In this edition of The Rundown, social media takes a break, inflammation is your friend, and overtraining equals a bad mood.
Anti-Social. In the wide world of fitness culture, mental health is as important as physical health and to that end, recent research suggests that taking a week-long break from social media could lead to significant improvements in wellbeing, depression and anxiety.
Published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, the study randomly assigned 154 people aged 18 to 72 who use social media everyday into either an intervention group or a control group. The intervention group was asked to stop using all social media for one week. The control group could continue to scroll as usual. Baseline scores for anxiety, depression and wellbeing were taken at the start of the study.
Those who were asked to take the week off reported using social media for an average of 21 minutes per week compared to the control group who kept up their typical usage, clocking in at an average of seven hours per week. The researchers from the University of Bath kept everyone honest with screen usage stats.
The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Jeff Lambert, notes that many of the participants “reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall.” The team wants to expand the study for longer than a week to find out if the benefits last over time and if they do, they believe it could become a clinical option used to manage mental health.
Inflammation=Good. If you’ve suffered a workout related injury that left you reaching for a daily dose of anti-inflammatories, new research from McGill University suggests that you may be doing more harm than good.
In the study, published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers found that neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection, play a central role in resolving pain. These cells control the early stages of inflammation and are key to repairing tissue damage. Study author Jeffrey Mogil says, “Inflammation occurs for a reason, and it looks like it’s dangerous to interfere with it.”
The team found that experimentally blocking neutrophils in mice prolonged pain up to ten times normal duration and treating the pain with anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids had the same result. Early on, however, they were effective against pain.
The findings were supported by a separate study of 500,000 people in the UK that showed using anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids to relieve pain could increase the chances of developing chronic pain. In the study, those who took anti-inflammatory drugs were more likely to have pain two to ten years later. This effect was not found in those taking acetaminophen or anti-depressants.
Bad Mood Rising. Excessive sports training may have a negative impact on our mood. Researchers from the Laboratory of Sport Psychology and the Sport Research Institute at the University Autonoma de Barcelona looked at the effects training intensity has on amateur road cyclists in relation to their mood states and their ability to adapt to greater training loads, assessed using heart rate variability (HRV).
Published in the journal PeerJ, the pilot study took place over six weeks and analyzed a series of data points and questionnaires given to five male road cyclists, average age 36, with at least six years of riding experience. Each cyclist completed at least two of their regular training sessions per week.
To assess the amount of stress and recovery that athletes experience, researchers generally turn to both external and internal methods of analysis. In this case, external data was recorded and used to calculate intensity factor (IF) and training stress score (TSS) using a power meter. The rate of perceived exertion or RPE was also recorded and all data was processed using the app, Training Peaks. For the internal method, the cyclists answered a 10-point mood scale the morning after their training and completed a three minute HRV test.
The results showed that the tougher a training session is, the lower the mood the following day. The researchers also found a relationship between morning HRV and mood.
The team hopes that the results are a first step in “setting up a monitoring system which takes into account both internal and external training loads, in addition to mood state and heart rate variability of the athlete.” The overall aim is to help athletes adapt to their training and prevent injuries from overtraining.
This week’s vintage moment in fitness culture is brought to you by toning with electricity, 1968. Photo credit: Mirrorpix/Getty.