Category: Fitness

A Little Movement Can Go A Long Way

In today’s society, we can access so many resources without having to put in any real effort.

Everything is available in an instant via our smartphones.  We used to have to go to the store to buy household goods, now we can have them delivered to our doorstep the same day by Amazon.  We used to have to go to the bank to deposit a check, now we can take a picture of a check on our smartphone and the money will be deposited moments later.

We barely have to move a finger anymore, but it’s actually in our best interest that we do keep moving (fingers, toes, arms, legs, etc.).

It is estimated that 322 million people worldwide live with depression.  Pulling yourself away from society’s convenience tools and getting in a little physical activity daily can help to protect your mental health.

While previous research only showed physical activity and depression were linked, a recent New York Times article highlighted an innovative study by Choi et. al (2019) found that simple physical activities — jogging for 15 minutes or simpler activities like walking, gardening, or doing housework for closer to an hour — can actually protect against developing depression.

If you are considering suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available by phone 24-hours per day by just calling 1-800-273-8255.

If you’re a UNC student struggling with depression, UNC offers counseling and psychological services through the UNC CAPS program.

 

We all deserve the ability to be happy without depression getting in the way.

– Alex Kresovich

For more information, check out:

Choi, K. W., Chen, C. Y., Stein, M. B., Klimentidis, Y. C., Wang, M. J., Koenen, K. C., & Smoller, J. W. (2019). Assessment of bidirectional relationships between physical activity and depression among adults: a 2-sample mendelian randomization study. JAMA psychiatry.

Cartoon with 6 arms. Holding a wrench, light bulb, clock, magnifying glass, and USB stick

Boost your productivity and your health without taking any extra time out of your day

Have your ever gotten to the end of your work day and wondered where your time went?  Some research suggests that during an eight-hour workday, most Americans are only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes.  This means we’re spending over five hours at work surfing the web, posting on social media, and being otherwise distracted.

Productivity experts suggest that after focusing on one task for twenty-five minutes, we benefit from taking a short break.  Others say that we can productive time can extend up to 90 minutes before we need a break.  Either way, for many companies, their most productive employees take more breaks than anyone else.

If you’re looking for ways to spend this new downtime, consider taking a snack break.  While this may elicit thoughts of chocolate and potato chips, “exercise snacks” are one other way to use this time.  Exercise gets your blood moving, which can improve focus, increase energy, and improve your memory– all of which can help your get more done in the day.  Your exercise time doesn’t have to take up your whole lunch break, instead it can be just a short burst of activity.  One article from the New York Times says that “as little as 20 seconds of brisk stair climbing, done several times a day might be enough to improve fitness.”

If you’re feeling yourself slump, take a break and get moving.  Both your body and your boss may thank you for it.

 

 

 

https://onlinemasters.ohio.edu/blog/benefits-of-a-shorter-work-week/

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2017/02/06/want-to-get-more-done-try-taking-more-breaks/

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifercohen/2012/05/08/6-ways-exercise-makes-you-smarter/#5611b1dd305d

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/well/move/20-second-exercise-fitness-interval-training.html

Blame it on the Alk(aline)?

These days, it’s hard to keep up with what’s truly “good” or “bad” for your health. However, through all the changing trends, one thing has been steadfast: water. Water is one of the most necessary and obvious components for healthy living. Now, people are turning their eyes towards alkaline water, wondering if there’s a way to make drinking water even more healthy.

Alkaline water is just like regular water, except it has a higher pH level. pH levels dictate how acidic or non-acidic (basic) your water is. If it has a higher pH level – like alkaline level – it’s more basic than regular water. Alkaline water has salts and metals which make it unique from normal drinking water. It’s more common than you think, brands like Smart Water and Essentia offer alkaline water products.

So why drink it? Many sources claim drinking alkaline water has a number of health benefits. According to those who support it, alkaline water is rich in antioxidants, can help balance pH levels, lead to better hydration, boost the immune system, and many more benefits. However, like many nutritional fads, there is still not conclusive evidence these claims. And like anything going into your body, it’s important to consume everything in moderation.

 

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/29/health/alkaline-water-benefits-explainer/index.html

https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/what-alkaline-water-does-to-your-body/

https://alkalinewatermachinereviews.com/alkaline-water-benefits/

https://www.healthline.com/health/alkalosis

 

Brown Fat is Good Fat

Picture this: near-freezing temperatures, more darkness than daylight, and the pain of breathing in brittle, cold air. These conditions sound pretty terrible for exercise, right? Think again. Taking the time to exercise outside during winter can have a range of benefits, as long as one is also mindful of the risks.

Research has shown that exercising outside in cold weather (50°F or colder) can actually be beneficial for your health in a number of ways. This experience has been shown to boost one’s metabolism. Exercising in cold weather increases the production of brown fat by 45%, which is a type of fat that is highly calorie-burning. Having more of this type of fat generally aids metabolic function, and can contribute to active weight loss. Alongside this, it has been shown that outdoor recreation is in general a healthier choice than the indoor alternative. Studies have found that those who exercise outdoor regularly have lower risks for cardiovascular disease.

These studies are promising, but it’s always important to keep in mind the risks of exercising in frigid weather. Those who have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and/or sedentary lifestyle should be extra careful during these conditions, as exercising in cold weather can lead to higher risk of heart attacks.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24423363

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27089974

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/25/health/winter-exercise-jampolis/index.html

 

photo of buses and a bicycle stacked on each other

Public transit can help with your new year’s resolution

The recent new year brought the usual onslaught of new years resolutions, and for many people, this meant increasing their activity levels.  Of course, there are the usual ideas of joining a gym or getting work-out equipment for the home, but did you know that taking public transportation can also help with this goal?

Studies have shown that people who take public transportation are more likely to utilize active travel methods, and they are typically more active than those who drive. Additionally, some are suggesting that if you take the time to relax while you commute, you may be able to reduce your stress levels, which has been shown to help weight loss efforts.

On top of the personal health benefits, when people opt for public transit instead of driving, they help reduce the amount of air pollution we breathe in.  Air pollution has negative effects on our lungs and cardiovascular systems.

So if you can, ride the bus. It helps you and your community.

 

 

 

http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/take-action-to-improve-health/what-works-for-health/policies/individual-incentives-for-public-transportation

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/21/upshot/stuck-and-stressed-the-health-costs-of-traffic.html

 

https://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/g20439118/how-to-prevent-weight-gain-due-to-stress-and-anxiety/

Run Long, Live Longer?

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for you – it controls your weight, helps you combat disease, improves mood and energy, and many other benefits. However, the extent to which exercising can improve and lengthen your life is still being discovered. Now, a new literature review has shown that exercising regularly can generously lengthen life expectancy.

The review found that people who engage in the highest levels of physical activity lived up to 5.5 years on average longer than those who did not. A different study discovered similar benefits. Researchers found that women who regularly exercised were at a 31% lower chance of dying prematurely.

These results show that exercise may be a crucial tool to living a longer life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published physical activity guidelines which can help people improve their health by exercising. Following these recommendations can help anyone engage in this healthy behavior, and get them on track for a longer, healthier lifestyle.

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139866/pdf/ms115_p0098.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844730

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm

 

 

RICE your knees…How to care for a sports injury

As the weather is starting to warm up, many of us are thinking about getting outside and getting active.  With this increased movement, it’s no wonder that a search of google trends from 2004-2016 showed that April of each year is the most common month for searches related to knee injuries (1).

The R.I.C.E. method is one of the most commonly recommended ways to treat sports injuries to joints and muscles.  It has even received a stamp of approval from the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (2).  This method has 4 steps:

 

R is for Rest  Try to avoid using the injured area and putting weight on it for 24-48 hours if possible (3)

I is for Ice Every 4 hours, put rice on the injury for 20 minutes at a time (3).  For comfort, you can place a thin cloth between the ice bag and your skin (2).

C is for Compression Wrap the area with a bandage, like an ACE wrap, in order to gently compress the injured area.  This will help control swelling.  Just be careful not to wrap it too tight and cut of your blood flow (3).

E is for Elevation This is your opportunity to sit and prop your feet (or other injured spot) up.  Use pillows or other comfortable items to try to keep the area above the level of your heart.  This can reduce swelling (3).

 

Once you start feeling better, you can SLOWLY and GENTLY start using the injured area again.  Also, if you’re not sure how bad you’ve hurt yourself, be sure to get it checked out by a medical provider.

 

References

  1. Using Google Trends To Assess For Seasonal Variation In Knee Injuries. Dewan, Varun and Sur, Hartej. February 21, 2018, Journal of Arthroscopy and Joint Surgery.
  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. How to Care for a Sprained Ankle. American Orhopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. [Online] http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/foot-injury/Pages/How%20to%20Care%20for%20a%20Sprained%20Ankle.aspx.
  3. Sports Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. How to Use the R.I.C.E Method for Treating Injuries. UPMC Health Beat. [Online] August 27, 2014. https://share.upmc.com/2014/08/rice-method-for-treating-injury/.

 

 

Dear Apple, Keep doing what you are doing

The new Apple Watch commercial “Dear Apple” has the world talking after its debut during this year’s Winter Olympics. It’s personal, heart wrenching and most importantly highlights the incredible impacts of it’s less advertised features. This commercial emphasizes that this technology could revolutionize healthcare and provide life-changing health support. It features anecdotes of a car accident survivor using the feature on the watch to call 911 after their phone was thrown from the vehicle and a child with Type 1 diabetes pairing the watch with her glucose monitor that alerts her when her blood sugars are at low levels. While the ad still features its more traditional feature of tracking physical activity, it was nice to see that the more innovative features of its products and it’s direct benefits. While I love a good selfie, it’s reassuring to know that Apple and other technology companies are using their technology for just more than just three dimensional emojis and higher quality selfies. I look forward to seeing what other technology these companies come up with in the future to help us lead healthier lives.

If you haven’t seen the commercial check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-x8Ik9G5Dg

 

 

Wearable Health: Who Benefits and Who is Left Out?

By Shazia Manji

There’s no denying the ubiquity of wearable health technology. The global wearables market is expected to grow by more than 15% this year alone, with projected sale of 310.4 million devices worldwide and $30.5 billion generated in revenue. These technologies generate real-time personalized data with the promise to improve individual health by helping to track, manage, incentivize, and improve healthy behaviors and decision making. As wearable tech finds success in the market, it’s important to consider where they can be most effective and where do they face barriers in impact. For example, a device such as a FitBit may be helpful in motivating an individual to make small changes to their diet when they have the necessary resources to make that happen. But what happens if you can’t afford a gym membership and you don’t feel safe running around your neighborhood at night? How well will these devices work for people who live in food swamps, neighborhoods or areas with many fast food and liquor stores but few places to buy healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables?

The overall efficacy and effectiveness of wearable tech is still being determined. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that while these kinds of tracking devices were increasing in popularity, there has been little evidence to show that they are successful in actually changing behavior. Still another suggested that wearables are more likely to be purchased by those who already live a relatively healthy lifestyle, and are less in use by those who might most benefit from a shift in physical activity, or by those with an existing and related health condition. Few studies or initiatives have looked at connecting these mobile health technologies with lower-income individuals in the US or at increasing their prevalence across socioeconomic status. This is largely in part because cost can be prohibitive for those at the lower end of the spectrum. Low-income populations are most at risk for diabetic complications, and may be less likely to have easy access to a physician, but the tools to help improve compliance and self-care have not been made with them in mind. The digital divide in healthcare technology is yet another example of how opportunities and resources for health are inequitably distributed. If we truly want to increase the effectiveness and relevance of wearable health tech, there needs to be a shift in their development and distribution.

A great first step to reducing the cost barrier would be working to get more health tech to be covered by insurers – and not just more robust private or employer-provided insurance plans, but by the insurance plans used by targeted populations, including Medicare and Medicaid. Tech companies could forge partnerships with community-based initiatives working to understand and shift the more structural barriers to health in low-income neighborhoods as part of potential multi-level interventions that go beyond individual behavior change. Wearable health tech used in research studies could combine the tracking technology with forms of interviewing or survey collection aimed at better understanding the barriers to behavior change in the most vulnerable populations, to help collect participant data that can in turn inform chronic disease prevention efforts. At the very least, developers could recognize that tech developed and marketed towards more affluent populations will differ from tech tailored for the most vulnerable.

Perhaps most importantly, I think it’s important to approach investment in and development of wearable health technologies with caution. Investment in digital health technologies is rising tremendously – but it’s crucial to understand who benefits from these technologies and who is left out, and then work proactively toward decreasing the digital divide. Investment in new tech should not trump investment in people and investment in improving the places and conditions in which people live, the conditions which shape and constrain quality of life and health behaviors.

Image: Koolme, Andri. “Fitbit Blaze activity tracker / wristwatch / smartband / smartwatch / smartphone.” 16 July 2016. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Accessed 31 Jan 2018.

Adam Rippon: America’s Olympic Sweetheart

During the 2018 Winter Olympics that have been happening in Pyeongchang, South Korea, American Figure Skater Adam Rippon has stolen the hearts and minds of many, including this writer. But beyond his charming persona and impressive skating abilities, Rippon has brought visibility to other queer athletes by being the first openly gay athlete to compete in the Games.

Rippon presents by what is defined as stereotypically gay: often using more “feminine” mannerisms and speaking with what can be called the “gay lisp”. At the same time, he is being praised not just for his personality and looks, but also his athleticism, a praise that is often withheld from gay men who do not present in ways that are more heteronormative.

I look forward to seeing what other heights Rippon can reach, and what he will continue to do with the platform that he has amassed. If you’re interested in more reading on this topic, I would highly recommend the article below.

Sources:

them. How a Fabulous, Femme Gay Man Finally Became America’s Sweetheart – https://www.them.us/story/how-a-femme-gay-man-became-americas-new-sweetheart