Friday, May 30, 2008

The Secret of Strength

Recently, I found a gem of a book entitled, The Boy’s Book of Strength, by C. Ward Crampton, M.D., from which I draw the bulk of today’s post. Published in 1936, Crampton’s book for boys contains a lot of useful advice for boys and girls of all ages.

Strength is the ability to exert force against a resistance. All muscle movements require strength, and everybody can benefit from increasing it. Whether you are an athlete, a mother, a father, a gardener, a golfer, a weekend warrior, or a grandparent, muscular strength is as important to the success of your daily activities as breathing is to life.

There are approximately half a thousand voluntary muscles in the body, under the direct control of the will. About 50 of these are in each arm and leg. This accounts for 200, leaving 300 in the central part of the body, the neck, trunk and head.

Some are as small as a pinhead and others weigh several pounds. They have different shapes—long, short, flat, round, etc. They all have their purposes. Some are more useful than others.


The abdominal wall

You may have the strongest legs in the world, but if your abdominal muscles are weak, you cannot be a good runner or jumper, or good in any sport requiring strength or endurance. If you have a hard, solid, elastic, muscular body, your legs will a hard, solid base to work from. If your abdomen is soft and flabby, any effort makes it bulge weakly, the arms and legs have no reliable substance behind their action and there is no power. The most important voluntary muscles of the body are the abdominal muscles. They are far more important than the biceps in spite of the fact that we always put up the arm and try to make it bulge when we want to show off.


The abdominal muscles consist of more muscles than just the rectus abdominis: the six-pack muscles. External and internal oblique muscles as well as the infinitely important transversus abdominis complement the rectus abdominis muscle to provide trunk stability and the foundation of strength.

One of the first secrets of strength is, spend your time where you get the best results. Work on the most important muscles, develop a foundation, or you get nowhere. Every jump, kick, throw, hit, dodge and stride you make is three-quarters trunk muscles’ work. The [person] who has a strong trunk will outswim, outrun, outclimb the [person] who develops only his [or her] arms and legs. This is one of the great secrets of success in all lines of athletics. The great coaches of athletic teams and track athletics know this and they have their several ways of putting it into practice.

In every athletic effort the abdominal muscles take an essential part. The high jump, the hurdle, every step of the sprint or distance runs, every movement in baseball, football, tennis, swimming, boxing, use the abdominal muscles as the foundation element. It’s always there in the middle of things. [As of 1936,] very few athletic trainers fully realize this and the public knows it not at all. Now you know it.

Strong arms, strong legs are futile unless there is a strong abdomen to work from. A strong abdomen is one of the great secrets of strength.


In addition to the abdominal wall muscles, the muscles of the lower back are just as important for maintaining posture and facilitating power generation. The quadratus lumborum and the erector spinae are especially important.

For exercises and stretches specific to each of these muscles I've mentioned, I refer you to ExRx.net, a very useful site. If you would like more hands-on instruction, consult with a qualified, certified personal trainer. NASM, NSCA, or ACSM certifications are awarded by quality organizations.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Empirical Thesis, Anecdotal Humor

Today, I made my formal thesis proposal to the department. Really, if my committee let me get this far, then they like the idea and are going to approve it, which they did with only a few suggested modifications.

Now we need to figure out all the logistics of bringing in over a hundred teenagers to test their cardiorespiratory fitness levels.

On a very different note, my sister related to me a funny story about her 2- almost 3-year-old daughter, my niece. My sister has been teaching my niece to recite the Articles of Faith, which are 13 succinct and canonized statements of beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My sister writes, "She knows #1 by heart and is learning #2 now. It's cool and very cute to hear her recite it."

Now to prep you for the punchline, here is the text for the first Article of Faith: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."

Then my sister continues, "She had a little trouble understanding the difference between a Ghost (as in the Holy Ghost) and a goat. One time she said '...and in the Holy Goat...baa...baa.' That's when I realized she needed a little chat about the difference between a spirit and a goat. It was pretty funny."

Out of the mouth of babes, indeed!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Few Thoughts, Some Not Enjoyable

Whether we realize it or not, by opening the field to gay marriage, we are opening a Pandora's box whose contents are more vile and vicious than we could ever fully anticipate right now.

Wrote one columnist, Allison Hantschel, "What the Supreme Court in California did two weeks ago was merely affirm what Americans have always known: that under the law in this land, we are all of us safe, all of us equal, all of us protected - all of us, or none of us is."

As soon as gay marriages are legitimized the world over, will we get to turn our attention to the next-most-important-fight-for-individual-rights hoping to redefine the concept of marriage?

Who will it be? Fathers who father children by their daughters? Child pornographers who think kids are cute? Insert-anything-worse-here-as-long-as-it's-consensual, etc.? Why not open the field of marriage wide open to all who have a personal fetish (perversion, really) and could benefit from the tax (and other) benefits associated with being recognized by the State? Until we are willing to consider all possible views of marriage as legitimate, Allison Hantschel's hopeful statement cannot be fully realized.

But at what cost do we accept and legitimize each personal interpretation of marriage? Does society have a moral fabric? Should it? Who sets the standards? What's right and what's wrong? Are right and wrong different today than they were yesterday? Are there no certainties or absolutes in this world?

If your stomach is turning a little at any of what I've written, I apologize for painting such an ugly picture. My mind tries to look as far down a line of logic as possible to consider the most likely outcome. The sad truth is that what seems appalling and repugnant today often passes as mainstream tomorrow.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but there are forces and organizations, perhaps merely individuals at this point, who would destroy all that is dear and good and right in the world, and they would do it in the name of so-called rights, they would do it under the banner of the United States' Constitution, they would do it in the name of God.

Furthermore, the people who would do these sorts of things will also stop at nothing to smear the good names of all who try to oppose them. Is the reason why we have such a large silent majority because we are afraid of being publicly smeared as bigots or chauvinists or supremacists?

In 1995, the now late President Gordon B. Hinckley read a statement entitled, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which provides a solid rock upon which we can build our definition of marriage and family in a context which uplifts and edifies. I quote in part:

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.


Time forbids me to write much more than I have. Let me finish by saying that I do not hate homosexuals. I believe that all of us are children of a loving Heavenly Father, that we were created in His image, that we are accountable to Him for our actions, that He has commanded us to be chaste and pure and virtuous, that though we have challenges in this life--temptations to act against His will for us--He has provided us grace (spiritual strength) through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ whereby we can avoid sin, repent when we do sin, and ultimately become clean and pure.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Samoa Part 16: 9/11

September 11th, 2001 began as any other day in the mission field. At 6:30 am, my alarm went off. I hopped into the shower, dressed, and was studying the scriptures by 7:00 am. After a bit, Elder L. and I decided to go to a small store located around the corner from where we lived to buy some milk and cookies.

We arrived at the store unaware that anything important was happening in our distant homeland, the conditions in Samoa are that idyllic. I perused the aisles until I found myself near an open doorway leading into the store owner’s home. From within the next room, I heard a seemingly disjointed and unconnected series of words: America, terrorist attack, World Trade Center, etc.

None of it made any sense to me. My interest piqued, I peeked my head through the door to catch some more of the report. The shop owner’s son beckoned me to enter. I did so and was confronted by a most confusing image on the TV screen: the World Trade Center towers, clearly on fire, belching thick, black smoke into the sky above.

The anchorperson (I cannot remember if it was a man or women) was saying something about the towers having collapsed. I said to myself, They haven’t collapsed; I can see them right there. I knew that the Empire State Building had once been hit by an airplane; surely the twin towers could withstand the impact of a jet liner.

Then the report switched to a video of the towers’ collapse. A wave of shock coursed through my body and I suddenly burst into tears. My slow descent into the chair behind me mirrored the collapse of the first tower. I watched as the second tower fell and soon Elder L. joined me in viewing the tragic news.

We walked to our flat, then made our way to the home of the family slated to make us breakfast that morning. Before we arrived, a mission van pulled up and Elder H., a man in his mid-sixties from my hometown area, instructed us that Salt Lake City had issued instructions for all missionaries to remove their nametags—obvious indicators that we were affiliated with an America-based church—and to remain in their living quarters until further instructions were given.

Elder L. and I took all this very seriously. We went to the home of our breakfast appointment and explained, in broken Samoan—partly because of our greenness, partly because of the emotion—that we needed to forgo the meal and return to our flat. At the time, the thought hadn’t occurred to us that we were, in fact, in the safest place on earth; that no one in all of Samoa would ever dream of harming a missionary, or any other American for that matter. We only knew our orders and risked offending the family by refusing their generosity.

We spent three days indoors and seven days without our black nametags. Once, when we could go back outside, we were mistaken for Jehovah’s Witnesses because we were dressed in slacks, white shirts, and ties, but our signature symbol as Mormon missionaries was gone.

The most difficult part about witnessing such a horrific tragedy was being so far away from family. If I hadn’t yet experienced homesickness (which I had a little), then this plunged me into an acute yearning to go home and get on with life while the world was still semi-sane.

Fortunately, our wise mission president counseled Elder L. and I to work harder and get the Church members to assist us. We did and found ourselves as busy as we’d ever be. Thus our minds were taken off the pain of what we had witnessed and of being so far away from home. Our sorrows were literally swallowed up in a hope in Jesus Christ, whose message we sought to share with all we could.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More Thesis

The dreaded thesis is progressing nicely. I just submitted my first three chapters to my committee members in preparation for the formal proposal to the department. If the proposal is accepted, then I can proceed with data collection.

The first three chapters of the thesis are called the prospectus. Chapter 1 is the introduction, Chapter 2 the review of literature, and Chapter three the materials and methods. In the final write-up of the thesis, the first three chapters become an appendix to the much shorter actual thesis portion.

This being the fourth thesis topic for which I've read between 150 and 300 or so pages of literature (in total I've probably read 1000+ pages), I'm very glad to be quickly approaching the data collection phase.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In Case You Were Curious...

Physical Activity Mitigates Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes in Juveniles

Introduction

The burgeoning overweight and obesity problem in Americans of all ages has brought with it an increase in other lifestyle-related health problems. For example, in adults, obesity increases risk of mortality (4). More specifically, mortality from combined diabetes and kidney disease is significantly increased in both overweight and obese adults (3). Research shows that increased exercise capacity in adult men reduces all-cause mortality (7). Indeed, one study showed that exercise capacity more strongly predicts mortality in adult men than any other recognized risk factors for cardiovascular disease studied (7).

Overweight and obesity is now a recognized problem in American children and adolescents. One source reported that 13 to 14 percent of 6-11-year-old children and 12-19-year-old adolescents are overweight (9). Additionally, as a child’s age and degree of obesity increases, the chances that the child will become an obese adult likewise increase (9), bringing with it an increase in all-cause mortality (3). In juveniles, increased body mass index (BMI) is associated with an increase in insulin resistance (IR) (5, 10). But, IR is more closely associated with visceral adiposity than BMI alone (2). Girls are more insulin resistant than boys, and older or more overweight children are more insulin resistant than their younger or more normal weight peers (5, 10).

As mentioned, exercise capacity in adult men is a strong predictor of mortality (7). Certainly health-related risks for mortality are a concern, but equally concerning are the lifestyle-related diseases, once only seen in adults, which now are manifest in overweight and obese children and adolescents. Two interrelated issues are insulin resistance syndrome (IR) and type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance syndrome is characterized by an impaired ability for plasma insulin to clear glucose from the bloodstream, control hepatic glucose production, and suppress very low density lipoprotein production (9). Type 2 diabetes includes hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia due to the inability of insulin to bring about glucose uptake from its target tissues. Type 2 diabetics also suffer from polyuria, polydipsia, and peripheral neuropathy (9).

Some research indicates that whereas pancreatic β-cell function is closely associated with family heredity, insulin resistance is not (8). Rather, insulin resistance is very closely associated with overweight and obesity in children and adults. The combined effects of impaired β-cell function and insulin resistance in children with low acute insulin response and glucose disposal index can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus (8).

Type 2 diabetes is preventable (9). Studies have shown that changes in lifestyle-related factors such as diet and exercise can result in a significant reduction in progression to diabetes in adults with impaired glucose intolerance, and in adults with a history of diabetes (9).

Experiments

The news is also good for children and adolescents with IR and type 2 diabetes. For example, relatively high-intensity exercise can bring about beneficent changes in cardiovascular and metabolic health in obese adolescents. Kang et al. (6) found that high-intensity exercise training can result in beneficial changes in a number of insulin resistance syndrome markers such as cardiovascular fitness, total cholesterol/HDL ratio, LDL particle size, and diastolic blood pressure. High intensity physical activity (PA) [75-80% of peak oxygen uptake (VO2)] was more effective at improving insulin resistance syndrome markers in obese juveniles than moderate PA (55-60% peak VO2), despite the same calorie (kcal) expenditure per session (250 kcal/session) (6).

Furthermore, in accordance with the dose-response relationship of exercise and health benefits, adolescents with “especially unfavorable” cardiovascular and metabolic health risks stand to benefit the most from exercise (6). Even without a change in body weight or composition, exercise can decrease IR in juveniles (1).

For example, Bell et al. (1) found that children and adolescents (between the ages of 9 and 16 years) with high fasting insulin levels who engaged in eight weeks of circuit training, but who did not change any aspect of their current dietary practices, lost no significant amount of weight but did experience significant improvements in aerobic fitness and insulin sensitivity. That such changes were elicited in children and adolescents without any concomitant modifications in diet indicates that even greater improvements in aerobic fitness and insulin sensitivity could be expected with more comprehensive lifestyle and behavior changes.

Imperatore et al. (5) assessed the insulin sensitivity of 1,783 adolescents (ages 12-19 years) and compared the data to survey data collected in 1999-2000 for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They found that in both boys and girls, lower insulin sensitivity was correlated with higher BMI values. The boys surveyed showed higher levels of habitual PA than the girls. When analyzed for relationships between PA, cardiovascular fitness, and insulin sensitivity, independent of BMI, the data indicated that in boys PA and cardiovascular fitness were correlated with high insulin sensitivity but the same correlations were not found in girls. Imperatore et al. (5) postulated that the difference between boys and girls in their study results could be due to an overall greater need by girls for increased levels of PA to decrease their insulin resistance.

A study by Young-Hyman et al. (10) may shed some additional light on the difference between boys and girls and insulin resistance. One-hundred and eleven African-American children between the ages of 5- to 10-years were administered an oral glucose tolerance test. Comparison of the glucose tolerance test results to anthropometric measurements for the subjects revealed that in general, insulin levels in the children rose with age and weight, irrespective of gender. In general, girls produced more insulin than did boys. If girls of all races exhibit a general trend toward greater impaired glucose tolerance levels than boys, then this could explain the hypothesis of Imperatore et al. (5) that girls may need higher levels of PA to control their naturally higher insulin resistance.

Summary

In summary, in the face of an increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents and an increasing incidence of IR and type 2 diabetes, lifestyle-related behavior changes can and should become part of prevention and treatment plan utilized by medical and health professionals. Exercise training and habitually high physical activity levels are effective means to manage weight and control IR and type 2 diabetes in children.

Although additional research is needed to further elucidate the precise mechanisms by which physical activity and other lifestyle-related factors effect their influence on the etiology of IR and type 2 diabetes, enough is known about the benefits of physical activity and the quality and quantity of physical activity to bring about beneficial effects that one need not wait for further research to begin to improve one’s quality of life right now.

References

1. Bell LM, Watts K, Siafarikas A, Thompson A, Ratnam N, Bulsara M, Finn J, O’Driscoll G, Green DJ, Jones TW, and Davis EA. Exercise alone reduces insulin resistance in obese children independently of changes in body composition. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 92(1):4230-4235, 2007.

2. Canete R, Gil-Campos M, Aguilera CM, Gil A. Development of insulin resistance and its relation to diet in the obese child. Eur J Nutr 46:181-187, 2007.

3. Flegal KM, Graubard MI, Williamson DF, Gail MH. Cause-specific excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity. JAMA 298(17):2028-2037, 2007.

4. Flegal KM, Graubard MI, Williamson DF, Gail MH. Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity. JAMA 293(15):1861-1867, 2005.

5. Imperatore G, Cheng YJ, Williams DE, Fulton J, Gregg EW. Physical activity, cardiovascular fitness, and insulin sensitivity among U.S. adolescents. Diabetes Care 29:7, 2006.

6. Kang HS, Gutin B, Barbeau P, Owens S, Lemmon CR, Allison J, Litaker MS, Le NA. Physical training improves insulin resistance syndrome markers in obese adolescents. Med Sci Sports Exerc 34(12):1920-1927, 2002.

7. Myers J, Prakash M, Froelicher V, Do D, Partington S, Atwood E. Exercise capacity and mortality among men referred for exercise testing. N Engl J Med 346(11):793-801, 2002.

8. Rosenbaum M, Nonas C, Horlick M, Fennoy I, Vargas I, Schachner H, Kringas P, Stanton K, Weil R, and the El Camino Diabetes Prevention Group. β-cell function and insulin sensitivity in early adolescence: association with body fatness and family history of type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 89(11):5469-5476, 2004.

9. Ten S, Maclaren N. Insulin resistance syndrome in children. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 89(6):2526-2539, 2004.

10. Young-Hyman D, Schlundt DG, Herman L, De Luca F, Counts D. Evaluation of the insulin resistance syndrome in 5- to 10-year-old overweight/obese African-American children. Diabetes Care 24(8):1359-1364, 2001.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Samoa Part 15: Dogs!

Once I had sufficiently recuperated from my bout of dengue, I was transferred less than a mile southwest of the mission home to serve in the Pesega area which covered a number of villages: Pesega, Lotopa, Alafua, Sinamoga, Aai o Fiti, Alamagoto, Moamoa. This new area, which nestled up to the west side of Mount Vaea where Robert Louis Stevenson lays buried, was probably the most densely populated area I served in during my two years in Samoa.

My new mission companion was an American from Arizona, Elder L. He started his mission just four months before me, thus we were both pretty green. Neither of us had truly mastered the language yet, so we studied hard and relied heavily on the Lord’s power to bless us with the gift of tongues as in Bible times.

As mentioned, the Church members voluntarily fed us each morning and night of most days of the week. After taking a tour of the area with Faapepele, one of the members, he dropped us off at the house of our dinner appointment. I jumped out of the van still feeling residually tired from the dengue and from a long day, walked between a gap in the hedge, and made my way toward the house’s front door.

A few dogs greeted us with the usual barking and baying, but I paid them little heed since I hadn’t had any trouble with dogs in Savaii. Without any warning, however, a very sharp pain seized my left ankle and I nearly crumpled to the ground. A mangy little mutt had snuck up on me unawares and clamped onto my leg.

I hobbled to the door, certain that I had sustained a significant laceration. To my surprise, when I peeled away my sock, only a small little puncture wound indicated that I hand anything wrong with me. Admittedly, I was disappointed. I figured that if I was going to be “mauled” by a dog, I might as well have something to show for the pain that I had to endure.

By the end of our dinner, however, even the pain had subsided, but for the rest of my mission I more eagerly headed the Apostle Paul’s counsel to the Philippians: Beware of dogs. I learned that I needn’t pay much attention to the dogs that made the most noise, for they really are all bark and no bite. Rather, I ever after kept a wary eye out for the sneaky, silent, ninja-type dogs which latch without warning onto unsuspecting ankles.

In our densely populated area, dogs teemed in between houses and in the streets. Dog fights were common and such scrapping did little for their general appearance. However, the dogs in Samoa aren’t particularly attractive in the first place. More than once I saw specimens which appeared to be cross-eyed and a curious mix between dog and Tasmanian tiger, for similarly were they striped.

Tasmanian Tiger

Speaking in 1907 of the dogs in Samoa, V. A. Barradale of the London Missionary Society wrote,

…The dogs are not very handsome…[and] are not well cared for…they are often half starved and lean and fierce looking, and covered with sores. There are not as many as there used to be, for a law was made a few years ago that a certain sum of money should be paid for every dog kept.…The Government told the native policemen that they could keep the money which they collected as their wages, but the poor policemen did not get rich, for the people at once destroyed a very large number of their dogs. They thought they had tricked their rulers, and they did not realize that the Government had got rid of a great number of dogs which were covered with sores, and carried disease wherever they went.

Oh, how I wished that the government would have stepped in to control the dog population! For since Barradale’s time, it seemed that no additional efforts were made to stem the scabby tide of ulcer-ridden canines, thus the population had undoubtedly rebounded and then some.

In the end, however, I learned to cope with the problem of dogs. If a dog seemed too uppity, or if I was particularly nervous, I simply leaned over as though I were picking up a rock, and the dog got the picture and backed off. Only once did I ever let a rock fly, and that was by pure accident.

While approaching a house, a large pack of dogs suddenly charged as I was picking up my imaginary rock. Only I really did pick up a rock and, in knee-jerk fashion, I quickly hurled it, completely missing the beasts. As they rushed past me, I discovered that the dogs were not even paying attention to me, rather, they were charging after something well behind me toward the road. After being scolded by my then Samoan companion, and after apologizing to the family whose dogs they were, the chagrin I suffered was sufficient to keep me from ever really touching a rock again when warding off a dog.