Psych patient’s new primary prescription

Hi guys,

I chose an article that was published 2 days ago on Science Daily. It summarized a new study that recently came out by Tomasi et. al., called “Positive Patient Response to a Structured Exercise Program Delivered to in-patient Psychiatry.” When it comes to the treatment of psychiatric patients for a wide variety of mental health and mood disorders, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, suicidal tendencies and acute psychotic episodes, this new study advocates for exercise, rather than psychotropic medications, as the primary prescription and method of intervention. Findings from the study reveal that physical exercise is so effective at alleviating patient symptoms that it could reduce patient’s time admitted into facilities as well as their reliance of psychotropic medications. It was so effective in fact, that Tomasi believes “it can become as fundamental as pharmacological intervention”. A gym was built exclusively for about 100 patients and 60-minute structured exercise and nutrition programs were implemented into their treatment plans. Patients reported lower levels of anger, anxiety, depression, higher self-esteem, and overall improved moods. 95 percent of patients also felt happy or very happy, as opposed to neutral or sad, after they completed the 60 minutes of exercise.


I thought this was a super cool article, a. because it is recent so this kinds of research is happening today, but b. because something as easy as getting moving can naturally make people with mental health problems feel better. A lot of pharmacological answers to mood disorders have other serious and harmful effects on a person’s lifestyle. Implementing something as simple as an exercise regiment can make people feel better without being dependent on medications.


If you want to read the actual study I will post it below!

David Tomasi, Sheri Gates, Emily Reyns. Positive Patient Response to a Structured Exercise Program Delivered in Inpatient PsychiatryGlobal Advances in Health and Medicine, 2019; 8: 216495611984865 DOI: 10.1177/2164956119848657

The desire to move is coded in our genes.

Hi class,


I found an article published in the New York Times on May 15th entitled “To move is to thrive. It’s in our genes.” This article caught my eye because I know that when I am in shape, it seems like everything goes well and this article says that might be part of our DNA.


Researchers at Texas A&M published a study in April that used big data and genetic databases to try to pinpoint the moment in human evolution when genes began coding for a desire to be active. They found 104 snippets of DNA that are associated with physical activity in people, six of which are known to produce proteins related to metabolism. The researchers found that these snippets of DNA are not common to other mammals, suggesting that humans’ desire and need to move may not be shared among all mammals. In fact, when compared with Neanderthals and Chimps, the snippets related to inactivity were more shared than those related to activity, suggesting the will to move is more human-specific.


Previous twin studies and genome-wide association studies have suggested that 50 percent of physical activity behavior in humans depends on genes. It’s important that this and the more recent study the article commented on are not about innate aerobic fitness or performance ability. Rather, they are referring to the simple desire and interest to leave the couch and get moving! In today’s world, many Americans live sedentary lives, contributing to our nation’s prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and osteoarthritis. Moving matters! This article suggests the need and desire to move may be specific to humans as chimps, who share much of our DNA, do not experience the same health detriment from a lack of physical activity.

The article is specifically interested in understanding when the genetic desire to move came about, as that could help researchers cross-reference how food availability and climate were changing at that period of time to help understand WHY (on an evolutionary scale) we have to move.


The Texas A&M researchers found that the snippets of DNA telling us to get moving likely found their way into our genome about 500,000 years ago when we were Homo erectus – before Homo sapiens existed! The author of this article acted like this was a surprising finding and that they expected the genes to have turned up only 10,000 years ago when people started subsistence farming. Personally, I am not surprised that these genes were selected for long ago because I would have expected them to be present when our ancestors needed to hunt nomadically to survive. It seems like the need to move would be much more important if your next meal was always running away rather than being grown out of the ground. I wonder if these genes are now simply vestigial. Many people see going to the gym as a chore, wouldn’t it be cool if they did not have to! They should talk to He Jiankui – the gene editor from China.


The article gives an important caveat – that they did not perform any experiments and cannot be 100% confident in their estimate of when the genes came out. I think this is a responsible caveat to report, although the study most definitely provides an interesting insight into how ancient the desire to move is! One criticism I have for the author is the title: “To move is to thrive. It’s in our genes.” The article did not discuss heavily how exercise benefits the human body and mind, just about how ancient and how human-specific the will to move is. Maybe a more appropriate title would be “Get off your couch! It’s in your genes.”


I looked up the scientific study in PLOS one that the article was based on (see below), and it seems that the author of the NY times article did a fairly good job summarizing. A couple things left out of the summary were: (1) that most of the physical activity SNPs were in intron regions (not protein coding) and (2) that there actually IS great conservation of these genes between Neanderthals, chimps and Homo sapiens – it’s just that Homo sapiens experienced some evolutionary pressure to regulate physical activity more (as a result of mutations).

Overall it was an interesting read!


Thanks for reading!


Many Marijuana Users Turn to the Drug for a Surprising Reason: Workout Fuel

Previously researchers have linked the rise in marijuana use with the lack of exercise across Americans. Angela Bryan, a psychology and neuroscience professor at the University of Colorado Boulder commented that if “the kid on the couch eating Doritos, not being physically active” is the reality of cannabis “that [would be] a big problem”. Previous research has cited that people who use marijuana tend to have lower body mass indexes and decreased risk for obesity than non-users. In 2015, Bryan though her research concluded that “cannabis is linked to greater feelings of motivation and enjoyment about exercise, potentially by activating brain pathways involved in feelings of reward and pain response”.

Now in a new study published by Frontiers in Public Health, Bryan found that many people do use marijuana before and after their workouts. In addition those who do tend to exercise more than the average American. Researches surveyed 600 adult drug users living in the US where marijuana has been legalized. The survey included “when people used the drug, whether they felt it affected their workouts and how they thought it influenced exercise motivation and recovery”.

The results where shocking! More than 80% of the responders used cannabis within an hour of beginning exercise or within four hours after. They reported that marijuana helped them to enjoy exercise more and on average got 2.5 more hours of exercise per week compared to non-users. Bryan says this area needs more research as “It’s not known whether the relationship is causal, for one, and using the drug as a workout aid potentially comes with safety risks”. Because marijuana can disrupt motor functions and increase heart rate, high-intensity exercise may be dangerous.

I thought this article was interesting because it is something different than what others have been writing about. I think this article can be linked to our discussion about pain. Perhaps users can exercise more because marijuana helps to reduce pain associated with exercise. I think more research is required in this field. More detailed tests with subjects performing actually activities versus answering survey questions may show different results. I cannot imagine someone who is high running faster than someone who is not. Even the authors mention “people living in states where marijuana has been legalized, which the study exclusively focused on, happen to be some of the most physically active in the country, so it makes sense that cannabis users there would get a lot of exercise”. It will be interesting to see later studies as marijuana becomes legalized in additional states.


Best Exercises for the Brain

This article was published in US News on 5/20/19 about what the best exercises for brain health are. There was a study done by Columbia University and the University of Miami. The studied compared two different sets of results taken 5 years apart of 876 senior citizens. The tests performed were brain scans and tests to test memory and thinking skills. The study showed that there was a greater mental decline for those people who performed low-activity exercises compared to high activity exercises. Low activity exercises can include walking and doing yoga. On the other hand, high activity exercises can include running and other cardio workouts. The results showed that there was a difference of 10 years of brain aging for those that completes high activity exercises. Researches did also take into account factors outside of exercise that can influence brain health before coming up with the 10 year aging difference. Lastly, they found that even performing daily jogs or other aerobic exercise can help spark the growth of new brain cells.

I think this article was really cool because most people (including myself) may think that you have to do mentally challenging things like puzzles or other mind strenuous activities to sharpen your brain. I think it is cool that exercise can have that affect on sharpening your brain and keeping it young. What also was interesting to me is that there was a difference on what type of exercise can influence your brain health whether it is low or high activity. The article did touch on what future next steps could be to further gather information about this topic, but I think if they could narrow down what exercises specifically could be performed to enhance brain health that would be cool. Overall, I think it was interesting to read and how they did they study was fascinating to me. This is relatable to our class because it talks about different intensity exercises and we know from class that these intensity differences can affect a lot of different biological factors in our body. Lastly, it is significant to us today because as we age and as people’s life expectancies start to increase it is helpful to have this information of how to keep our minds sharp as we get older.

Week 7 post

I found an article that talks about a possible breakthrough in diagnosing CTE in a living person. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is often caused by persistent head trauma. This disease usually occurs among athletes that play contact sports, such as football. As of right now, the only way to diagnose CTE is after death through a brain autopsy. However, a new study has identified a possible biomarker in the cerebrospinal fluid which could allow doctors to diagnose CTE in a living person. According to the study, the biomarker is a protein called tau. The study consisted of 22 men who were professional athletes and have experienced multiple concussions. The study also included 12 people with Alzheimer’s disease and five healthy individuals to serve as the control group. The researchers found elevated levels of tau in the cerebrospinal fluid for more than half of the athletes (12 out of the 22). The 12 athletes with elevated tau had higher levels than the healthy individuals, but lower levels than the participants with Alzheimers. Researchers also found that the athletes with elevated levels of tau scored lower on executive functioning tests than the athletes with normal tau levels. These tests assessed memory, attention, organizational and planning skills. Brain scans also showed that individuals with elevated tau show differences in white matter of the brain which are also seen during autopsies in people with CTE. Dr. Jamie Ullman, director of neurotrauma at North Shore University Hospital, believes that this discovery of a possible CTE biomarker is encouraging. However, she emphasized that additional studies with larger sample sizes and inclusive of both genders must be conducted. Unfortunately, there’s no way to definitively diagnose CTE in a living person as of right now, however, with more promising research we may be able to in the near future.

Training for a Marathon Can Reverse the Aging of Blood Vessels

I found this article from the European Society of Cardiology that explained the results of a recent British Heart Foundation study on first-time marathon runners. Runners who had never completed a marathon before completed six months of training leading up to the London Marathon. Before and post marathon they used MRI’s to measure their heart and blood vessels, a fitness test, and blood pressure and heart rate. The results they found were, to me at least, astonishing. After training for the marathon, the runners had aortas that were 4 years younger than they were before the training. Especially older participants had less aortic stiffness, even if their marathon time was slower. Blood pressure was lowered and overall fitness and heart rate lowered as well. I think one of the coolest things about this article is that it shows you don’t need to be an elite marathon runner to receive the health benefits of an active lifestyle. People running, even slowly, reversed their cardiovascular health and now have younger arteries. As we all know, part of aging is the stiffening of arteries which can lead to stroke and heart attack so if this is what it takes to reduce those risks, I think we should all consider training for a marathon- even if we might not be Nike’s Breaking2 top pick.


European Society of Cardiology. “Training for first-time marathon ‘reverses’ aging of blood vessels.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2019. <>.

Week 7 Blog Post

I decided to write about a NY Times article titled “The Heart of a Swimmer vs. The Heart of a Runner” by Gretchen Reynolds.

It’s already a known fact that exercise changes the workings of your heart, it particularly strengthens and enlarges the left ventricle with the increase need for oxygen. However, is there a difference between constantly swimming and constantly running?? A new study in Canada researched the hearts of elite swimmers and runners, they used elitist because they would have been doing these activities for years at high levels and will show an exaggerated difference in the structure/function of the heart. This makes it easier for researchers to see and prove the differences. They took 16 swimmers and 16 runners of different distances specialties, they asked them to visit the lab after not exercising for 12 hours and then to lie quietly. Both had superb heart health, and all had large efficient left ventricles. However they did find a subtle difference, runner’s hearts were able to fill with blood earlier than average and untwist more quickly than those who swam. This could be attributed to the fact that swimmer don’t have to fight gravity during exercise to get blood back to the heart, so it’s uncertain that it gives runners an advantage in that aspect. However, it’s very interesting to see how the slight difference in exercise can change the makeup and function of our bodies so easily! I wonder if their lung capacity and lactate threshold differ as well because they may not be affected by gravity, like the heart is.

Caffeine and exercise performance

Hi everyone,

Who had a cup of coffee this morning? One of the reasons people consume 2.25 billion cups of coffee a day (1) is because of its caffeine content. Take college students for example – you drink a cup of coffee before a sports game and you see improved performance. Is it a coincidence? My friend last year used to drink an iced coffee before every baseball game saying that he hit more home runs doing so. Is it simply superstition? I wanted to find out for myself.

It is important to note that coffee and caffeine are not the same. Caffeine is present in coffee, but consuming pure caffeine has different effects on performance then when consumed via coffee (2). It was found in one study that consuming pure caffeine improved the endurance of high quality runners from 32 min (at 10 km pace) to 41 min, while consumption of regular coffee had no effect (3). Caffeine is a trimethylxanthine and is catabolized by the cytochrome P450 system in the liver to dimethylxanthines. Consuming pure caffeine correlated with expected increases in free fatty acids (FFA) and epinephrine which could be tied to performance (3). While this study suggested that pure caffeine improved endurance but coffee did not, other studies have found coffee to also be ergogenic (2).

Many studies have shown that caffeine can be ergogenic in endurance activities where fatigue sets in between 30 and 60 min (2). Even if fatigue is at 30 min, it is unlikely that muscle glycogen has been depleted. One study showed that over half of the muscle glycogen remained at fatigue at 30 min, suggesting it is not the limiting factor regarding endurance here (2). So what about for longer feats of endurance? Ivy et al. had individuals perform 2 hours of
cycle exercise and, after caffeine ingestion, the participants generated a 7.3% greater total power output (4). This is not the only study to show a similar result in long distance, endurance exercise – in fact there are many (2). So, what about short, high intensity exercise? Less consensus has been placed here – while one study showed improved high intensity endurance, another showed no difference in caffeine vs. non-caffeine subjected participants (2).

There is much more research to sort through – about strength, endurance, power, etc. For my presentation, I will continue to sort through this research, but it is already readily apparent that caffeine does affect human performance in some, if not all, athletic and exercise endeavors. It is even more interesting that the dosage of caffeine necessary to improve performance may be lower than the acceptable standards of performance enhancing drug regulation committees of the Olympics (2).

Overall, I am excited to continue to tackle this issue and conduct my own correlative/anecdotal studies – I will see if I can’t repeat some of these findings by seeing how drinking coffee before a workout affects my own performance. I also cannot wait to hear about everyone else’s topics!

  1. Nieber, K. (2017). The Impact of Coffee on Health Author Pharmacokinetics and Mode of Action Bioactive Components in Coffee. Planta Medica, 83, 1256–1263.
  2. Graham TE. (2001). Caffeine and Exercise: Metabolism, Endurance, and Performance. Sports Medicine. (11):785-807.
  3. Graham TE, Hibbert E, and Sathasivam P. (1998). Metabolic and exercise endurance effects of coffee and caffeine ingestion. Journal of Applied Physiology. 85(3):883-9.
  4. Ivy JL, Kammer L, Ding Z. Wang B, Bernard JR, Liao YH, and Hwang J. (2009). Improved cycling time-trial performance after ingestion of a caffeine energy drink. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 19(1):31-78.

Presentation Topic

I decided that my presentation topic would be on how exercise affects the immune system. We all learned that exercise does have an effect on the immune system, positive and/or negative, so I wanted to explore this and look into some research on this.

I will most likely look into Upper respiratory tack infections, or URTIs, for this presentation. Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are the most common issues with the immune system that people get. URTIs include the common cold, sinusitis and tonsillitis. In the Martin et al. “Exercise and Respiratory Tract Viral Infections”, for example, they explore the relationship between the URTIs and the amount of exercise done by individuals. The research found a link between moderate, regular exercise and the reduced frequency of URTIs compared with an inactive state. There was also an increased risk of URTIs with excessive amounts of exercise.

This information is an example that exercise can influence a person’s vulnerability to infection. I found this research to be very interesting. It also agrees with the “open window” theory discussed in class, so I will most likely discuss this theory, and the research on it, as well.

Martin, Stephen A et al. “Exercise and respiratory tract viral infections.” Exercise and sport sciences reviews vol. 37,4 (2009): 157-64. doi:10.1097/JES.0b013e3181b7b57b

Week 6: Presentation Topic

The main question I plan to explore for my presentation is as follows: does exercising through an injury improve recovery time or does it result in permanent damage? For example, it’s possible to live with a torn meniscus, but they suggest getting it repaired if you plan to continue playing sports or plan to live a more physically intensive life. Going off of this example, if you do not get it repaired but live a more physically intensive life anyway, just treating the pain, will the surrounding tissues compensate for the torn meniscus making it possible to have an active lifestyle, or will ‘playing through the pain’ result in permanent knee damage?

I’m interested in this topic because I never took the necessary steps to repair my hip and I am still suffering from the consequences of this. During my research, I hope to determine whether the pain I feel is from not getting it repaired at all, never rehabbing it properly following the initial injury, or if I decide to get it fixed at some point, have I done irreversible damage to my joint?

As of now, the main questions I hope to answer are as follows: Is it helpful or hurtful to exercise while injured? What type of exercise is best (i.e. moderate intensity, low intensity, strength training, etc.)? Is exercising through an injury the foundation of physical therapy (i.e. is it beneficial to exercise through an injury as long as you are doing the correct exercises, the correct way)? What are the pros and cons of playing through the pain and never actually treating the injury? How does exercising while injured affect the recovery time? What are the benefits of physical therapy over surgical intervention? And the overarching question of how exercising through the pain may impact future overall health?

Since the majority of the class seems to have been an athlete at some point in their lives, I’m 98% certain that we have all gone back out on the field when we knew we were injured. There seems to be a mentality of powering through the pain so you don’t let your team down, but I don’t think many of us thought about the possible repercussions at the time.

So far, it seems like if you should exercise and the type/intensity of exercise depends entirely on the type/severity of the injury (which makes sense). However, for many injuries, it is suggested to swap whatever activity you were doing when you were injured, with a very modified version of the same activity to encourage the body to repair these areas without causing more damage. That being said, one of the main subtitles of the article was “Don’t Work Through the Pain” so I guess that answers that question (another article said if it hurts, even a little, stop doing it). As of now, it appears the only injury where you should really force an exercise would be a spinal cord injury, as exercise is “useful in facilitating elongation and/or synaptic activity of regenerating axons and plasticity of spinal neurons below the level of injury” [1]. Exercise was again suggested (albeit delayed) following a traumatic brain injury, as it can upregulate brain-derived neurotrophic factor involved in synaptic function, which enhances recovery [2].