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(506) 2223-1327           San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 70             E-mail us
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Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad photo
Two sections of this giant tunnel met Thursday when an explosion broke through the last remaining rock. The 1,350 meters (4,429 feet) of tunnel will carry 3.500 cubic meters (4,578 cubic yards) a second to turn turbines when the  $1.2 billion Proyecto Hidroeléctrico
Reventazón goes into service in 2015 at Siquirres, Limón. The tunnel is 14 meters in diameter. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad held a ceremony Thursday to blast the rock to join the two sections of tunnel.
See story HERE!

Both plus and super gas to go above $5 a gallon
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unrest in the oil-producing Middle East and the continued weakness of the U.S. dollar against the colon are being blamed for a sharp increase in the price of petroleum fuel. Both types of gasoline will be above the $5-a-gallon mark.

The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos announced the increase Thursday, based on the petroleum market price from Feb. 24 to March 10 and the exchange rate on the final date of the period. The agency used the exchange rate of 500.30 colons to the U.S. dollar.

Gasoline is going up 54 colons (11 U.S. cents) per liter and diesel is going up 39 colons (8 U.S. cents). Super gasoline that has been selling for 627
 colons ($1.27) per liter will go to 681 colons ($1.38). Plus gasoline goes from 610 colons per liter ( $1.23) to 664 colons ($1.34).

There are similar increases in kerosene, aviation gasoline and jet fuel, as well as cooking gas.

There are 3.79 liters in a U.S. gallon, so the gallon price of super gasoline will be 2,578 colons or $5.21. The new prices are expected to go into force next Thursday. Plus will be $5.08 or 2,514 per gallon.

Costa Rica imports all of its petroleum although there may be large deposits on the Caribbean continental shelf. However, a U.S. firm was forced to abandon plans for an exploratory well there after extensive environmental protests in 1998 to 2002.

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Saprissa medals
Examples of the three medallions

Postal service will market
medallions honoring Saprissa

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Correos de Costa Rica is coming out with a set of three medallions that commemorate the 75th anniversary of  Deportivo Saprissa, the soccer team.

The new issue also is by the private Casa de Moneda de Costa Rica, which also issued a commemorative medallion honoring the new national stadium.

One medal contains a representation of El Monstruo, the team's mascot, and a trophy from a major win. A second medal contains the image of Ricardo Saprissa Aymá, who founded the team. The third version contains the image of Roberto Fernández, co-founder of the sports club.

One medal went on sale Thursday. And the other two will be available at postal offices a week apart. The price is 6,000 colons, about $12, and each comes with a brochure describing the medallion and the team.

The postal service also is marketing a commemorative medallion marking the 375 anniversary of the Virgen de los Ángles, the country's patroness.

Juvenile intruder suspect
shot in Santa Ana home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers shot it out with three robbers who had forced their way into a Santa Ana home early Thursday.

Officers detained a 17-year-old suspect who suffered a bullet wound of the forearm, they said.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that three robbers forced a window at the home in order to enter. They did so without realizing that a woman occupant was there, said agents. The woman had the presence of mind to call police and to hide herself in the house.

However, the robbers realized the woman was there and tried to open the door behind which she hid, agents said. That is when Fuerza Pública officers arrived and engaged the robbers in a firefight.

At least two robbers fled, the Fuerza Pública reported.

Our reader's opinion
Ortega has left ideals
of Sandinistas behind him

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with curiosity your use of the term “Sandinistas” in your April 7th article under the caption: “Young Sandinistas appear to be occupying disputed island” which described Ortega supporters who aggressively demonstrated against the Costa Rican and international environmental specialists who themselves were on Isla Portillos and Isla Calero. The specialists were inspecting the environmental damage in compliance with the International Court of Justice ruling of March 8th. Why not just characterize the protestors as “Ortega supporters” or words to that effect? Why play into Ortega’s hand by legitimizing them as Sandinistas?

The most cursory superficial online research reveals that there is at best a split in the Sandinista Party and it could be argued that Ortega and those who support him have morphed into something apart from the Sandinistas. The claim by many original Sandinistas is that he has left the ideals of the Sandinistas behind and has morphed into a power hungry dictator motivated by personal gain. As proof of this assertion they point to the fact that he has stacked all branches of government, local and national, in his favor and is controlling the military, police forces, supreme court, court of elections and the legislative branch of government. His family holdings are approaching $2 billion. He was just given the green light to run for president again contrary to the Nicaraguan constitution. Many resent the fact that Ortega is using the Sandinista banner to his personal, dictatorial advantage.
Many think he has masterminded the border dispute for two reasons. First, the obvious, is to personally gain from a commercialization of the San Juan River. The second purpose is to stir up nationalistic fervor to divert attention from his unconstitutional dictatorial aspirations.

Before the ruling of the International Court of Justice, Ortega stated: “We will wait to see what the court says. We have always been respectful of what the court orders, and we will be respectful of their decision”.  Following the ruling of the court he got on TV and said: “We are happy with the sentence of the court and we will obey it. Of course we will obey it”. Some more quotes on the Ortega position following the ruling on 8 March from Carlos Arguello-Gomez, Ortega’s ambassador to the Netherlands: “I think it is a very fair decision, Nicaragua is very happy with the result … the decision is a great and convincing victory … Costa Ricans should quiet their tongues now …”

If Ortega is so happy with the ruling, then why the orchestrated, military-backed protests? Ortega has broken his stated promise in less than one month’s time to abide the court’s ruling. Paragraph 3 of the ruling states that: “Each party shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve;” I think boatloads of protesters hurling insults through a megaphone with the support of the military would qualify as “… ANY ACTION WHICH MIGHT AGGRAVATE OR EXTEND THE DISPUTE …”

Patrick McCormick
Costa Rica

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 70
Latigo K-9

Costa Rica's tourism image takes a beating perhaps unjustly
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Advertising, good or bad, cannot be measured easily. So it is fair to say that Costa Rican tourism has taken multiple hits lately, but the monetary value is hard to estimate.

The first to feel the response to negative news about Costa Rica were fishing camps in Barra del Colorado in November. The tourism firms on the Río Colorado in northeastern Costa Rica are world famous for tarpon fishing. That was before Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega decided to invade a chunk of Costa Rican land nearby. Then the cancelations began to roll in from wary fishermen who feared a war. The losses were in the thousands at least.

The Feb. 1 or 2 murder of a Canadian woman who ran a chocolate operation near Puerto Jiménez received extensive coverage in her home country. The woman was Kimberley Blackwell, a long-time resident of the Osa Peninsula. The case still is unsolved.

Also in February a trade organization dedicated to protecting copyrights and other intellectual property asked U.S. officials to place Costa Rica on a priority watch list, the so-called list of shame, for handling counterfeit goods.

In March, La Nación reported the contents of a 2007 U.S. Embassy cable that said Costa Rica was not a paradise. The cable criticized the lack of an adequate sewage system in the Central valley and correctly reported that 97 percent of the country's sewage ends up in the sea. The information was not new, but the report gained wide circulation, including on Internet tourism sites.

More recently, Costa Rica's location as a major drug transit country has made the news, and the commander of the U.S. Southern Command said the northern triangle formed by Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras is possibly the most violent place on Earth today. These comments added to the growing street crime in Costa Rica are not encouraging to tourism.

Now the major Costa Rican news in Europe is the disappearance of a retired French couple,  Gerard and Claude Dubois, who vanished a week ago near Quepos. They appear to be crime victims because their passports were found in a trash can in Jacó.

Sewage was back in the news this week when Channel 7 reported it found high levels of pollution from Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort, another hotel and a pig farm in the vicinity of Arenal volcano. Raw sewage was running into streams where residents and tourists bathe, the television report said. Tabacon is a leader on the list of highly rated and respected tourism operations here.

Perhaps the most damaging blow of all took place when the Ministerio de Salud closed Cafe Mundo in San José because a number of diners and employees suffered from
tourism image

food poisoning of some sort. The popular Cafe Mundo is highly regarded and listed in all the tourism guides. Now Internet sources such as Trip Advisor, are humming with reports in English and Spanish of persons who became sick there. This was the latest health scare at well-known tourism operations.

Online discussions are a double-edged sword. Incorrect
and malicious postings mix with the well-reasoned, and casual readers frequently cannot determine which is which. One Yahoo posting, for example, says that 100,000 Costa Ricans a year are leaving their home country to flee crime. The writer seems to have confused this country with other Latin lands.

Then there is the series of photos that incorrectly claim turtle egg harvesting is driving the creatures to extinction.

There are continual postings about African bees, volcanos, earthquakes and snakes that seem to cater to selected phobias.

The country's image is critical, particularly now as the Easter vacation period starts and foreigners are planning summer visits in the face of an unfriendly exchange rate.

Despite all the negative publicity, Costa Rica does not have an organized effort to monitor Internet discussions and to counter falsehoods and exaggerations. Many large corporations invest in such operations, and a negative Internet posting brings a quick explanatory response.

Costa Rica seems to lack competent public relations experts in crisis management. Sometimes negative publicity from an unexpected event can be countered successfully by a rapid and reasoned response.

What are the requirements to be a newspaper columnist?
The other night the phrase mortal coil popped into my head.  What exactly does that mean, I wondered, and where does it come from?  It sounded like something Shakespeare would say.  Sure enough, with the help of John Bartlett, I found the phrase in Hamlet’s soliloquy
“. . . For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause . . . .” Then to the dictionary to find out what coil meant in Shakespeare’s day. The meanings of words over the years have changed. Shakespeare meant turmoil.  Yes, life has its turmoils.

As I get older, I think more about the question “To be or not to be.”  Or perhaps I should say more in terms of “to do or not to do?”  I’m sure I have said before that I think that it is our addictions that keep us alive, keep us doing.  Addictions are not necessarily bad.  When addictions are socially and morally acceptable, we call them passions, or if they are as yet unrealized, dreams, and are advised to follow them.

The final addiction is to life itself – or is it really just fear -- the fear of the alternative.  As Claudio says in "Measure for Measure" (Shakespeare has a lot on the subject of being or not being.)  “The weariest and most loathed worldly life that age, aches, penury and imprisonment can lay on nature is a paradise to what we fear of death.”

Watching the terrible tug of war going on in Libya has had me thinking about the effect of the fear of death because so often I have heard so many of the fighters in opposition to Gadhafi say “I am no longer afraid of dying, and so I am not afraid to fight for freedom whatever it takes.”  Hearing this makes me think that I finally understand the meaning of Janis Joplin’s “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

But in fact, as I said in the beginning, I am really thinking about to do or not to do.  This year will mark the 10th anniversary of my column.  Being a writer was my dream
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

since I was 8 years old, but like striving actors, struggling
writers usually have to have a day job. Occasionally I’ve had one that included writing.

I have been writing for A.M. Costa Rica for nearly 10 years, and it has become my passion. As much as the act of writing has been the responses from readers, learning about other lives and being able not to just think about what I observe or experience, but to share my thoughts or observations and get a response.  Although I don’t participate much in the social network, I do understand the charm it holds for many others.

However, lately I have been writing more about my musings instead of my meanderings.  (Note the beginning of this column.)  It may be time for a change. Change is like a mini death – the end of one way of life to another. So there is mini fear that comes with change.  What will I do when the column no longer shapes my life?  What new addiction will I find?  Jay, my editor, has suggested, before I (or he) puts out a call for sample columns from those interested, that I ask people to write what they think the requirements or qualifications are for someone who writes a column about Costa Rica.

Of course, the first requirement is that the writer live in Costa Rica.  After that, I welcome your ideas for the ideal columnist for A.M. Costa Rica.  You can send them to

No doubt you may be quoted.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 70

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President Laura Chinchilla prepares to detonate explosives that will join the two sections of tunnel at the power project.
Ms. Chinchilla
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Joining of water diversion tunnel advances power project

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An explosion demolished a thin rock wall that separated two sections of a tunnel Thursday, thereby advancing the Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Reventazón in Siquirres, Limón.

The person pushing the button was President Laura Chinchilla, but the heroes of the day were the 400 workers who had carved the 1,350 meters (4,429 feet) of tunnel. It is the tunnel with the biggest diameter in Costa Rica.

Workers on either side of the blast climbed over rubble to congratulate members of the opposite crew.

The power project will produce 305.5 megawatts of electricity sufficient for 525,000 homes, said the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Excavation crews removed 106,000 cubic meters (138,642 cubic yards) of rock. Officials said the tunnel will be ready to go into service in the first few months of 2012.

Although there are 400 persons working on the tunnel, the workforce at the site number 1,700. Also being constructed is a dam to hold back the Río Reventazón. The dam is to be 130 meters (427 feet) high and 527 meters (1,729 feet) long.  The water diverted into the
project map
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad graphic

tunnel at the dam will turn four turbines at the other end.

The electrical institute said that an archaeological survey has been completed on the 200 hectares (494 acres) that will be inundated by the dam.

About 60 percent of the total workforce in the canton of Siquirres is on the job for this project, the institute estimated.

El Diquís foes said government put spin on U.N. visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The association opposing the Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Diquís has accused the central government of lying and trying to characterize incorrectly the visit of a United Nations expert at the end of the month.

The organization is the Asociación de Desarrollo de Térraba which says the government is going ahead with the plans for the largest hydro project in Central America illegally and without the consent of the native people on whose land part of the project lies.

A.M. Costa Rica reported Tuesday that S. James Anaya, a professor of law at the University of Arizona in Tucson, would visit. He carries the title of U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. The newspaper also quoted the foreign ministry when it said it had invited the visit.

Not so, said the association in a release Thursday. It said it sought relief from the United Nations as early as 2010 in the face of repeated violations of the rights of the native peoples.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said Anaya would be an adviser. In fact, he is an independent observer with a long history of studying the conflicts of native peoples with governments.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is building the $2 billion project.
The foreign ministry said that the goal of the visit is to develop a process of consultations with the native peoples, who will feel the impact of the project. The Instituto
Costarricense de Electricidad estimates that the project will take 915.59 hectares (some 2,262 acres) of native land. The entire project, involving some 7,363.5 hectares (18,195.6 acres) will displace more than 1,500 persons, but the company says that no one is living permanently on the native lands.

The project has been strongly opposed by some in the native communities. The Térraba, the Boruca, Bribri, Cabécar and Guaymí live in the area, many on official reserves. Anaya will visit April 25, 26 and 27.

Meanwhile the central government has set up a high-level seminar for Saturday in Buenos Aires de Puntarenas near the dam site. The session is headed by Vice President  Alfio Piva. The title is "Considering development in the southern zone of Costa Rica and the role of the Proyecto Hidroeléctrico El Diquís."

The event is in Rancho El Remolino, in the installations of the electrical institute. This is an effort to reach out to the communities there. Those government officials attending belong to the recently formed Comisión de Coordinación Interinstitucional del Proyecto Hidroeléctrico El Diquís,  President Laura Chinchilla created the commission in the face of local opposition.

The all-day session will include presentations by at least three minsters of government and a host of vice ministers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 70

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Obama sees mutual benefits
in Colombia-U.S. trade deal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama says a free trade agreement reached between the United States and Colombia will benefit both countries’ economies.  Obama met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Thursday.  

After the meeting Obama said the new trade deal will help protect workers’ rights in Colombia and boost the U.S. economy. 

"This represents a potential $1 billion of exports and it could mean thousands of jobs for workers here in the United States.  And so I believe that we can structure a trade agreement that is a 'win-win' for both our countries," Obama said.

White House officials announced the agreement on Wednesday, after Colombia agreed to do more to ensure workers’ rights and protect union organizers from violence.

Santos, speaking through an interpreter, said the breakthrough on the free trade pact will help boost Colombia’s economy and strengthen its democracy.

"We have been working on getting a green light for this to go to Congress for five years, and we got that green light today.  This is a very important event for Colombia," Santos said.

The U.S. Congress must approve the agreement before it can take effect. 

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have expressed support for the agreement, as have major U.S. business leaders.  The top Republican in the U.S. Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Thursday that his party has been urging Obama to advance this and other free trade agreements for more than two years.

"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea could provide up to 380,000 U.S. jobs.  And we know that this deal alone would create tens of thousands of new jobs here in this country," McConnell said.

The U.S. signed free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea in 2007.  But lawmakers have not voted on them, and the Obama administration renegotiated some parts of the agreements.

Officials in Washington were especially concerned that Colombia was not protecting workers’ rights or the safety of union leaders.

Obama said Thursday that those concerns are being addressed. "We are going to continue to engage with President Santos and his administration in an active process to ensure good working conditions, to make sure that trade unionists are protected, to make sure that we are creating a level playing field for business and workers, here and around the world," he said.

Obama also said he looks forward to visiting Colombia for next year’s Summit of the Americas.

Former student in Brazil
guns down 11 students

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Authorities in Brazil say a gunman has opened fire at an elementary school in Rio de Janeiro, killing at least 11 students before taking his own life.

Officials say the incident happened Thursday at the Tasso da Silveira Municipal School and that 10 girls and a boy were killed.  At least 13 other people were injured.  The gunman was identified as Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, a 23-year-old former student.  Authorities say he used two guns to carry out the attack and that prior to the shooting, he told authorities at the school he had arrived to give a speech.

The school was holding an event involving former students to celebrate its anniversary.

Police who arrived at the school exchanged fire with the gunman before he shot himself.

The motive for the shooting was not known, but authorities say the man left a note at the school.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff lamented the deaths of what she called defenseless children and asked for a minute of silence to honor the youngsters.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 70

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No traffic restrictions
for holiday this Monday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The traffic police will not be enforcing the vehicle prohibitions Monday because it is a legal holiday.

Normally vehicles with the final license plate number of 1 or 2 cannot travel in the metro area at peak hours. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said the restriction would be lifted for Monday because light traffic is expected.

The prohibition is in place to reduce the center city traffic flow.

However, Tuesday, vehicles with the final license plate number of 3 or 4 will be subject to a traffic ticket if they enter the area, as with vehicles with prohibited numbers for the rest of the week. The prohibited area is from La Uruca in the west and the Circunvalacion on the south and east.

Officials have not announced what they will be doing for Semana Santa, which begins April 18. April 21 and April 22, Holy Thursday and good Friday, are legal holidays.

State banks have announced that they will work Monday, April 18 through the late afternoon of April 20. Most non-essential government offices will be closed the whole week.

DaVinci's works coming

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An exhibit of 150 full scale models of Leonardo DaVinci's works will be on display in the Antigua Aduana as an exposition sponsored by the Minsterio de Cultura y Juventud and the Municipalidad de San José.

This is the first exhibit in Central America of the show that has been in 20 cities of the work, the ministry said.

None of the displays are actually the work of the Italian master, but they are copies from his notes. The exposition will be July and August. Organizers said that 2 million persons visited the exposition when it was in Brazil.

Five held in hijackings

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five men have been detained as suspects of a ring that hijacked tractor trailers on Ruta 32, the San José-Limón highway.  The truck hijackers dressed as police officers in order to get compliance from truckers, agents said.

Investigators managed to recover two trucks. One contained crackers and the other contained machinery. One was in Limón and the other was in Tambor de Alajuela, agents said.

Three of the suspects were detained unloading merchandise from one of the trucks. Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization said they also confiscated an AK-47 rifle and a box of clothing that appeared to be similar to that worn by Fuerza Pública officers.

Flute concert is Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Saturday the Asociación Costarricense de Flautistas presents the final concert of the Festival Internacional de Flauta de Costa Rica at Teatro Nacional. It is at 8 p.m. This is the seventh gathering of flute players, who have come from Europe, Brazil, the United States, Venezuela and México.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 70

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Sprints trump endurance runs
for helping heart, study says

By John Wiley & Sons, Inc., news staff

Exercise is important for preventing cardiovascular disease, especially in children and adolescents, but is all exercise equally beneficial? New research published this week in the American Journal of Human Biology reveals that high intensity exercise is more beneficial than traditional endurance training.

“Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of mortality throughout the world and its risk factors have their origins in childhood,” said lead author Duncan Buchan from the University of the West of Scotland. The research examines the effects of brief, intense exercise when compared to traditional endurance exercise on the markers of cardiovascular disease in young people, he said

Buchan’s team recruited a group of volunteer school children, 47 boys and 10 girls, and randomly divided the group into moderate  and high intensity exercise teams.

The two groups performed three weekly exercise sessions over seven weeks. The high-intesity group’s training consisted of a series of 20-meter sprints over 30 seconds. In contrast the moderate group ran steadily for a period of 20 minutes.

By the end of the study the moderate group had completed 420 minutes of exercise while the high-intensity group had trained for a shorter 63 minutes. The estimated energy expenditure for the high-intensity group was 907.2 kcal in comparison to 4,410 kcal for the moderate group.

The results revealed that both groups demonstrated improved cardiovascular disease risk factors. However, the total exercise time over seven weeks was six times higher for the moderate group compared to the hihg-intensity group. Thus, significant improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors in the high-intensity group occurred in only 15 percent of the total exercise time.

These findings demonstrate that brief, intense exercise is a time efficient means for improving cardiovascular disease risk factors in adolescents, the study said.

Although limited to relatively small samples, the findings demonstrate significant improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, blood pressure, body composition and insulin resistance in healthy adolescent youth after a seven weeks of different exercise intensities.
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