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Searching for "Health_&_Fitness"

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Hiking For Health

Uphill and downhill hiking provides different benefits for the body and the mind

If you're reading this blog, you probably already know that hiking works wonders for your personal physical and mental health—and if you're anything like us at BACKPACKER, you take every opportunity to give yourself a fresh dosage. But it might surprise you to learn that our bodies actually get different benefits from hiking uphill vs. hiking downhill.

To explore the specific benefits of hiking, Austrian researchers enlisted two groups of hikers as guinea pigs: One group hiked up an Alps ski resort mountain and descended by gondola. After two weeks, the groups switched, and when they looked into the effect of different types of hiking on fat and sugar levels in the blood, the Austrian researchers found divergent results. Take it away, Science:
As expected, hiking uphill proved to be a great workout and provided measurable health benefits. Unexpectedly, researchers from the Vorarlberg Institute for Vascular Investigation and Treatment discovered that hiking downhill also has unique benefits. 

Both uphill and downhill hiking reduced LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Only hiking uphill reduced triglyceride levels. The study's surprise finding was that hiking downhill was nearly twice as effective as uphill hiking at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009 in: Health & Fitness
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Watch Exercise, Gain Weight

'Get Fit' Ad Campaigns Makes People Eat More

We’re a country that loves to chow down on chips and salsa while we watch other people suffer physically on reality TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” or “American Gladiator.” In fact, we’re hopeless: New research shows that ad campaigns designed to get us off our couches and into spandex have a perverse opposite effect – they actually cause us to eat more rather than less.

Bizarre but true: Looking at “get fit” ads makes us consume more calories. In a recent study published in the journal of Obesity, college students shown exercise ads or control ads and then immediately asked to taste and rate raisins. Participants who viewed the exercise ads ate an average of 18 calories while those who viewed the control ads that did not promote exercise ate only 12 calories.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009 in: Food & Diet, Health & Fitness
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Stay Inside, Wheeze All Day

Air at home can be more harmful to asthmatic kids than outdoor air

Need another reason to kick your kids off the couch and into the outdoors?  A study by Johns Hopkins researchers published last month suggests that the air inside many homes may be more harmful to asthmatic young'uns than the air outside.

Outside air in urban areas, laced with thick pollen and harmful pollutants, has always been a top factor in triggering asthma attacks.  The solution? Many parents keep their children inside, "safe" from asthma-inducing danger.  But indoor air can be stifling too, with poor ventilation and small spaces full of dust, mold, and synthetic air fresheners.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009 in: News & Events, Health & Fitness
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Rollin' on a River

New backcountry wheelchair for use on trails and river bottoms

Climbing steep trails is tough enough on two legs, but how about on two wheels?  Frustrated over the limitations of his wheelchair, George Young created a souped-up backcountry version to grind over rocks and haul his outdoor gear.

Young, a paraplegic game warden representative, originally built the wheelchair for himself with a third wheel for stability, thick tread to crush through rocks, and a steel frame for durability.  But after rolling to some sweet outdoor spots, he told the Missoulian, "I'm going to build these chairs so others have these same feelings."

He now sells it all over the country for just under $2000, a price that includes his personal delivery and a demonstration on nearby trails.  The chair also includes a fishing pole holder mounted to the front and a basket on the bottom to hold a variety of gear such as a backpack or tackle box. 

Young's backcountry wheelchair isn't the only custom trail beast around: BACKPACKER map contributor Bob Coomber, also known as Four-Wheel Bob, has an all-terrain wheelchair complete with knobby tires and a suspension system pictured above.  In 2006, he used it to climb White Mountain Peak, a California fourteener, which also earned him a Presidential Fitness Award from George W. 

Got a rugged wheelchair and want to take it up some gnarly terrain?  Check out some of Four-Wheel Bob's trips right here.

--Morgan Keys

Barrier buster - Outdoors enthusiast builds rugged wheelchair for backcountry use (The Missoulian)

Image Credit: Tom Mangan/Two-Heel Drive

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 in: News & Events, Health & Fitness
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A Dog's Hike

Taking Fido on the trail with you? A dog behaviorist tells BACKPACKER how you can make sure your dog has as great a hike as you do.

See that pooch on the left there? That's BACKPACKER's official mascot dog, Sherbert, covered in red dust after healthy bouldering session with our web producer Katie Herrell. You wouldn't guess it by the size of her head, but ol' Sherb can rock a V12+. Believe it.

We wouldn't expect your dog to crush like Sherb, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take Spot out on the trail with you—he/she will dig the fresh air, exercise, and new and exciting scents of wildlife droppings almost as much as you do. But you can't just turn it loose at the trailhead. Dog behavioral therapist Andrea Stradley of Boulder Bark Busters shares a few essential tips for taking man's best friend into the wild.
  • Make sure you have enough food and water for each of you; for Rover, make sure to include a high protein snack to keep him from becoming fatigued, as well as to help repair any muscle damage done during the hike. Be cautious of altitude changes for the dog—make sure they stay hydrated and nourished.
  • If your dog will be carrying his/her own food, water, and poop-bags in a pack for the first time, get your dog use to the pack by taking him on walks (at least two weeks in advance) wearing the packs and gradually adding weight to the pack each walk. This not only gets your dog use to the pack, but he will also start building endurance so that he doesn’t fatigue as quickly on your hike.
  • Look out for fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other pesky little bugs. There are sprays specifically made for dogs and cats that can be sprayed on their fur before heading out on the hike that works just like the repellent you use. Once you return home, check your dog thoroughly for any unwanted guests that might have hitched a ride back.
  •  If it's the first hike for your dog in a while (or ever) you may want to buy him boots to protect the pads of his feet. Dogs that haven’t spent much time outside on rough surfaces will have softer, tear-prone pads. (Think of human feet: We spend all winter wearing socks and shoes, so the soles of our feet are soft. In summer we wear sandals/flip flops, or just go bare-foot, which builds thicker skin and calluses.) If you are winter hiking/snowshoeing, these boots will also help protect your dog from developing annoying snowballs that clump and stick to the fur between the pads of the feet. 
  •  When packing your own first-aid kit, make sure to include some extra bandages and gauze just in case something should happen to Rover.
  • Make sure that your dog is in good physical shape to hike with you. When you descend, keep the dog at a reasonable pace, and watch that they don’t cause damage to the pads of their feet or to their joints when they jumps down or from rock to rock.
  • If your dog goes off-leash, be considerate of other hikers and their dogs—make sure you have control over your dog and he comes back when called. If your dog likes to chase, or run ahead, be mindful of snakes, bears, skunks, and any other wildlife or traps that could attract or harm your dog.

(Learn more about keeping your canine friends healthy on the trail with "First Aid for Fido," from BACKPACKER's May 2008 Issue.)

Do you have a trail dog that can stand up to Sherbert? Send us a photo. We'll publish our favorites.

— Ted Alvarez
Monday, February 09, 2009 in: Health & Fitness
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Peanut Butter Recall!

Shipments of backpacker's favorite food contaminated with salmonella

For lots of backpackers, peanut butter is the sweet-n'-salty glue that holds mealtime together. But some recent shipments of the wonder condiment/food group could contain an unpleasant tang that has nothing to do with your preference for crunchy or smooth: salmonella.

Certain shipments from the Blakely, Ga. plant of the aptly-named Peanut Corporation of America could have been contaminated with salmonella, and might've made their way into products sold by the King Nut company. Salmonella outbreaks connected to the peanut butter have affected 425 people in 43 states. As a result, Peanut Co. has recalled all products from its infected factory.

(For a list of salmonella symptoms, click here).

FDA and CDC officials are on the case, and luckily for us it seems most commercial brands of peanut butter available at grocery stores remain unconnected to the outbreak. Three deaths resulted from the salmonella contamination, but all were reported in elderly and ailing adults with complicating conditions.
"We deeply regret that this has happened," company president Stewart Parnell said.
You better regret it, Peanut Co. of America. Jelly-and-jelly (J&J) sandwiches are so much lamer on the trail.

—Ted Alvarez

Peanut butter linked to salmonella outbreak is recalled (CNN)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 in: News & Events, Health & Fitness
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Mountaineering Still Bad For You

Doctors find lowest blood-oxygen levels ever recorded in Everest climbers

We already learned that high-altitude mountaineering can seriously hurt your brain, so if you're still regularly bagging ultra high peaks, this next bit of bad news is unlikely to change your mind: Doctors have recorded the lowest blood-oxygen levels ever in climbers on Mt. Everest.

Doctors from University College London led the Caudwell Xtreme Everest team to 27,700 feet, not far below the summit of the world's highest peak. Once there, four unlucky team members unzipped their down suits and drew blood samples from the femoral artery in their groin. That kind of sounds worse than cerebral edema.

Once doctors got the sample to their ad-hoc lab at 21,000 feet, they measured exactly how low the oxygen levels were in the blood. While scientists think fluid in the lungs might keep climbers from absorbing enough oxygen, they didn't conduct the experiment just to aid climbers in pursuit of high peaks; instead, the research could help doctors cope with a whole host of afflictions at sea level.
"By observing healthy individuals at high altitude where oxygen is scarce, we can learn about physiological changes that can improve critical care at the hospital bedside, because low oxygen levels are an almost universal problem in critical care," UCL doctor and expedition leader Mike Grocott said.

"These extraordinary low levels of oxygen found in high-altitude climbers may cause doctors looking after critically ill patients to revaluate treatment goals in some patients who have been ill for some time and might have adapted to low levels of oxygen in the blood."


Many climbers describe  Everest  as an overrated tourist peak, but these four climbers disproved the rule. Anyone who exposes their crotch at high altitude in the service of science and saving lives earns a hardman award in our book.

—Ted Alvarez

  Everest climbers log lowest blood oxygen levels on record (AFP)

via GoBlog
Thursday, January 08, 2009 in: News & Events, Health & Fitness
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Backpacking Makes You Smarter

Memory and attention improve after time spent in nature

At last, science yet again confirms something we've always intuitively known: Spending time outside and in nature can help boost your mental acuity. Plenty of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts can attest to this from personal experience, but a few late-to-the-game eggheads from the University of Michigan decided test and quantify it.

For the experiment, a group of volunteers completed a set of memory and attention tests, and then to take a walk either through downtown Ann Arbor (ugh) or a nature-filled park (wheee!). Then, they re-took the memory and attention tests. Surprise, surprise: Performance on the memory and attention tasks improved greatly for those who took a walk in the park, but did not improve for those who strolled downtown.

To further prove how Mother Nature can boost your cognition, the researchers found in a second experiment that people who re-tested after seeing just photos of nature improved their scores, while subjects who looked at cityscapes did not.

There you have it: If you've got taxing mental challenge looming on the horizon—the SATs or a particularly brutal crossword puzzle, say—you should take a hike first. Failing that, pick up and read a copy of BACKPACKER. You'll become an instant genius.

—Ted Alvarez

The Benefits of a Walk in the Park (MedLexicon)
Friday, December 26, 2008 in: News & Events, Health & Fitness
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85 And Climbing

Legendary climber Fred Beckey shames you and everyone you know

At 85, Fred Beckey climbs like a 30-year-old. Weathered old hands and a craggy face don't hide any of those years, but his quick, graceful, and assured movements across the rock do, and he still possesses every ounce of the determination and skill that allowed him to rack up more first ascents than perhaps anyone ever.

Beckey began his climbing career in 1939, and he's hardly slowed down since: He continues to put up grueling routes in the Cascades, Alaska Range, and the Sierras he favors, though he's climbed all over the world. Climbers one-third his age are scrambling to join him on his next international trip, which will take him to Spain over the Christmas season, partially because he "hate(s) Christmas shopping."

In this New York Times article, Beckey shares more than a few choice bits of wisdom from an old mountain man who's outlasted most climbers from the generation after his:
“You’ve got to be physically pretty strong to be any good at it at all,” Beckey said. “You’ve got to have a hard-core mental attitude. You’ve got to have the right mantra. You’ve got to have dedication, a sense of security, safety and sensitivity with your partners, and a good sense of balance. It’s a combination of many, many things. You need to have the capability or desire to accept a certain amount of risk. A lot of it is maybe spiritual, not a religious type, but you have to have an affinity with the outdoors.”

“You’re putting yourself on the line. Man used to put himself on the line all the time. Nowadays we’re protected by the police, fire, everything. There’s not much adventure left. Unless you look for it.”
To complete his personal life list, Beckey hopes to conquer tough routes on Longs Peak as well as Mt. Assiniboine and Mt. Monarch in Canada. And if he ever gives up climbing—don't bet on it—he says he'll take up "serious hiking."

In that case, I guess we should all prepare to get passed on the trail by a 105-year-old man in the near future.

—Ted Alvarez

At 85, More Peaks to Conquer (NY Times)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008 in: News & Events, Health & Fitness
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A Vaccine Against Giardia?

Researchers from Argentina find a promising breakthrough to fight this water-borne parasite

Giardia, scourge of backpackers everywhere, your reign of terror may soon be over. Scientists at the Catholic University of Córdoba in Argentina have made an exciting discovery that could yield a vaccine against giardia, a water-borne parasite that causes horrific bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, and flatulence when contracted by humans.

Giarda is especially difficult for human immune systems to vanquish because it constantly changes the coating of proteins that surrounds it. As soon as our antibodies recognize this protein and begin killing it, the next generation switches to a sheath made from one of the 190 other proteins at its disposal. Our antibodies then fail to identify this bastard protozoan, and we're stuck with the Hershey squirts for a few more days.

But the Argentine scientists—can we go ahead and call them saints?—figured out how to force giardia to display all 190 protein coats at the same time. Then, when a vaccine is made from this altered protozoan, our bodies can immunize themselves to all 190 coats all at once. Our antibodies will see through all giardia's disguises and eliminate them from our system before the protozoan can cause any adverse effects.

Tests in animals have yielded positive results, and vaccines for humans could be just on the horizon. But it'll do more than make your camping trip easier: According to the World Health Organization, over 280 million people contract giardia a year, mostly in developing countries. They often suffer less crippling effects than westerners, but persistent giardia could be a cause of malnutrition.

Look out, giardia: We're taking the water back.

—Ted Alvarez

A Coat of Many Proteins May Be Giardia's Downfall (NY Times)

Via Get Outdoors GoBlog
Wednesday, December 17, 2008 in: News & Events, Health & Fitness
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