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The Power of an
Energy Microburst
Janet Nikolovski, Ph.D. & Jack Groppel, Ph.D.
For more information, please contact us at:
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    , .
As part of Wellness & Prevention, Janet assists companies,
employees, and health plan members achieve their full potential
by helping to renew their health, energy, and performance. Her
background spans across skincare, regenerative medicine, and
devices. Janet has been with Johnson & Johnson for 10 years,
previously working in the Advanced Technologies group within
Consumer Research & Development. Prior to J&J, she worked
at regenerative medicine/biotechnology start-up companies
developing cell-based biomedical devices. Dr. Nikolovski received
her B.S. in Chemical Engineering and an M.S. and Ph.D. in
Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan.
Associate Director, Science & Innovation, Wellness & Prevention Inc.,
a Johnson & Johnson company
wellness & Prevention, inc.
Infinite and linear, time remains one of
the few things that man cannot control.
Energy, on the other hand, is within our
command. And in many ways, it is the
most valuable resource we have. Time
creates opportunity. But it is the energy
we put into time that brings action and
impact. Ultimately, energy is what gives
time its real worth.
As biological organisms, human beings
need to both build energy capacity and
recapture energy through sleep, activity,
nutrition, emotional connection, rest, etc.
Energy recovery is essential to human life
and can be achieved on a physical,
emotional, mental, or spiritual level.
The Power of an Energy Microburst
Janet Nikolovski, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Science & Innovation Wellness & Prevention Inc.,
a Johnson & Johnson company
Jack L. Groppel, Ph.D.
Vice President of Applied Science & Performance Training,
Wellness & Prevention, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company,
and Co-Founder of the Human Performance Institute®
Interestingly, in a recent landmark study
conducted by Wellness & Prevention, Inc.2,
27 percent of people stated that they are not
at all satisfied with their energy levels, and
46 percent more stated that they are only
somewhat satisfied. Almost all surveyed
(93 percent) stated that they are interested
in improving their energy levels throughout
their day.
These results clearly underscore the notion
that energy is in high demand. So is there a
way we can make more of it?
Dr. Jack Groppel, Ph.D. is the co-founder of the Human Performance
Institute®, and Vice President of Applied Science and Performance
Training at Wellness & Prevention, Inc. He is an internationally
recognized authority and pioneer in the science of human
performance, and an expert in fitness and nutrition. Dr. Groppel
served as an Adjunct Professor of Management at the J.L. Kellogg
School of Management at Northwestern University for several
years and continues to instruct courses at the University in a
supplementary role.
Dr. Groppel authored The Corporate Athlete book on achieving the
pinnacle of corporate performance and co-authored The Corporate
Athlete Advantage. He developed the Corporate Athlete® concept for
his training program while serving as an associate professor of
kinesiology and bioengineering at the University of Illinois, helping
both business executives and athletes increase performance levels.
In 1992, he combined his program with Dr. Jim Loehr to form the
Human Performance Institute, which is now part of Wellness &
Prevention, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company.
Dr. Groppel is a Fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine
and in the American College of Nutrition. He is also Board-certified
in nutrition. Dr. Groppel was a former Research Associate to the U.S.
Olympic Training Center, Vice President on the National Board of
Directors of the United States Professional Tennis A ssociation, and
Chairman of the National Sport Science Committee of the United
States Tennis Association for 16 years.
Vice President of Applied Science & Performance Training, Wellness & Prevention, Inc.,
a Johnson & Johnson company, and Co-Founder of the Human Performance Institute®
The number one reason people cite for not engaging in
their health is “time.2 The consensus says there just isn’t
enough time to be healthy. But what if time isn’t really the
problem? What if the real barrier to health is something
people can remedy? Would that make health and wellness
more achievable? More attainable?
wellness & Prevention, inc. wellness & Prevention, inc.
In more than 30 years studying elite
athletes and world-class performers in
business, medicine, and the military,
we have learned that energy is a key
driver of high performance and
engagement3. Being in a state of
high positive energy enhances one’s
engagement1, 3. And it has been identified
that even if an individual is in a state
of high negative energy (e.g., impatient,
frustrated, etc.), or in a state of low
negative energy (e.g., fatigued, feeling
helpless, etc.), he or she can develop the
skills to shift energy states into either
a high positive state (e.g., feeling
challenged, connected, etc.), or a low
positive energy state (e.g., feeling calm,
relaxed, etc.). This information, tested in
a living laboratory of several high-stress
arenas, highlights our ability to control
energy and reallocate it to different
realms (high positive to low positive, etc.)
to serve different purposes, underscoring
the potential to use energy to enact
change, drive performance, and improve
In a recent study of employee energy
levels at three different companies
(including our own), we uncovered a
consistent pattern: People start their
day with a relatively high energy that
gradually declines throughout the day5
(Figure 1). By taking this into consideration
and applying the findings detailed above,
business leaders can alleviate this curve and
harness energy as a strategic advantage.
Understanding the daily energy rhythms of
employees can allow leaders to positively
impact energy levels and ultimately help
improve performance. In the end, expanding
people’s energy will enable them to feel more
engaged – both at work and at home.
Microburst is a word we coined related
to energy management, where micro
represents a small energy investment, and
burst characterizes the disproportionately
bigger energy return. It is a small (short in
duration), intentional activity that results in a
disproportionate, higher return. As examined,
a microburst can be physical, emotional,
mental, or spiritual (i.e., connected to one’s
purpose in life).
As biologically oscillatory beings, we
run on natural rhythms that vacillate
(e.g., EEG, EKG, sleep, Circadian Rhythms,
etc.). Conversely, the society in which we
live demands linearity – a non-stop pace
and go-go-go mentality, where we are
often overscheduled and overcommitted –
with no rest or recovery in sight.
The microburst is the antithesis to the
linear world in which we live. It breaks
this cycle of continuous exertion and
allows for recovery, enabling individuals
to meet the never-ending, linear pace of
today’s society. The concept represents a
short period of time that can change an
energy level and energy state, with the
potential to improve one’s performance
and engagement over the course of a day.
Stress has been unfairly demonized
throughout society. Athletes, however,
have always understood the positive side
of stress and the powerful relationship
between stress and recovery. In order for
a muscle to grow, it must first be stressed
through some form of exercise or resistance
training. This stress serves as the stimulus
for growth. However, for growth to occur,
the muscle must be given time to recover.
With no recovery, there is no growth.
Similarly, without a steady balance of
both stress and recovery within daily life,
energy levels in all dimensions can suffer.
The question remains, how much stress
and recovery do we need?
In the latter half of the 20th Century, a
concept known as periodization gained
popularity in the sport science world. This
line of research dealt with the work/rest
ratios of athletes in training and peaking
for performance at the right time.
Periodization involved macro-cycles
(such as year-long training plans) and
micro-cycles (between competition plans)
of recovery7. But, in the late 1980s, the
idea of micro-cycles took on a different
meaning. Loehr found that tennis players,
whose heart rates were incredibly high
after finishing a point, had very structured
rituals in the 20 seconds between points8.
He went on to explain that, with structure
in place, a human being could recapture
small amounts of energy – physical,
emotional, mental, and spiritual – in very
short time intervals. In flipping the equation,
if it’s possible to recover multidimensional
energy in small time periods, is it also
possible to generate energy in short spans?
FIGURE 1: Average Energy Level
throughout the Work Day
At home before
workday begins
At beginning of
typical workday
Middle of typical
Towards end of
typical workday
At home after
workday is over
On days off/
8:00 AM 11:30 AM 2:30 PM 4:30 PM
% High Energy
(8-10 energy level)
% High Energy
(8-10 energy level)
wellness & Prevention, inc. wellness & Prevention, inc.
In another set of experiments, energy
was measured throughout the work day,
along with the activities each participant
was engaged in during the 30 minutes
prior to reporting. Averages were calculated
for each activity. The activities associated
with lower energy ratings revolved around
typical workplace occurrences – group
projects, meetings, and conference calls.
However, activities associated with the
higher end of the energy scale included
recovery activities (defined as taking a
rest or stretching for <10 minutes), a short
bout of physical activity (<10 minutes), or
even having a conversation with a loved
one. This latter observation raises an
important point. Microbursts need not
be solely physical. Microbursts of mental,
spiritual, or emotional activities can also
have a strong impact on energy levels.
To better understand the impact of
a microburst, we investigated the
energy impact of a single ‘dose’ of
activity. In one series of experiments,
employees were asked to perform a
single microburst of physical activity
when they felt particularly tired.
The activity consisted of spending five
minutes on a mini-stepping machine,
or walking up and down flights of stairs,
at an easy pace.
Additionally, the average energy rating
for those who reported having a
coffee in the 30 minutes before reporting
was 6.8. In contrast, a microburst of
recovery or short physical activity
averaged 7.4. This is of notable interest as
coffee consumption is a popular behavior
for those looking for energy through their
workday. As evidenced, an afternoon or
morning coffee could easily be substituted
for a microburst of activity within the
workplace, resulting in potentially equal or
even better perceived energy.
As a result of this single microburst of
activity, we observed a substantial increase
in the energy reported by participants
(Figure 2). On average, they reported triple
energy levels immediately after the activity.
Additionally, even though we observed a
decay in reported energy over time, it did
not extinguish nearly as fast as expected. In
fact, an hour later, participants still reported
having, on average, twice as much energy as
they did before the activity (Figure 2).
FIGURE 3: The impact of various
activities on energy.
Energy was self-reported throughout the
workday, along with the activities each
participant was engaged in during the 30
minutes prior to reporting. Averages were
calculated for each activity.
FIGURE 2: The impact of a single
microburst of physical activity on energy.
Energy was reported prior to (at time 0)
and at points immediately after, 5, 15, 30,
and 60 minutes post a 5 minute stairs
activity. All time points are statistically
dierent when compared to time 0.
Reported Energy
Time (minutes post activity)
010 20 30 40 50 60 70
after activity
low energy high energy
group project
in-person meeting
conference call
conversation with a loved one
strategic recovery activity
physical activity
wellness & Prevention, inc. wellness & Prevention, inc.
There has been growing scientific
evidence regarding the benefits of
microbursts – particularly those of
physical activity. A short bout of physical
activity (10 minutes of exercise) has
been reported to result in improvements
in vigor, fatigue, and total mood16.
Verburgh and colleagues have reported
that short bouts of physical activity lead
to a boost in self control and suggest that
the resulting increased blood and oxygen
flow to the pre-frontal cortex may explain
these effects10.
There is additional evidence to support
this idea. In a case study with one subject,
researchers Bollo, et al. found that within
seconds of initiating a bicycle pedaling
exercise or a running exercise, transient
oxygen increased in the brain, went
back down, and then rose again until it
stabilized within one to two minutes17.
The authors of this study offer that these
findings, this one- to two-minute period
of hyperoxygenation, could be one
“mechanism by which exercise achieves
myriad cognitive benefits.17” This research
supports Ratey’s comment that when the
body starts moving, the brain “lights up”
in almost all areas, and the result is
improved cognition, creativity, and
problem-solving19. Therefore, exercise
intervals of one to two minutes, every
30 minutes, may make a difference in
Much research has been devoted to the
comparative effects of short bouts to
longer bouts of physical activity. Studies
show that engaging in short bouts does
have additive effect, and is just as strongly
associated with several biologic health
outcomes11, including aerobic fitness12,13,14 and
weight loss12. This suggests that we
may be able to enhance our health by
simply engaging in an active lifestyle,
despite the time constraints most often
cited as a barrier, or the perception of the
need for high intensity activities. In fact,
Duvivier and colleagues recently reported
that reducing inactivity by simply increasing
the time spent walking (by 4hrs/day) or
standing (by 2hrs/day) is a more effective
way to help reduce certain health risks
than one hour of physical exercise15. The
consequences of inactivity are even more
striking. In an American Cancer Society
study, data over the course of 14 years and
123,000 middle-aged adults were analyzed.
The researchers found that the all-cause
mortality rates of those who spend six hours
a day or more sitting (compared to those
who reported three or fewer hours) were 40%
higher for women and 20% higher for men18.
They further found that people who sat for
hours had a higher mortality rate – even if
they worked out18.
In our own work, we investigated whether
we could improve the energy rhythm
curve of Figure 1 by using an intervention
consisting of many microbursts throughout
the day. Specifically, as part of our
Organizations in MOTION™ study5, we
asked employees at two different companies
to insert a microburst approximately every
hour into their workday over a 90-day
period. These were not advocated as breaks,
but rather, employees were asked to simply
do things like stand up at their desk and
stretch, take five minutes to catch up on
a project with a colleague while walking
the stairs, partake in emotional or mental
recovery, etc., as they worked.
After following up with participants at
the end of 90 days, we found that their
energy rhythm curves did in fact change.
Not only did their energy increase during
the day (particularly in the afternoon),
but even after they left work, participants
reported having more energy at home
(Figure 4). Remarkably, participants also
reported increased engagement, focus,
and intrinsic motivation during work5.
Becoming an Organization in MOTION™
through periodization of microbursts, in
fact, seems to have positive effects toward
energy, engagement, and performance5.
Figure 4: Daily Energy Rhythms Prior to
& Following Microburst Regimen5
Respondents were asked, “How would you
rate the level of energy you typically experience
in each of the dierent situations listed below?
Percentage of respondents answering 8, 9, or
10 on a 10-point scale (n=163 respondents
Pre-regimen, n=165 respondents post-regimen)
36% 37%
27% 28%
At home before
workday begins
At beginning of
typical workday
Middle of
typical workday
Towards end of
typical workday
At home after
workday is over
On days o /
Arrow denotes significantly higher score between Pre vs. Post regimens @ 90% CL.
+8 +9
 wellness & Prevention, inc. wellness & Prevention, inc.
In today’s society, the current attitude is,
“I don’t have time to make the changes
necessary to be healthy2.” Improving one’s
health is viewed as such a monumental
undertaking that many think they don’t have
the capacity to impact change. But health
is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon. And
small changes can be very powerful.
As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-
tzu notes, “A journey of a thousand miles
needs to start with one step.” The same is
true of the path toward better health and
engagement. And the first step may be a
simple shift in the conversation. Perhaps
the concept of “better health” could seem
more approachable and achievable by
switching the focus from health as a whole
to energy as an enabler. Early findings
indicate that increasing energy capacity
and encouraging energy recovery could
yield a measurable impact on healthy
behaviors. And microbursts could be a key
mechanism to enact positive change.
The power of microbursts is in their
accessibility, versatility, and simplicity.
Microbursts can be physical, emotional,
mental, and/or spiritual. A microburst of a
physical action (e.g., movement or eating
a snack), an emotional shift (e.g., changing
an impatient attitude to one of positive and
supportive), a mental thought change (e.g.,
going from a perception of a blur in time to
one where you are in control of your time
with some type of structure or habit you put
in place), or spiritual (e.g., where you connect
momentarily with something or someone
that really matters to you), and can be
performed in almost any setting, in a short
amount of time.
Microbursts support our theory that
energy could be an enabler of enhanced
health, improved engagement, and higher
performance9. But to get there, we need
to alter our thinking. We need to resist a
linear, non-stop lifestyle and embrace one
infused with microbursts of recovery. It’s
time to start microbursting throughout our
day. Over time, health and engagement will
simply become a side effect.
Make health and wellness achievable:
Simplify it.
It’s time to abandon the all-or-nothing myth. If we can build a cycle where
something small (e.g., a microburst) provides the initial burst of energy, the
microburst can become a tool towards self-perpetuating changes in behavior.
Expand your horizon.
And stop being singularly focused on health. Instead, concentrate on energy.
It’s more tangible, immediate, and connected to enabling us to do more of the
things we love. When we focus on energy right here and right now, being or
becoming healthy becomes a side effect. And a good one to have!
Your body is your own laboratory. As a start, become more attuned to your
energy levels throughout the day and more aware of when they rise and fall.
Ask yourself, “Where is my energy level right now? How do I feel? What can I
do to improve upon where I am right now?” Then, experiment with different
types of microbursts to see how your energy levels are impacted. You only have
a few minutes to lose, but the potential of so much to gain!
 wellness & Prevention, inc. wellness & Prevention, inc.
12. Schmidt W, Biwer C, & Kalscheuer L
(2001). Effects of Long Versus Short
Bout Exercise on Fitness and Weight
Loss in Overweight Females. Journal of
the American College of Nutrition; 20(5):
13. Woolf-May K, Kearney E, Owen A ,
Jones D, Davison R, & Bird S (1999).
The Efficacy of Accumulated Short
Bouts Versus Single Daily Bouts of
Brisk Walking in Improving Aerobic
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14. DeBusk R, Stenestrand U, Sheehan M,
& Haskell W (1990). Training Effects of
Long Versus Short Bouts of Exercise in
Healthy Subjects. The American Journal
of Cardiology; 15(65): 1010-1013.
15. Duvivier B, Schaper N, Bremers M, van
Crombrugge G, Menheere P, Kars M, &
Savelberg H (2013). Minimal Intensity
Physical Activity (Standing and
Walking) of Longer Duration Improves
Insulin Action and Plasma Lipids More
than Shorter Periods of Moderate
to Vigorous Exercise (Cycling) in
Sedentary Subjects When Energy
Expenditure is Comparable. PLoS One;
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Exercise Duration and Mood State:
How Much is Enough to Feel Better?
Health Psychology; 20(4): 267-275.
17. Bollo R, Williams S, Peskin C, &
Samadani U (2010). When the Air Hits
Your Brain: Cerebral Autoregulation
of Brain Oxygenation During
Aerobic Exercise Allows Transient
Hyperoxygenation: Case Report.
Neurosurgery; 67(2): e507-509.
18. Patel A, Bernstein L, Deka A, Feigelson
H, Campbell P, Gapstur S, Colditz G,
& Thun M (2010). Leisure Time Spent
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in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults.
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 wellness & Prevention, inc.
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the following dismal statistics: according to recent research conducted by the Gallup organization, only 28 % of American workers are engaged in their work, meaning that they are passionately involved in it. Fifty-four percent are not engaged (essentially, sleepwalking through their work) and 18 % are actively disengaged, meaning that they act out their unhappiness on the job. 1 2010 research by Price Waterhouse Coopers showed that 1 in 4 high-potential employees intended to leave their employer in the next 12 months. 2 The human resources consulting firm AON Hewitt has additionally found that, overall, global engagement scores dropped to 56 % in 2010 from 60 % the previous year — the largest decline reportedly seen in the last 15 years, due in large part to current negative economic cycle. "Organizations are exhausted and struggling to find ways to improve or stabilize the future," the Hewitt report notes. 3 Organizations depend on increasing their innovation capabilities — specifically, deepening their talent benches with
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Purpose: The goal of this meta-analysis was to aggregate available empirical studies on the effects of physical exercise on executive functions in preadolescent children (6-12 years of age), adolescents (13-17 years of age) and young adults (18-35 years of age). Method: The electronic databases PubMed, EMBASE and SPORTDiscus were searched for relevant studies reporting on the effects of physical exercise on executive functions. Nineteen studies were selected. Results: There was a significant overall effect of acute physical exercise on executive functions (d=0.52, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.76, p<0.001). There were no significant differences between the three age groups (Q (2)=0.13, p=0.94). Furthermore, no significant overall effect of chronic physical exercise (d=0.14, 95%CI -0.04 to 0.32, p=0.19) on executive functions (Q (1)=5.08, p<0.05) was found. Meta-analytic effect sizes were calculated for the effects of acute physical exercise on the domain's inhibition/interference control (d=0.46, 95% CI 0.33 to 0.60, p<0.001) and working memory (d=0.05, 95% CI -0.51 to 0.61, p=0.86) as well as for the effects of chronic physical exercise on planning (d=0.16, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.89, p=0.18). Conclusions: Results suggest that acute physical exercise enhances executive functioning. The number of studies on chronic physical exercise is limited and it should be investigated whether chronic physical exercise shows effects on executive functions comparable to acute physical exercise. This is highly relevant in preadolescent children and adolescents, given the importance of well-developed executive functions for daily life functioning and the current increase in sedentary behaviour in these age groups.
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Epidemiological studies suggest that excessive sitting time is associated with increased health risk, independent of the performance of exercise. We hypothesized that a daily bout of exercise cannot compensate the negative effects of inactivity during the rest of the day on insulin sensitivity and plasma lipids. Eighteen healthy subjects, age 21±2 year, BMI 22.6±2.6 kgm(-2) followed randomly three physical activity regimes for four days. Participants were instructed to sit 14 hr/day (sitting regime); to sit 13 hr/day and to substitute 1 hr of sitting with vigorous exercise 1 hr (exercise regime); to substitute 6 hrs sitting with 4 hr walking and 2 hr standing (minimal intensity physical activity (PA) regime). The sitting and exercise regime had comparable numbers of sitting hours; the exercise and minimal intensity PA regime had the same daily energy expenditure. PA was assessed continuously by an activity monitor (ActivPAL) and a diary. Measurements of insulin sensitivity (oral glucose tolerance test, OGTT) and plasma lipids were performed in the fasting state, the morning after the 4 days of each regime. In the sitting regime, daily energy expenditure was about 500 kcal lower than in both other regimes. Area under the curve for insulin during OGTT was significantly lower after the minimal intensity PA regime compared to both sitting and exercise regimes 6727.3±4329.4 vs 7752.0±3014.4 and 8320.4±5383.7 mU•min/ml, respectively. Triglycerides, non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B plasma levels improved significantly in the minimal intensity PA regime compared to sitting and showed non-significant trends for improvement compared to exercise. One hour of daily physical exercise cannot compensate the negative effects of inactivity on insulin level and plasma lipids if the rest of the day is spent sitting. Reducing inactivity by increasing the time spent walking/standing is more effective than one hour of physical exercise, when energy expenditure is kept constant.
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The obesity epidemic is attributed in part to reduced physical activity. Evidence supports that reducing time spent sitting, regardless of activity, may improve the metabolic consequences of obesity. Analyses were conducted in a large prospective study of US adults enrolled by the American Cancer Society to examine leisure time spent sitting and physical activity in relation to mortality. Time spent sitting and physical activity were queried by questionnaire on 53,440 men and 69,776 women who were disease free at enrollment. The authors identified 11,307 deaths in men and 7,923 deaths in women during the 14-year follow-up. After adjustment for smoking, body mass index, and other factors, time spent sitting (> or = 6 vs. <3 hours/day) was associated with mortality in both women (relative risk = 1.34, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.25, 1.44) and men (relative risk = 1.17, 95% CI: 1.11, 1.24). Relative risks for sitting (> or = 6 hours/day) and physical activity (<24.5 metabolic equivalent (MET)-hours/week) combined were 1.94 (95% CI: 1.70, 2.20) for women and 1.48 (95% CI: 1.33, 1.65) for men, compared with those with the least time sitting and most activity. Associations were strongest for cardiovascular disease mortality. The time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level. Public health messages should include both being physically active and reducing time spent sitting.
Leistung, Gesundheit und Glück beruhen auf dem ausgewogenen und geschickten Einsatz von Energie: Mit dieser klaren Prämisse vereinfacht und revolutioniert das Autorenduo die Art und Weise, wie wir mit Hindernissen und Leistungsbarrieren in unserem persönlichen wie beruflichen Umfeld umgehen. Das „Power of Full Engagement-Trainingsystem“ ist denn auch weniger eine Arbeitsweise als vielmehr eine elementare Lebensphilosophie.
Purpose: Examine whether nonbout physical activity (i.e., <10 minutes' duration of physical activity [PA]) demonstrates a stronger association with health outcomes than bout physical activity (i.e., ≥ 10 minutes' duration). Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: NHANES 2003-2006. Subjects: A total of 6321 participants ranging in age from 18 to 85 years. Measures: Objectively measured PA was assessed using accelerometry. A variety of health outcomes (e.g., triglyceride levels) were objectively measured, including an assessment of metabolic syndrome. Analysis: Multivariate regression analyses examined the association between bouts and nonbouts on each of the biologic health outcomes. Additionally, differences in each of the biologic variables among those who met PA guidelines for both approaches were evaluated. Results: After adjustments, results were similar for both approaches. For example, the odds ratio (OR) for metabolic syndrome for nonbouts (OR, 1.89; p < .001) was similar to that for bouts (OR, 1.87; p = .002). With the exception of body mass index, similar values for the biologic variables were found between those meeting guidelines for the two PA approaches. Conclusion: Engaging in nonbouts, as opposed to bouts of PA, is just as strongly associated with several biologic health outcomes, suggesting that adults who perceive themselves as having little time to exercise may still be able to enhance their health by adopting an active lifestyle approach.
A growing body of literature suggests that physical activity beneficially influences brain function during adulthood, particularly frontal lobe-mediated cognitive processes, such as planning, scheduling, inhibition, and working memory. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, times of famine interspersed with times of feast necessitated bouts of intense physical activity balanced by periods of rest. However, the sedentary lifestyle that pervades modern society has overridden the necessity for a physically active lifestyle. The impact of inactivity on disease processes has been the focus of much attention; the growing understanding that physical activity also has the benefit of enhancing cognitive performance strengthens the imperative for interventions that are successful in increasing physical activity, with the outcomes of promoting health and productivity. Population health and performance programs that promote physical activity provide benefits for employees and employers through improvements in worker health and performance and financial returns for the company. In this review, we examine the mechanisms by which physical activity improves cognition. We also review studies that evaluate the effects of physical activity on cognitive executive performance in adulthood, including longitudinal studies that address the impact of physical activity during early adulthood and midlife on preservation of cognition later in life. This is of particular importance given that adulthood represents prime working years and that physical activity promotion is a key component of population health and performance programs. Finally, we provide recommendations for maximizing the lasting benefits of movement and physical activity on cognition in adulthood.
Objective: Cerebral autoregulation maintains a relatively stable cerebral blood flow over a range of perfusion pressures. During exercise, regional cerebral blood flow may be elevated in particular areas of the brain. This case report presents the impact of aerobic exercise on intracranially measured pressure and brain tissue oxygenation in an adult human. Clincial presentation: A 30-year-old man with idiopathic intracranial hypertension treated with cerebrospinal fluid diversion was monitored with a Licox intracranial brain oxygen and pressure monitor (Integra NeuroSciences Corporation, Plainsboro, New Jersey) for refractory nonpostural headaches exacerbated after exercise. He performed trials of running and bicycling to provoke his headaches. The patient's mean intracranial pressure remained stable during exercise despite elevated cerebral perfusion pressures. Regional cerebral oxygen tension levels were strictly regulated to a level of approximately 39 mm Hg during steady state aerobic exercise, with transient increases up to 90 mm Hg at the onset and termination of activity. Conclusion: Our results suggest that cerebral autoregulation appears to maintain constant cerebral oxygen tension during exercise. Further, we note transient cerebral hyperoxygenation at the onset of exercise as autoregulation "turns on" and at the termination of exercise. We present a quantitative interpretation of the post-exercise hyperoxygenation phase based on Fick's principle. We are the first to demonstrate cortical hyperoxygenation in a human breathing natural air without oxygen supplementation.
To evaluate the "threshold" duration of exercise required to produce training effects, 18 healthy men aged 51 +/- 6 years completing 30 minutes of exercise training/day were compared with 18 men aged 52 +/- 6 years completing three 10-minute bouts of exercise/day, each separated by at least 4 hours. Exercise training intensity was moderate (65 to 75% of peak treadmill heart rate). During the 8-week study period VO2 max increased significantly in both groups from 33.3 +/- 3.2 to 37.9 +/- 3.5 ml/kg/min in men performing long exercise bouts and from 32.1 +/- 4.6 to 34.5 +/- 4.5 ml/kg/min in men performing short exercise bouts (p less than 0.05 within and between groups). Adherence to unsupervised exercise training performed at home and at work by men in long and short bouts was high; total duration of training completed was 96 and 93% of the prescribed amount and total number of sessions completed was 92 and 93% of that prescribed, respectively. In both groups exercise heart rate measured by a portable microprocessor was within or above the prescribed range for greater than 85% of the prescribed duration. Thus, multiple short bouts of moderate-intensity exercise training significantly increase peak oxygen uptake. For many individuals short bouts of exercise training may fit better into a busy schedule than a single long bout.