From Health to High Performance: Top 10 Things I Learned at the CSEP Conference

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pexels-photoA few weeks ago I went to the annual conference put on by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP). Kelsey and I are both certified by CSEP and need to continually get professional development credits (PDCs) to maintain our certifications. I have friends in Victoria so I figured why not get all the PDCs I need in 3 days and take a mini-vacation. The theme of the conference was “From Health to High Performance” so here are the top 10 things I learned at the conference.

1. There are different types of sedentary time and they aren’t all equal

Sedentary time is any time spent in a seated or reclined position with a low energy expenditure. We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking but it seems that screen sedentary vs non-screen sedentary time makes a difference. Sedentary time spent socializing, reading, doing arts and crafts, etc. seems to not be associated with the same negative impacts as sedentary time spent in front of a TV or computer screen.

2. 3 weeks of bed rest can be more detrimental to cardiovascular fitness than 30 years of aging

Researchers in the 1960s had men stay in bed for 3 weeks (not even getting up to go to the bathroom) and found there was a massive decrease in aerobic fitness (VO2max). Researchers followed up with the same participants 30 years later and retested their aerobic fitness. 30 years of aging had had less of an impact on their aerobic fitness than 3 weeks of bed rest. Researchers have also showed that in 1 week of bed rest, you lose 1.4 kg of muscle mass.

3. Humans seem to max out sleeping time at 11 hours

kitten sleepingDr. Jean-Phillipe Chaput of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario gave a presentation on sleep. He stated that typically humans need at most 11h of sleep per night if you are consistently getting good quality sleep. If someone is sleeping longer than that 11h it typically means that they’re getting poor quality sleep and therefore have to make up for it by adding more. This can create a cycle where you don’t exercise or eat well because you don’t have the energy, but you don’t tire yourself out through the day, so you don’t sleep well, etc.

4. 50% of doctors surveyed don’t feel comfortable discussing exercise or physical activity with their patients

There is a big movement right now called Exercise is Medicine (EIM), it started in the USA but is making it’s way around the world. Dr. Jonathon Fowles at Acadia University conducted workshops with physicians and found that 50% of physicians said they aren’t comfortable counselling their patients on exercise or physical activity. This blew my mind, I’ve always assumed that doctors would know exercise was good for you and feel comfortable discussing that with their patients. Hopefully EIM can help doctors feel more comfortable and confident in this area. 85% also reported they believed their patients preferred taking medication instead of exercising or being active to improve their health.

5. If meeting physical activity guidelines, moderate-vigorous physical activity only accounts for 4-5% of the day

Physical activity (PA) guidelines are 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per week, or 30 min 5 days of the week. There are some new 24h guidelines that have been released and the researchers highlighted that even if you’re meeting PA guidelines, that 30 minutes only accounts for 4-5% of your day. What are you doing with the other 95%?

6. Exercise is safe during pregnancy

When I go to spin there are sometimes ladies who are late 3rd trimester exercising along with me. My heart rate reaches up to 187 bpm (theoretical max heart rate is 196bpm) in every spin class. I thought to myself, there is no way that can be safe or comfortable. Although it may not be comfortable, it is safe! Exercise below 90%HRmax is safe for mom and baby and can help reduce complications, excessive weight gain, and could even train the cardiovascular system of the baby. More research is being done in this area. Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program if you’re pregnant, especially if you were not active before pregnancy.

7. Exercise does not necessarily increase lymphedema risk in breast cancer survivors

I have done a lot of work with breast cancer survivors over the last 3 years and one of the biggest concerns is always causing lymphedema (or extra swelling in the arm) on the side that they had surgery. No one is really sure what causes lymphedema, some people seem to get it even when they have few risk factors. Back in the day breast cancer survivors were told to do nothing – basically don’t use your arm. Ever. That’s been disproved to some degree and now 1000s of breast cancer survivors are exercising and participating in dragon boat festivals around the world.

8. A current rep scheme for strength training may not be accurate

IMG_0026Personal trainers follow a standard set and rep protocol to focus on power, strength, hypertrophy (muscle size) and endurance. The set/rep scheme came from one study a few decades ago but when researchers have tried to duplicate the study they haven’t always found the same thing. Newer research has shown the lines may not be so solid and there could be more grey areas. If you are new to exercise or strength training, even if you are focusing on hypertrophy or endurance to start (which is typically what trainers do) you can still build strength.

9. You are what you just ate

Within 5h of eating breakfast, you are what you just ate. The gut breaks down your food and rapidly uses it to create new cells throughout the day. You regrow a new gut about once a week. Researchers are injecting isotope markers into animals so that when we consume the meat they can measure what happens to the protein molecules to better understand post-exercise recovery and protein.

10. A researcher at the University of Victoria is using superheroes to make science more accessible

Dr. Paul ZehrThe-Avengers-Movie-1-Team-Pose is using superheros to explain physiology to kids and adults. He has written some books where he used Batman to explain bones, training adaptations, etc. and a book about Ironman to explore spinal cord and brain injuries along with the technology needed to operate the Ironman suit and how that could be applied in the real world. His next book is going to use Captain America to explain genetics and evolution.

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