Physical Activity


For more than 50 years, Jay Lieberfarb saved people from the waters off of Jones Beach. But three years ago, Nassau County told him he wasn’t good enough to save people from the Eisenhower Park Aquatic Center’s swimming pool.

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Lieberfarb, a Valley Stream resident for 15 years, launched an age discrimination suit against the county after he was dismissed from his job when he was 71 years old, and the case was recently settled for $65,000. “I’m satisfied,” he said. “I thought it was a fair settlement.”

The lawsuit was actually brought against the county by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Lieberfarb will receive full back pay, but Nassau County does not have to rehire him. He said he doesn’t want the job back anyway, and is happy with his new position — working as a lifeguard at Hofstra University’s pool.

Lieberfarb, now 74, said the issue began when Nassau County ordered its lifeguards to take a swimming test, which he said was unexpected. Lifeguards had to swim both 50 meters and 200 meters within a certain time. He did not meet the time requirements and was told he could take the test again the next week.

He was suspended without pay, and given one week to get ready to take the test again, he said. Lieberfarb passed the 50 meter test, but strained a calf before doing 200 meters. Again, he said he was given another week and was told to produce a doctor’s note. Two days later, he was fired.

In between his firing and bringing the matter to the attention of the EEOC, Lieberfarb said that hundreds of other lifeguards took the same test, and several failed. “Nobody else was suspended or terminated and they were all under the age of 25 and I was over the age of 70,” he said. “I was the only one they treated this way.”

Lieberfarb said he was able to produce records that showed that no other lifeguards were penalized as a result of failing a test, and said he believes that is what put his case over the top.

Nassau County Attorney John Ciampoli said the settlement admits no wrongdoing by the county. He said the county was willing to give Lieberfarb back pay, but did not want to rehire him because of the failed swim test, “which is really not a good thing for lifeguards,” Ciampoli said.

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“This was a case that we inherited from the prior administration,” Ciampoli said. “In light of all the underlying facts, we entered into a settlement.”

Ciampoli added that county officials are committed to ensuring that all of its employment practices follow the law, and that employees and supervisors are properly trained.

“We have been very proactive with programs on workplace discrimination,” Ciampoli said. “This is the type of area where a little bit of training can make a huge difference in terms of what you experience down the road in court cases.”

Kevin Berry, the director of EEOC’s New York District, said that employers need to take action to prevent age discrimination in the work place. “Employers cannot treat their older workers less favorably than their younger employees,” he said. “They must be treated in the same manner as all others.”

When Lieberfarb was a member of the swim team at Adelphi University, many of his teammates were lifeguards at Jones Beach. They recommended it to him as a summer job, so Lieberfarb began working there in 1956. He moved up the ranks, and eventually became a captain. “Little did I know that 56 years later, I’d still be working as a lifeguard,” he said, noting that he made hundreds of rescues during his half-century at Jones Beach.

A retired school teacher in New York City, Lieberfarb said he plans to remain a lifeguard as long as he continues to pass his certification tests. He added that he is glad to now have the discrimination suit settled and behind him.

 

By Andrew Hackmack, Valley Stream Herald (New York)

Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits, too. For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how exercising can boost brain function. Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.

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1. Reduce Stress 

Rough day at the office? Take a walk or head to the gym for a quick workout. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty — working out can reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win!

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2. Boost Happy Chemicals
Slogging through a few miles on the ‘mill can be tough, but it’s worth the effort! Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. For this reason, docs recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety (or those who are just feeling blue) pencil in plenty of gym time. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly the gym rat type — getting a happy buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood.

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3. Improve Self-Confidence
Hop on the treadmill to look (and more importantly, feel) like a million bucks. On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth. How’s that for feeling the (self) love?

4. Enjoy The Great Outdoors
For an extra boost of self-love, take that workout outside. Exercising in the great outdoors can increase self-esteem even more. Find an outdoor workout that fits your style, whether it’s rock-climbing, hiking, renting a canoe or just taking a jog in the park. Plus, all that Vitamin D acquired from soaking up the sun (while wearing sunscreen, of course!) can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Why book a spa day when a little fresh air and sunshine (and exercise) can work wonders for self-confidence and happiness?

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5. Prevent Cognitive Decline

It’s unpleasant, but it’s true — as we get older, our brains get a little… hazy. As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45 Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.

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6. Alleviate Anxiety
Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety — a warm bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? You might be surprised at the answer. The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (intervals, anyone?) can reduce anxiety sensitivity. And we thought intervals were just a good way to burn calories!

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7. Boost Brainpower
Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (akaneurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning. Smarty (spandex) pants, indeed.

8. Sharpen Memory
Get ready to win big at Go Fish. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in hippocampusresponsible for memory and learning. For this reason, research has linked children’sbrain development with level of physical fitness (take that, recess haters!). But exercise-based brainpower isn’t just for kids. Even if it’s not as fun as a game of Red Rover, working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed thatrunning sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.

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9. Help Control Addiction
The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol (and more rarely, food and sex). On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug oralcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term). Working out when on the wagon has other benefits, too. Alcohol abuse disrupts many body processes, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find they can’t fall asleep (or stay asleep) without drinking. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, helping people hit the hay at the right time.

10. Increase Relaxation
Ever hit the hay after a long run or weight session at the gym? For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pilleven for people with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep.

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11. Get More Done
Feeling uninspired in the cubicle? The solution might be just a short walk or jog away. Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’scircadian rhythms.

12. Tap Into Creativity
Most people end a tough workout with a hot shower, but maybe we should be breaking out the colored pencils instead. A heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards. Supercharge post-workout inspiration by exercising outdoors and interacting with nature (see benefit #4). Next time you need a burst of creative thinking, hit the trails for a long walk or run to refresh the body and the brain at the same time.

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13. Inspire Others
Whether it’s a pick-up game of soccer, a group class at the gym, or just a run with a friend, exercise rarely happens in a bubble. And that’s good news for all of us. Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy. Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned competition, nobody wants to let the other person down. In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actuallyraise athletes’ tolerances for pain. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving!

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Working out can have positive effects far beyond the gym (and beach season). Gaining self-confidence, getting out of a funk, and even thinking smarter are some of the motivations to take time for exercise on a regular basis.

 

* Text by Sophia Breene, Huff Post (3/27/2013)

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) late this year released its new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, calling for adults between the ages of 18 and 64 to exercise moderately (such as brisk walking or water aerobics) for at least two hours and 30 minutes or vigorously (running, swimming, or cycling 10 mph or faster) for at least an hour and 15 minutes weekly.

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The longer, harder and more often you exercise, the greater the health benefits, including reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer and diabetes, according to the recommendations, which were based on a decade of scientific research.

Studies have shown that people who engage in the amount of exercise recommended by the feds live an average of three to seven years longer than couch potatoes, according to William Haskell, a medical professor at Stanford University who chaired the HHS advisory committee. But how exactly does exercise accomplish this? And what about claims by naysayers that exercise not only isn’t healthy but may actually be bad for you? Is there any truth to them?

Good for the heart and blood vessels
In the past decade or so, various studies involving thousands of participants have shown that workouts lower the risk of heart disease. “Exercise has a favorable effect on virtually all risk factors of cardiovascular disease,” says Jonathan Meyers, a health research scientist at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health System in California. The reason, he says: when a person exercises, the heart muscle contracts forcefully and frequently, increasing blood flow through the arteries. This leads to subtle changes in the autonomic nervous system, which controls the contraction and relaxation of these vessels. This fine-tuning leads to a lower resting heart rate (fewer beats to pump blood through the body), lower blood pressure and a more variable heart rate, all factors that lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, he says.

Meyers says that exercise also limits inflammation associated with heart trouble, such as arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries around the heart, which may lead to heart attacks. Many recent studies have focused on C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation. Meyers says that research showed that sedentary folks who embarked on three- to six-month exercise programs, on average, experienced a 30 percent dip in their C-reactive protein levels – about the same drop as someone given a statin (a cholesterol and inflammation-lowering drug). In other words, in many people, exercise might be as effective as an Rx in tamping down inflammation, one of the key risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Exercise also boosts cardiovascular health by decreasing the amount of plasma triglycerides—fatty molecules in the blood that are associated with plaque build-up in the arteries— notes Haskell. What’s more, he adds, physical activity helps reduce the particle size of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or so-called bad cholesterol in the blood, and increase amounts of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), aka good cholesterol, which translates to less artery clogging.

But exercise may not have the same effect on every person’s cardiovascular system, notes Arthur Leon, chief cardiologist at the University of Minnesota’s Heart Disease Prevention Clinic in Minneapolis. “On average, there is a response but there is great variability, and that variability runs in families,” he says. Take, for example, HDL cholesterol. Most broad studies show physical exercise leads to up to a 5 percent increase in HDL levels, but a closer examination shows that the percentages vary from zero to 25 percent, depending on the study subject, he says, noting that only about half of the population seem to experience HDL increases as a result of exercise.

Less cancer
Several studies (including the ongoing federal National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) following thousands subjects for several years, show that regular exercise lowers the risk for certain cancers, particularly breast and colon cancer, says Demetrius Albanes, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. Scientists have yet to pinpoint the mechanisms involved but have come up with several plausible explanations.

“Physical activity beneficially affects body weight,” says Albanes, noting that leaner people have lower circulating levels of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps cells absorb glucose, their primary energy source. Obese and overweight people, are more likely to develop insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells no longer respond to the hormone and absorb glucose. When this happens, the pancreas produces greater amounts to compensate, flooding the bloodstream with insulin; high levels of insulin in the blood have been linked to [some types of] cancer. “Insulin is essentially a growth hormone,” Albanes says. “Insulin could create new tumors by increasing rates of cell division, or it could just make small tumors grow.”

Albanes says that exercise may also ward off cancer and other diseases because it appears to beef up the body’s immune system. Exercise may also help reduce levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone in the blood, potentially also lowering the risk of developing breast and uterine cancers linked to high levels of those hormones.

Despite the apparent link between physical exercise and lower odds of cancer, Albanes acknowledges that there could be other factors at work. “[Because] most of these studies are not controlled trials, it could be some other lifestyle factor [that helps explain the lower cancer risk], ” he says, noting that people who exercise may also eat healthier diets.

Builds strong bones
Robert Recker, an endocrinologist and current president of the National Osteoporosis Foundation in Washington, D.C., says research indicates that moderate exercise increases and maintains bone mass and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. “The most compelling evidence,” he says, “is that if you don’t do anything, your fracture risk is much greater.”

Like muscles, bones become stronger when forced to bear more weight than normal. “The skeleton is a smart structural organ and knows how much load [force] is being put on it,” Recker says. “Pick up a pail of water, and you’re loading your arm, your shoulder, your spine, your legs and your hips.” That means muscles are contracting, exerting forces on the bones supporting those body parts. This force stimulates the bone to maintain or even build new tissue. But scientists have yet to figure out why. “That’s a focus,” he says, “of incredibly aggressive research.”

Recker says that researchers speculate, however, that it has to do with exercise triggering osteocytes (the most mature bone cells) to instruct bone-building cells called osteoblasts to increase bone formation.

Wards off diabetes
According to Gerald Shulman, a cellular and molecular physiologist at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., exercising may prevent and even reverse type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes type 2 is a disease in which the body begins to ignore or fails to produce enough insulin (a condition called insulin resistance). If muscles and other tissues cannot absorb glucose from the blood, nerve and blood vessel damage ensues, paving the way for heart disease, stroke and infections.

“We’ve shown that in insulin-resistant individuals… build up of fat leads to biochemical reactions that interfere with the glucose-transport mechanism [leading cells to block the activity of insulin],” Shulman says. But physical activity helps reverse this process. He notes that when someone runs, cycles or does other vigorous exercise, muscle contractions ramp up production of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that promotes the breakdown of the fats interfering with the cells’ glucose transporters.

“It is very likely that there are differences in the extent to which individuals respond to exercise, just as there are in responses to medications,” says Ronald Sigal, a clinical epidemiologist at the Ottawa Health Research Institute in Canada. Leon agrees, pointing to research demonstrating that exercise leads to varying decreases on visceral body fat (the fat surrounding organs), one of the key risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.

Makes you smarter
Researchers have long believed that exercise boosts smarts but there was not any hard scientific evidence until a few years ago. Now, says Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a neurosurgery professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, it’s known that exercise increases levels of some molecules in the brain that are very important for cognition.

One such chemical is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a molecule that promotes the growth and survival of brain cells as well as communication between them. Studies in rats show that physical exercise boosts BDNF levels in the hippocampus, a brain structure critical for learning and memory formation, which in turn helps them remember how to navigate their way through underwater mazes. “The more exercise, the more changes in the brain; we found almost a linear relationship,” Gomez-Pinilla says. “If we block the BDNF gene, we block this capacity of exercise to help learning and memory.”

Numerous studies suggest that fitness enhances cognition in humans as well. A randomized clinical trial published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people 50 years and older with memory problems scored higher on cognitive tests after a six-month workout regimen. Those study participants assigned to exercise programs scored 20 percent higher than their sedentary peers at the end of the six months, and maintained a 10 percent edge one year after the trial ended.

But skeptics warn that not enough research has been done to confirm a link between exercise and human brain power. A recent review of studies on cognition in older adults (primarily those age 65 and older) by Dutch scientists published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine concluded that “beneficial effects of various exercise programs on aspects of cognition have been observed in studies among subjects with and without cognitive decline. The majority of the studies, however, did not find any effect.”

Weight Loss
The relationship between exercise and weight loss is complicated. Contrary to popular belief, working out at the gym every day will not necessarily lead to weight loss. “It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared with those who have low energy expenditures,” write the authors of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2007 guidelines. “So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.”

“Increasing physical activity—if people control caloric intake—will lead to weight loss,” says William Haskell of Stanford University who helped craft the HHS, ACSM and AHA guidelines. But he cautions that exercise alone is unlikely to lead to the instant results most people want, leading them to become frustrated and give up. “[Suppose I do] 30 minutes of brisk walking five days per week,” says Haskell. “If you say walking a mile expends 100 calories, and if I walk at 3 miles per hour, I burn an extra 150 calories per day,” he says. “[Since one pound of fat is equivalent to about 3,600 calories], it could take three weeks to lose one pound. For most people, they are going to find this disappointing, [and] probably won’t stick with it.”

So for the average person, caloric intake—rather than calorie burning from exercise—appears to be the most important factor in weight loss. But even if calorie intake trumps exercise, this does not mean exercise does not play a key role in helping people stay trim.

“If you talk about energy balance [when calories consumed equal calories burned], definitely there is evidence that exercise contributes to energy balance,” says David Stensel, an exercise physiologist at the School of Sport & Exercise Sciences at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England. A study published this month by Stensel’s team suggests that vigorous exercise suppresses the key hunger hormone, ghrelin, for up to 30 minutes after workouts and increases levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone peptide YY for as long as three hours after exercise.

Stensel also points to studies showing that exercising may encourage people to crave healthier fare, such as unrefined foods (like fiber-rich beans and veggies) rather than foods loaded with refined sugar (such as cookies and cakes).

Some past researchers claimed that exercise would lead to weight gain in the long run because it ups one’s appetite. But Arthur Leon of the University of Minnesota says that theory has been shot down over the past decade. Some research suggests that it might lead to greater caloric intake, Stensel notes, but that does not necessarily translate into extra pounds. The increased calories, he says, are not enough to offset the calories burned—or energy consumed—during exercising.

The bottom line: couch potatoes may applaud the exercise naysayers but the bulk of research suggests that workouts make us physically and perhaps mentally healthier.

 

By Coco Ballantyne (American Scientific)