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Tuesday
Aug012017

4 Times Health Studies Made the News This Month

Yesterday, IHRSA’s Health Promotion Manager, Alex Black, sat down (well, actually stood) with Digital Advocacy Content Coordinator Kaitlynn Anderson to discuss the latest health news on the web. Here's a look at what was discussed:

A Prescription of Activities Shown to Improve Health and Wellbeing

Prescribing certain activities is shown to improve health and wellbeing. In the UK, researchers interviewed participants of the “Ways to Wellness” program. The program connects people with chronic diseases to “link workers,” individuals who help them connect with health programs and resources in the community.

For example, a link worker  would help a person with heart disease connect with a gardening program or help someone with diabetes find a walking group. They also help with other issues like debt management, housing, and navigating benefits systems. The idea is that by helping people find programs that work forand appeal tothem and helping them manage other aspects of their lives, it is possible to address the barriers to a healthier lifestyle.

The participants interviewed discussed how working with a link worker built self-confidence, self -reliance, and independence. The activitieslike gardening, dance clubs, and volunteeringhelped them lose weight and increase fitness, which helped them better manage pain and tiredness related to their illnesses. They also reported feeling less socially isolated and noted increases in self-esteem and mental wellbeing.

The benefits of this program did not necessarily come out of the activities people did, but rather they were developed through the social support they received from link workers. On average, general practice physicians spend about 15 minutes with their patients. Specialists may have more time with patients, but the majority of those appointments are still spent discussing the medical management of an illness. That leaves little time and support for patients who are told to be more active and eat better but don’t think they can afford it or access it. The link workers played a key role in breaking down some of those barriers, as well as others, like confidence and self-efficacy.

Losing Fat, Gaining Brain Power on the Playground

A recent study looked at the impact of 70-minutes of play or daily exercise on test results among a group of obese and normal weight kids, and compared them to a similar group of kids who didn't exercise. They found that the more visceral fat (the kind of fat deep beneath the skin surrounding the organs) kids lost, the better they did on cognitive testing. Kids saw results even if they lost visceral fat but remained overweight.

IHRSA has testified on behalf of policies at the state level to provide greater access to physical education and recess time in schools, and this study now provides even more evidence that such policies are not only beneficial but critical.

Just One Minute of Running a Day Could Lead to Better Bone Health

For one week, researchers followed 2,500 women to assess their physical activity levels and  find a relationship between bone health and exercise. They found that women who did at least one to two minutes per day of high intensity, weight-bearing exercise (like running) had four percent better bone health than inactive women.

Bone mineral density is an indicator of how strongand resistant to fracturea bone is, and is typically used to determine bone health. It’s important to note that the study says it doesn’t actually prove the link between weight-bearing exercise and increased bone health, but the link is very probable.

Running benefits bone health because it is a weight-bearing exerciseyou would see similar effects from resistance exercises or dancing. When bones have to work harder against gravity, the body works to strengthen them  over time.

Doctors Should Counsel Healthy People on Diet, Exercise

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmed their 2012 recommendation that doctors should provide healthy lifestyle behavioral counseling even to their lower risk patients.

Why do low-risk patients need counseling? A patient may be low risk or healthy at one point, and progress to high risk later. Risk level also progresses over timea person who is active and “has it together” in their 30’s may struggle to be active and eat healthy twenty years later. Consistent counseling through the lifespan might help them maintain healthful habits and thus prevent chronic disease. The cornerstone of prevention is creating healthy habits before a medical issue arises.


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