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September 10, 2010

BehindTheMedspeak: Wearing high heels shortens calf muscles, thickens and stiffens the Achilles' tendon, and decreases the ankle's range of motion

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So while you might like the way your legs look while you're wearing stilettos, you won't like the changes that result.

Here's Leslie Tamura's August 31, 2010 Washington Post story about recent research on the effects of high heels on the lower leg.

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Getting ready to put your summer sandals at the back of closet and break out your high-heeled pumps? Consider the latest study examining the physical costs of adding height to your step.

Compared with wearing flats, wearing heels regularly can lead to shortened calf-muscle fibers and thicker, stiffer Achilles' tendons, according to physiology professor Marco Narici and his colleagues at Britain's Manchester Metropolitan University and at the University of Vienna. This may be why some women feel tightness in their calves when they kick off their heels. The findings are published in the July issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.

From a group of 80 volunteers ages 20 to 50 who had worn two-inch or higher heels five times a week for at least two years, the researchers selected 11 who felt discomfort in their calves after taking off the shoes. Researchers did not assess physical activity level or heel thickness. A control group included nine women of comparable age, height and mass who wore flats regularly.

With magnetic resonance imaging, researchers noted that those in both groups had calf muscles of similar size but different shape. Assuming this was due to fiber lengths, the researchers used ultrasound to confirm their hypothesis: Individual muscle fibers shortened with high-heel wear.

Then the researchers measured how muscles contracted and performed using a dynamometer, a device that measures force, torque, power and velocity. Shortened fibers would suggest a high-heel wearer's calf muscles would produce less force than a flat-shoe wearer, but muscles performed similarly in both groups.

"We couldn't understand why," Narici said.

Curious, they used MRI and saw that the Achilles' tendon compensated for muscle fiber length. The tendon was significantly thicker and stiffer in high-heel wearers.

If women insist on wearing heels, Narici said, shortened fibers and thick, stiff tendons are inevitable. Narici suspects these adaptations may have an impact on athletic performance, though they do not appear to hinder everyday movements.

"You can't run at the same level as a person who doesn't wear high heels," he said. "If the tendon becomes stiffer and the muscle fibers become shorter, the ability to store and release elastic energy is problematic."

Future research will look at these energy costs. For now, Narici suggests that high-heel wearers stretch their calves at least twice a day.

"Women enjoy wearing high heels," Narici added. "They look good. They feel good . . . we don't want to stop them from wearing high heels."

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The abstract of the scientific paper cited above follows.

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Wearing high heels (HH) places the calf muscle–tendon unit (MTU) in a shortened position. As muscles and tendons are highly malleable tissues, chronic use of HH might induce structural and functional changes in the calf MTU. To test this hypothesis, 11 women regularly wearing HH and a control group of 9 women were recruited. Gastrocnemius medialis (GM) fascicle length, pennation angle and physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA), the Achilles' tendon (AT) length, cross-sectional area (CSA) and mechanical properties, and the plantarflexion torque–angle and torque–velocity relationships were assessed in both groups. Shorter GM fascicle lengths were observed in the HH group (49.6±5.7 mm vs 56.0±7.7 mm), resulting in greater tendon-to-fascicle length ratios. Also, because of greater AT CSA, AT stiffness was higher in the HH group (136.2±26.5 N mm–1 vs 111.3±20.2 N mm–1). However, no differences in the GM PCSA to AT CSA ratio, torque–angle and torque–velocity relationships were found. We conclude that long-term use of high-heeled shoes induces shortening of the GM muscle fascicles and increases AT stiffness, reducing the ankle's active range of motion. Functionally, these two phenomena seem to counteract each other since no significant differences in static or dynamic torques were observed.

September 10, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Life jacket with dorsal fin

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This company is ignoring a huge potential market, namely the adult space.

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Perhaps I'll send them a gentle note of encouragement.

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$45.95$59.95.

[via Nuclear Toast]

September 10, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Back to school 2010-style

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September 10, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

What is it?

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Answer here this time tomorrow.

You want a clue?

OK.

Here's another view.

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More?

OK.

Smaller than a breadbox.

Another?

No moving parts.

September 10, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

10 things I like about Relay Foods

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1. The website is very well done and easy to use, even for a TechnoDolt™ like me.

And that's saying a whole lot, because even websites most people find clear and easily navigable are oftimes a web of confusion for me.

Photos of items are crisp and clear; descriptions and prices appear where you'd expect.

When you order, a little graphic appears over the item that lets you select how many you want by clicking a plus or minus sign instead of having to go to your keyboard to insert a number.

That's sweet.

Bonus: you can go back any time and change the number without having to go through screen after screen.

2. As I mentioned yesterday, the more than 50 stores and merchants (below) offering their wares on the site — from an artisanal chocolate maker to full service supermarkets like Reid's or Whole Foods — enable me to find pretty much anything I'd want when shopping in person, with the huge benefit of not having to travel to various locales — in fact, not to any locale.

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You have the option of picking up your groceries at a time and place of your choosing around town — they offer a number of locations for that — or you can go the full monty route like me and have them delivered to your home (or business).

They deliver between 3 and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, for $8 regardless of order size.

If you like you can pay a flat fee of $25 for a month of weekly deliveries.

3. Groceries come packed in large closed Rubbermaid containers, with perishables and frozen foods inside insulated freezer bags full of blue ice. Nice and cold.

They leave the containers wherever you like (I prefer my side door) and after you unpack them, you put them outside for pickup the next time they deliver.

4. Fruits and vegetables are all in excellent condition as one would hope since, after all, if they give you mushy tomatoes you're not likely to buy them again.

5. Prices seem about the same on average as what I pay at Kroger or Harris Teeter.

6. You can go back into your order up until midnight the day before delivery to delete items, change quantities, or add new items. It's simple and easy and you don't have to check out again, the changes are simply added to the existing order online. Very nice if, like me, you forgot the peanut butter and jelly the first time around.

7. Others in your family or friends or whomever you allow can add to the order, again anytime until midnight the day before.

8. You can schedule your pickup or delivery for the next day or way in advance.

9. They keep track of your previous purchases so it's super quick to just click on the ones you want again without having to search.

10. Miraculously, the site works perfectly on my iPad. In fact, it's easier than using a computer.

And did I mention that I no longer have to stand in the checkout line for 30 minutes while some bag boy runs to the back of the store to find the price of an item so that a sleepy clerk can ever so slowly ring up my groceries as my ice cream and Edy's fruit bars melt?

September 10, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Raindrop Muffler — "Stop noisy downspouts"

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Where else you gonna find this kind of stuff?

From the website:

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Rain Quiet Downspout

Place this waterproof insert in your gutter to end annoying raindrop noise that keeps you awake.

Insert virtually eliminates noise, allowing water to flow out quietly and freely. 

Installs in seconds using a pencil and scissors.

Fits most downspouts.

2-5/8" x 6".

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"... using a pencil and scissors?"

Speak it.

$13.99.

I've had to deal with a noisy downspout for many years.

It's about 10 feet from my sleeping self, at the junction of a downspout and a short gutter that carries water to another downspout that goes to ground level.

I find that an ordinary cheapo sponge, wedged into the gutter at the base of the downspout, completely arrests the water drop-on-metal sound.

Torrential rain and wind sometimes dislodge the sponge such that I have to reinsert it or another, not a big deal.

Highly recommended quick and dirty fix.

September 10, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

To Mars by A-Bomb: The Secret History of Project Orion


Fantastic.

Much more for those interested here.

September 10, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

World's largest ball chain

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Each ball is 5/8" in diameter.

Nickel-plated steel.

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$8 a foot.

You'll probably want a coupling.

It measures 1.5" long.

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$2.

You could make an awesome Halloween costume from this.

September 10, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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