Nature and Nurture – What makes us good in competition?

The recent Wall Street Journal Book Review for The Sports Gene by David Epstein sounds like a good read!

Hmmm… How much of Michael Phelp’s aquatic success was due to his DNA and how much was diligence and hard work???

Hmmm… How much of my own VO2 max capacity is due to Mom and Dad and how much to my hours of elevated heart rate???


“Sport skill acquisition doesn’t happen without both specific genes and a specific environment, and often the genes and the environment must coincide at a specific time.” The best study on this is called the Heritage Family Study, which subjected 98 two-generation families to stationary bicycle-training regimens to increase fitness, as measured by aerobic capacity, or VO2 max—the amount of oxygen a person’s body can use. All the families received the same training of three workouts per week of increasing intensity, and DNA was taken from all 481 participants. The results were startling: The range in VO2 max improvement spanned from 0% to 100%, depending on the family heritage. About 15% of participants showed little to no improvement, while another 15% increased their VO2max by 50% or more. According to the study’s principle investigator, Claude Bouchard, “the range of response to training was six to nine times larger between pairs of brothers than within pairs.”

In other words, genes matter. How much? “Statistical analysis showed that about half of each person’s ability to improve their aerobic capacity with training was determined exclusively by their parents,” Mr. Epstein explains. “The amount that any person improved in the study had nothing to do with how aerobically fit he or she was relative to others to begin with.” Rather, it had to do with genetic inheritance.

I plan to read the referenced Heritage Family Study to learn more about the coincidence of genes and environment.

So – Thanks Mom and Dad, and thank me too.

Vigorous Exercise is Mental Therapy

Thanks, Market Watch, for this great reminder about endorphins and the strong linkage between mind and body: (point 6 – “a morning run will work just as well”).

“…the effect of regular exercise on mild to moderate forms of depression is similar to the effect of cognitive behavioral therapy, according to the co-authors of the book “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety,” Jasper Smits, associate professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and Michael Otto, a psychologist at Boston University. The two authors analyzed the results of dozens of published population-based and clinical studies related to exercise and mental health to arrive at their findings.

There’s little consensus on how or why exercise helps, but Smits says the public health recommendation for daily exercise — 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate activity — should be more widely prescribed by mental-health care providers, especially as studies show that 25% to 40% of Americans don’t exercise at all. “Some professionals argue that exercise is the non-pharmacological antidepressant and may work in the same way as these medications,” he says.”

Try to go get those runner’s highs or at least get of the couch.

How are your absorbed Anti-oxidant levels?



Ah – the anti-oxidant paradox, as recently cited in the Atlantic Magazine . . . 

No matter how you ingest and absorb the many anti-oxidants we should get from regular BALANCED diets in a perfect world; higher levels are better to counter oxidative free radicals.  Granted,  those free radical “scavengers” can have good specific roles in our bodies and YES – free radicals are outputs of aerobic exercise.

Stress, sun and smoke are major generators of these scavengers – DUH, we all are in Nirvana if we can avoid all three plus excessive body mass.  As I don’t live in Nirvana, I don’t like scavengers while I do have a newfound appreciation for scavenger hunting as my own life insurance policy and personal injury protection.

This Pharmanex graphic relates weight (BMI), dietary habits, supplementation and lifestyle choices to a scaled results of anti-oxidant scans. Note: Each individual is different in his/her ability to absorb healthy anti-oxidants so baseline measures vary.  


Yet it is also an individual choice to acquire “life insurance and personal injury protection.

Yours in wellness,


Ancient yet timely … Training matters!

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

Archilochus, Greek Soldier & Poet, 650 B.C.

Most of us have missed the mark, whether a first place medal or a high scholarly grade for the classic reason cited by this prescient Greek. 

I remember that the superb Pittsburgh Steelers coach thought that Sunday prime time performances were merely the icing on the cake for weeks of summer camp and pre-game training sweat.

And Coach John wooden offered, “Never mistake activity for achievement” among his many invaluable lessons for character.


Here’s to training very hard to “fall” to a VERY high level of achievement.  Thank You, ancient poet and 20th century Coaches!


Dr. Kegel’s advice for Men and Women – practice, practice, practice

As part of our total body fitness theme – an exercise review of that special muscle group  with the long name abbreviated to “PC” or pelvic floor is warranted.

A Mayo Clinic link for exercising your pelvic floor muscles is

We’ve seen some suggestions that doing Kegels every other day (as for major muscle groups) may be appropriate. 

As with any improvement campaign, it will take time (6 weeks or more) to shape up…

We boomers should make mental notes to practice, practice, practice regularly for several good reasons.


Water, water anywhere this summer?

Mum Nature’s June heatwave experienced by many of us stimulated my log entry for proper hydration.  So very important – Yes?

As some know – too much of a good thing is NOT wonderful (pardon me, Mae West).  Isolated folks have died from OVER-hydrating in aerobic distance events. Hyponatremia is that rare occurrence of too low sodium from too much hydration.

Putting that outlying, scary fact aside – let’s remember that dehydration of ONLY 1-2 percent or so of your body weight is often an early and prominent sign of fatigue before, during and post- aerobic exercise.

I offer these Medicine Net guidelines ->

Simple things can be hard – yes?  Like ingesting 128 ounces of water a day. But then think about it – a 150 pound person has over 80-90 pounds of water in it; and about 4% of TOTAL Body Weight is exhaled / expired / secreted  daily.  The Math is pretty simple for even a sedentary person – that’s about 6 pounds of water gonzo even before you exercise.  See

What is a Layperson’s quick assessment of hydration/dehydration?

One’s urine color (DO peek before you exercise heavily). If DARK – DRINK!  Note: You may have some temporary colorations after taking multi-vitamins. Yet the watery bottom line is that Dark is NOT good unless you want to be tired and underperform.



So what about  carbo / electrolyte supplements for exercise?  A rule of thumb I follow is that plain old water is fine for aerobics of 30 minutes or less (and I’m a sweat hog). When I do sip enhanced water – I drink variants with a tad of protein.

And to close out my Water, Water entry today – I thank the folks @ for this comparison of male/female body fat percentages to average total body water

Total Body Water Percentage    

% Body Fate Range                              Normal % TBW Range

Men 4 to 14 % 70 to 63 %
15 to 21 % 63 to 57%
22 to 24 % 57 to 55 %
25 and over 55 to 37%
Women 4 to 20 % 70 to 58 %
21 to 29 % 58 to 52 %
30 to 32 % 52 to 49 %
33 and over 49 to 37 %

 Drink up, avoid fatigue and enjoy your summer aerobics!