Placeholder Content Image

Want the health benefits of strength training but not keen on the gym? Try ‘exercise snacking’

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/justin-keogh-129041">Justin Keogh</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jackson-fyfe-134774">Jackson Fyfe</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>The science is clear: <a href="https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/full/10.1139/apnm-2020-0245">resistance training</a> is crucial to ageing well. Lifting weights (or doing bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats or push-ups) can help you live independently for longer, make your bones stronger, reduce your risk of diseases such as diabetes, and may even improve your <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28919335/">sleep and mental health</a>.</p> <p>But not everyone loves the gym. Perhaps you feel you’re not a “gym person” and never will be, or you’re too old to start. Being a gym-goer can be expensive and time-consuming, and some people report feeling <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/StartingStrength/comments/j3hq32/unwelcome_feeling_at_the_gym/">unwelcome</a> or <a href="https://www.quora.com/I-feel-awkward-and-I-want-to-start-a-gym-but-could-not-What-should-I-do">awkward</a> at the gym.</p> <p>The good news is you don’t need the gym, or lots of free time, to get the health benefits resistance training can offer.</p> <p>You can try “exercise snacking” instead.</p> <h2>What is exercise snacking?</h2> <p>Exercise snacking involves doing multiple shorter bouts (as little as 20 seconds) of exercise throughout the day – often with minimal or no equipment. It’s OK to have <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01605-8">several hours of rest</a> between.</p> <p>You could do simple bodyweight exercises such as:</p> <ul> <li> <p>chair sit-to-stand (squats)</p> </li> <li> <p>lunges</p> </li> <li> <p>box step-ups</p> </li> <li> <p>calf raises</p> </li> <li> <p>push-ups.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Exercise snacking like this can help improve muscle mass, strength and physical function.</p> <p>It’s OK to hold onto a nearby object for balance, if you need. And doing these exercises regularly will also improve your balance. That, in turn, reduces your risk of falls and fractures.</p> <h2>OK I have done all those, now what?</h2> <p>Great! You can also try using resistance bands or dumbbells to do the previously mentioned five exercises as well as some of the following exercises:</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://youtu.be/IP4wM2JpDdQ?si=1B1GyV_FY5rcArW8&amp;t=6">seated rows</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://youtu.be/G6GIffCaJCQ?si=RxXZtzMqQ0DGxF3k&amp;t=48">chest</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUnnz5i4Mnw&amp;t=5s">shoulder presses</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://youtu.be/z0omicIkYu4?si=8WffT3ij12SNTqEs">bicep curls</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wXVnxBgLHo">knee extensions</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtTcXXgeRYo">leg curls</a>.</p> </li> </ul> <p>When using resistance bands, make sure you hold them tightly and that they’re securely attached to an immovable object.</p> <p>Exercise snacking works well when you pair it with an activity you do often throughout the day. Perhaps you could:</p> <ul> <li> <p>do a few extra squats every time you get up from a bed or chair</p> </li> <li> <p>do some lunges during a TV ad break</p> </li> <li> <p>chuck in a few half squats while you’re waiting for your kettle to boil</p> </li> <li> <p>do a couple of elevated push-ups (where you support your body with your hands on a chair or a bench while doing the push-up) before tucking into lunch</p> </li> <li> <p>sneak in a couple of calf raises while you’re brushing your teeth.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>What does the evidence say about exercise snacking?</h2> <p>One <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31687210/">study</a> had older adults without a history of resistance training do exercise snacks at home twice per day for four weeks.</p> <p>Each session involved five simple bodyweight exercises (chair sit-to-stand, seated knee extension, standing knee bends, marching on the spot, and standing calf raises). The participants did each exercise continuously for one minute, with a one-minute break between exercises.</p> <p>These short and simple exercise sessions, which lasted just nine minutes, were enough to improve a person’s ability to stand up from a chair by 31% after four weeks (compared to a control group who didn’t exercise). Leg power and thigh muscle size improved, too.</p> <p>Research involving one of us (Jackson Fyfe) has also <a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-022-03207-z">shown</a> older adults found “exercise snacking” feasible and enjoyable when done at home either once, twice, or three times per day for four weeks.</p> <p>Exercise snacking may be a more sustainable approach to improve muscle health in those who don’t want to – or can’t – lift heavier weights in a gym.</p> <h2>A little can yield a lot</h2> <p>We know from other research that the more you exercise, the more likely it is you will <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167268119302586">keep exercising in future</a>.</p> <p>Very brief resistance training, albeit with heavier weights, may be more <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29975122/">enjoyable</a> than traditional approaches where people aim to do many, many sets.</p> <p>We also know brief-and-frequent exercise sessions can break up <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26378942/">periods</a> of sedentary behaviour (which usually means sitting too much). Too much sitting increases your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, whereas exercise snacking can help keep your <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36921112/">blood sugar levels steady</a>.</p> <p>Of course, longer-term studies are needed. But the evidence we do have suggests exercise snacking really helps.</p> <h2>Why does any of this matter?</h2> <p>As you age, you lose strength and mass in the muscles you use to walk, or stand up. Everyday tasks can become a struggle.</p> <p>All this <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36907247/">contributes</a> to disability, hospitalisation, chronic disease, and reliance on community and residential aged care support.</p> <p>By preserving your muscle mass and strength, you can:</p> <ul> <li> <p>reduce joint pain</p> </li> <li> <p>get on with activities you enjoy</p> </li> <li> <p>live independently in your own home</p> </li> <li> <p>delay or even eliminate the need for expensive health care or residential aged care.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>What if I walk a lot – is that enough?</h2> <p>Walking may maintain some level of lower body muscle mass, but it won’t preserve your <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38190393/">upper body muscles</a>.</p> <p>If you find it difficult to get out of a chair, or can only walk short distances without getting out of breath, resistance training is the best way to regain some of the independence and function you’ve lost.</p> <p>It’s even more important for women, as muscle mass and strength are typically lower in older women than men. And if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, which is more common in older women than men, resistance exercise snacking at home can improve your balance, strength, and bone mineral density. All of this reduces the risk of falls and fractures.</p> <p>You don’t need <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37171517/">heavy weights</a> or fancy equipment to benefit from resistance training.</p> <p>So, will you start exercise snacking today?<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/232374/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/justin-keogh-129041">Justin Keogh</a>, Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jackson-fyfe-134774">Jackson Fyfe</a>, Senior Lecturer, Strength and Conditioning Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/want-the-health-benefits-of-strength-training-but-not-keen-on-the-gym-try-exercise-snacking-232374">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

How sustainable is your weekly grocery shop? These small changes can have big benefits

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michalis-hadjikakou-129930">Michalis Hadjikakou</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carla-archibald-283811">Carla Archibald</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ozge-geyik-1402545">Özge Geyik</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/pankti-shah-1547393">Pankti Shah</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>You might think eating more sustainably requires drastic changes, such as shifting to a <a href="https://theconversation.com/vegan-diet-has-just-30-of-the-environmental-impact-of-a-high-meat-diet-major-study-finds-210152">vegan diet</a>. While a plant-based diet is <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-023-00795-w">undeniably</a> good for the Earth, our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352550924001945#f0025">new research</a> shows modest changes to your eating habits can also have significant environmental benefits.</p> <p>We assessed how food products on Australian supermarket shelves stack up against key environmental indicators, such as carbon emissions and water use.</p> <p>We found swapping the most environmentally harmful foods for more sustainable options within the same food group, such as switching from beef burgers to chicken burgers, can significantly reduce carbon emissions – by up to 96% in some instances.</p> <p>The last thing we want to do is take the pleasure away from eating. Instead, we want to help consumers make realistic dietary changes that also help ensure a sustainable future. So read on to find out which simple food swaps can best achieve this.</p> <h2>Informing sustainable diets</h2> <p>The environmental impact of foods can be estimated using an approach known as a <a href="https://www.cell.com/one-earth/fulltext/S2590-3322(19)30128-9#:%7E:text=In%20this%20Primer%2C%20we%20introduce,cycle%20of%20a%20product%20system.">life-cycle assessment</a>.</p> <p>This involves identifying the “inputs” required along the food supply chain, such as fertiliser, energy, water and land, and tracking them from farm to fork. From this we can calculate a product’s “footprint” – or environmental impact per kilogram of product – and compare it to other foods.</p> <p>Most studies of environmental footprints focus on the raw ingredients that make up food products (such as beef, wheat or rice) rather than the packaged products people see on shelves (such as beef sausages, pasta or rice crackers). Of the studies that do focus on packaged foods, most only consider a fraction of the products available to consumers.</p> <p>What’s more, a lot of research considers only the carbon emissions of food products, excluding other important measures such as water use. And some studies use global average environmental footprints, which <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aaq0216">vary significantly</a> between countries.</p> <p>Our research set out to overcome these limitations. We aligned environmental footprints with the products people find on supermarket shelves, and covered a huge range of food and beverage products available in Australia. We also included many environmental indicators, to allow a <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2120584119">more complete picture</a> of the sustainability of different foods.</p> <h2>What we did</h2> <p>Key to our research was the <a href="https://www.georgeinstitute.org.au/projects/foodswitch">FoodSwitch database</a>, which compiles food labelling and ingredient data from images of packaged food and beverages. It covers more than 90% of the Australian packaged food market.</p> <p>We combined the database with a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652623029748">mathematical method</a> that sums the environmental impact of ingredients, to quantify the footprint of the product as a whole.</p> <p>From this, we estimated the environmental footprint of 63,926 food products available in Australian supermarkets. We then simulated the potential benefits of making “realistic” switches between products – that is, switches within the same food category.</p> <h2>Our findings</h2> <p>The results show how making a small dietary change can have big environmental consequences.</p> <p>For a shopping basket composed of items from eight food groups, we simulate the benefits of swapping from high-impact towards medium- or low-impact food products.</p> <p>Our analysis assumes a starting point from the most environmentally harmful products in each food group – for example, sweet biscuits, cheese and beef burger patties.</p> <p>A shift to the medium-impact foods for all eight items – such as a muffin, yoghurt and sliced meat – can lead to at least a 62% reduction in environmental impact. Shifts towards the most sustainable choice for all items – bread, soy milk or raw poultry – can achieve a minimum 77% reduction.</p> <p>This analysis ends at the supermarket shelves and does not include additional food processing by the consumer. For example, raw meat will usually be cooked before human consumption, which will expand its environmental footprint to varying degrees, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-020-00200-w">depending on the method used</a>.</p> <p>See the below info-graphic for more detail. The full results are available in <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352550924001945">our study</a>.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="sR5yB" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: 0;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/sR5yB/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>What next?</h2> <p>Many people are looking for ways to live more sustainably. Insufficient or complex information can fuel confusion and anxiety in consumers, <a href="https://theconversation.com/reducing-eco-anxiety-is-a-critical-step-in-achieving-any-climate-action-210327">leading to inaction or paralysis</a>. Consumers need more information and support to choose more sustainable foods.</p> <p>Supermarkets and retailers also have an important role to play – for example, by giving sustainable products <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/07439156211008898">prominent shelf placement</a>. Attractive pricing is also crucial – particularly in the midst of a <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/cost-of-living-crisis-115238">cost-of-living crisis</a> when it can be difficult to prioritise sustainability over cost.</p> <p>Government interventions, such as information campaigns and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/07439156211008898">taxing high-impact products</a>, can also help.</p> <p>Food labelling is also important. The European Union <a href="https://environment.ec.europa.eu/topics/circular-economy/eu-ecolabel/product-groups-and-criteria_en">is leading the way</a> with measures such as the <a href="https://docs.score-environnemental.com/v/en">eco-score</a>, which integrates 14 environmental indicators into a single score from A to E.</p> <p>Apps such as <a href="https://www.georgeinstitute.org/projects/ecoswitch">ecoSwitch</a> can also <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1326020024000268?via%3Dihub">empower consumers</a>.</p> <p>The diets of people in developed nations such as Australia <a href="https://theconversation.com/sustainable-shopping-want-to-eat-healthy-try-an-eco-friendly-diet-89086">exert a high toll on our planet</a>. More sustainable food choices are vital to achieving a <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT">sustainable future for humanity</a>. We hope our research helps kick-start positive change.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/234367/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michalis-hadjikakou-129930">Michalis Hadjikakou</a>, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sustainability, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Engineering &amp; Built Environment, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carla-archibald-283811">Carla Archibald</a>, Research Fellow, Conservation Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ozge-geyik-1402545">Özge Geyik</a>, Visitor, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/pankti-shah-1547393">Pankti Shah</a>, PhD student, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-sustainable-is-your-weekly-grocery-shop-these-small-changes-can-have-big-benefits-234367">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Food & Wine

Placeholder Content Image

Kick up your heels – ballroom dancing offers benefits to the aging brain and could help stave off dementia

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helena-blumen-1231899">Helena Blumen</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/albert-einstein-college-of-medicine-3638">Albert Einstein College of Medicine</a></em></p> <h2>The big idea</h2> <p>Social ballroom dancing can improve cognitive functions and reduce brain atrophy in older adults who are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. That’s the key finding of my team’s <a href="https://doi.org/10.1123/japa.2022-0176">recently published study</a> in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity.</p> <p>In our study, we enrolled 25 adults over 65 years of age in either six months of twice-weekly ballroom dancing classes or six months of twice-weekly treadmill walking classes. None of them were engaged in formal dancing or other exercise programs.</p> <p>The overall goal was to see how each experience affected cognitive function and brain health.</p> <p>While none of the study volunteers had a dementia diagnosis, all performed a bit lower than expected on at least one of our dementia screening tests. We found that older adults that completed six months of social dancing and those that completed six months of treadmill walking improved their executive functioning – an umbrella term for planning, reasoning and processing tasks that require attention.</p> <p>Dancing, however, generated significantly greater improvements than treadmill walking on one measure of executive function and on processing speed, which is the time it takes to respond to or process information. Compared with walking, dancing was also associated with reduced brain atrophy in the hippocampus – a brain region that is key to memory functioning and is particularly affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also know that this part of our brain can undergo neurogenesis – or grow new neurons – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0611721104">in response to aerobic exercise</a>.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/unmbhUvnGow?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Research shows those who regularly dance with a partner have a more positive outlook on life.</span></figcaption></figure> <p>While several previous studies suggest that dancing has beneficial effects <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afaa270">on cognitive function in older adults</a>, only a few studies have compared it directly with traditional exercises. Our study is the first to observe both better cognitive function and improved brain health following dancing than walking in older adults at risk for dementia. We think that social dancing may be more beneficial than walking because it is physically, socially and cognitively demanding – and therefore strengthens a wide network of brain regions.</p> <p>While dancing, you’re not only using brain regions that are important for physical movement. You’re also relying on brain regions that are important for interacting and adapting to the movements of your dancing partner, as well as those necessary for learning new dance steps or remembering those you’ve learned already.</p> <h2>Why it matters</h2> <p>Nearly 6 million older adults in the U.S. and 55 million worldwide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2019.01.010">have Alzheimer’s disease</a> or a <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia">related dementia</a>, yet there is no cure. Sadly, the efficacy and ethics surrounding recently developed drug treatments <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/21507740.2022.2129858">are still under debate</a>.</p> <p>The good news is that older adults can potentially <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30367-6">lower their risk for dementia</a> through lifestyle interventions, even later in life. These include reducing social isolation and physical inactivity.</p> <p>Social ballroom dancing targets both isolation and inactivity. In these later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, a better understanding of the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/23337214211005223">indirect effects of COVID-19</a> – particularly those that increase dementia risk, such as social isolation – is urgently needed. In my view, early intervention is critical to prevent dementia from becoming the next pandemic. Social dancing could be a particularly timely way to overcome the adverse cognitive and brain effects associated with isolation and fewer social interactions during the pandemic.</p> <h2>What still isn’t known</h2> <p>Traditional aerobic exercise interventions such as treadmill-walking or running have been shown to lead to modest but reliable improvements in cognition – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617707316">particularly in executive function</a>.</p> <p>My team’s study builds on that research and provides preliminary evidence that not all exercise is equal when it comes to brain health. Yet our sample size was quite small, and larger studies are needed to confirm these initial findings. Additional studies are also needed to determine the optimal length, frequency and intensity of dancing classes that may result in positive changes.</p> <p>Lifestyle interventions like social ballroom dancing are a promising, noninvasive and cost-effective path toward staving off dementia as we – eventually – leave the COVID-19 pandemic behind.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/194969/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helena-blumen-1231899">Helena Blumen</a>, Associate Professor of Medicine and Neurology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/albert-einstein-college-of-medicine-3638">Albert Einstein College of Medicine</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/kick-up-your-heels-ballroom-dancing-offers-benefits-to-the-aging-brain-and-could-help-stave-off-dementia-194969">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Considering taking a weight-loss drug like Ozempic? Here are some potential risks and benefits

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p>After weight-loss drugs like Ozempic exploded onto the market, celebrities and social media influencers were quick to spruik their benefits, leading to their rapid rise in use. In the last three months of 2022, clinicians in the United States alone wrote <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/09/27/ozempic-prescriptions-data-analysis/">more than nine million prescriptions</a> for these drugs.</p> <p>As they’ve grown in popularity, we’ve also heard more about the potential side effects – from common gastrointestinal discomforts, to more serious mental health concerns.</p> <p>But what does the science say about how well Ozempic and Wegovy (which are both brand names of the drug semaglutide) work for weight loss? And what are the potential side effects? Here’s what to consider if you or a loved one are thinking of taking the drug.</p> <h2>Potential benefits</h2> <p><strong>1) It’s likely to help you lose weight</strong></p> <p>The largest, well-conducted <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33567185/">research study</a> of semaglutide was from United Kingdom in 2021. Some 1,961 people who were classified as “overweight” or “obese” were randomly assigned to have either semaglutide or a placebo and followed for 68 weeks (about 1.3 years). All participants also had free access to advice about healthy eating and physical activity.</p> <p>The study found those taking semaglutide lost weight – significantly more than people who had the placebo (-14.9% of their body weight compared with -2.4% of body weight).</p> <p>In another <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">study</a> in the United States, one health-care clinic gave 408 people weekly injections of semaglutide. Over the first three months, those included in the final analysis (175 people) lost an average of 6.7kg. Over the first six months, they lost an average of 12.3kg.</p> <p>Large weight losses have been found in a more <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02026-4">recent trial</a> of semaglutide, suggesting weight loss is a very likely outcome of ongoing use of the medication.</p> <p><strong>2) It may reduce your chronic disease risk factors</strong></p> <p>When people in the overweight or obese weight categories lose <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413116300535">at least 5%</a> of their body weight, physiological changes often occur beyond a change in weight or shape. This <a href="https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/research-context-obesity-metabolic-health">might include</a> lowered cholesterol levels, lowered blood pressure and lowered blood glucose levels, which all reduce the risk of chronic diseases.</p> <p>In one of the semaglutide <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">trials</a>, most people (87.3%) lost at least 5% of their body weight. Although most of the large studies of semaglutide excluded people with metabolic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic health gains were <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33567185/">observed</a>, including lowered blood pressure, blood glucose levels and fasting blood lipid (fat) levels.</p> <p>In the UK <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33567185/">study</a> from 2021, people taking semaglutide had greater improvements in physical capabilities and risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, including reductions in waist circumference, markers of inflammation, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.</p> <p><strong>3) It might improve your quality of life, emotional wellbeing or sense of achievement</strong></p> <p>The original trial of semaglutide did not focus on this bundle of benefits, but further follow-ups show additional benefits associated with the medication. Compared to the placebo, people taking semaglutide saw significant <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00325481.2022.2150006">improvements</a> in their physical functioning and perceptions of their general health, social functioning and mental health.</p> <p>Anecdotally (not based on scientific research), people using semaglutide, such as <a href="https://people.com/oprah-winfrey-reveals-weight-loss-medication-exclusive-8414552">Oprah Winfrey</a>, report a reclaiming or turning point of their life, social situation and body image.</p> <h2>What about the risks?</h2> <p><strong>1) You may experience gastrointestinal symptoms</strong></p> <p>In the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">US clinical trial</a>, nearly half (48.6%) of people taking semaglutide reported experiencing adverse effects. Nausea and vomiting were the most frequently experienced (36.6%) followed by diarrhea (8.6%), fatigue (6.3%) and constipation (5.7%).</p> <p>In the UK study, nausea and diarrhoea were also commonly reported.</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2032183?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">another trial</a>, many participants (74.2%) using semaglutide reported gastrointestinal symptoms. However, nearly half (47.9%) using the placebo also reported gastrointestinal symptoms, indicating that symptoms may be similar to those experienced during normal daily living.</p> <p>Most gastrointestinal symptoms were mild to moderate in severity, and resolved for most people without the need to stop participating in the study.</p> <p><strong>2) You might feel fatigued</strong></p> <p>Fatigue was the second most common side effect for participants in the US <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">clinical trial</a>, affecting 6.3% of participants.</p> <p><strong>3) You might be among the minority who don’t tolerate the drug</strong></p> <p>Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/news/safety-alerts/compounding-safety-information-semaglutide-products">approved</a> Ozempic as safe to use, for the treatment of type 2 diabetes but it has not yet been approved for weight loss. The TGA has also <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/prescription-medicines-registrations/wegovy-novo-nordisk-pharmaceuticals-pty-ltd">approved Wegovy</a> (a higher dose of semagtlutide) for weight loss, however it’s not yet available in Australia.</p> <p>In the US <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">clinical trial</a>, no unexpected safety issues were reported. However, five patients (2.9%) had to stop taking the medication because they could not tolerate the adverse effects. Fifteen (8.6%) had to either reduce the dose or remain on the same dose to avoid the adverse effects.</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2032183?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">other studies</a>, some patients stopped the trial due to gastrointestinal symptoms being so severe they could not tolerate continuing.</p> <p>More severe safety concerns reported in <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2032183?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">studies</a> include gallbladder-related disorders (mostly cholelithiasis, also known as gallstones) in 34 patients (2.6%) and mild acute pancreatitis in three patients (0.2%). All people recovered during the trial period.</p> <p>A 2024 European <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11096-023-01694-7">study</a> analysed psychiatric adverse events associated with semaglutide, liraglutide and tirzepatide (which work in a similar way to semaglutide). Between January 2021 and May 2023, the drug database recorded 481 psychiatric events (about 1.2% of the total reported) associated with these drugs. About half of these events were reported as depression, followed by anxiety (39%) and suicidal ideation (19.6%). Nine deaths and 11 life-threatening outcomes were reported during the study period.</p> <p>Due to the severity and fatal outcomes of some of these reports, <a href="https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/update-fdas-ongoing-evaluation-reports-suicidal-thoughts-or-actions-patients-taking-certain-type">the US Food and Drug Administration</a> investigated further but did not find evidence that use of these medicines caused suicidal thoughts or actions.</p> <p><strong>4) It might be difficult to access</strong></p> <p>Despite being considered safe, the TGA has <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/safety/shortages/medicine-shortage-alerts/update-prescribers-advised-not-start-new-patients-ozempic#:%7E:text=Ozempic%27s%20TGA%2Dapproved%20indication%20is,consult%20the%20appropriate%20prescribing%20guidelines.">warned</a> significant Ozempic access barriers are likely to continue throughout 2024.</p> <p>To manage the shortage, pharmacists are instructed to give preference to people with type 2 diabetes who are seeking the medication.</p> <p><strong>5) You might not always get clear information from vested interests</strong></p> <p>Given the popularity of Ozempic and Wegovy, health organisations such as the World Obesity Federation have expressed <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/mar/12/orchestrated-pr-campaign-how-skinny-jab-drug-firm-sought-to-shape-obesity-debate">concern</a> about the medication’s marketing, PR and strong <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/jan/06/tga-investigates-influencers-after-diabetes-drug-ozempic-promoted-as-weight-loss-treatment">social media presence</a>.</p> <p>Some journalists have <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/mar/12/orchestrated-pr-campaign-how-skinny-jab-drug-firm-sought-to-shape-obesity-debate">raised conflict of interest concerns</a> about the relationship between some obesity researchers and Novo Nordrisk, Ozempic and Wegovy’s manufacturer. The worry is that researchers might be influenced by their relationship with Novo Nordrisk to produce study results that are more favourable to the medications.</p> <h2>Bottom line</h2> <p>Ozempic is a medication that should be used in conjunction with your health care provider. But remember, weight is only one aspect of your health and wellbeing. It’s important to take a holistic view of your health and prioritise eating well, moving more and getting enough sleep.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Read the other articles in The Conversation’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/ozempic-132745">Ozempic series</a> here.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219312/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, Professor of Community Health and Wellbeing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/considering-taking-a-weight-loss-drug-like-ozempic-here-are-some-potential-risks-and-benefits-219312">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

Vitamin D supplements can keep bones strong – but they may also have other benefits to your health

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/martin-hewison-1494746">Martin Hewison</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-birmingham-1138">University of Birmingham</a></em></p> <p>Most of us don’t worry about getting vitamin D when the weather’s warm and the sun is shining. But as winter approaches, accompanied by overcast days and long nights, you may be wondering if it could be useful to take a vitamin D supplement – and what benefit it might have.</p> <p>During the summer, the best way to get vitamin D is by getting a bit of sunshine. Ultraviolet rays (specifically UVB, which have a shorter wavelength) interact with a form of cholesterol called <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278935/">7-dehydrocholesterol</a> in the skin, which is then converted into vitamin D.</p> <p>Because vitamin D production is dependent on UVB, this means our ability to make it <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/#:%7E:text=From%20about%20late%20March%2Fearly,enough%20vitamin%20D%20from%20sunlight.">declines in the winter months</a>. Vitamin D production also <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24494042/">depends on where you live</a>, with people living nearer to the equator making more vitamin D than those living nearer the poles.</p> <p>Vitamin D deficiency is a <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5a804e36ed915d74e622dafa/SACN_Vitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf">problem in the UK</a> during the winter months. This is due to its northerly position and cloudy weather, and lack of time spent outdoors.</p> <p>One study of over 440,000 people in the UK found that <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33309415/">18% were vitamin D deficient</a> during the winter months. Vitamin D deficiency was even higher in certain ethnic groups – with the data showing 57% of Asian participants and 38% of black participants were vitamin D deficient. This is because the melanin content of skin determines a person’s ability to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5946242/#:%7E:text=Skin%20pigmentation%2C%20i.e.%2C%20melanin%2C,%5B7%5D%20and%20more%20generally.">make UVB into vitamin D</a>.</p> <p>Given the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the UK, and the importance it has for our health, in 2016 the UK’s Science Advisory Council on Nutrition outlined recommendations for the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-vitamin-d-and-health-report#:%7E:text=In%20a%20change%20to%20previous,aged%204%20years%20and%20older">amount of vitamin D</a> people should aim to get in the winter.</p> <p>They recommend people aim to get ten micrograms (or 400 IU – international units) of vitamin D per day. This would help people avoid severe deficiency. This can be achieved either by taking a supplement, or eating <a href="https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/ask-the-expert/foods-high-in-vitamin-d">certain foods</a> that are rich in vitamin D – including fatty fish such as herring, mackerel and wild salmon. A 100 gram serving of fresh herring, for example, would have approximately five micrograms of vitamin D.</p> <p>The clearest benefit of taking a vitamin D supplement is for <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/">bone health</a>. In fact, vitamin D was <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3899558/">first discovered</a> 100 years ago because of its ability to prevent the disease rickets, which causes weak bones that bend.</p> <p>Although rickets <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rickets-and-osteomalacia/#:%7E:text=The%20number%20of%20rickets%20cases,from%20sunlight%2C%20can%20develop%20rickets.">isn’t very common</a> in the UK today, it can still occur in children if they lack vitamin D. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can cause bone pain, tenderness and muscles weakness, as well as increased risk of osteomalacia – often called “soft bone disease” – which leads to weakening or softening bones.</p> <p>The reason a lack of vitamin D can have such an effect on bone health is due to the vitamin’s relationship with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844850/">calcium and phosphate</a>. Both of these minerals help keep our bones strong – but they require vitamin D in order to be able to reinforce and strengthen bones.</p> <h2>Other health benefits</h2> <p>In addition to its effects on the skeleton, a growing body of research is beginning to indicate that vitamin D supplements may have additional benefits to our health.</p> <p>For example, <a href="https://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/42/10/5009.long">research shows</a> there’s a link between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of catching certain viral illnesses, including the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19237723/">common cold</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7231123/">flu</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7385774/">COVID</a>.</p> <p>Similarly, several studies – <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32904944/">including my own</a> – have demonstrated in cell models that vitamin D promotes immunity against microbes, such as the bacteria which causes tuberculosis. This means vitamin D may potentially prevent some types of infections.</p> <p>Vitamin D may also dampen inflammatory immune responses, which could potentially protect against autoimmune diseases, such as <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29243029/">multiple sclerosis</a> and <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2020.596007/full">rheumatoid arthritis</a>.</p> <p>One 2022 trial, which looked at over 25,000 people over the age of 50, found taking a 2,000 IU (50 micrograms) vitamin D supplement each day was associated with an <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj-2021-066452">18% lower risk</a> of autoimmune disease – notably rheumatoid arthritis.</p> <p>Vitamin D supplements may also be linked with lower risk of cardiovascular disease. A <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/381/bmj-2023-075230">major Australian study</a>, which looked at over 21,000 people aged 60-84, found that participants who took a 2,000 IU vitamin D supplement a day for five years had a lower risk of suffering a major cardiovascular event (such as stroke or heart attack) compared to those who didn’t take a supplement.</p> <p>It’s currently not known why vitamin D may have these benefits on these other areas of our health. It’s also worth noting that in many of these trials, very few of the participants were actually vitamin D deficient. While we might speculate the observed health benefits may be even greater in people with vitamin D deficiency, it will be important for future research to study these factors.</p> <p>While it’s too early to say whether vitamin D supplements have broad health benefits, it’s clear it’s beneficial for bone health. It may be worthwhile to take a supplement in the winter months, especially if you’re over 65, have darker skin or spent a lot of time indoors as these factors can put you at <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/vitamin-d-deficiency/faq-20058397#:%7E:text=However%2C%20some%20groups%20%E2%80%94%20particularly%20people,sun%20exposure%20or%20other%20factors.">increased risk of vitamin D deficiency</a>.</p> <p>The research also shows us that we should be rethinking vitamin D supplementation advice. While in the UK it’s recommended people get 400 IU of vitamin D a day, many trials have shown 2,000 IU a day is associated with health benefits.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219521/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/martin-hewison-1494746"><em>Martin Hewison</em></a><em>, Professor of Molecular Endocrinology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-birmingham-1138">University of Birmingham</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/vitamin-d-supplements-can-keep-bones-strong-but-they-may-also-have-other-benefits-to-your-health-219521">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

6 major benefits of doing yoga every day, from experts

<h2>Positive effects of yoga</h2> <p>Sometimes it’s the simplest daily practice that can have the biggest impact on your health, and yoga is proof of that. Although most forms of yoga aren’t considered to be as intense as other workout regimens (think your average cycling class!), practising yoga on a daily basis has been scientifically demonstrated to help you mentally and physically. Through breath work, meditation and holding poses that increase strength and flexibility, the body and mind reap benefits from yoga that positively impact your long-term health. It’s no wonder people have been practising yoga for over 5000 years, and that the number of Australians practising yoga doubled between 2008 and 2017 to over two million, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.</p> <p>In order to get the full scope of what practising yoga daily can really do for your body, we spoke with several experts who have seen the ways yoga has positively benefited their students, patients… and even themselves.</p> <p><a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-yoga/mats?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Keen to try? You’ll need a mat. There’s a range of mats to suit every yoga level, check out these we recommend.</a></p> <h2>Yoga assists with mood regulation</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_getty2.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>Yoga teacher, Jenni Tarma, shares, “We have a wealth of research demonstrating that a regular mindfulness practice – the act of paying attention to the sensation in the body, thoughts and emotions without judgment – can reduce stress and help us to feel calmer, more productive, and generally more even-keeled in our daily lives.”</p> <p>After evaluating yoga history and research, one 2014 review published in Frontiers in Human Neouroscience concluded that regular yoga practice can help facilitate self-regulation (the ability to understand and manage your behaviour and reactions). Another study of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 found that practising yoga positively benefited emotional regulation and self-esteem. “Movement releases beneficial neurotransmitters in the brain, which helps us feel good as well as assist in mood regulation,” says yoga instructor, Evan Lawrence. “One of the things that I like about yoga specifically is that there is simultaneously a focus on physical movement and breathing.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/culture/23-instant-mood-boosters-you-wont-want-to-live-without" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Don’t miss these instant mood boosters you won’t want to live without.</a></p> <h2>Yoga builds up your core strength</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_shutterstock3.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>Personal trainer and yoga teacher, Gina Newton, says, “From a physical perspective, yoga is so great for increasing our core strength, which should be a non-negotiable part of every human’s workout.” Newton adds, “We all need our core – and especially women who have been pregnant or had children, our core strength is something we need to care for and nurture to hold us up.”</p> <p>According to Harvard Medical School, a stronger core benefits the body in multiple ways, including providing better posture, balance, stability, relief for lower back pain, and support through daily tasks like cleaning, working, and athletic activities or exercise.</p> <p>Wearing comfortable yoga gear will help you get the most out of your workout. <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-apparel/apparel?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Check out these yoga clothes from Gaiam.</a></p> <h2>Yoga reduces stress</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_getty4.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>“Yoga and meditation are powerful tools for stress resilience and strengthening mental health,” says holistic healthcare practitioner and yoga instructor, Nicole Renée Matthews.  “Doing yoga regularly promotes mental clarity and calmness, centres and relaxes the mind, helps to relieve stress patterns and anxiety, and boosts concentration and focus.”</p> <p>One 2010 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that practising yoga can improve mood and decrease anxiety even more than a regular walking practice after participants finished a 12-week program. Researchers have also found that the breath-taking techniques involved with yoga can be part of what benefits decreased anxiety during practice.</p> <p>“Breath awareness, another key component of yoga, has been shown to reduce physiological markers of stress, especially when using techniques such as ‘belly breathing’ – breathing deeply so that the abdomen expands, rather than exclusively using a shallow chest breath – and elongating the exhalation,” says Tarma. “These techniques help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn leads to less anxiety, jitteriness, and improved sleep; all things that can improve our mental health on a day-to-day basis.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/conditions/mental-health/10-science-backed-ways-to-lower-your-stress-this-instant-really" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Don’t miss these science-backed ways to lower your stress this instant (really!).</a></p> <h2>Yoga improves brain health</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_getty5.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>According to associate professor of psychiatry, Dr Gail Saltz, practising yoga “improves overall blood flow to the body, including the brain, [which is] helpful for cognition and memory.”</p> <p>One 2019 review published in Brain Plasticity concluded that behavioural interventions like yoga can help “mitigate age-related and neurodegenerative decline” due to the positive effects a daily practice has on different parts of the functioning brain, like the hippocampus (which plays a major role in learning and memory) and the prefrontal cortex (cognitive control functions).</p> <p>Staying hydrated is key to maintaining optimum brain health. <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/takeya/water-bottles-actives-range?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">These drink bottles can help you keep your water intake up throughout the day.</a></p> <h2>Yoga improves flexibility and mobility</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_shutterstock6.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>“Physically, daily yoga practice allows us to engage our muscles and move through larger ranges of joint motion than we do typically moving through life,” says Lawrence. “This helps to keep us limber and flexible.”</p> <p>“Dedicated, daily yoga practice helps with flexibility and strength, which can help improve your posture, as well as balance,” says yoga instructor, Samantha Hoff. “On the physical side, it also helps with joint mobility since you’ll take your joints through most – or all – of their ranges of motion.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/12-best-yoga-poses-to-strengthen-bones" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Here are the best yoga poses to strengthen bones.</a></p> <h2>Yoga strengthens muscle and endurance</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/03/6benefitsyoga_getty7.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>“From a musculoskeletal perspective,” says Tarma, “yoga loads our bodies and joints in a wide variety of positions and scenarios: think longer static holds in poses that challenge our tissues’ endurance, or controlled transitions between shapes that develop strength, control and coordination. These different facets of our movement capabilities all contribute to better overall function and load-tolerance capacity. As an added bonus, because most styles of yoga are bodyweight only and move at a very moderate speed, yoga is also a generally very accessible and safe movement modality.”</p> <p>Yoga is the ultimate self-care activity. <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-yoga/accessories/27-73312-gaiam-performance-hold-everything-yoga-backpack-bag?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Whether you do it at a studio or in the park, this handy yoga backpack bag stores everything you need for a calm yoga workout.</a></p> <p><strong>This article, written by Kiersten Hickman, originally appeared on</strong><strong> <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/culture/6-major-benefits-of-doing-yoga-every-day-from-experts" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</strong></p> <p><em>Images: Shutterstock | Getty</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

Millions of eligible Aussies about to receive financial boost

<p>Starting this Wednesday, millions of Australians relying on Centrelink benefits will see a welcome increase in their payments. With indexation kicking in, fortnightly boosts ranging from $14 to $30 will be allocated to eligible recipients, depending on their specific circumstances and the type of payment they receive.</p> <p>This adjustment will not only benefit current beneficiaries but also extend support to more individuals, with an additional 77,000 parents now qualifying for higher payment rates. The eligibility criteria for certain payments have been expanded, particularly for parents whose youngest child is under 14, a significant extension from the previous threshold of under eight.</p> <p>Income and assets limits tied to these payments will also experience an uptick in line with the indexation process, offering further relief to recipients. But how exactly will these increments manifest across different categories of payments?</p> <p>For single parents, the fortnightly payment will see a boost of $17.50, while partnered parents will witness an increase of $12.30 individually. Moreover, the income free area will rise to $1,345 for each person, an enhancement of $20 per fortnight.</p> <p>Jobseekers with children or those aged over 55 will receive an additional $14.40 fortnightly. Single JobSeeker recipients without children and individuals aged over 22 on ABSTUDY will enjoy a $13.50 increase per fortnight, with couples receiving an extra $12.30 each.</p> <p>Rent assistance, however, will see relatively modest increments, ranging from $2.27 to $3.40, depending on the recipient's family situation.</p> <p>For those on the age pension, disability support pension, and carer payment, the increase is more substantial, with singles receiving an extra $19.60 and couples combined receiving $29.40 each fortnight. This brings the maximum rate of the pension to $1116.30 for singles and $1682.80 for couples, including pension and energy supplements.</p> <p>Amanda Rishworth, the Social Services Minister, explains that indexation plays a crucial role in ensuring that welfare recipients can cope with inflation and the rising cost of living – and that addressing these pressures remains a top priority for the government.</p> <p>This increase in Centrelink payments comes at a critical time when many Australians are grappling with economic uncertainty due to various factors, including the ongoing pandemic. While these adjustments may seem modest to some, they can make a significant difference for those relying on welfare support to make ends meet.</p> <p>It's essential for eligible individuals to stay informed about these changes and ensure they receive the full benefits they're entitled to. For those who may be unsure about their eligibility or how to navigate the system, seeking assistance from Centrelink or relevant support services can provide valuable guidance.</p> <p>As the cost of living continues to evolve, initiatives like indexation serve as vital mechanisms for maintaining the welfare safety net and supporting vulnerable members of society. By keeping pace with economic realities, these adjustments strive to provide meaningful relief to those who need it most, contributing to a more equitable and inclusive society for all Australians.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty </em></p>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

Does intermittent fasting have benefits for our brain?

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hayley-oneill-1458016">Hayley O'Neill</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p>Intermittent fasting has become a popular dietary approach to help people lose or manage their <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8683964/">weight</a>. It has also been promoted as a way to reset metabolism, control chronic disease, slow ageing and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27810402">improve overall health</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, some research suggests intermittent fasting may offer a different way for the brain to access energy and provide protection against neurodegenerative diseases like <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11011-023-01288-2">Alzheimer’s disease</a>.</p> <p>This is not a new idea – the ancient Greeks believed fasting <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8839325/">enhanced thinking</a>. But what does the modern-day evidence say?</p> <h2>First, what is intermittent fasting?</h2> <p>Our <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35487190/">diets</a> – including calories consumed, macronutrient composition (the ratios of fats, protein and carbohydrates we eat) and when meals are consumed – are factors in our lifestyle we can change. People do this for cultural reasons, desired weight loss or potential health gains.</p> <p>Intermittent fasting consists of short periods of calorie (energy) restriction where food intake is limited for 12 to 48 hours (usually 12 to 16 hours per day), followed by periods of normal food intake. The intermittent component means a re-occurrence of the pattern rather than a “one off” fast.</p> <p>Food deprivation beyond 24 hours typically constitutes starvation. This is distinct from fasting due to its specific and potentially harmful biochemical alterations and nutrient deficiencies if continued for long periods.</p> <h2>4 ways fasting works and how it might affect the brain</h2> <p>The brain accounts for about <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-much-energy-do-we-expend-thinking-and-using-our-brain-197990">20% of the body’s energy consumption</a>.</p> <p>Here are four ways intermittent fasting can act on the body which could help explain its potential effects on the brain.</p> <p><strong>1. Ketosis</strong></p> <p>The goal of many intermittent fasting routines is to flip a “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5913738/">metabolic switch</a>” to go from burning predominately carbohydrates to burning fat. This is called ketosis and typically occurs after 12–16 hours of fasting, when liver and glycogen stores are depleted. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493179/">Ketones</a> – chemicals produced by this metabolic process – become the preferred energy source for the brain.</p> <p>Due to this being a slower metabolic process to produce energy and potential for lowering blood sugar levels, ketosis can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10844723/">cause symptoms</a> of hunger, fatigue, nausea, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8754590/">low mood</a>, irritability, constipation, headaches, and brain “fog”.</p> <p>At the same time, as glucose metabolism in the brain declines with ageing, studies have shown ketones could provide an alternative energy source to <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aau2095">preserve brain function</a> and prevent <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32709961/">age-related neurodegeneration disorders and cognitive decline</a>.</p> <p>Consistent with this, increasing ketones through <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31027873/">supplementation</a> or <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31757576/">diet</a> has been shown to improve cognition in adults with mild cognitive decline and those at risk of Alzheimer’s disease respectively.</p> <p><strong>2. Circadian syncing</strong></p> <p>Eating at times that <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32480126/">don’t match our body’s natural daily rhythms</a> can disrupt how our organs work. Studies in shift workers have suggested this might also make us more prone to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22010477/">chronic disease</a>.</p> <p>Time-restricted eating is when you eat your meals within a six to ten-hour window during the day when you’re most active. Time-restricted eating causes changes in <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36599299/">expression of genes in tissue</a> and helps the body during rest and activity.</p> <p>A 2021 <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7827225/">study of 883 adults</a> in Italy indicated those who restricted their food intake to ten hours a day were less likely to have cognitive impairment compared to those eating without time restrictions.</p> <p><strong>3. Mitochondria</strong></p> <p>Intermittent fasting may provide <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35218914/">brain protection</a> through improving mitochondrial function, metabolism and reducing oxidants.</p> <p>Mitochondria’s <a href="https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Mitochondria">main role is to produce energy</a> and they are crucial to brain health. Many age-related diseases are closely related to an energy supply and demand imbalance, likely attributed to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41574-021-00626-7">mitochondrial dysfunction during ageing</a>.</p> <p>Rodent studies suggest alternate day fasting or reducing calories <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1038/jcbfm.2014.114">by up to 40%</a> might protect or improve <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21861096">brain mitochondrial function</a>. But not all studies support this theory.</p> <p><strong>4. The gut-brain axis</strong></p> <p>The <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469458/">gut and the brain communicate with each other</a> via the body’s nervous systems. The brain can influence how the gut feels (think about how you get “butterflies” in your tummy when nervous) and the gut can affect mood, cognition and mental health.</p> <p>In mice, intermittent fasting has shown promise for <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5913738/">improving brain health</a> by increasing survival and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12354284/">formation of neurons</a> (nerve cells) in the hippocampus brain region, which is involved in memory, learning and emotion.</p> <p>There’s <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8470960/">no clear evidence</a> on the effects of intermittent fasting on cognition in healthy adults. However one 2022 study interviewed 411 older adults and found <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9646955/">lower meal frequency</a> (less than three meals a day) was associated with reduced evidence of Alzheimer’s disease on brain imaging.</p> <p>Some research has suggested calorie restriction may have a protective effect against <a href="https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/81/9/1225/7116310">Alzheimer’s disease</a> by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation and promoting vascular health.</p> <p>When we look at the effects of overall energy restriction (rather than intermittent fasting specifically) the evidence is mixed. Among people with mild cognitive impairment, one study showed <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26713821/">cognitive improvement</a> when participants followed a calorie restricted diet for 12 months.</p> <p>Another study found a 25% calorie restriction was associated with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30968820">slightly improved working memory</a> in healthy adults. But a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022316623025221?via%3Dihub">recent study</a>, which looked at the impact of calorie restriction on spatial working memory, found no significant effect.</p> <h2>Bottom line</h2> <p>Studies in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9740746/">mice</a> support a role for intermittent fasting in improving brain health and ageing, but few studies in humans exist, and the evidence we have is mixed.</p> <p>Rapid weight loss associated with calorie restriction and intermittent fasting can lead to nutrient deficiencies, muscle loss, and decreased immune function, particularly in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8749464/">older adults</a> whose nutritional needs may be higher.</p> <p>Further, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6314618/">prolonged fasting</a> or <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9042193/">severe calorie restriction</a> may pose risks such as fatigue, dizziness, and electrolyte imbalances, which could exacerbate existing health conditions.</p> <p>If you’re considering <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMra1905136?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">intermittent fasting</a>, it’s best to seek advice from a health professional such as a dietitian who can provide guidance on structuring fasting periods, meal timing, and nutrient intake. This ensures intermittent fasting is approached in a safe, sustainable way, tailored to individual needs and goals.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223181/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hayley-oneill-1458016">Hayley O'Neill</a>, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-intermittent-fasting-have-benefits-for-our-brain-223181">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty </em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

How baby boomers are benefiting from Australia's "worst financial mistake"

<p>A financial expert has explained how baby boomers have remained largely unscathed by the ongoing housing crisis in Australia. </p> <p>ABC finance guru Alan Kohler described the crisis as Australia's "worst financial mistake", as Adelaide has now become the country's second least affordable city. </p> <p>The South Australian capital, which has long been known as one of the more affordable places in the country to live, has skyrocketed in price, as the median price for houses and units in Adelaide was $721,376 in January, which is 7.9 times higher than the state's average full-time salary of $91,026.</p> <p>"There are a couple of things that might surprise you: Adelaide became the second, least affordable Australian city last year," Mr Kohler explained.</p> <p>"Adelaide has just taken over from Hobart in second place."</p> <p>"What's going on: put simply, incomes in Adelaide, Hobart and Brisbane are not keeping up with house prices, which are being pushed up by fast-rising population and by first-home buyers."</p> <p>Mr Kohler, a baby boomer, noted that when he and his wife bought their first home in Melbourne for $40,000 in 1980, he was earning $11,500 as a journalist, meaning his home cost just 3.5 times his income before a mortgage deposit.</p> <p>"When my wife and I bought our first house in 1980, the average house price was 3.5 times average income," he said. "Now, it's 7.5 times and rising."</p> <p>"That didn't have to happen: it's Australia's worst, economic mistake."</p> <p>Mr Kohler said parents were increasingly propping up the mortgage deposits of first-home buyers, as first-home buyer subsidies from the federal government only pushed up property prices.</p> <p>"Despite rising prices and crushing interest rates, first-home buyers were the fastest-growing type of borrower," he said.</p> <p>"The Bank of Mum and Dad coughing up early inheritances and politicians showering them with grants and concessions, desperate to appear to be doing something about affordability while actually making it worse."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock / ABC</em></p> <p class="mol-para-with-font" style="font-size: 16px; margin: 0px 0px 16px; padding: 0px; min-height: 0px; letter-spacing: -0.16px; font-family: graphik, Arial, sans-serif;"> </p>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

Parents busted for making their healthy child use a wheelchair to claim benefits

<p>A cruel mother and father have been jailed for over six years for forcing their healthy child to use a wheelchair in order to claim benefit payments. </p> <p>In 2012, Louise Law and her ex-husband Martin forced their then seven-year-old daughter into the wheelchair, as a ploy to gain a mobility car and disability allowance payments despite their being nothing wrong with her. </p> <p>The parents carried on with the scam for four years while they "fabricated illnesses and exaggerated symptoms" to teachers and NHS workers, all while raking in the extensive payments. </p> <p>The crown court in East Yorkshire, England, heard that the child suffered "gratuitous degradation" at being forced to use the wheelchair, as they were bullied at school and deprived of an ordinary childhood. </p> <p>In court, Louise Law admitted an offence of child cruelty, however she changed her plea on the day of a scheduled trial and was jailed for six years and nine months.</p> <p>Martin Law, now split from his wife, is now a long-term resident of a care home and was ruled unfit to enter a plea - although a jury convicted him of child cruelty, and was made subject of a guardianship order.</p> <p>Passing sentence, Judge Kate Rayfield told Mrs Law, "She missed out on so much of her childhood because of what you put her through."</p> <p>"Despite all of her tests revealing nothing wrong, you continued to subject her to appointments and investigations. You did the talking yourselves, telling the doctors lies."</p> <p>"This was a scam... You were telling her to report symptoms that she never said that she had."</p> <p>When the child reached the age of 18 in 2022, she was interviewed by police as she said the faux medical treatment from her parents began when she was six years old. </p> <p>A few initial medical appointments progressed to around 30 hospital appointments, including overnight stays.</p> <p>Prosecutor Louise Reevell told the court, "Her parents made her think that she could not walk properly. She would go to school in a wheelchair but she didn't really need it."</p> <p>Despite medical professionals proving that the child did not need the extensive medical treatment, her parents still claimed that the illnesses and symptoms of their daughter were genuine.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Legal

Placeholder Content Image

It’s normal for your mind to wander. Here’s how to maximise the benefits

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dr-anchal-garg-1491247">Dr Anchal Garg</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bruce-watt-1486350">Bruce Watt</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p>Have you ever found yourself thinking about loved ones during a boring meeting? Or going over the plot of a movie you recently watched during a drive to the supermarket?</p> <p>This is the cognitive phenomenon known as “<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2011.01.002">mind wandering</a>”. Research suggests it can account for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0044423">up to 50%</a> of our waking cognition (our mental processes when awake) in both <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1192439">western and non-western societies</a>.</p> <p>So what can help make this time productive and beneficial?</p> <h2>Mind wandering is not daydreaming</h2> <p>Mind wandering is often used interchangeably with daydreaming. They are both considered types of inattention but are not the same thing.</p> <p>Mind wandering is related to a primary task, such as reading a book, listening to a lecture, or attending a meeting. The mind <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00560/full">withdraws</a> from that task and focuses on internally generated, unrelated thoughts.</p> <p>On the other hand, daydreaming does not involve a primary, active task. For example, daydreaming would be thinking about an ex-partner while travelling on a bus and gazing out the window. Or lying in bed and thinking about what it might be like to go on a holiday overseas.</p> <p>If you were driving the bus or making the bed and your thoughts diverted from the primary task, this would be classed as mind wandering.</p> <h2>The benefits of mind wandering</h2> <p>Mind wandering is believed to play an important role in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612446024">generating new ideas</a>, conclusions or insights (also known as “aha! moments”). This is because it can give your mind a break and free it up to think more creatively.</p> <p>This type of creativity does not always have to be related to creative pursuits (such as writing a song or making an artwork). It could include a new way to approach a university or school assignment or a project at work.<br />Another benefit of mind wandering is relief from boredom, providing the opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031569">mentally retreat</a> from a monotonous task.</p> <p>For example, someone who does not enjoy washing dishes could think about their upcoming weekend plans while doing the chore. In this instance, mind wandering assists in “passing the time” during an uninteresting task.</p> <p>Mind wandering also tends to be future-oriented. This can provide an opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2011.08.007">reflect upon and plan</a> future goals, big or small. For example, what steps do I need to take to get a job after graduation? Or, what am I going to make for dinner tomorrow?</p> <h2>What are the risks?</h2> <p>Mind wandering is not always beneficial, however. It can mean you miss out on crucial information. For example, there could be disruptions in learning if a student engages in mind wandering during a lesson that covers exam details. Or an important building block for learning.</p> <p>Some tasks also require a lot of concentration in order to be safe. If you’re thinking about a recent argument with a partner while driving, you run the risk of having an accident.</p> <p>That being said, it can be more difficult for some people to control their mind wandering. For example, mind wandering is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.112901">more prevalent</a> in people with ADHD.</p> <h2>What can you do to maximise the benefits?</h2> <p>There are several things you can do to maximise the benefits of mind wandering.</p> <ul> <li><strong>be aware</strong>: awareness of mind wandering allows you to take note of and make use of any productive thoughts. Alternatively, if it is not a good time to mind wander it can help bring your attention back to the task at hand</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <p><strong>context matters</strong>: try to keep mind wandering to non-demanding tasks rather than demanding tasks. Otherwise, mind wandering <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00441">could be unproductive</a> or unsafe. For example, try think about that big presentation during a car wash rather than when driving to and from the car wash</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>content matters</strong>: if possible, try to keep the content positive. Research <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00900">has found</a>, keeping your thoughts more positive, specific and concrete (and less about “you”), is associated with better wellbeing. For example, thinking about tasks to meet upcoming work deadlines could be more productive than ruminating about how you felt stressed or failed to meet past deadlines.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219490/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> </li> </ul> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dr-anchal-garg-1491247"><em>Dr Anchal Garg</em></a><em>, Psychology researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bruce-watt-1486350">Bruce Watt</a>, Associate Professor in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty </em><em>Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/its-normal-for-your-mind-to-wander-heres-how-to-maximise-the-benefits-219490">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Resistance (exercise) is far from futile: The unheralded benefits of weight training

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stuart-phillips-428766">Stuart Phillips</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/mcmaster-university-930">McMaster University</a> </em></p> <p>Everyone can agree that exercise is healthy. Among its many benefits, exercise improves heart and brain function, aids in controlling weight, slows the effects of aging and helps lower the risks of several chronic <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101%2Fcshperspect.a029694">diseases</a>.</p> <p>For too long, though, one way of keeping fit, aerobic exercise, has been perceived as superior to the other, resistance training, for promoting health when, in fact, they are equally valuable, and both can get us to the same goal of overall physical fitness.</p> <p>Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming and cycling is popular because it provides great benefits and with ample <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335">scientific evidence</a> to back that up.</p> <p>What has been far less influential to date is that resistance training — whether that’s with dumbbells, weightlifting machines or good old push-ups, lunges and dips — works about as well as aerobic exercise in all the critical areas, including cardiovascular health.</p> <p>Resistance training provides another benefit: building strength and developing power, which become increasingly important as a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-021-1665-8">person ages</a>.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/843867756" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Video about different forms of resistance training explores how all are effective at building strength.</span></figcaption></figure> <p>Building and maintaining muscle strength keeps us springing out of our chairs, maintaining our balance and posture and firing our metabolism, as my colleagues and I explain in a paper recently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1249/FIT.0000000000000916">published</a> by the American College of Sports Medicine.</p> <p>So, if aerobic exercise and resistance training offer roughly equal benefits, how did we end up with so many runners and cyclists compared to weightlifters?</p> <p>It was a combination of timing, marketing and stereotyping.</p> <h2>The rise of aerobics</h2> <p>The preference for aerobic exercise dates back to landmark research from the <a href="https://www.cooperinstitute.org/research/ccls">Cooper Centre Longitudinal Study</a>, which played a pivotal role in establishing the effectiveness of aerobics — Dr. Ken Cooper invented or at least popularized the word with his book <a href="https://www.cooperaerobics.com/About/Aerobics.aspx"><em>Aerobics</em></a>, spurring desk-bound Baby Boomers to take up exercise for its own sake.</p> <p>Meanwhile, resistance training languished, <a href="https://www.cnet.com/health/fitness/does-lifting-weights-make-women-bulky/">especially among women</a>, due to the misguided notion that weightlifting was only for men who aspired to be hyper-muscular. <a href="https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-Atlas">Charles Atlas</a>, anyone?</p> <p>Cultural influences solidified the dominance of aerobic exercise in the fitness landscape. In 1977, Jim Fixx made running and jogging popular with <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Complete_Book_of_Running"><em>The Complete Book of Running</em></a>. In the 1980s, Jane Fonda’s <a href="https://www.janefonda.com/shop/fitness-videos/jane-fondas-complete-workout/"><em>Complete Workout</em></a> and exercise shows such as <em><a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0268895/">Aerobicize</a></em> and the <em><a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0299431/">20 Minute Workout</a></em> helped solidify the idea that exercise was about raising one’s heart rate.</p> <p>The very word “aerobic,” previously confined to the lexicon of science and medicine, entered popular culture about the same time as leg warmers, tracksuits and sweatbands. It made sense to many that breathing hard and sweating from prolonged, vigorous movement was the best way to benefit from exercising.</p> <p>All the while, resistance training was waiting for its turn in the spotlight.</p> <h2>Recognizing the value of resistance</h2> <p>If aerobics has been the hare, resistance training has been the tortoise. Weight training is now coming up alongside and preparing to overtake its speedy rival, as athletes and everyday people alike recognize the value that was always there.</p> <p>Even in high-level sports training, weightlifting did not become common until the last 20 years. Today, it strengthens the bodies and lengthens the careers of soccer stars, tennis players, golfers <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0486-0">and many more</a>.</p> <p>Rising popular interest in resistance training owes a debt to <a href="https://www.livestrong.com/article/545200-the-fall-of-fitness/">CrossFit</a>, which, despite its controversies, has helped break down stereotypes and introduced more people, particularly women, to the practice of lifting weights.</p> <p>It’s important to recognize that resistance training does not invariably lead to bulking up, nor does it demand lifting heavy weights. As our team’s research has shown, lifting lighter weights to the point of failure in multiple sets provides <a href="https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00154.2016">equal benefits</a>.</p> <h2>Strength and ageing</h2> <p>The merits of resistance training extend beyond improving muscle strength. It addresses a critical aspect often overlooked in traditional aerobic training: the ability to exert force quickly, or what’s called power. As people age, activities of daily living such as standing up, sitting down and climbing stairs demand <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s11556-022-00297-x">strength and power</a> more than cardiovascular endurance.</p> <p>In this way, resistance training can be vital to maintaining overall functionality and independence.</p> <h2>Redefining the fitness narrative</h2> <p>The main idea is not to pit resistance training against aerobic exercise but to recognize that they complement each other. Engaging in both forms of exercise is better than relying on one alone. The <a href="https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000001189">American Heart Association</a> recently stated that “…resistance training is a safe and effective approach for improving cardiovascular health in adults with and without cardiovascular disease.”</p> <p>Adopting a nuanced perspective is essential, especially when we guide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2021.101368">older individuals</a> who may associate exercise primarily with walking and not realize the limitations imposed by neglecting strength and power training.</p> <p>Resistance training is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour. It encompasses a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2023.06.005">spectrum of activities</a> tailored to individual capabilities.</p> <p>It’s time to redefine the narrative around fitness to make more room for resistance training. It’s not necessary to treat it as a replacement for aerobic exercise but to see it as a vital component of a holistic approach to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1249/ESM.0000000000000001">health and longevity</a>.</p> <p>By shedding stereotypes, demystifying the process and promoting inclusivity, resistance training can become more accessible and appealing to a broader audience, ultimately leading to a new way to perceive and prioritize the benefits of this form of training for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2021-105061">health and fitness</a>.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/220269/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stuart-phillips-428766"><em>Stuart Phillips</em></a><em>, Professor, Kinesiology, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Skeletal Muscle Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/mcmaster-university-930">McMaster University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/resistance-exercise-is-far-from-futile-the-unheralded-benefits-of-weight-training-220269">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

The unexpected health benefits of reading

<p>Not only does reading expand your mind but it also comes with many health benefits. So next time you lose hours (or days) of your life chomping through a novel, don’t feel so bad because you’re doing yourself the following favours.</p> <p><strong>It reduces stress</strong></p> <p>According to a 2009 study from the University of Sussex, reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68 per cent. Researchers found that silently reading to yourself slows down heart rate and eases muscle tension, and it achieves this more effectively than other relaxing activities such as listening to music or having a cuppa.</p> <p><strong>It refines brain function</strong></p> <p>A 2014 study published in Brain Connectivity found reading fiction improves reader’s ability to flex the imagination and “puts the reader in the body of the protagonist”, increasing a person’s emotional intelligence and ability to be compassionate.</p> <p><strong>It helps your memory</strong></p> <p>In her landmark paper "What Reading Does For The Mind", psychologist Dr. Anne Cunningham concluded, “reading is a very rich and complex and cognitive act.” She found the benefits of reading become reciprocal – reading helps your brain retain information over time (as every time you read, you create a new memory), which in turns makes you read better, which in turn make you sharper and smarter.</p> <p><strong>It enhances mental agility in old age</strong></p> <p>The 2013 study from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago measured memory and thinking in over 200 participants aged 55 and over, annually for six years until their deaths. The participants answered the same questions about whether they read books, wrote letters and took part in other mentally stimulating activities.</p> <p>The researchers found that those who kept their brain busy had a rate of cognitive decline estimated at 15 per cent slower than those who did not.</p> <p>“Based on this, we shouldn't underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents,” says study author Robert. S. Wilson, Ph.D.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Books

Placeholder Content Image

Who really benefits from private health insurance rebates? Not people who need cover the most

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yuting-zhang-1144393">Yuting Zhang</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/judith-liu-1467052">Judith Liu</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-oklahoma-1896">University of Oklahoma</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nathan-kettlewell-903866">Nathan Kettlewell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>The Australian government spends <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/delivering-australias-lowest-private-health-insurance-premium-change-in-21-years">A$6.7 billion a year</a> on private health insurance rebates. These <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Medicare-and-private-health-insurance/Private-health-insurance-rebate/">rebates</a> are the government’s contribution towards the costs of individuals’ premiums.</p> <p>But our <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/hec.4751">analysis</a> shows higher rebates for people aged 65 and older are not doing much to encourage them to sign up for private hospital cover, the very group who may benefit the most from it.</p> <p>This and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13504851.2017.1299094">other research</a> point to these rebates largely going to people on higher incomes, ones who’d be more likely to buy private health insurance anyway.</p> <h2>Remind me, what are these rebates?</h2> <p>In <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/2f762f95845417aeca25706c00834efa/0aaf3311ebcd3646ca2570ec000c46e4!OpenDocument#:%7E:text=The%20Federal%20Government%2030%25%20Rebate,the%20means%2Dtested%20PHIIS%20rebate.">1999</a>, the Australian government introduced the private health insurance rebate. Initially, the rebate meant the government paid 30% of the cost of private health insurance for everyone, regardless of income or age. Then in 2005, the Howard government increased the rebate rate to 35% for those aged 65-69 and to 40% for those aged 70 and older, regardless of how much they earned.</p> <p>Over time, the rebate rates have decreased slightly and now depend on both income and age. However, the higher discount for older people has always remained.</p> <p>We wanted to understand whether the higher rebates for older people actually encourage them to buy private health insurance.</p> <p>So we looked at data from more than 300,000 people who filed tax returns over more than a decade (2001-2012). We then compared the trends in insurance coverage of people younger than 65 and older than 65, before and after the 2005 rebate policy change.</p> <h2>What we found</h2> <p>We found higher rebates led to a modest and short-term increase in private health insurance take-up. We estimated that lowering premium prices by 10% through higher rebates would only result in 1-2% more people aged 65 and older buying private health insurance in the next two years.</p> <p>This means higher rebates for older people are a very expensive way to get them to insure.</p> <p>People aged 65-74 with income in the bottom 25% of earners were the most likely to buy insurance in response to higher rebates that reduced premium prices. That’s an income under $21,848 in today’s money (income increased to 2023 dollar amount, in line with the <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/rates/consumer-price-index">consumer price index</a>).</p> <h2>What do we propose?</h2> <p>Our findings suggest a more targeted subsidy program would be a more effective way to increase private health insurance. To achieve this, we recommend lowering income thresholds for rebates to target people of all ages on genuinely low incomes.</p> <p>Currently, people earning as much as $144,000 (singles) or $288,000 (families) can receive rebates.</p> <p>Other evidence to back our proposal comes from <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/publications/working-papers/search/result?paper=4682822">research</a> released earlier this year. This suggests higher income earners are likely to buy private insurance regardless of rebates.</p> <p>A recent <a href="https://consultations.health.gov.au/medical-benefits-division/consultation-on-phi-studies">consultation report</a> commissioned by the federal health department reviewed a range of health insurance incentives.</p> <p>The <a href="https://consultations.health.gov.au/medical-benefits-division/consultation-on-phi-studies/supporting_documents/Finity%20Consulting%20MLS%20and%20PHI%20Rebate%20Final%20Report.pdf">report</a> recommends removing rebates for those with income higher than $108,000 for singles and $216,000 for families (we recommend removing them at $93,000 for singles and $186,000 for families). The report also recommends increasing rebates for those older than 65 (we believe income, rather than age, is a better marker of someone’s means).</p> <h2>Are rebates good value for money?</h2> <p>We also need to look at whether rebates provide value for money more broadly, and across all ages.</p> <p><a href="https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/926-Saving-Health-2.pdf">Existing evidence</a> shows a 10% decrease in premiums due to rebates only leads to a 3.5-5% increase in private health insurance take-up among all Australians. We show this is only <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/hec.4751">1-2%</a> for people over 65.</p> <p>So rebates are likely to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhealeco.2013.11.007">cost taxpayers more</a> than they generate in savings, and are largely windfalls to those who would privately insure anyway, often those who are financially better off.</p> <h2>What happens if we scrapped the rebates?</h2> <p>It is uncertain how many people would drop private cover if the rebate was removed.</p> <p>But based on research from when the rebate was introduced, the rebate might account for a maximum <a href="https://escholarship.org/content/qt6j47s8kq/qt6j47s8kq_noSplash_be059196ed2d70b94486039f64452494.pdf">10-15 percentage points</a> of the overall take-up rate. Other research suggests it might be much less than this, closer to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016762961300163X?casa_token=C-SdG98Jc2UAAAAA:KJLHBZ2BJhq9wRQQKUbEWPiqoeza1DEi3mZ9Y6O2GereVX1L1x0cJumVgrqBeMGa1ygDjFrPG7T5">2 percentage points</a>.</p> <p>In other words, the rebate only appears to influence a small percentage of people to buy private health insurance. So scrapping it would likely have a similarly small effect.</p> <p>Then there’s the impact of scrapping the rebate, people dropping their cover and putting more pressure on the public system. Earlier this year, we found private health insurance had <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-private-health-insurance-cut-public-hospital-waiting-lists-we-found-it-barely-makes-a-dent-211680">minimal impact</a> on reducing waiting times for surgery in Victorian public hospitals. So scrapping the rebate might have minimal impact on waiting lists.</p> <p>Taken together, the billions of dollars a year the government spends to subsidise private health insurance via rebates might be better directed to public hospitals and other high-value care, including primary care and preventive care.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/212611/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yuting-zhang-1144393">Yuting Zhang</a>, Professor of Health Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/judith-liu-1467052">Judith Liu</a>, Assistant Professor of Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-oklahoma-1896">University of Oklahoma</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nathan-kettlewell-903866">Nathan Kettlewell</a>, Chancellor's Research Fellow, Economics Discipline Group, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/who-really-benefits-from-private-health-insurance-rebates-not-people-who-need-cover-the-most-212611">original article</a>.</em></p>

Legal

Placeholder Content Image

These 8 health changes could mean you need to eat more vegetables

<p><strong>8 clear signs you're not eating enough vegetables</strong></p> <p>You know veggies are good for you. You may also think you’re eating enough. The truth is, you probably aren’t. Read on to discover the many ways in which your body is telling you that it needs more fruit and vegetables, and what nutrients it craves.</p> <p><strong>How many veggies do you eat, anyway?</strong></p> <p>You may think you eat enough vegetables, but more than likely, you don’t. On average, we only get two servings of vegetables per day.</p> <p>The Australia Dietary Guidelines recommend adults eat five servings of vegetables (one serve equals 75 g of vegetables, approximately half a cup of cooked or one cup of salad veg) and two servings of fruit (one serve equals 150 g, about one apple or two apricots) per day. Skipping key nutrients can seriously affect your overall health.</p> <p><strong>There's a lack of colour on your plate </strong></p> <p>We’ve come a long way since the old meat and two veg. But there are still plenty of people that stick to the simple formula. However, “it isn’t very colourful or loaded with balanced nutrition,” says dietitian Abby Sauer. “And even though they may be favourites, pasta, rice and bread don’t add much colour or much nutrition to your meals in terms of essential vitamins and minerals.”</p> <p><strong>You bruise easily </strong></p> <p>Consuming too little vitamin C can cause you to bruise easily, as well as increase bleeding around gums and slow the healing process. Vitamin C can be consumed by eating red capsicums, kale, red chilli peppers, dark leafy vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts and tomatoes.</p> <p><strong>You're tired all the time</strong></p> <p>Deficiency in folate can cause fatigue and anaemia. This B vitamin can be found in dark leafy greens, legumes and starchy vegetables such as black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, asparagus and lentils.</p> <p><strong>That nagging cold won't go away</strong></p> <p>“If you lack vegetables in your diet and the important vitamins they provide, your body may lack the defences it needs to release free radical fighters against viruses,” says Sauer. “Stock your fridge with dark leafy green vegetables, an excellent source of vitamin C, to give your immune system a boost and help shorten your recovery time.”</p> <p><strong>Your memory is foggy</strong></p> <p>While occasional forgetfulness can affect all ages, if you find your brain’s processing speed and efficiency fading as you get older, a lack of nutrients could be the culprit.</p> <p>“Lutein, a nutrient which has been shown in early research to enhance learning and memory, can be found in a variety of vegetables, such as leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, corn and tomatoes,” says Sauer. “Adding a few or all of these vegetables to your weekly meals can provide a helpful and natural brain boost.”</p> <p><strong>Daily stressors are getting harder to handle </strong></p> <p>While stress is an inevitable part of life, how we eat and treat ourselves directly affects our body’s response. “Inflammation is your body’s natural response to stress, so if you’re not handling stress well, inflammation and its damaging effects could be taking place,” says Sauer.</p> <p>“Foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, such as unsaturated fatty acids [like salmon and tuna], antioxidants, polyphenols and carotenoids [like green leafy vegetables and bright-coloured capsicums] can help lower the levels of inflammation in the body and increase your mental capabilities to handle life’s curveballs.”</p> <p><strong>You're prone to muscle cramps</strong></p> <p>Fruit and vegetables contain potassium that may prevent muscle cramps, especially if you exercise regularly or spend a lot of time outside in the hot summer months, says dietitian Dr Emily Rubin. “One medium banana has 422 mg of potassium.”</p> <p><strong>Your scales won't budge </strong></p> <p>“Fruit and vegetables have fibre, which makes you feel full so you eat less,” says Rubin. “Most fruit and vegetables are low in kilojoules. Fruit may also help with those sweet cravings. Choosing a bowl of strawberries instead of ice cream can save you 800 kilojoules.”</p> <p><strong>Eat more veggies: Keep them on hand </strong></p> <p>According to medical weight-loss specialist Dr Adrienne Youdim, prep is everything. “Spend a Sunday grilling your favourite veggies. Make them in abundance so that they can be incorporated into your salad or lunchbox,” she says.</p> <p><strong>Eat more veggies: Get one serving per meal </strong></p> <p>“Adding colour and variety to your daily meals with at least one serving of fruit or vegetables per meal can be as easy as thawing out a bag of frozen green beans, slicing up an apple or adding a bowl of colourful berries,” says Sauer.</p> <p><strong>Eat more veggies: Buy frozen</strong></p> <p>“Many people avoid fresh vegetables because they go off before they get a chance to eat them,” says clinical oncology dietitian Crystal Langlois. “Buying frozen vegetables is a great alternative that is convenient and easy. If all the prep work and chopping scares you, many supermarkets carry pre-chopped items in both the frozen and fresh produce areas.”</p> <p>And if you still have that inner-kid kicking and screaming to avoid eating your veggies, blend your veggies into shakes or smoothies. “The taste of vegetables is easily masked in shakes or smoothies by using fruit and fruits juice,” says Langlois. “Small diced mushrooms can be incorporated into hamburgers or Bolognese, as well.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/diet/8-clear-signs-youre-not-eating-enough-vegetables?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

1 in 6 women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. But this diagnosis may not benefit them or their babies

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-glasziou-13533">Paul Glasziou</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jenny-doust-12412">Jenny Doust</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p>When Sophie was pregnant with her first baby, she had an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279331/#:%7E:text=Oral%20glucose%20tolerance%20tests%20(OGTT,enough%20by%20the%20body's%20cells.)">oral glucose tolerance</a> blood test. A few days later, the hospital phoned telling her she had gestational diabetes.</p> <p>Despite having only a slightly raised glucose (blood sugar) level, Sophie describes being diagnosed as affecting her pregnancy tremendously. She tested her blood glucose levels four times a day, kept food diaries and had extra appointments with doctors and dietitians.</p> <p>She was advised to have an induction because of the risk of having a large baby. At 39 weeks her son was born, weighing a very average 3.5kg. But he was separated from Sophie for four hours so his glucose levels could be monitored.</p> <p>Sophie is not alone. About <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/diabetes/diabetes/contents/how-many-australians-have-diabetes/gestational-diabetes">one in six</a> pregnant women in Australia are now diagnosed with gestational diabetes.</p> <p>That was not always so. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2827530/">New criteria</a> were developed in 2010 which dropped an initial screening test and lowered the diagnostic set-points. Gestational diabetes diagnoses have since <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/diabetes/diabetes/contents/how-many-australians-have-diabetes/gestational-diabetes">more than doubled</a>.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/536691/original/file-20230710-23-v8weyw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/536691/original/file-20230710-23-v8weyw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=388&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/536691/original/file-20230710-23-v8weyw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=388&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/536691/original/file-20230710-23-v8weyw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=388&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/536691/original/file-20230710-23-v8weyw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=487&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/536691/original/file-20230710-23-v8weyw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=487&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/536691/original/file-20230710-23-v8weyw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=487&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Gestational diabetes rates more than doubled after the threshold changed.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">AIHW</span>, <span class="license">Author provided</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>But <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2204091">recent</a> <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33704936/">studies</a> cast doubt on the ways we diagnose and manage gestational diabetes, especially for women like Sophie with only mildly elevated glucose. Here’s what’s wrong with gestational diabetes screening.</p> <h2>The glucose test is unreliable</h2> <p>The test used to diagnose gestational diabetes – the oral glucose tolerance test – has poor reproducibility. This means subsequent tests may give a different result.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2214956">recent Australian trial</a> of earlier testing in pregnancy, one-third of the women initially classified as having gestational diabetes (but neither told nor treated) did not have gestational diabetes when retested later in pregnancy. That is a problem.</p> <p>Usually when a test has poor reproducibility – for example, blood pressure or cholesterol – we repeat the test to confirm before making a diagnosis.</p> <p>Much of the increase in the incidence of gestational diabetes after the introduction of new diagnostic criteria was due to the switch from using two tests to only using a single test for diagnosis.</p> <h2>The thresholds are too low</h2> <p>Despite little evidence of benefit for either women or babies, the current Australian criteria diagnose women with only mildly abnormal results as having “gestational diabetes”.</p> <p>Recent studies have shown this doesn’t benefit women and may cause harms. A <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2204091">New Zealand trial</a> of more than 4,000 women randomly assigned women to be assessed based on the current Australian thresholds or to higher threshold levels (similar to the pre-2010 criteria).</p> <p>The trial found no additional benefit from using the current low threshold levels, with overall no difference in the proportion of infants born large for gestational age.</p> <p>However, the trial found several harms, including more neonatal hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar in newborns), induction of labour, use of diabetic medications including insulin injections, and use of health services.</p> <p>The study authors also looked at the subgroup of women who were diagnosed with glucose levels between the higher and lower thresholds. In this subgroup, there was some reduction in large babies, and in shoulder problems at delivery.</p> <p>But there was also an increase in small babies. This is of concern because being small for gestational age can also have consequences for babies, including long-term health consequences.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/540643/original/file-20230802-29-1dw2rw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/540643/original/file-20230802-29-1dw2rw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=349&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/540643/original/file-20230802-29-1dw2rw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=349&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/540643/original/file-20230802-29-1dw2rw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=349&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/540643/original/file-20230802-29-1dw2rw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=438&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/540643/original/file-20230802-29-1dw2rw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=438&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/540643/original/file-20230802-29-1dw2rw.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=438&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /><figcaption><span class="attribution"><span class="source">NEJM</span>, <span class="license">Author provided</span></span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Testing too early</h2> <p>Some centres have begun testing women at higher risk of gestational diabetes earlier in the pregnancy (between 12 and 20 weeks).</p> <p>However, a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37144983/">recent trial</a> showed no clear benefit compared with testing at the usual 24–28 weeks: possibly fewer large babies, but again matched by more small babies.</p> <p>There was a reduction in transient “respiratory distress” – needing extra oxygen for a few hours – but not in serious clinical events.</p> <h2>Impact on women with gestational diabetes</h2> <p>For women diagnosed using the higher glucose thresholds, dietary advice, glucose monitoring and, where necessary, insulin therapy has been shown to reduce complications during delivery and the post-natal period.</p> <p>However, current models of care can also cause harm. Women with gestational diabetes are often denied their preferred model of care – for example, midwifery continuity of carer. In rural areas, they may have to transfer to a larger hospital, requiring longer travel to antenatal visits and moving to a larger centre for their birth – away from their families and support networks for several weeks.</p> <p>Women say the diagnosis often dominates their antenatal care and their whole <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32028931/">experience of pregnancy</a>, reducing time for other issues or concerns.</p> <p>Women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities <a href="https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-021-03981-5">find it difficult</a> to reconcile the advice given about diet and exercise with their own cultural practices and beliefs about pregnancy.</p> <p>Some women with gestational diabetes <a href="https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-020-2745-1">become</a> extremely anxious about their eating and undertake extensive calorie restrictions or disordered eating habits.</p> <h2>Time to reassess the advice</h2> <p>Recent evidence from both randomised controlled trials and from qualitative studies with women diagnosed with gestational diabetes suggest we need to reassess how we currently diagnose and manage gestational diabetes, particularly for women with only slightly elevated levels.</p> <p>It is time for a review to consider all the problems described above. This review should include the views of all those impacted by these decisions: women in childbearing years, and the GPs, dietitians, diabetes educators, midwives and obstetricians who care for them.</p> <p><em>This article was co-authored by maternity services consumer advocate Leah Hardiman.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/205919/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-glasziou-13533">Paul Glasziou</a>, Professor of Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jenny-doust-12412">Jenny Doust</a>, Clinical Professorial Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/1-in-6-women-are-diagnosed-with-gestational-diabetes-but-this-diagnosis-may-not-benefit-them-or-their-babies-205919">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

3 health benefits of dark chocolate

<p>Although it seems too good to be true, dark chocolate can actually be good for you! When consumed in moderation, this delicious treat has some powerful health benefits. Following are three of the major reasons to indulge.</p> <p><strong>1. It can help prevent heart disease</strong></p> <p>Like tea, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are compounds that act as antioxidants. Flavonoids protect cells from harmful molecules – called free radicals – that are produced when the body breaks down food or is exposed to sunlight or smoke.</p> <p>Free radicals can cause cell damage that leads to heart disease. Flavonoids can also lower blood pressure and reduce LDL cholesterol (ie, the bad cholesterol) by up to 10%.</p> <p><strong>2. It can improve your mood</strong></p> <p>Dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that bring on feelings of pleasure. It also contains the chemical serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant.</p> <p><strong>3. It can protect your skin</strong></p> <p>German researchers found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate absorb UV light, help protect and increase blood flow to the skin, and improve skin’s hydration and complexion.</p> <p><strong>Here's the caveat</strong></p> <p>For all of its health benefits, though, dark chocolate does contain a lot of calories. So, experts recommend sticking to no more than 60g – about two to three squares – of the sweet stuff per day.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/uncategorized/3-health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Food & Wine

Placeholder Content Image

Annoying chores with unexpected scientific health benefits

<p><strong>Wash dishes: Reduce anxiety </strong></p> <p>People who cleaned their plates mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature, and touching the dishes) lowered their nervousness levels by 27%, found a recent study of 51 people out of Florida State University’s psychology department. People who didn’t take as thoughtful approach to their dish washing did not experience a similar calming benefit.</p> <p><strong>Clean with a lemon scented cleaner: Be happier </strong></p> <p>A citrusy scent is a potent mood booster, according to a 2014 Japanese study. When participants spent as little as ten minutes inhaling yuzu (a super-tart and citrusy Japanese fruit), they saw a significant decrease in their overall mood disturbance, a measure of tension, anxiety, depression, confusion, fatigue and anger, PureWow recently reported.</p> <p><strong>Make your bed every morning: Boost productivity </strong></p> <p>Your nagging mum was right: starting your day with a freshly made bed is what Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, calls a “keystone habit”; one that has a ripple effect to create other good behaviour. In his book, Duhigg notes that making your bed every morning is linked to better productivity, a greater sense of wellbeing, and stronger skills at sticking to a budget.</p> <p>Bedmakers also report getting a better night’s sleep than those who leave their covers messy in the morning, per a National Sleep Foundation poll reported by WebMD.</p> <p><strong>Clean up your yard: Prevent a heart attack </strong></p> <p>Need motivation to clean up? People who did the most yard work, housecleaning, and DIY projects had a nearly 30% lower risk of a first-time cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke compared with those who were the most sedentary, according to a new Swedish study of 3800 older adults.</p> <p><strong>Banish kitchen clutter: Lose weight </strong></p> <p>A recent study showed that people with super-cluttered homes were 77% more likely to be overweight or obese. The likely reason: it’s harder to make healthy food choices in a chaotic kitchen. Organising guru Peter Walsh, author of Cut the Clutter, Drop the Pounds, has been inside of hundreds of people’s homes.</p> <p>He says once people finally get organised, they tend to experience a number of other unexpected perks, including weight loss, without strict dieting.</p> <p><strong>Mow the lawn: Feel more joyful </strong></p> <p>There’s something to that grassy scent. Australian researchers discovered that a chemical released by freshly cut grass makes people feel more relaxed and more joyful.</p> <p><strong>Grow flowers and vegetables: Lower depression risk</strong></p> <p>In a study out of Norway, people diagnosed with different forms of depression spent six hours a week gardening; after a few months, they experienced a notable improvement in their depression symptoms, and their good moods continued for months after the study ended.</p> <p>Doing a new activity and being outside in nature can certainly help, but some experts believe that dirt itself might be a depression fighter, according to Health.com. Christopher Lowry, PhD, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has been injected mice with a common, harmless bacteria found in the soil.</p> <p>He’s found that they experience an increase in the “release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood, much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do,” the site reported.</p> <p><strong>Share chores with your spouse: Have a better sex life </strong></p> <p>When men perceived their contribution to household chores as fair, couples have more frequent and satisfying sex, according to a 2015 study from the University of Alberta.</p> <p>“If a partner isn’t pulling their weight in housework, either one will have to pick up the slack, or the chores will remain undone. This will develop tension and bitterness in the relationship, which will transfer into the bedroom,” according to MedicalDaily.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/8-annoying-chores-with-unexpected-scientific-health-benefits" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

Good news for weekend warriors: people who do much of their exercise on a couple of days still get heart benefits

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emmanuel-stamatakis-161783">Emmanuel Stamatakis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-ahmadi-1241767">Matthew Ahmadi</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/raaj-kishore-biswas-1374060">Raaj Kishore Biswas</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Physical activity has <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/24/1451">established benefits</a> for health. The <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/24/1451">World Health Organization</a> recommends adults do a minimum of 150–300 minutes of moderate or 75–150 minutes of vigorous activity each week. This can include active transport from place-to-place, exercise for fun and fitness, energetic housework or physical activity at work.</p> <p>These amounts can be accrued by being, as the <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/24/1451">WHO recommends</a>, regularly active throughout the week, or being a “weekend warrior” who does the bulk of their activity on one to two days only, which don’t need to be consecutive.</p> <p>So far, experts haven’t fully established which of the two patterns is better for overall health. For many people, busy lifestyles may make it hard to be physically active every day. It may be more feasible to squeeze most physical activity and exercise into a few days.</p> <p>Fresh <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2807286">analysis</a> of the large <a href="https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/">UK Biobank</a> database attempted to compare these two patterns of weekly activity and compare how they reduced cardiovascular risk for heart attacks, heart failure, irregular heart beat and stroke.</p> <h2>What the new study found</h2> <p>Researchers analysed records from 89,573 participants who wore a wrist activity tracker for seven days and were tracked for cardiovascular events for over six years.</p> <p>Those who did less than the WHO recommended 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week were considered inactive. About a third (33.7%) of participants were inactive. Some 42.2% were termed active “weekend warriors” (they did at least 150 minutes and more than half of it occurred within one to two days) and 24% were regularly active (at least 150 minutes with most activity spread out over three or more days).</p> <p>Researchers considered the potential factors that could explain the link between physical activity and new cases of cardiovascular events, such as smoking and alcohol intake. They found both active groups showed similarly lower risk of heart attack (a 27% reduction for weekend warriors and 35% for regularly active people, compared with inactive participants).</p> <p>For heart failure, weekend warriors had a 38% lower risk than inactive people, while regular exercisers had a 36% lower risk. Irregular heartbeat risk was 22% lower for weekend warriors and 19% lower for regularly actively people. Stroke was 21% and 17% lower for weekend warriors and regular exercisers, respectively.</p> <h2>Not so fast. Some study limitations</h2> <p>Although the information was recorded by activity trackers, researchers did not consider on which days of the week the activity was done. Some people may have been active on Saturdays and Sundays, others might have chosen Wednesday and Friday – or different days each week. In that sense, <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2807286">the study</a> examined a “pseudo-weekend warrior” pattern.</p> <p>Despite the many advantages the UK Biobank activity trackers have over <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2596007">questionnaire-based studies</a>, these trackers are not great at capturing strength-training exercise, such as weights or pilates, and other static activities that have <a href="https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/187/5/1102/4582884">established cardiovascular</a> health benefits.</p> <h2>What other research in this area says</h2> <p>There have been several questionnaire based studies in this area in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/160/7/636/136697">the past 20 years</a>.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2596007">2017 study</a>, for example, combined data from 63,591 adults from England and Scotland and tracked them over 12 years. We looked at <a href="https://theconversation.com/weekend-warrior-exercise-is-it-good-for-you-70964">risk reductions</a> for death from any cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer causes. We found similar benefits among people who clocked at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity in one to two sessions per week, compared with three sessions or more per week.</p> <p>Our more <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02100-x">recent studies</a> used activity trackers and emphasised the flexibility of activity patterns that benefit the heart and circulation. We found doing short one-minute-long bouts of incidental vigorous physical activity three to four times a day can cut the risk of death from cardiovascular causes by <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02100-x">almost half</a>.</p> <p>Similarly, in another study we found just 19 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week was associated with <a href="https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/43/46/4801/6771381">40% reduction</a> in the risk of cardiovascular death, with steadily increasing benefits to the maximum amount of vigorous activity recorded (110 minutes a week linked to a 75% risk reduction).</p> <h2>What it means for you and your routine</h2> <p>Taken together, the <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2807286">new study</a> and <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2596007">previous research</a> suggest the same thing: if it is difficult to find time to be active during a busy week, it is good enough to plan moderate to vigorous physical activities in a couple of weekdays or in the weekend.</p> <p>That said, there are benefits in being regularly physically active on most days of the week. A good session of aerobic exercise, for example, improves health indicators such as <a href="https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/HYP.0000000000000196">blood pressure</a>, and <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-021-01473-2">blood glucose</a> and <a href="https://lipidworld.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12944-017-0515-5">cholesterol levels</a> for a day or longer. Such effects can moderate some of the long-term health risks of these factors and assist with their day-to-day management.</p> <p>But confirmation that we can be flexible about how physical activity is accumulated across the week for heart health benefits is encouraging. It offers more opportunities for more people to be active when it is convenient and practical for them.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210053/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emmanuel-stamatakis-161783">Emmanuel Stamatakis</a>, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Population Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-ahmadi-1241767">Matthew Ahmadi</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/raaj-kishore-biswas-1374060">Raaj Kishore Biswas</a>, Research Fellow &amp; Biostatistician, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/good-news-for-weekend-warriors-people-who-do-much-of-their-exercise-on-a-couple-of-days-still-get-heart-benefits-210053">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

10 surprising health benefits of gardening

<p>If you’re looking for ways to stay fit and healthy, chances are exercise ranks high on the list. Lifting weights can help maintain and even strengthen muscles while yoga can boost your flexibility and balance. But have you ever thought of gardening?</p> <p>Gardening, no matter your age, is a physical activity that can reap many unexpected health benefits. “When I think of the health benefits of gardening the first most obvious benefit is getting outside and into the fresh air,” says horticultural therapy manager Gwenn Fried. But there are plenty more benefits for the mind, body and soul.</p> <p><strong>Makes you (and your kids) love veggies</strong></p> <p>Were you the kid who fed your peas to the dog under the table? Or faked a stomach ache every time Brussels sprouts were served? Simply growing older may not have changed your feelings about eating your greens, but growing your own vegetables just might.</p> <p>A 2017 review of studies published in the <em>Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics</em> found that kids who were introduced to gardening ate more fruit and veggies.</p> <p><strong>Helps you control weight </strong></p> <p>Avoiding weight gain – or trying to shed a few kilos – is a popular health goal for many people, and gardening can help you achieve it, according to a 2013 study published in the <em>American Journal of Public Health</em>. </p> <p>Gardeners have a significantly lower body mass index, as well as lower odds of being overweight or obese, than non-gardeners, the researchers found.</p> <p><strong>Provides a great workout that feels like fun</strong></p> <p>Think puttering around in the garden is just something your elderly neighbour does when she’s bored? Think again. Carrying bags of mulch, pushing a wheelbarrow, hoeing rows, picking weeds, planting seeds, toting equipment, shovelling manure, moving pots, pushing a mower, and other gardening tasks provide a whole-body workout, suggests a 2014 review of studies published in the journal <em>American Society for Horticultural Science</em>.</p> <p>Even better, it’s exercise with a purpose. “This goal-oriented activity entices you to stay for a longer time and therefore reap more benefits of the aerobic activity,” says Fried.</p> <p><strong>Nourishes your spirit</strong></p> <p>Call it the ‘gardening glow’ – working with plants provides serious stress relief and positive sensory stimulation, suggests an experiment done by NASA in 2016. That’s right, the scientists responsible for hurtling humans into space have discovered that gardening can keep astronauts sane and happy in the severe environment of outer space.</p> <p>In their research, they found that planting and nurturing seeds, even just in small pots, provided lifted mood and eased stress. And if it helps astronauts, it can definitely help us.</p> <p><strong>Cuts your risk of heart disease</strong></p> <p>Even though not all gardening tasks are a high-intensity cardio sweat fest, they still provide powerful heart health benefits. In fact, gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke and prolong life by 30 per cent, according to a study published in 2013 in the <em>British Journal of Sports Medicine</em>. The benefits appear to come from the combination of physical exercise and stress reduction that playing in the dirt provides.</p> <p>“The stress-reducing capacity of gardening starts with reconnecting us with the natural world,” says Fried. “Pruning, weeding and watering all provide a cathartic experience. Something as small as tending a plant on a desk or as encompassing as a vegetable garden allows the user to immerse themselves in a green, growing, healthy environment.”</p> <p><strong>Helps slow climate change </strong></p> <p>When it comes to reversing or stopping global climate change, there’s a lot you can do on an individual level. Recycling, carpooling, using energy-efficient appliances, and electric cars all help. But did you know that you can add your backyard garden to that list?</p> <p>Gardens provide vital green space to reduce greenhouse gases, reduce your need to buy things, allow you to compost food waste, and many other positives for our planet, according to report by the <em>National Wildlife Federation</em>.</p> <p><strong>Boosts your immune system </strong></p> <p>Having dirt under your fingernails may be a sign of poor hygiene, but scientists say it could also be a mark of good health. </p> <p>Thanks to beneficial bacteria found in soil, gardening may improve your immune system, helping you get sick less and fight off infections easier, according to research, including a 2015 study published in <em>Immunotargets and Therapy</em>.</p> <p><strong>Increases hand coordination and strength </strong></p> <p>A powerful grip is important for more than just rock climbing or intimidating people with your handshake. Hand strength, flexibility and coordination are essential for everyday tasks like opening jars, carrying packages and picking up children.</p> <p>And gardening is the perfect way to hone those fine motor skills and muscles. A few minutes of weeding every day may even help offset some of the strain caused by repetitive use like typing or phone swiping.</p> <p><strong>Gives you hope for the future </strong></p> <p>Arguably the most surprising benefit of gardening? It restores your faith in the future. “When you garden, you expect growth and change,” says Fried.</p> <p>How so? “When someone plants a seed and waters it, they have faith that the seed will send roots into the soil to support stems and leaves above,” she says. “When people see that faith come to fruition, it helps carry the same kind of faith and hope into everyday life.”</p> <p><strong>Sharpens your brain</strong></p> <p>More than just good exercise for your body, gardening provides a healthy workout for your brain, suggests a 2019 study published in the <em>International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health</em>. Researchers measured brain nerve growth factors related to memory in study participants – all seniors – before and after they created a vegetable garden, and found that their levels of brain nerve growth had increased significantly.</p> <p>Arguably “the most surprising benefit of gardening is the capacity for gardeners to become life-long learners,” says Fried. “It’s important to stimulate our brains throughout life. With gardening, there’s always something to learn about new plants and techniques or history and folklore from our past.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/10-surprising-health-benefits-of-gardening?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Home & Garden

Our Partners