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Health and Fitness, Stanford News

Resolutions for the New Year and beyond

As we’ve climbed over the halfway point of January, I’m just getting around to making a New Year’s resolution (Be more organized!). Anyway, if your intentions for 2014 included any effort to be healthier, check out this Q&A with Eric Stein, Stanford BeWell program founder and co-director. He discusses motivation to change health habits and comments on the growing wellness culture at Stanford.

In light of a recent Scope post citing more evidence that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to early death, I wanted to spotlight this part of the piece:

What do you say to people who feel they are too busy to exercise?

I encourage them to look at individuals such as the [university's] Provost, who makes it a point to exercise on a regular basis. The Provost schedules his workout in his calendar as a meeting that he must attend.

If people realize that the upper administration feels this way, perhaps they won’t feel bad taking a break to exercise during the day. The perception is that the hard worker is the one who doesn’t get away from his or her desk. I’d love to see that perception redefined as the hard, smart worker is the one who takes a break to exercise and comes back reenergized.

Now, time for a mandatory walk.

Previously: Preventing pre-diabetes from turning into diabetes, Exercise is valuable in preventing sedentary deathIs standing healthier than sitting?Stress, will-power top reasons why Americans fail to adopt healthy habits and Helping make New Year’s resolutions stick

Aging, Chronic Disease, Health and Fitness, Men's Health, Research, Women's Health

More evidence that prolonged inactivity may shorten life span, increase risk of chronic disease

More evidence that prolonged inactivity may shorten life span, increase risk of chronic disease

sitting_deskIf you have a lengthy daily commute, spend hours at a desk clacking on the computer, or sit for a prolonged period for other reasons, a pair of recent studies may have you leaping to your feet.

The first study, conducted by researchers at Cornell University, examined the effects of sitting for a long period of time each day over a 12-year period. Results showed that individuals who were inactive for more than 11 hours had a 12 percent higher mortality rate than those who sat for four hours or less. And don’t think you’re not at risk because you occasionally hit the gym. Cornell researcher Rebecca Seguin, PhD, explained in a Futurity post:

The assumption has been that if you’re fit and physically active, that will protect you, even if you spend a huge amount of time sitting each day… In fact, in doing so you are far less protected from negative health effects of being sedentary than you realize.

While this study focused on postmenopausal women, additional research from Kansas State University shows that the health risks of being sedentary affect both both genders. The study analyzed data on nearly 200,000 men and women ages 45 to 106 taken from a large Australian study of health and aging. The research showed that both exercising and reducing sitting time were key to improving health. MedicalXPress reports:

Even standing throughout the day—instead of sitting for hours at a time—can improve  and quality of life while reducing the risk for  such as , diabetes, heart disease, stroke, breast cancer and colon cancer, among others.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time—with little muscular contraction occurring—shuts off a molecule called lipoprotein lipase, or LPL, [Sara Rosenkranz, PhD,] said. Lipoprotein lipase helps to take in fat or triglycerides and use it for energy.

“We’re basically telling our bodies to shut down the processes that help to stimulate metabolism throughout the day and that is not good,”  [Rosenkranz] said. “Just by breaking up your , we can actually upregulate that process in the body.”

Previously: Exercise is valuable in preventing sedentary deathIs standing healthier than sitting?How sedentary behavior affects your health and Stanford hosts conference on the science of sedentary behavior 
Photo by Danny Choo

Aging, Complementary Medicine, Health and Fitness, NIH, Orthopedics, Research

Measuring the physical effects of yoga for seniors

Measuring the physical effects of yoga for seniors

LeslieAs my grandmother marched into her 80s, she would regularly eyeball pieces of furniture before sitting on them. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to get up,” she’d say, in the spirit of fun but with some underlying fear. Even though she and my grandfather stayed active by taking yoga classes at a senior center, and were a neighborhood hit riding their tandem tricycle in matching helmets and T-shirts, declining strength and range of motion with age just made certain everyday movements difficult.

I thought of my grandma while reading about an NIH-funded study from the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles on yoga for seniors. Published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the study quantified the physical effects of seven poses in 20 ambulatory older adults whose average age was 70.7 years. Participants attended hour-long Hatha yoga classes twice a week for 32 weeks. The researchers used biomechanical methods joint moments of force (JMOF) and electromyographic analysis at the beginning and end of the study to measure each pose’s demands on select lower-extremity joints and muscles.

In a Research Spotlight, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine noted:

Findings from the study may be used to help design evidence-based yoga programs in which poses are chosen for the purpose of achieving a clinical goal (e.g., targeting specific joints or muscle groups or improving balance). The physical demands, efficacy, and safety of yoga for older adults have not been well studied, and older adults are at higher risk of developing musculoskeletal problems such as strains and sprains when doing yoga.

Study author Leslie Kazadi, a Los Angeles-based experienced yoga therapist, designed the yoga program with a geriatrician, exercise physiologist/biomechanist, and physical therapist from the research team and taught participants the poses. She told me that standing poses were chosen to target areas of the body that tend to become weak or limited in seniors. Hip stabilizers, for example, help with mobility and balance – and confidence in everyday situations, such as rising from a chair. “What you need to move around in the world is to be strong in your lower body,” Kazadi said. “If you don’t have stability downstairs, then you’re not going to get freedom upstairs no matter what.”

Previously: Exploring the use of yoga to improve the health and strength of bonesAsk Stanford Med: Pain expert responds to questions on integrative medicineExercise programs shown to decrease pain, improve health in group of older adults and Moderate physical activity not a risk factor for knee osteoarthritis, study shows
Photo by NCCAM/RaffertyWeiss Media

Health and Fitness, Research, Sports, Stanford News

Study reveals initial findings on health of most extreme runners

Study reveals initial findings on health of most extreme runners

Running_guyThose of us who feel accomplished after jogging a 5K may wonder what drives more serious runners – marathoners, and even ultramarathoners, who run races longer than 26.2 miles. A pair of physicians believes that learning more about these extreme athletes could benefit the rest of us.

Eswar Krishnan, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford, and Martin Hoffman, MD, of UC Davis, plan to collect data on 1,200 ultrarunners for the next 20 years. They launched the Ultrarunners Longitudinal Tracking Study with a web-based questionnaire in November 2011, and baseline findings of the study were published online today in PLOS ONE.

In a news release, Krishnan explains the value of studying extreme exercise:

“It will help us to understand how much exercise is optimal, how much recreational activity is appropriate and beneficial, and if there is a reason not to push your body beyond a certain point,” he said.

Initial results show, not unexpectedly, that ultrarunners are healthier than the overall U.S. population. Most of their visits to health-care professionals were for exercise-related injuries, which were more common in younger, less-experienced runners. Injuries were mainly to the knees and lower extremities. Notably, ultrarunners reported a lower incidence of stress fractures than other runners, but stress fractures were more common in the foot, perhaps due to running on uneven terrain. These runners also had higher-than-average rates of asthma and allergies, possibly because they spend so much time outdoors.

Identifying what inspires ultrarunners may have broader applications:

The psychological profiles of ultrarunners are of particular interest to the researchers and will be a focus of the upcoming questionnaire. Krishnan and Hoffman are collaborating with several sports psychologists to study what drives these runners to such an extreme level of competition. “Understanding what motivates ultrarunners could be useful for encouraging others to meet minimum levels of exercise to enhance health,” Hoffman said.

Previously: Is extreme distance running healthy or harmful?, A closer look at ‘runner’s high’ and Untrained marathoners may risk temporary heart damage
Photo by Robeter

Health and Fitness, In the News, Nutrition, Stanford News

Mindful eating tips for the desk-bound

Mindful eating tips for the desk-bound

desklunchWell, January 1 came and went, and so did the first Monday of the new year. So, how are you doing on your 2014 resolutions, if you made any?

The San Francisco Chronicle recently spotlighted the common seasonal commitment of eating better. Included in the article are healthy recipes and expert tips to start where you might fall prey to mindless eating – at work, sitting at your desk, distracted by your computer.

From the piece:

“People are connected to a screen all the time now, and if you are not mindful of what you are eating, your brain doesn’t send the satiation message to your stomach, and you’ll overeat, guaranteed,” says Hilda Moscoso Carey, [RD,] a clinical dietitian at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco.

Many of her patients work in the gaming and social media industry, where leaving for lunch is culturally frowned upon, and employers keep workers in the building with daily catered lunches, fully stocked kitchens and open espresso bars.

Stanford dietician Jo Ann Hattner, who is studying the effects of eating on the go, said the consequences could be more than weight gain. She told the Chronicle, “We are multitasking our way to bloating, gas, indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.”

Previously: How learning weight-maintenance skills first can help you achieve New Year’s weight-loss goalsShould sugar be blamed for all our health woes? and Stanford nutritionist offers guidelines for eating healthy on the go
Photo by slgckgc

Cancer, Health and Fitness, Stanford News, Women's Health

Ironman of Stanford Women’s Cancer Center

Ironman of Stanford Women’s Cancer Center

ironmanOliver Dorigo, MD, PhD, loves training. The associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has trained in medicine, surgery, gene therapy, molecular biology, laboratory research and clinical trials management. And that’s just for his day job(s), directing Stanford’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the gynecologic oncology program at the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center.

In his spare time Dorigo’s training has included enough running, biking and swimming to compete in 19 Ironman distance triathlons, the most recent being the 2013 Ironman World Championship, held in Kona, Hawaii in October. (For those keeping score, “Ironman distance” means a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run.)

Dorigo says the physical and psychological rigors of triathlon training have helped him professionally to overcome challenges and find solutions for success in difficult situations. And they are lessons he imparts to his patients. As he told me:

In every race, there is a moment when making another step forward seems almost impossible. However, with persistence and the right attitude, this step and all others necessary to reach the finish line will eventually happen. There’s just no giving up. And that’s exactly the attitude I convey to my cancer patients. Don’t give up; keep fighting! Otherwise, how does one ever know whether one could have reached the finish line?

Dorigo and his primary medical passion – ovarian cancer – are discussed in the latest edition (.pdf) of the Stanford Cancer Institute News.

Michael Claeys is the senior communications manager for the Stanford Cancer Institute.

Previously: Frontiers in the fight against ovarian cancer and Ovarian cancer biomarkers may enable personalized treatment, say Stanford scientists
Photo by Grayskullduggery

Ask Stanford Med, Health and Fitness

When it comes to holiday exercise, “something is better than nothing”

When it comes to holiday exercise, "something is better than nothing"

snowy run

Worried about maintaining your work-out routine during this busy holiday season? In a 2011 Scope Q&A, Joyce Hanna, associate director of Stanford’s Health Improvement Program, offered some tips on how to stay fit and active this time of year. When asked for suggestions on how to squeeze in a work-out amongst travel and festivities, she had this to say:

Chances are you’ll find that in spite of your good intentions there are times when you just won’t have time to do your planned exercise program. The most important thing to remember is that something is better than nothing. A study done at Stanford showed that breaking up a 30 minute exercise time into three shorter ten-minute segments produced significant health benefits.

I suggest to friends and family a “talk while we walk” date instead of a coffee or lunch date. Take advantage of the walking you’re doing while shopping. Walk briskly! Take the stairs, park far away, schedule meetings outside the office, walk down the hall to deliver a message instead of sending an e-mail, set a timer every 30 minutes to stand up and move. If you resist having an all-or-nothing attitude toward exercise, you’ll find that you can maintain your fitness level over the holidays.

Previously: A full workout in just seven minutes? Science says so!, Boosting willpower and breaking bad habits, Stanford nutritionist offers tips for eating healthy during the holidays, How to stay fit and active this holiday season and What you can do in thirty minutes a day
Photo by michael_bielecki

Health and Fitness, Media, Parenting, Pediatrics, Research

Depictions of obesity in children’s movies

Depictions of obesity in children's movies

As winter break approaches for schoolchildren, movie-watching in theaters or snuggled together on the couch may be on the family calendar. But while ratings alert parents to violent or otherwise “adult” content, some more hidden messages within a movie could have an impact on a child’s well-being.

A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill focused on messages about healthy eating and obesity in films. Researchers looked at 20 of the most popular children’s movies released in the U.S. between 2006 and 2010 and found that a good number featured characters that overeat and under-exercise and/or stigmatization of overweight and obesity.

As described in a release:

Segments from each movie were assessed for the prevalence of key nutrition and physical behaviors corresponding to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ obesity prevention recommendations for families, prevalence of weight stigma, assessment of the segment as healthy, unhealthy or neutral, and free-text interpretations.

With regard to eating behaviors, the researchers found that 26 percent of the movie segments with food depicted exaggerated portion size, 51 percent depicted unhealthy snacks and 19 percent depicted sugar-sweetened beverages.

With regard to depiction of behaviors, 40 percent of movies showed characters watching television, 35 percent showed characters using a computer and 20 percent showed characters playing video games.

The authors conclude that these movies “present a mixed message to children: promoting unhealthy behaviors while stigmatizing the behaviors’ possible effects.” The study (registration or purchase required) appears in the journal Obesity.

Previously: Sugar intake, diabetes and kids: Q&A with a pediatric obesity expertTalking to kids about junk food ads and Health experts to Nickelodeon: Please stop promoting unhealthy food to our kids

Behavioral Science, Health and Fitness, Stanford News, Videos

Designing behavior for better health

Designing behavior for better health

As director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, BJ Fogg, PhD, studies human behavior and designs ways to influence it, whether on the computer, on a mobile phone or in other areas of life. In this video on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website, Fogg discusses what makes a good candidate to implement healthy behavior change for the long term. In an ideal situation, a person is “triggered to do something that they want to do and they’re able to do.” With these three elements – the trigger, motivation and ability – comes the highest likelihood of success in behavior change that contributes to a culture of health.

Previously: Study shows short, daily jogs boost longevityLive tweeting Medicine 2.0 Congress keynote speechesPersuasive technology expert BJ Fogg to deliver a Medicine 2.0 keynote and Stanford conference addresses mobile applications in health care

Health and Fitness, Nutrition

Enjoying the turkey while watching your waistline

Enjoying the turkey while watching your waistline

As part of Thanksgiving tradition, millions of Americans will soon be jumping in cars or airplanes, heading to loved ones’ homes, and eating. In some cases, eating a lot. If you’re one of the many who wants to enjoy the holiday without over-doing it, you might find a few past Scope entries helpful. Posts here and here offer tips for reducing the urge to overeat and to enjoy holiday staples without compromising your health. And for those of you who may be tempted to indulge over the next six weeks or so and get back in shape come the New Year, Stanford nutritionist Jo Ann Hattner, RD, has this to say:

This is a poor health strategy primarily because your body has already had to accommodate the excesses of the holiday eating and that may have had detrimental effects, particularly to your cardiovascular system. In addition, depending on how much you gained during the holidays it can be an overwhelming task to lose the weight. If this is the case, unfortunately, you may still have it on board when the next holiday rolls around.

Previously: Stanford nutrition expert discusses how to eat well while staying jolly, Battling the bulge this holiday season, Stanford nutritionist offers tips for eating healthy during the holidays and Experts provide tips on healthier holiday eating for kids

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