent low back pain. In fact research have proven that simply learning how to activate the inner unit can dramatically reduce the reoccurrence of low back pain. This is what we would call core training, or at least it is constitutes the initial stages of core re/training. So if you have experienced low back pain it could be a valuable step to consult someone who can design an intelligent exercise program for you so that you can get that lazy multifidus, among others, back working for you!

    • Roger Federer 2:37 am on January 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

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  • therealchesty 3:00 pm on December 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anxiety, , , , neurophysiology, psychology   

    Running the Cares Away 

    Tis the season to be jolly…jolly busy! Deadlines, shopping, crowds, family, finances, holidays…for many, the list goes on. So don’t worry – I don’t intend on making you feel guilty for not prioritising exercise during the silly season.

    I was feeling particularly flat recently, thinking through the above scenarios to instigate a survival plan. A niggling cold and some seasonal allergy had tipped my physical and mental states to the brink. Trying to balance the ‘should-do’s’ with the ‘have-to’s’ is hard at the best of times, and the unfulfilled training plan adds insult to injury. I succumbed to the ongoing internal battle between the logical part of my mind that says there’s no time, and the educated part of my mind that knows the benefits of exercise (and no – these two areas should not be separate!), and dragged my weary legs down the street in what could only be described as a plod. Gradually, as I achieved some momentum, a funny thing happened: with the increase in intensity came a decrease in my consciousness surrounding the stressors that were weighing me down.

    It is not the first time that I’ve experienced this phenomenon, however I find it an understated fact about exercise. As well as being good for health, necessary for weight management and an important part of rehabilitation, exercise can actually make you feel better! Clinical research is drawing the link between exercise and it’s positive effects on mental state – both acutely and chronically. Studies have shown that anxious people respond well to distraction, and that the distraction provided through exercise has a longer lasting effect than many commonly practised therapeutic activities for easing tension of the mind. Acutely, exercise decreases the drive of overactive muscle spindles, reducing muscle tension. It increases seratonin and norepinephrine (‘happy hormones’), and ramps up other aspects of the sympathetic nervous system via an alternate pathway to what worrying does. The acute neuro-physiological response brings about an internal calm and ‘can-do’ response to impending situations. Chronically, exercise generates and reinforces new neural pathways by hijacking the amygdala (the processing centre in the brain for memory and emotional response) and steering it’s response in a positive psycho-physiological direction.

    Dr. John Ratey has written a great book named ‘Spark’, in which he describes exercise as being a circuit breaker to your situation. The complex series of internal reactions that are ‘wired’ into our cerebral response to worrying situations can be altered, simply by moving our bodies with a little bit of vigour. Though logically there’s no time for exercise at this time of year, the research presented in Spark suggests that if you distract the ‘worry’ response with physical activity, you will generate more space to deal with that which makes you worry in the first place. So the moral for this festive season, or for any season really, is that movement is effective medicine for the cares that bring you down and should be enjoyed in greater moderation.

    • Max Martin 12:02 pm on December 13, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hey Chesty, great post mate. What you have written is so true! one of the things I have really enjoyed about getting back to running is that mental clarity you describe. interestingly, while I’m a strong supporter of resistance training, I don’t seem to get the same effect as I do with running (or cycling). so the key seems to be cardiovascular based exercise. this seems to align to what Dr Ratey recommends as well, doesn’t it?

    • Adam Catford 1:16 pm on December 13, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Timely reminder Nathan – thanks!

  • therealchesty 11:43 am on November 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Exercising to Look Good: Signing up for dissatisfaction 

    Sixteen years ago as a work experience student I had my first exposure to a gym. I was looking for something that I was vaguely interested in, and thought exercise was cool so I ended up at my local workout centre. My lasting memory from this time is of men and women doing bench presses and bicep curls in front of mirrors. They watched their chests and arms intently, admiring their shapes. The moves that they performed were mechanical and repetitious, and required little thought. I suppose this simplistic type of routine allowed attention to be directed towards the appearance of one’s body under exertion.

    Then, on every wall, were large pictures of male and female icons. It was as if these were to serve as a constant reference as to how we should LOOK. The problem as I saw it was that these people were in pursuit of an aesthetically based ideal that had been determined by somebody else (and their airbrush, perhaps). In reality, what was genetically, functionally, metabolically and specifically ideal for them may have actually looked quite different.

    The pursuit of aesthetics through exercise is disappointing. It minimalises the amazing and complex processes that occur within our bodies when we move, and lands us in a realm where ultimate satisfaction is rarely acheived or maintained. Exercise with intent breeds internal intelligence. It challenges and alters the paradigm of exercise, and opens a world of possibilities that lay beneath what we can see in the mirror.

  • Dr. Nathan Harten 11:45 am on October 29, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: arthritis, , , , IL-6, , , TNF-alpha   

    Exercise is inflammatory 

    This statement quite often leaves people somewhat confused especially after they’ve been told the impact chronic low-grade inflammation has on insulin resistance, which is a precursor to developing diabetes.

    However, while an exercise bout does increase levels of pro- inflammatory messengers called cytokines it only tells part of the story. The above statement also challenges the concept that all inflammation is bad for us. This is certainly not the case. The fact that we are able to fight off viruses and infections is testament to the benefits of an acute inflammatory response mediated by our white blood cells.

    You may have noticed that I’ve talked about acute inflammation (which implies a short term, high magnitude response) and chronic low-grade inflammation. It is the latter that we are finding is highly associated with chronic diseases of today which includes cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression and diabetes.

    However exercise appears to have an acute inflammatory response which in turn increases the production of free radicals which then switches on our body’s production of antioxidants that are ultimately responsible for the protective effect on our heart.

    Further to this, the inflammatory response to exercise is mainly driven by a cytokine (or technically a myokine since it is produced in the muscle) called interleukin-6 (IL-6) which has been shown to suppress the effects of another pro-inflammatory cytokine called TNF-alpha. This cytokine is produced by sick adipose cells (storage cells for fat) and induces insulin resistance.  Exercise also increases the levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1ra and IL-10) so while exercise might acutely create a pro-inflammatory response, the net effect after the bout of exercise is actually anti-inflammatory in nature.

    So what are the take home messages here? Firstly a little bit of inflammation through exercise is good for you. A little bit of short-term stress only makes our systems stronger. Our body is an amazing machine that can adapt and respond to these challenges and it has many mechanisms to respond to these natural stresses.

    Finally we need to understand that when our body is already under inflammation either acutely through sickness or chronically through diseases such as type II diabetes and arthritis, we need to choose intelligent exercise. By that I mean that the movement itself through poor biomechanics, or through an inappropriate intensity, should not introduce too much inflammation into the system. It is in these situations where we can experience adverse effects including excessive joint pain and musculoskeletal injuries.

  • iNformMaxMartin 11:22 pm on May 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Secret to old age nothing to do with lifestyle?? 

    I’m sorry, but I have to get this off my chest. I came across some incredibly irresponsible and short-sighted ‘journalism’ today (Thurs may 20th, 2010) in Adelaide’s The Advertiser. On page 3 of the ‘news’paper the first paragraph of the centre story states that “the secret to old age could have nothing to do with lifestyle and everything to do with genes.” the rest of the story goes on to celebrate a lady who has just had her 101st birthday (a very happy birthday and congratulations to her!), and to report that scientists have identified the “Methuselah genes”, named after the oldest person in the Bible, who lived to be 969.

    I guess that perhaps our public is not confused enough about what to believe about their health, so we might as well tell them now that they don’t have to do anything at all! its all out of their control!! after all, these genes are found in only 10% of young people, and in 30% of centenarians – what more evidence do we need for crying out loud!!! and we have all heard of someone who was a fit marathon runner and died of a heart attack! and better still, we all have an uncle Albert who drinks and smokes a pack a day and just turned 92, don’t we?!

    Well, I guess this begs the question: how did the other 70% get to be centenarians?? why is it that the highest concentration of centenarians occurs in non-developed Western countries/regions? could it also be that Methuselah’s contemporaries (and she would have had a few!) got to live as long as they did because they weren’t exposed to the stresses of modern western environments, or the processed foods, or the degrees of sedentary behaviour our communities experience? could it be that they experienced a degree of spiritual health not found in our society? could it be that perhaps their lifestyle had something to do with it? Have we wondered why most (if not all) centenarians are thin? maybe its because their overweight counterparts don’t get to live that long?? or wait, maybe its just genetics that keep them thin!! because in the absence of any real genetic shift in humans for thousands of years, our genetic pool has suddenly altered in the last 6 or 7 decades.

    My goodness, I hope you excuse my sarcasm, but a pen (or press) can be a very powerful weapon, and we should’t be handing licenses to use them publicly so easily.

    • iNformMaxMartin 10:00 am on May 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      and I haven’t even considered the QUALITY of life side of the story yet!!

      • Steve Davis 1:58 pm on May 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Go Max!! I think the slack and/or ill-informed journalist should be forced to do a workout with you for every exclamation point in your article. That way, they will not only be truly sorry, they will also gain that first hand experience of how much energy we start tapping once we shift a few degrees away from our sloth-like habits.

        • iNformMaxMartin 12:01 pm on May 22, 2010 Permalink

          Ha! It would be fun to train the journo! and I promise that I would keep my anger in check and be VERY professional!! thanks Steve!

  • iNformMaxMartin 5:50 pm on May 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , strength training   

    Reverse the ageing process with 90 minutes of resistance training a week! 

    So, lets follow on with our journey through the benefits of exercise, and here is one that is going to get you listening! exercise will slow down and even reverse the effects of ageing! and in particular, this is related to resistance training, or the lifting of weights.

    We know that when we lift weights we ‘damage and tear’ muscle fibres. this is that feeling of muscle soreness (not to be confused with joint or injury pain) that we get 24-48 hrs post exercise. Our body repairs these muscle fibres in such a way to protect them from being damaged by similar loads again in the future. this is done by building new bigger muscle fibres.

    Now, we know that the amount of muscle we carry is imperative to our health. It not only helps us burn more energy on a daily basis but a lack of it is associated with many chronic diseases such as diabetes.

    As we age we tend to lose muscle mass, at the age of 60 we tend to lose 1% per year which doubles into our 70s. The great news is that resistance training can help slow this rate of decline and has even been shown to increase muscle mass in 70-80 year olds!

    So, not only do we increase the size of our muscle as it rebuilds, but we can actually make it look new again through resistance training.
    Lets take a quick detour through micro-biology to better understand this outcome. as we know, all cells in our body are in a constant state of repair and replication, and this happens through the copying of our DNA code. as we age and continue to go through this replication process, the DNA code becomes damaged, so the quality of new tissue is likewise damaged.

    There’s a specific structure in muscle fibres called a mitochondria, which is where energy is produced (this is one of the reasons why increasing muscle mass is so important for weight management). as mitochondria replicates, it also degrades in quality through this process, which leads it to produce an increasing amount of ‘damaged’ by-products. Of particular interest are ‘free radicals’, which create a an oxidative (or rust like effect) on cellular tissue, thus further degrading it (this is the reason why we are encouraged to consume ‘anti oxidants!).

    So, back to our muscle rebuilding story. when a muscle is damaged, its mitochondria are totally destroyed, so they can’t replicate anymore. So in the new muscle fibres the mitochondria are built using genetically untouched mitochondrial DNA.

    It’s effectively like we are using new parts to build our muscle rather than recycling the old ones. Therefore our muscles look younger under a microscope, they function better which makes us feel like we have more energy on a daily basis.

    So make sure you include resistance based training into your weekly schedule. The Australian Activity guidelines encourage us to exercise on most days of the week, but the American guidelines also include a recommendation for 2-3 weights sessions a week. make sure you look for registered Exercise Professionals to ensure you get the most out of your exercise sessions!

  • iNformMaxMartin 4:23 pm on March 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , cortisol, , , , , stress   

    Exercise benefits on Stress – fighting the beast! 

    Before we can make sense of how exercise can help us deal with stress better, it will be useful to understand the physiology of stress and how it affects us.
    Needless to say, a great starting point is to highlight that the best way to deal with stress is to reduce your stress drivers and how you deal with them. Let us encourage you to look at those in your daily life and seek the support of qualified therapists in these area.

    To support your changes, exercise is a great tool to improve your body’s capacity to absorb the effects of stress.
    At a physiological level, stress is a desired response designed for a “fight or flight” situation. The physiological process that is triggered to help us deal with such an event is described below, but its important to keep in mind that it should occur over short durations, and then ‘dealt’ with (by fighting or running!).

    The result is the release of adrenaline which is almost instantaneous and increases alertness and cortisol, which peaks at about 15-30 min after the start of the stress trigger. The whole point of these responses is to give us the required energy to deal with the situation at hand, by elevating blood pressure, increasing blood sugar (for energy) and decreasing most other non-essential systems. the problem in our modern western settings is that we don’t face too many ‘acute’ (short lasting) triggers (such as a threatening animal, etc), but rather longer lasting chronic stresses, such as work and financial pressures. In the ‘acute’ settings, increased physical activity was the way we dealt with the threat – i.e. by fighting or escaping – this would then help diffuse the physiological effects of stress mentioned above.

    In our chronic western settings we don’t deal with stress in a physical manner. As a matter of fact we all well know that the amount of exercise we do is consistently decreasing, and even more so the busier we are. So we don’t often get to diffuse the heightened physiological responses. The result is chronically elevated levels of cortisol, which lead to Hypertension, Insulin resistance, and OBESITY.

    So what is exercise good for? firstly it directly helps to reduce the physiological effects of stress, as we know that it will reduce insulin resistance, lead to hormonal responses that relax blood vessels, and use up excess blood sugar (and fat) for energy! Further more, through exercise the body becomes more physiologically efficient at dealing with the stress hormones in the first place. In addition you get all the emotional feel-good benefits of being active, a sense of achievement, and the opportunity to enjoy time doing something good for yourself!

    so, don’t delay, get out there and MOVE!!!

    • sexologist 8:10 pm on March 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      yes i am agree with you exercise is very help full to reduce stress. any ways This is really a nice blog, the kind of information you have provided is worth appreciation.We all like this blog.

      • Max Martin iNformed 9:19 am on March 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for the comments! It’s great you are enjoying the blog. if there’s any particular topics you would like to see covered from an exercise physiology perspective make sure you let us know!

  • iNformMaxMartin 5:30 pm on March 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , body composition, , , , , ,   

    In an earlier post we promised to outline the many benefits that exercise can provide you, and this is our time to deliver! now, before your eyes roll back in boredom, I have to tell you that the more that we look at this the more exciting and brilliant this concept of moving your body becomes!!

    To be honest, over the last couple of months I’ve fallen in love all over again with my profession. I get the incredible opportunity to make people’s bodies healthier on a day to day basis by simply making them move at intensities and complexities greater than they are used to!

    Another thing that I’d like to clarify is what exercise is NOT good for. My point here is, as is published in an earlier post, that I find it a shame that people become disillusioned with exercise because they expected their 5 visits to the gym to provide them with results that are unrealistic. check out the linked blog article for more on the balance between nutrition and exercise to lose weight. as it indicates, exercise alone results in relatively small weight loss when compared to dietary changes. BUT what is exercise good for then in this case??

    now, outlining the many benefits of exercise is a massive undertaking, so we’ll be taking you along on an exploration journey over the next few weeks as we let you in on some fantastic evidence.

    Back to our topic for today – the effect of exercise on weight loss: as stated in the linked article, exercise can help reduce as much as half a kilo of fat per week with a gruelling schedule. Very importantly we do know that exercise provides you with the best protection against weight GAIN! therefore being one of the best prevention strategies against the obesity epidemic. There’s a range of physiological reasons that help to explain this:
    Exercise, especially resistance training (lifting weights) helps maintain and/or increases your lean body mass (muscle), which means you have a bigger ‘engine’ to burn more energy on a day to day basis.
    Exercise, especially at high intensities, results in your cells being more effective fat burners, so not only are you burning fat while you exercise, but also during the rest of the day – try interval based training to maximise this!
    Another great mechanism is that exercise makes you more insulin sensitive, meaning that you are better able to metabolise (burn) energy and are less likely to store fat as a result.

    Now how is that for a start on getting you excited about getting more active?! next week we’ll tell you about the benefits of exercise on stress management and sleep quality.

    till then! in the mean time, if you have any questions on this don’t hesitate to contact our Exercise Physiologists at

  • iNformMaxMartin 5:26 pm on February 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cost of disease, , , , , quitting, smoking   

    where should the money go?? anti-smoking, alcohol, or into physical activity?? 

    just saw the new Australian anti-smoking campaign on TV “Path2Quit”, check it out at
    Firstly, great campaign. simple and to the point. and needed, as we know that as a smoker you will lose, on average, 8 years of healthy life. At face value, it seems that investing heavily in the reduction of community wide smoking is a valid strategy as this is the lifestyle behaviour with the largest effect.

    However, Physical inactivity is also a major player, with those that are generally inactive will lose an average of 6.5 years of healthy life.

    There is a very interesting factor that is missing from this comparison however, and that is that more than twice as many Australians over the age of 14 years are inactive (7.3M) compared to the number of smokers in this age bracket (2.9M). If we do the sums, smoking Australians will collectively lose 23million years of healthy life… yes, you read that right! but inactive australians will lose 48million years of healthy life…

    I wonder if we are investing twice the resources and legislative power to increasing the physical activity levels in this great country….?

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