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Harvard: Men who can do 40 pushups have a 'significantly' lower risk of heart disease
Turns out pushups are more telling than treadmill tests when it comes to cardiovascular health.
- Men who can perform 40 pushups in one minute are 96 percent less likely to have cardiovascular disease than those who do less than 10.
- The Harvard study focused on over 1,100 firefighters with a median age of 39.
- The exact results might not be applicable to men of other age groups or to women, researchers warn.
Quantifying workouts feeds our love for both math and goal-setting. While elite powerlifters aim at incremental increases that will award them the coveted one repetition at maximum weight, most mortals choose easily digestible numbers like five or 10 to complete a set. Or, if you're starting a Pilates routine, the Hundred is a powerful warm-up.
A six-minute mile. Ten pull-ups. And now, for men at least, add forty pushups to that list.
That's the number that's been floating around since a new study from the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was published in JAMA Network Open. The result is stark: men who can pump out 40 pushups in one minute reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by 96 percent over men who cannot perform ten pushups in the same timeframe.
First author, Justin Yang, an occupational medicine resident at Harvard, sums it up:
"Our findings provide evidence that pushup capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting. Surprisingly, pushup capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of submaximal treadmill tests."
Treadmill tests, the authors note, can be expensive. If you've ever seen those Bane-type masks worn by fellow gym members, trainers are testing for VO2 max, how much oxygen is being consumed as your workout increases in intensity. Cardiorespiratory fitness is a prime indicator of life expectancy. Becoming winded walking up a single flight of stairs is not a good sign for longevity.
Fortunately we're resilient animals; we can train our cardiovascular system at any age. There are any number of exercises that will increase your output: running, jogging, walking, of course, but also any of the variety of movements falling under HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and HISS (high-intensity steady state) formats, such as jumping jacks, burpees, cycling springs, tabatas, the list is practically endless.
Master Sgt. Jesse Lawhorn, 49th Maintenance Squadron, completes 289 push-ups during the annual Push up-a-thon held at the Domenici Fitness and Sports Center here Dec. 11. Sergeant Lawhorn won the category for having the most push-ups for males over the age of 30. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica Stamps)
Pushups also fall into the cardiovascular domain, even though they appear to be more about strength-building (the two can work together), especially when performing a timed workout. Forty pushups in one minute equals one every 1.5 seconds, which doesn't seem like a lot when doing 10, but the final sprint between 30 and 40 will result in plenty of huffing and puffing (depending on fitness level, of course).
For this study, researchers looked at data from 1,104 active male firefighters over a 10-year period. The average age was 39.6 with an average BMI of 28.7. Over that decade a total of 37 cardiovascular disease-related incidents were recorded. More than the treadmill test, pushups seemed to indicate a higher likelihood of falling victim to heart problems.
There are a few things to unpack from this study. First, firefighting is an occupation that requires a certain level of physical fitness, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health given the dangers on their job description (running to the scene, quick nervous system activation, smoke inhalation). Chances these men are in better shape than the average population are high. That means men outside of this age range and that are generally less active might have a different benchmark.
Secondly, this may or may not apply to women — their marker of heart health might require testing another exercise, given that their center of gravity is generally lower than males, making pushups more challenging in at least part of the population. Obviously, persistent training in both genders changes statistics; many women can outperform plenty of men in pushups and other traditionally "male" workouts. As a big-picture snapshot, though, pushups tend to be a male pastime.
Dr. Stefanos N. Kales, who co-authored the study at Harvard, notes that the general parameters should be understood, not necessarily the specifics:
"It's one snapshot assessment, but the fact that you can do less than 10 push-ups doesn't necessarily mean you're at high risk for heart disease. There could be other factors at work. And the fact that you can do more than 40 doesn't mean you're at low risk."
50 Push Ups in a Row | Workout for Beginners
That said, pushups are one of the most fundamental exercises imaginable. It is the primary example of one of our four basic movements: pushing, pulling, jumping, and squatting. Being able to press your body off the ground is an important indicator of controlling your bodyweight.
There is an incredible range of pushups as well: in yoga, chaturangas, where your elbows are tight into your body; other tricep-oriented pushups, such as hands placed closely together; one-handed pushups; plank pikes, shoulder pushups; planches; knees-down. The varieties are endless.
In 15 years of teaching a variety of group fitness classes, I'm a fan of the pushup demonstrated in the video above for beginners. A proper pushup requires your entire body, not just your arms. Notice in the video his elbows are bent at a 45 degree angle as he lowers and lifts; his legs are engaged and straight; his upper back is not in extreme flexion, as often happens when one is still building upper body strength; perhaps most importantly, his head is in alignment with the rest of his body.
The most common mistake I witness is people dropping their head, gazing back under the chest rather than a few inches in front of their nose. The human head, on average, weights 12 to 14 pounds. Where your gaze goes matters. Drop your head even a few inches and you're guaranteeing that your upper back will move into excessive flexion, causing the "rounded shoulders" problem many encounter while pushing up. Add to this a lack of core and leg engagement and the entire exercise seems futile.
But it shouldn't be. As with pull-ups — a less commonly employed exercise with equally important benefits — your strength will increase quickly with regular practice. As the researchers note, 40 is a solid goal, but men who perform in the 10s and 20s still decreased their risk of heart problems. Even though this might not be the marker for women, learning how to control and master your body is never detrimental (provided you don't have shoulder or wrist injuries). As with any exercise, proceed with caution, but most importantly, proceed.
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Humanity knows surprisingly little about the ocean depths. An often-repeated bit of evidence for this is the fact that humanity has done a better job mapping the surface of Mars than the bottom of the sea. The creatures we find lurking in the watery abyss often surprise even the most dedicated researchers with their unique features and bizarre behavior.
A recent expedition off the coast of Java discovered a new isopod species remarkable for its size and resemblance to Darth Vader.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.
According to LiveScience, the Bathynomus genus is sometimes referred to as "Darth Vader of the Seas" because the crustaceans are shaped like the character's menacing helmet. Deemed Bathynomus raksasa ("raksasa" meaning "giant" in Indonesian), this cockroach-like creature can grow to over 30 cm (12 inches). It is one of several known species of giant ocean-going isopod. Like the other members of its order, it has compound eyes, seven body segments, two pairs of antennae, and four sets of jaws.
The incredible size of this species is likely a result of deep-sea gigantism. This is the tendency for creatures that inhabit deeper parts of the ocean to be much larger than closely related species that live in shallower waters. B. raksasa appears to make its home between 950 and 1,260 meters (3,117 and 4,134 ft) below sea level.
Perhaps fittingly for a creature so creepy looking, that is the lower sections of what is commonly called The Twilight Zone, named for the lack of light available at such depths.
It isn't the only giant isopod, far from it. Other species of ocean-going isopod can get up to 50 cm long (20 inches) and also look like they came out of a nightmare. These are the unusual ones, though. Most of the time, isopods stay at much more reasonable sizes.
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During an expedition, there are some animals which you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find. One of the animal that we hoped to find was a deep sea cockroach affectionately known as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff on our expedition team could not contain their excitement when they finally saw one, holding it triumphantly in the air! #SJADES2018
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What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?
The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.
Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:
"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region."
The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its head. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and Great Old Ones.
Laughing gas may be far more effective for some than antidepressants.
- Standard antidepressant medications don't work for many people who need them.
- With ketamine showing potential as an antidepressant, researchers investigate another anesthetic: nitrous oxide, commonly called "laughing gas."
- Researchers observe that just a light mixture of nitrous oxide for an hour alleviates depression symptoms for two weeks.
The usual antidepressants don't work for everyone. That's what makes a new study of the antidepressant properties of nitrous oxide so intriguing. It looks like just a single low dose of what your dentist may call "laughing gas" can help alleviate symptoms of depression for weeks afterward.
The study, from researchers at University of Chicago and Washington University-St. Louis, is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Resistance to anti-depression medications
Nitrous oxide: two atoms of nitrogen, one of oxygenCredit: Big Think
According to the senior author of the study, Charles Conway, "A significant percentage — we think around 15 percent — of people who suffer from depression don't respond to standard antidepressant treatment."
"These 'treatment-resistant depression' patients," Conway says, "often suffer for years, even decades, with life-debilitating depression. We don't really know why standard treatments don't work for them, though we suspect that they may have different brain network disruptions than non-resistant depressed patients. Identifying novel treatments, such as nitrous oxide, that target alternative pathways is critical to treating these individuals."
"There is a huge unmet need," says lead author Peter Nagele. "There are millions of depressed patients who don't have good treatment options, especially those who are dealing with suicidality."
If ketamine can help, can nitrous oxide?
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
The researchers wondered if some of the anti-depression properties seen in ketamine might also apply to nitrous oxide. Nagele explains, "Like nitrous oxide, ketamine is an anesthetic, and there has been promising work using ketamine at a sub-anesthetic dose for treating depression."
The researchers conducted a one-hour session — they describe it as a "proof-of-principle" trial — in which 20 individuals with depression were administered an air mixture with 50 percent nitrous oxide. Twenty-four hours later, the researchers found a significant reduction in the participants' symptoms of depression versus a control group.
However, the individuals also suffered the unpleasant side effects that laughing gas often causes in dental patients: headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Smaller dose, longer effect
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
"We wondered if our past concentration of 50 percent had been too high," recalls Nagele. "Maybe by lowering the dose, we could find the 'Goldilocks spot' that would maximize clinical benefit and minimize negative side effects."
In a new trial, 20 people with depression were given a lighter nitrous oxide mix, just 25 percent, and the individuals tested reported a 75 percent reduction in side effects compared to the a control group given an air/oxygen placebo. This time, the researchers also tracked the effect of nitrous oxide on symptoms of depression for a far longer period, two weeks instead of just 24 hours.
"The reduction in side effects was unexpected and quite drastic," reports Nagele, "but even more excitingly, the effects after a single administration lasted for a whole two weeks. This has never been shown before. It's a very cool finding."
Nagele also notes that, despite its popular renown as laughing gas, even a light 25 percent mix of nitrous actually causes people to nod off. "They're not getting high or euphoric; they get sedated."
Delivering help to people with depression
Nagele cautions, "These have just been pilot studies. But we need acceptance by the larger medical community for this to become a treatment that's actually available to patients in the real world. Most psychiatrists are not familiar with nitrous oxide or how to administer it, so we'll have to show the community how to deliver this treatment safely and effectively. I think there will be a lot of interest in getting this into clinical practice."
After all, Nagele adds, "If we develop effective, rapid treatments that can really help someone navigate their suicidal thinking and come out on the other side — that's a very gratifying line of research."
How one startup plans to use "death rays" for good instead of evil.
- A new advance in concentrated solar power makes temperatures of 2700° F possible from nothing but sunlight.
- The heat produced can be used to produce electricity, make clean fuels, or power industrial processes.
- Founder Bill Gross sees these plants as part of a grand design to wean the world off oil.
The need for clean, consistent, renewable energy sources has never been more pressing. Rising energy prices threaten to kick-start inflation and slow economic growth. Control of the supply of fossil fuels has caused wars before and may well cause them again. Burning fossil fuels continues to create greenhouse gas emissions, making solving the problem of climate change difficult.
While low-carbon and renewable sources of power are being used more than ever before, none of them are perfect. Solar and wind power are very clean and increasingly inexpensive but have an energy storage problem. The batteries required to store that energy require rare earth metals, which are messy to extract and increasingly in demand. Hydro power is great but can have negative impacts on the river ecosystem. Nuclear is still a tough sell.
If we're going to solve our energy problems, we either need to find a new way to produce a lot of energy or fix the problems with the power sources we have. A renewable energy technology company backed by Bill Gates and founded by serial entrepreneur Bill Gross called Heliogen has a new approach to an existing model that may just accomplish the latter with a giant, extremely precise magnifying glass and some really hot rocks.
Concentrated solar power
The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project near Las Vegas, Nevada. This project, while not associated with Heliogen is a typical example of concentrated solar power. DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images
In Lancaster, California, a mid-sized city in the Mojave Desert, Heliogen has built a miniature version of their planned solar refinery. While concentrated solar power is nothing new — it has been operating commercially since the 1960s and is said to have been used by Archimedes to build a heat ray to burn the Roman fleet — this plant improves on the concept with stunning results.
Essentially a lot of mirrors arranged in a circle reflecting sunlight at an elevated target, concentrated solar power uses the energy in the sun's light to heat that target, which could be water, molten salt, or even something solid, to very high temperatures. (When this heat is used for something other than producing electricity, it is called concentrated solar thermal energy.)
Heliogen's current test refinery has 400 mirrors, known as heliostats, though it is only a tenth the size of what the company is proposing. Even with this reduced number of mirrors, the refinery has produced eye-popping results. Its operation has produced temperatures as high as 1500° C (2732° F). For comparison, most existing, full-sized concentrated solar power plants are able to produce temperatures in the 400° to 500° C range.
Heliogen's advance is made possible by state of the art software. Using AI and a series of cameras, the heliostats are kept on target as much as possible (currently to a twentieth of a degree) through micro-adjustments to their position throughout the day. By keeping the mirrors on target, the greatest amount of sunlight possible is focused on the target, creating more heat than was previously possible.
Concentrated solar power isn't just for electricity
It's important to remember that this is technically a solar thermal system. Unlike solar panels, this project does not use the photovoltaic effect to turn sunlight directly into electricity. This project is about generating heat. This heat can then be used to produce electricity — and the high temperatures involved mean it can do so very efficiently — but it has applications beyond that as well.
Many industries use intense heat in their manufacturing processes, like smelting or cement making, and they often burn fuels to create those high temperatures. Heliogen's refinery is able to produce similar temperatures without burning fuels and could provide the heat for these industries in the future. Additionally, the heat produced is high enough to make hydrogen fuel via electrolysis.
As Gross explained to CNN, "If you can make hydrogen that's green, that's a game-changer. Long term, we want to be the green hydrogen company."
If not used immediately, the heat energy can also be stored in plain old rocks, which can stay hot for days or even up to a week in a properly insulated storage unit. Their energy can then be called upon when needed or possibly even shipped to a location in need of heat. Compared to the difficulties of storing electricity produced from solar, this is child's play.
How can concentrated solar be applied at scale?
Gross hopes to improve the process by reaching the same results with increasingly smaller heliostats. His are already smaller than usual, which would allow them to be mass produced more cheaply than they are today. The hope is that this, along with other refinements to the system, would help lower the cost of energy produced by concentrated solar until it is cheaper than fossil fuel energy.
Currently, energy from concentrated solar power is more expensive than burning fossil fuels but only slightly. Also, compared to large arrays of solar panels, solar refineries are more expensive to build and operate. But costs are expected to decrease, in part because they are much better at energy storage than traditional solar, as discussed earlier. Furthermore, large scale concentrated solar power operations already exist in Spain, the Middle East, and the Southwestern U.S.
Concentrated solar power could radically change manufacturing
Gross's grand vision is to build many refineries all over the world using their heat to power industrial processes. The electricity produced by other refineries would create vast quantities of cheap "HelioFuels," starting with hydrogen. Since hydrogen fuel cells are extremely efficient and can run everything from submarines to laptops, this would be a huge step toward cleaning up the energy supply.
Similar ideas exist and have been used elsewhere to cleanly produce jet fuel, another industrial process that normally requires burning fossil fuels in order to create high temperatures.
The reduction in carbon emissions due to widespread use of concentrated solar could be substantial. Concrete manufacturing alone is responsible for 8 to 10 percent of all global emissions. Nearly 40 percent of those emissions are caused by burning the fossil fuels needed to create heat for the manufacturing process. Quick mental math suggests that if concentrated solar power replaced fossil fuel burning for heat in concrete production alone, global carbon emissions would fall by as much as four percent. For comparison, that is roughly equal to the share of carbon emissions created by France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Brazil combined.