The Pulse

Bulletins from the fitness frontier

[Supersize Diet]

Illustration by Christoph Niemann

Paul Rozin, a University of Pennsylvania psychology professor who specializes in why people choose the foods they eat, recently took a big step toward explaining why only 7.4 percent of the French are obese—despite a diet rich in cheeses, pastries, and other high-fat foods—while 22.3 percent of Americans are unhealthily rotund. His research comparing portion sizes served up in Philadelphia and Paris revealed that the French eat smaller portions than supersize-obsessed Americans. Here's a sampling of what he found:

Regular Fries at McDonald's:
72% larger in U.S.

A Pizza Hut pizza:
32% larger in U.S.

Average chocolate bar:
41% larger in U.S.

Average Coca-Cola:
52% larger in U.S.

Average hot dog:
63% larger in U.S.

Average serving of ice cream:
24% larger in U.S.

The next time you catch a cold, count your blessings. Recent immunology research suggests that winter's routine colds, flus, and stomach viruses, no matter how lousy they make you feel, may represent a sort of natural cross-training for your body. "They make your immune system more robust," says Kent Sepkowitz, an infectious-disease specialist at New York City's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

21.4 percent
Increase in short-term memory in test subjects taking the exercise supplement creatine monohydrate. Subjects in the University of Sydney study could recall an average of eight and a half digits of a long number, as opposed to seven digits recalled by their non-creatine-consuming counterparts. The theory is that creatine—normally used by weight lifters to help them speed their strength gains—can increase the amount of energy available to your brain and make you smarter, at least for a little while. [Lifting For Your Sport]
Do: reeducate your muscles after weight training; e.g., after a leg workout, cyclists should do 3 minutes on a bike.
Don't: strengthen muscles you don't need for your sport.
Do: exercises that mimic the movements required by your sport.
Don't: spend more time in the gym than practicing your sport.

SOURCE: John Shepherd, British Masters long jumper

[The Procedure]
More than 80 percent of runners suffering from plantar fasciitis, a.k.a. "runner's heel," were able to go back out and run pain-free after three to five treatments using low-energy shock waves generated by a ball pressed into the foot. Plantar fasciitis—most often caused by tight calf muscles or simply by running too much—is characterized by inflammation and persistent heel pain, the result of cumulative stress on the tissue that connects the ball of the foot to the heel and supports the arch. With each treatment, 2,000 targeted acoustic vibrations are aimed directly at the busted tissue, with full recovery taking about 12 weeks. "Shock waves stimulate the growth of blood vessels and the restoration of normal tissue," says Jeffrey Gross, chief of rehabilitation medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "This actually causes the tissue to completely heal."

More Fitness