3 Tips for Preserving Muscle and Joint Health at Work

Today’s guest blog was written by Claire Checovich, Exercise & Ergonomics Specialist in the Promega Wellness Center.

The human body is amazing – it can climb towering cliffs, run hundreds of miles, and move many times its own weight.

It can also be annoying – how many of us have been injured just by sleeping or sitting in a funny position?

We’ve almost certainly all experienced the latter, whether we’re hunched over books and papers or staring at a computer for hours on end. That’s where ergonomics and biomechanics comes in.

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What Have You Done for Your Bones Lately?

Image of human skeleton, bones.
The many bones in a human. Bone density measurements are typically taken of hip, lower spine and wrist. Photo By Sklmsta, licensed under CC0.

How is your work from home (WFH) exercise routine going? Have you been able to maintain some semblance of a normal exercise routine? Many of us are staying home to avoid potential SARS-CoV-2 infection.

That’s very important. But after six or so months into the pandemic, one starts to consider the impact of not getting more strenuous and varied forms of physical exercise. We frequently think of exercise and it’s effect on muscle tone and heart and lung fitness. But it goes deeper than that. Our bone health is also at risk from lack of exercise.

Bones: Your Newest Tissue
It’s no secret that our bones are tough, made of minerals like calcium and phosphorous. They help us keep upright, supporting a considerable amount of weight against the force of gravity. Bone also protects organs.

Until recently, little attention has been paid to how metabolically active bone is. Research is now revealing that bone is not simply mineralized scaffolding surrounding bone marrow. Bone is actually a tissue, with vasculature and cells with cilia and dendrites that reach through the bony scaffolding, signaling to other cells. This cellular network, influenced by hormones and other compounds produces new bone, and sometimes reabsorbs existing bone, depending on individual needs and state of health.

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A Little Mindfulness While Traveling by Bike

Cycling to work. "Urban cycling III". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Urban_cycling_III.jpg#/media/File:Urban_cycling_III.jpg
Cycling to work. “Urban cycling III”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

On Fridays this summer we’ve started a travel blog. In addition, Dear Reader, earlier this week you learned about the recent forays of some Promega employees into mindfulness meditation.

I’d like to use a bike to work trip to connect travel and mindfulness. Today was my first bike ride to work for 2015.

This is not an auspicious or noteworthy start, as across the aisle from me sits a man that bikes to work all year. The weather in southern Wisconsin has been great this spring; no good reason for waiting ‘til June 19 to ride. It is just my reality.

This travel covered 12 miles, and took me along busy, pothole filled city streets, where I focused on avoiding the holes, while keeping my two wheels in the bike lane and out of traffic. It’s a bit more focus than I need to drive a car with 4 wheels, an accelerator and brakes. Increasing and decreasing speed requires much more effort on a bike. Continue reading “A Little Mindfulness While Traveling by Bike”

Epigenetics and Exercise

Turning on some genes
Turning on some genes

If, like me, you sometimes need more motivation to exercise consistently—even though you know that it is good for you—you may be interested in the findings of a paper published recently in PLOS Genetics. The paper showed that consistent exercise over a 6-month period caused potentially beneficial changes in gene expression. In short, regular exercise caused expression of some “good” genes, and repression of “bad” ones, and these changes appeared to be controlled by epigenetic mechanisms.

Epigenetic changes are modifications to DNA that affect gene expression but don’t alter the underlying sequence. Perhaps the best understood example of an epigenetic change is DNA methylation—where methyl groups bind to the DNA at specific sites and alter expression, often by preventing transcription. Epigenetic changes have been shown to occur throughout all stages of development and in response to environmental factors such as diet, toxin exposure, or stress. The study of epigenetics is revealing more and more about how the information stored in our DNA is expressed in different tissues at different times and under different environmental circumstances. Continue reading “Epigenetics and Exercise”

How Exercise Can Grow Your Brain

Image courtesy National Institutes of Aging, NIH.
I used to work in a physics lab where I was in charge of regularly transferring liquid helium from a tank to a susceptometer (an instrument often used for superconductivity studies). One day, the helium transfer line that I was holding sprung a leak and I froze a good portion of my finger before I was able to stop that leak. Over the days that followed, I could not feel my finger at all and assumed that the nerve damage was permanent. However, as those days turned into weeks and my previously frozen finger healed, I started regaining sensation. After a month had passed, my finger looked and felt just like it had before the helium freeze.

Neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons) is widely accepted as fact for the peripheral nervous system; for example, the nerves in my finger grew back even though I had lost them to frostbite. However, there is the widespread belief that neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) are static and do not multiply after adulthood. The evidence for such belief is everywhere, from spinal cord injuries that result in permanent lifelong paralysis to neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis. However, like many widespread beliefs that are simply assumed to be true, nature always finds a way to foil our best laid plans. Continue reading “How Exercise Can Grow Your Brain”