Trying to keep up with what’s going on in the fitness/wellness sciences is difficult. Every time some new ‘thing’ hits the media, it stirs up interest from many of my clients in the meaning and value this new thing presents. They trust me to sift through the BS and provide a PhD view of it.
The good news is, for the most part, that the news on fitness is rock solid good. The bad news, on diets and supplements, is that most are not what we…or you had hoped.
For example, a recent study some clients found in the Wall Street Journal, and that I looked up on PubMed.com, comes from Finland, on fall prevention and older women. The Europeans have a much better public health system in as much as everyone is automatically a participant and their data is available for analyses by the appropriate people.
Thus, one study (JAMA International Med. Published on line Mar. 23, 2015) did a 2 yr study of 409 independent women ages 70-80 yrs. They all had to have fallen at least once the year before the study and not use vitamin D supplements. They were divided into 4 groups: placebo only, exercise and placebo, exercise and D, or vitamin D only. Monthly reported falls were the main outcome of interest. The extent of injury was a secondary concern.
While neither intervention reduced the NUMBER of falls (though the D plus exercise had the lowest number just not significantly so) the hazard ratios for injured fallers were significantly lower among the exercise plus D group and the exercise without D group.
In other words, exercise significantly reduced the severity of injuries – by half – regardless of vitamin D status.
D, however, did maintain femoral neck bone density and increased tibial (shin bone) density slightly. The addition of D did not affect the benefits of exercise.
Only exercise improved strength and balance!
In another study from Australia, another socialized health care system nation, we get a report of an 8-year observational study of 204,542 New South Wales adults aged 45 to 75.
They found that those with higher rates of moderate to vigorous activity in their lifestyles reduced their risk of mortality by 13%.
Of course, the authors caution “that even more benefit can be achieved when the proportion of vigorous activity is increased—provided there are no other risks present.”
So, as we can see, exercise for the elderly is both injury preventive and mortality diminishing. Pretty good, huh? But what about diets and supplements?
Well, we already saw that vitamin D may not reduce your risk of falling or of injury if you do fall. However, many other studies, not so well controlled, mind you, have demonstrated benefits on both of these, risk and degree of injury. While eating fatty fish may be a better and tastier way of getting the D you need, it may not be your thing. Moving on….
Diets, for weight loss, not for health, are as prolific and demanded by the public and their health care providers as anything in the fitness world. Having studied their benefits, I can say and have written in our newsletters and elsewhere that they are generally ineffective. That’s not to say people don’t lose weight on them but ultimately, if you don’t live by them, and make them part of your overall lifestyle, that weight will return, sometimes with a fury.
A study reported in the April 6 Annals of Internal Medicine concluded, and got lots of press, that most commercial diets do not provide substantial weight loss after a year’s time. Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, however, got good press for being the ‘best’ among the 32 that were analyzed. Yet, while the reports in the mass media or in the link above do not share it, we don’t know exactly how much weight was lost.
All we get is that WW and JC lost 3-5% – that is, 3 to 5 PERCENT more weight than the others after a year. To put that in perspective, if someone lost 20 lbs after a one year diet on WW, some of the other diets may have lost only 19 lbs or so. That does not make WW or JC superior; it just means on average when you bundle hundreds of people doing a particular commercial diet together, you might get a half or whole pound difference IFFFF you lose 20 lbs. But if your average weight loss is only 10 lbs, that difference between diets is around a quarter to half a pound. Not much difference, and really not much weight loss after a whole year, right? And if memory serves me correctly, a 2 yr study of WW and JC had them losing, after weight regain, only 10-11 lbs.
Thus, whatever diet you go on, if done temporarily, will help you lose weight but if you want to keep it off you must incorporate that diet or some variant thereof into your lifestyle as a whole. Forever.
So where does this leave us? Ultimately, dieting is a fools errand for most of us as it is a temporary solution to a lifelong concern. Finding a diet that fulfills your caloric and nutritional needs is something a dietitian or a good trainer can do for you, with you.
But at STEPS, we can only guide you on diet; however, we can surely get you an exercise program that will help you accomplish short and long term needs. And if for the long term, that means reducing your risk of falls, reducing the severity of injuries, and ultimately extending your quality of life for as long as nature allows.