Limit TV Watching for Aging Well

Swapping television time for physical activity is a trade with considerable benefits for healthy aging, as evidenced by a new study spearheaded by Dr. Molin Wang of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This study, involving data from the Nurses’ Health Study, followed over 45,000 individuals aged 50 and above from 1992, assessing their sedentary behavior and physical activity over two decades. The results, published in JAMA Network Open, highlight a clear correlation: every additional two hours of TV viewing decreased the likelihood of aging healthily by 12%, whereas increasing light physical activities by the same duration improved it by 6%.

Prolonged sitting is detrimental to health primarily due to its negative impact on various body systems. When we sit for extended periods, our body’s metabolism slows down, leading to reduced blood flow and decreased calorie burning. This sedentary behavior can contribute to the buildup of fats in the blood and lower the effectiveness of insulin, escalating the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Furthermore, sitting for long durations can lead to muscle degeneration and weakening, particularly in the lower body, which is crucial for stability and movement. The posture often associated with sitting—hunched shoulders and a forward head position—can also lead to chronic back and neck pain, compounding stress on spinal discs and contributing to long-term issues like osteoporosis and decreased mobility.

Dr. Andrew Freeman of National Jewish Health, although not involved in the study, supports these findings, noting the physiological drawbacks of prolonged sedentary periods. The study’s definition of healthy aging includes reaching 70 years without major chronic diseases or impairments in memory, physical, and mental health. The study underscores the detrimental effects of sedentary habits, such as increased cardiovascular risks and higher blood pressure, which are exacerbated by typical American diet habits, like high salt intake.

To combat these risks, Freeman suggests practical workplace adjustments like standing or treadmill desks and encourages regular movement breaks. He also advises integrating activity with television time, such as exercising or setting screen time limits. This holistic approach not only combats the ill effects of sitting but also promotes a lifestyle conducive to long-term health.

Cancer Related to Biological Age?

Of course, we’d all like to understand why some people develop cancers and others don’t and researchers are working tirelessly to crack these questions in order to find solutions. In one recent development, researchers have uncovered a potential link between accelerated biological aging and an increase in certain types of cancer among younger adults. Biological age, influenced by lifestyle, stress, and genetics, goes beyond chronological age to represent the body’s wear and tear. This concept is gaining recognition as a major risk factor for cancer, traditionally associated with advancing years. The study, with senior author Dr. Yin Cao, an associate professor of surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis was presented recently at the American Association of Cancer Research’s annual conference in San Diego.

The research, notable for its large participant base, offers a snapshot of risk at a single point in time rather than over an extended period. This limitation underscores the complexity of tracking biological aging and its implications for cancer risk. The study’s findings are preliminary and highlight the need for further research across more diverse populations and over longer periods to refine our understanding of these links.

The implications of identifying individuals at higher risk of cancer due to accelerated aging are significant, according to Dr. Anne Blaes of the University of Minnesota. While not involved in this particular study, she explained that

“We’re seeing more and more cancers, especially GI cancers and breast cancers, in younger individuals. And if we had a way of identifying who’s at higher risk for those, then really, you can imagine we’d be recommending screening at a different time.”

Early identification could lead to earlier screening and targeted lifestyle interventions for those at risk, potentially mitigating the impact of accelerated aging on cancer rates among younger adults. Additionally, senolytics, drugs targeting damaged aging cells, are under investigation as a means to slow or reverse the effects of accelerated biological aging, though their application in clinical practice remains to be fully realized. This research paves the way for a better understanding of cancer risks and prevention strategies tailored to the biological realities of individual patients.

Hand it Over: Working with your hands is good for you

Writing, drawing, gardening, and needle-crafts are all great hobbies. But these pastimes can do more for you than just fill a few hours. There are actual cognitive and emotional benefits to gain from using your hands in creative pursuits. Beyond the creation itself, engaging in hands-on activities taps into our innate human need for expression, problem-solving, and sensory exploration. Here are several compelling reasons to use our hands for more than just tapping and typing, scrolling and scanning:

  1. Enhanced Problem-Solving Skills: Creative hands-on projects often necessitate thinking “outside the box” to overcome challenges and obstacles. This fosters a mindset of innovation and resourcefulness, leading to improved problem-solving abilities that can be applied to various aspects of life.
  2. Stress Reduction: Immersing oneself in a creative activity has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. The focus required to manipulate materials and bring ideas to life serves as a form of mindfulness, allowing individuals to temporarily escape from daily worries and pressures.
  3. Improved Cognitive Function: Working with your hands engages multiple areas of the brain, including those responsible for spatial awareness, motor skills, and memory. This cognitive stimulation can help sharpen mental acuity and may even offer protective benefits against age-related cognitive decline.
  4. Boosted Self-Esteem and Confidence: Successfully completing a hands-on project, whether it’s a piece of artwork, a craft, or a DIY home improvement task, instills a sense of accomplishment and pride. This positive reinforcement can bolster self-esteem and confidence, encouraging individuals to tackle new challenges with greater assurance.
  5. Connection to Heritage and Tradition: Many traditional crafts and artisanal techniques have been passed down through generations, connecting individuals to their cultural heritage and preserving valuable traditions. Engaging in these activities can foster a sense of belonging and continuity with the past.
  6. Social Connection and Community Building: Participating in hands-on creative pursuits often involves joining communities of like-minded individuals who share similar interests. This sense of camaraderie and mutual support can lead to meaningful friendships and a sense of belonging.
  7. Enhanced Emotional Well-being: Creating something with your hands provides an outlet for self-expression and emotional release. Whether channeling joy, sadness, or frustration into your work, the act of creation can serve as a cathartic and therapeutic experience.

The Loneliness Factor of Obesity

We all know that it’s not healthy to be obese. But a new study sheds some fascinating information about one factor of obesity that may be influencing people’s health even more than the weight itself. Loneliness. A new study suggests that addressing loneliness and social isolation in individuals classified as obese could significantly reduce their risk of health complications. Published in JAMA Network Open, this research sheds light on the heightened experience of loneliness among obese individuals and underscores the importance of considering social and mental health in managing obesity-related health issues.

Led by Dr. Lu Qi of Tulane University, the study analyzed data from nearly 400,000 UK BioBank participants, initially free from cardiovascular disease, over a period from 2006 to 2021. Findings revealed a 36% lower mortality rate from all causes in less lonely, socially integrated obese individuals.

Surprising to most readers, the research highlights that social isolation is a more significant mortality risk factor than depression, anxiety, and lifestyle choices like alcohol consumption, exercise, and diet. This underscores the need for integrated intervention strategies that include social and psychological elements alongside dietary and lifestyle changes.

As our world becomes more digitalized and less interactive, and as so many people rely on social media and not face-to-face interactions, loneliness has grown to become a true national crisis.

It’s certainly interesting to think about some of the other factors surrounding obesity, and not just abou the obesity itself. The study calls for a holistic approach to obesity management, integrating social connectivity to improve health outcomes, and highlights the critical role of quality social relationships in overall well-being.

Fitterfly: Taking On Corporate Health One Person at a Time

In today’s fast-paced corporate world, employee health has emerged as a critical concern impacting both productivity and healthcare expenses. It’s interesting to think about the impact that health concerns can have on the work environment; obviously those who are healthy come to work more often and work more productively. So what can companies do with this knowledge?

A company called Fitterfly, recognizing these challenges, initiated a groundbreaking approach through digital therapeutic programs. These programs targeted prevalent health concerns among corporate employees, such as diabetes, obesity, and related metabolic health issues. The 400 participants experienced a significant 1.1 point reduction in HbA1c levels and also found changes in their dietary habits, weight management, fitness levels, stress reduction, sleep quality, and overall quality of life.

The findings underscore the potential of personalized digital interventions in reshaping employee health and productivity. For individuals today, these insights offer valuable takeaways. Firstly, they highlight the need for a proactive approach to health management, emphasizing personalized strategies tailored to individual needs. Secondly, the success of these programs underscores the importance of holistic health interventions encompassing diet, fitness, stress management, and sleep patterns. Lastly, it stresses the significance of leveraging technology as a tool for health improvement, allowing for continuous monitoring and support.

Certainly, this is not the only program out there. It is one example of how technology is interacting with health concerns and trying to create new devices and ways to help people to stay healthy. It’s certainly worth keeping on eye on this expanding field and seeing which of these technological tools might help you or your company.

Women’s Health Goals for 2023: Consider Consistency and CrossFit

The new year is often accompanied by health-related resolutions. When it comes to your health goals, whatever they may be, professional trainers encourage consistency.

Ben Smith, winner of the Fittest Man on Earth title in 2015, advocates for consistency as a mainstay of physical health: “Consistency is the most important thing. It’s hard because you don’t see the results of that consistency right away. If you can consistently do something for even 15 minutes in the morning, it can add up over time.”

Smith also sings the praises of CrossFit, which is predicted to see a resurgence in the coming year of 2023. Their website explains that CrossFit is, “constantly varied functional movement at high intensity,” or, in broader terms, a high intensity workout using cardio, weight training and mobility work. CrossFit affiliates claim that their workouts, coupled with a healthy diet, can stave off the global rise of chronic disease, such as Type 2 diabetes.

More women are opting for CrossFit as their workout plan, as it promises both effective strength-building and, as 94% of 500 surveyed women report, a boost in confidence and empowerment. Building muscle does not only yield aesthetically-pleasing results, such as a “toned look,” but it also improves both cardiac and bone health. Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, and strength training is proven to both slow bone loss and significantly increase bone density and strength.

Even if you have not yet started on your health plan for 2023, it is not too late. While it is clear that strength training yields optimal results, the best workout plan is the one that you will do consistently.