Are You Ignoring Your Weaker Side?

It’s a common misconception that our bodies are perfectly symmetrical. In reality, most people have a dominant side that is stronger and more coordinated. This is evident in everyday activities like writing or brushing your teeth. Although our bodies might look symmetrical, only about 1% of the population is truly ambidextrous.

However, problems arise when this natural sidedness becomes excessive. When the dominant side starts to bear an overly heavy load, issues like pain, weakness, and overuse injuries can occur. This imbalance can lead to a chain reaction, affecting other parts of the body. The good news is, with awareness and targeted exercises, these imbalances can be corrected, allowing you to enjoy your natural asymmetry without pain.

Physical demands of certain careers can exacerbate side dominance. Most of us know that we are right or left handed, but we may not realize how much we rely on that side. Mothers typically carry their toddlers on their dominant side, for instance; workers in an office favor one hand over the other and typically do more tasks with the dominant hand.

To address these imbalances, awareness is key. Simple changes in daily activities can make a significant difference. For example, alternating the shoulder you carry your bag on, or the hip you carry your child on, can help. However, some activities, like writing or swinging a golf club, can’t easily be changed. In these cases, a regular fitness routine that includes balance-restoring exercises is vital.

Unilateral training, focusing on one side of the body at a time, is highly effective in promoting symmetry. This approach helps correct and prevent imbalances by ensuring equal effort on both sides. Dumbbells are excellent for unilateral training, as they require each limb to work independently, highlighting and correcting any strength discrepancies.

Most of us don’t need to do exercises that are specifically focused on one side or the other. However, having an awareness that you favor one side and a desire to use the other side periodically is very important. Similarly, should you start to notice that you favor one side to the detriment of the other, there are exercises you can do and ways you can focus to realign both sides for optimal strength.

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.

Strava Releases 2023 “Year in Sport: The Trend Report,” Revealing Workout Motivation in Different Generations  

Strava, a digital platform with a community of over 120 million athletes, released its, “Year In Sport: The Trend Report.” The report surveyed 6,990 individuals, both in and out of Strava’s community, and provided insights into the exercise habits of people across different generations as well as observations on the evolving workout trends for the year 2024. Gen Z was found to stand out with differing habits, motivators, obstacles and interests when approaching physical activity.

One prominent takeaway from the report is the importance of social connection as a primary motivator for exercise. This appeared as a cross-generational response, but was particularly notable for Gen Z with 77% responding that they a stronger bond to seeing friends and family’s activities on Strava. Gen Z is also 29% more likely than Millennials to exercise with another person.

The report highlights Gen Z’s distinct exercise behaviors; they are 31% less likely than Millenials or Gen X to work out because of health concerns and more likely to pursue athletic performance. While 39% of Gen Z Strava users started a new job and 30% relocated in 2023, they were still 32% more likely than other generations to say they’re in better shape than last year.

Zipporah Allen, Chief Business Officer at Strava, notes the impact of Gen Z’s values of community, activism, and connection in an increasingly digital world: “Over the past year, we’ve seen Gen Z as the primary source of community growth through new clubs on Strava. They’ve also contributed to the increase in sports, like running, despite having the most barriers to staying consistent. This shows exercise will be a central value for this generation, which is why they’re already turning to Strava as the key platform to stay motivated and connected.”

Talking About Death in New Ways

Two recent books have been published that allow readers to rethink their association with death and dying. A new book by J. Servon and L. Delany-Ullman called Saved: Objects of the Dead explores the idea of what we keep after someone has died. The book has been created by North Carolina-based artist Jody Servon and California-based poet Lorene Delany-Ullman. It features forty photographs and prose poems based on interviews they did with people and the objects they cherished after a loved-one died. Bringing the idea to social media, they also have a very interesting Instragram page where people can see saved objects and hear about why these particular objects were saved.

Another unusual book worth exploring was recently written by Hadley Vlahos. Hadley is a young hospice nurse with a large social media following on Instagram, Tik Tok and other channels. She shares interesting stories from her experience as a hospice nurse, offering play acting the various parts of an encounter. She offers inspiration and hope for the experience of grieving for family members and helping a dying family member.

While death is typically addressed as a depressing topic, these books explore unchartered aspects of the process and ways that family members might address and think about death in new and unusual ways.

A Pen and PTSD

A recent JAMA Psychiatry-published study is revisiting the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Written exposure therapy, a new treatment for PTSD, has been discovered to be remarkably effective. The treatment consists of five supervised half-hour sessions, in which the patient writes down his/her thoughts and feelings that took place during a trauma. The patient then speaks about the writing process with a therapist and, in later sessions, writes about how the trauma affected their lives.

The effectiveness of this treatment is based in the writing process, according to Dr. Denise Sloan, a psychologist who worked on developing the treatment and is one of the authors of the JAMA Psychiatry study. Sloan explains that writing removes the client from the shame or embarrassment that may accompany talking about an event aloud. Writing also slows down the process, enabling patients to have greater engagement with memory and thinking through the episode.

This form of therapy was inspired by a 1980s study conducted by a psychologist in Texas, James Pennebaker. He found that people who used “expressive writing,” or routine journaling of difficult life experiences had stronger immune systems and visited their doctor less frequently.  

Pennebaker’s findings reveal that writing can help cope with a myriad of emotions, and is not just for someone suffering from PTSD. In all circumstances, both severe and mild, penning a thousand words may have both mental and physical health benefits!