Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Go Take a Hike

Having trouble sticking to an exercise regimen? How about an easy downhill hike? In a presentation at an American Heart Association meeting last year, Austrian researchers reported surprising results for subjects who hiked downhill instead of up. Forty-five sedentary people who were otherwise healthy were divided into two groups. Over a two-month trial period, half the group hiked uphill three to five days each week, and half hiked downhill. In a second phase of the trial, the two groups switched uphill for downhill and vice versa for two additional months. Triglycerides, cholesterol and blood sugar were measured after each hike. The researchers were surprised to find that downhill hikers were able to manage their blood sugar better than uphill hikers. LDL cholesterol was lowered in both sets of hikers. The uphill hikers experienced one key advantage over the downhillers: lower triglycerides. The results of this research indicate that people who are weak, too obese or simply not motivated enough to participate in normal exercise regimens may actually benefit from an easy downhill stroll, if done on a regular basis. And if you live in the flatlands, then going down a few flights of stairs would probably work just as well. Based on the blood sugar outcome, the Austrian team is planning a follow up study to assess glucose management in downhill hikers who are diabetic.

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