TIME Research

Preschoolers Aren’t Getting Enough Exercise, Study Says

Plenty of exercise is essential for a child's development and to prevent obesity

Even very young children in the U.S. are not active enough, says a new study.

Preschoolers only get about 48 minutes of exercise on average each day, according to a paper by the University of Washington and published in the journal Pediatrics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends kids get at least one hour of daily physical activity.

After documenting children’s daily activities in 10 preschools in the Seattle area over a period of 50 days, researchers found that they were only exercising 12% of the time. The rest of their day was spent napping (29%), eating or generally being inactive.

On average, the children were outside for just more than half an hour a day, the study found.

“It’s just not enough,” Pooja Tandon, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Washington, told USA Today.

Getting plenty of exercise at a young age, she said, was essential for a child’s development and for preventing obesity, which has risen dramatically over the past 30 years. According to the CDC, nearly 18% of children ages six to 11 are obese, compared to 7% in 1980.

To get kids more active, some health experts advocate combining academic activities in the classroom with exercise.

Debbie Chang, vice president of Nemours Children’s Health System in Delaware, says even reading a book, such as The Wheels on the Bus, can become part of a child’s daily exercise as they can get up and moving by acting out the scenes.

[USA Today]

TIME Innovation

How the Navy is Taking the Lead on Maternity Leave

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Here’s how the U.S. Navy is leading the way on maternity leave.

By Alexander LaCasse in the Christian Science Monitor

2. What if growing up “color-blind” means white millennials don’t see racial injustice either?

By Mychal Denzel Smith in the PBS Newshour

3. Jailhouse informants are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. It’s time for them to go.

By Jordan Smith in the Intercept

4. Spend two minutes per hour walking — just walking — to cut your risk of dying by one third.

By Christopher Wanjek and LiveScience at Scientific American

5. Fruit and vegetables worth billions are left to rot because they’re ugly. Now we can eat them at a discount.

By Lorena Galliot in Grist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Stretches for People Who Are Stuck at a Desk All Day

woman-massaging-neck-desk
Getty Images

Time to take a screen break

In our quest to make life easier and more automated through the influence of technology, we sometimes forget how the gadgets we love so much can negatively affect our lives as well, specifically when it comes to our bodies. Studies show that we spend an average of 3-4 hours per day staring down at our cell phones or tablets. This isn’t only straining to the eyes, but it also causes our bodies to be hunched over for prolonged periods of time. Between that and sitting at a desk all day, our bodies are no doubt screaming for relief!

We know we should take time away from the office or computer daily to get outside, go for a run, or hit the gym. However, for busy professionals who are just lucky enough to have a moment to step away from their desk to scarf down lunch in between meetings and deadlines, sometimes those things just aren’t a realistic possibility.

Sitting in these static positions all day can leave your neck, shoulders, back, and hips feeling tight and most likely out of their proper alignment. In light of that fact, here are 5 stretches you can do every day (and anywhere) to combat these stubborn aches and pains.

Chest Opener

You need this one if you spend a lot of time hunched over a keyboard. Rest your chin onto your neck and reach your arms behind you until your hands meet. Interlace your fingers and lift your arms up until you feel a stretch in your chest and front shoulders. Hold for 10 seconds, release, and repeat.

Hip Release

Tight hip flexors are a common problem for people who sit in a chair all day. Kneel on the floor and step your left leg out in front of you at a 90-degree angle, placing your left foot flat on the floor. Press your hips forward until you start feeling a stretch. For an added stretch, raise your right hand above your head. Hold for 10-15 seconds and then switch sides.

Trunk Rotation

Lie on your back with your arms and legs open and relaxed. Bring your knees to your chest, and then let them both slowly fall to one side of your body, while keeping your upper torso neutral and your arms on the floor. Hold for 10-15 seconds and then move to the other side. Repeat 2-3 times.

Shoulder Rolls

Practice rolling your shoulders forward and backward several times to loosen up your upper body. Do 10 reps each way, rest and repeat 2-3 times.

Head-to-Toe Stretch

Stand up and reach your arms high over your head until you feel a stretch. Hold for about 8-10 seconds and then reach your hands down to your toes. Hold for 8-10 seconds and repeat.

For more soothing stretches, check out 5 Stretches To Help Improve Your Posture.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

MONEY Tech

Fitbit Shows Healthy Profits in IPO Bid

The fitness tracker company has filed for an initial public stock offering, but competition is heating up.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Ways to Get Toned With a Medicine Ball

medicine-ball-push-up
Getty Images

Try a new total-body workout routine

Bored of those dumbbells? Try swapping out your free weights for a medicine ball instead. Medicine ball training is one of the oldest and most effective forms of strength conditioning ever since the Greeks discovered the physical fitness benefits of exercising with weighted balls. It is one workout trend that has lasted the test of time.

So, if you’re looking to breathe new life into your workout routine, grab a 10-15 pound medicine ball and try these five exercises for a seriously sculpting total-body workout.

Rolling Push-Up

Adding a medicine ball to this already challenging move can morph this mostly upper-body exercise into a full body blaster. Get into a high plank position and place the medicine ball under one hand. Lower the chest toward the floor to perform a push-up; press back up then transfer the ball to the other hand. Do 5-10 push ups on each side. To modify, drop to your knees.

Lunge With Twist

Adding the medicine ball (and a twist) to your lunge helps engage the abdominals and obliques in addition to the legs, making it a more full body move. Holding a medicine ball out in front of you, step forward into a lunge with the right leg. When you hit the lowest point in your lunge, start to twist the ball to the right, rotating the torso. Bring the ball back to center and then step back up to a standing position. Do the twist in place or moving forward as walking lunges. Do 10 with each leg.

Weighted Superman

Get ready to lift off with this all over back of the body move. Lie face down on the mat with arms stretched out in front holding the medicine ball. Slowly raise the arms and legs up as high as possible, engaging your back. Be sure to keep your core engaged to protect the lower part of your spine. Hold the position at the top for a few counts and then slowly lower the body down to the mat. Repeat 10-15 times.

Ball Fly

This one might take a few times to master, but once you find your balance you’re sure to look like a pro. Lie face up on a Swiss ball with the neck and shoulder blades resting on the ball’s center, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping the hips raised and core engaged, hold the medicine ball up to the ceiling with both hands. Slowly shift the ball to one hand and lower the arm down so it’s parallel with the floor. (Be sure to maintain a soft bend in the elbow). Bring the ball back to center and shift the ball to the other hand to repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Do 5-10 reps.

V-Up With Ball Pass

Get the core fired up with this ab-tastic V-Up. Lying flat on your back, extend your legs straight out in front of you and bring the ball overhead with both hands. Engage the core to lift the hands and feet simultaneously up so that the body forms a ‘V’ shape. Once there, pass the ball from the hands to the feet and, squeezing the ball between your feet, lower your arms and legs back down to the floor. Return to the ‘V’ and pass the ball back to the hands before lowering down. That’s one rep. Try for 10 reps. If you can get to 15, we applaud you.

For more workouts using the bosu ball, check out 4 Key Ab Muscles And How To Target Them.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

TIME Exercise/Fitness

The Pros and Cons of Running on the Treadmill

woman-running-treadmill-gym
Getty Images

Running on a treadmill is easier on your joints

Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside on the pavement? It’s an age-old question and the truth is there are pros and cons to both. There are definitely some types of workouts you can do better or more efficiently on a treadmill. However, running on a ‘mill can create that aimless, never-ending ‘hamster wheel’ feeling for some. It depends on your goals, injury history, and preference, too.

Here are 6 pros and cons to running on a treadmill versus running outside on the pavement or trail.

Pro: The difficulty level is the same

The question of difficulty level always arises when it comes to running indoors versus out. People assume that running outside is empirically harder than logging miles inside on a treadmill. However, research has proven that setting the treadmill to a 1% incline accurately reflects the same energy costs of running outdoors. So, it’s just as effective as long as you add a little incline.

Read more: 15 Running Tips You Need to Know

Pro: It’s easier on your joints

The smooth, cushioned belt is more forgiving than hard pavement or cement. Running on a treadmill can help reduce some of the impact on the joints and the body as a whole. This can be especially helpful when rehabbing or coming back from an injury. Make sure you ease your way back to the road following an injury by alternating treadmill and outdoor runs a few times a week, instead of going cold turkey.

Read more: 7 Running Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Pro: You can simulate race environments

Many of the more advanced treadmills allow you to create your own unique course profile, which you can use to simulate the exact course you’re training for. Even if you’re not training for a race, you can switch up your workout by choosing a certain trail or terrain from around the world, depending on the options, to make you feel as though you’re half a world away. You also have no worries of weather, temperature, or terrain issues while running on a treadmill, which can mean everything if you live in a very cold or wet part of the country.

Read more: 7 Ways to Make Your Treadmill Runs More Effective

Con: You could lose your agility

Although the treadmill might provide your joints with more cushion, you don’t get the added benefit of running on uneven terrain or pavement. Even if the ground outside might feel flat to you, it never truly is. Therefore, your foot and leg muscles are constantly making small adjustments to adapt to the changing surfaces. These adjustments are great for coordination and balance and will help improve your ability to do everyday things. While treadmill running can help improve your overall fitness, it won’t mimic the real-life situations that are simulated through running outdoors.

Read more: Here’s How Much Running Is Healthiest for You, According to One Study

Con: You don’t work as many muscles

Because there is a machine powering the belt, the muscle mechanics differ when you run on the treadmill. Outside, you typically rely on your hamstrings to finish the stride cycle and lift your legs behind you, almost kicking your butt. But on a treadmill, the propulsion of the belt does much of that work for you. You use your quads to push off, but your hamstrings aren’t firing as much as they would if you were running outdoors. If you’re only running on the treadmill, be sure that you’re also doing cross training to work the muscles on the back of your legs, including your hamstrings and glutes.

Read more: 10 Exercise Cheats That Blow Your Calorie Burn

Con: It’s boring

There are no two ways about it: Running inside is boring. Even if you have the best playlist or you’re watching TV, it’s just too easy to look at that clock directly in front of you—and see that only 30 seconds have passed since the last time you checked it. (You can try covering the display with a towel to keep that clock out of sight). When running outside, the time naturally seems to move faster because you are literally covering more ground. Plus, you set a literal finish line for your run and see it getting closer and closer as you approach it. This provides you with a more natural sense of distance and will give you that extra push to finish strong when you feel like giving up.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

The Smell of Your Sweat Can Make Other People Happy

sweat exercise
Getty Images

Another reason happiness might be contagious

People seem to be able to send happy vibes through their sweat, according to a new study in Psychological Science. The study found that women showed more signs of happiness when they sniffed sweat made by happy men than when they smelled sweat generated by men in a neutral emotional state.

“Being exposed to sweat produced under happiness induces a simulacrum of happiness in receivers, and induces a contagion of the emotional state,” said study author Gün Semin, a professor at Utrecht University, in a statement. “Somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness.”

MORE: What Pheromones Really Reveal About Your Love Life

Determining how sweat affects the happiness of the people who smell it required some unusual experiments. Researchers showed film clips to a group of 12 men that inspired either fear or happiness. A control group of men was shown neutral scenes. After screening the clips, researchers collected sweat samples from the men by placing pads in their armpits and asked 36 women to smell a vial with the scent of the pads. Researchers measured the facial expression prompted by each sweat sample. Women smiled more when they smelled the sweat of happy men than sweat made after men watched a neutral video clip.

The study is small and more research is needed. Previous research has shown that chemosignaling—or conveying emotion through smell—can inspire negative emotions in others, but these findings show that smells might be able to inspire happy emotions, too.

Read next: 6 Signs You’re Not Working Out Hard Enough

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME apps

7 Exercise Apps For People Who Hate Working Out

536898581
Antonio Saba—Getty Images

Whether you're motivated by money, competition or a simple push notification, there's an app to help you get moving

Looking to get in shape for summer? Fitness may be its own reward, but these seven apps can sweeten the deal by prodding, encouraging and even paying users to roll off of that couch and unleash their inner gym bunnies — or just move a bit more. No pressure.

Human

Human can track a whole range of movements, in and out of doors, whether the user is pounding the pavement or dancing alone in front of the mirror. Any activity short of shifting about in a chair counts toward a daily goal of 30 minutes in motion (busybodies can revise their goal upwards to 60 or 90 minutes). On those occasional inert days, the app automatically prods the user to get moving. It’s a great starter app for anyone who wants to get active, but doesn’t want to commit to a single, repetitive fitness routine.

Gympact

It pays to workout with Gympact, literally. A community of users bet $5 to $10 that they’ll stick to their weekly exercise routine. Those who break their pact automatically lose money, which is disbursed to those who uphold their end of the bargain. The app tracks progress toward your weekly goals using the phone’s motion sensor for movement and GPS for gym visits. With payouts ranging from $0.30 to $5, the carrot doesn’t quite match the stick. Then again, it’s one of the only workout apps to brandish a carrot and a stick in the first place.

Fitocracy

Fitocracy adds a competitive twist to the workout routine, awarding points for each recorded workout, badges for significant milestones and bragging rights on a social network of more than one million users (including Arnold Schwarzenegger). If points, public glory and a loose affiliation with the Terminator aren’t motivation enough, users can also hire a personal trainer for coaching and nutritional advice at $1 a day.

Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K may sound like an ambitious goal for anyone on the couch-end of the spectrum, but this app’s training regimen starts easy and gradually ratchets up the run time from one training session to the next. Audio cues from a personal trainer prompt the user to push just a little bit longer than the previous session. Stick to the program, and novice runners can complete a 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) circuit within nine weeks.

RockMyRun

RockMyRun arranges music mixes by tempo, so that the beat falls roughly in line with your running pace, whether its an easy jog (120 beats per minute) or a hard run (150 beats per minute). Android users can manually change the tempo, but iPhone users can take advantage of the latest feature: tempos that automatically sync up to footfalls or heartbeats.

Johnson & Johnson 7 Minute Workout

Ever since a groundbreaking fitness study found that 7 minutes of exercise could yield impressive results, there has been a veritable explosion of 7-minute workout apps. Johnson & Johnson whipped up the cleanest looking interface. Reading the instructions is the easy part — actually following through on the high-intensity workout, not so much. On the upside, the end is always seven minutes in sight.

Type n Walk

The absolute last refuge for texting addicts, Type n Walk uses the smartphone camera to display the pavement immediately in front of you in real-time. Compose texts or emails against this moving backdrop. “This combined with your peripheral vision is just enough visual information to help you avoid obstacles,” the app makers say. Test their claim at your own risk.

Read next: The 10 Essential Rules of Gym Etiquette

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

woman-yoga-hands
Corbis

Put down the creams and potions and start sweating off the years

The powers of a steady fitness routine are impressive: regular exercise can help you build stronger muscles, stave off chronic illnesses, and make your clothes fit a whole lot better. But there’s another benefit of physical activity that deserves a shout-out: the way even moderate amounts seem to shave years off your age, no matter how many birthdays you’ve actually celebrated. Of course, you can’t change your chronological age, but exercise can improve your health to the point where you look and feel younger than you are, says Frank Frisch, PhD, director of kinesiology at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. Behold the 15 physical and mental effects a sweat session can have on your brain and body. Just reading this list will motivate you to never blow off a gym session again.

Exercise gives you more vim and vigor

A workout is like nature’s energy drink, firing up your brain and body so you feel more alert and alive. “Exercise puts your body in a state of arousal, which translates into more vitality and a greater sense of well being,” says Frisch. “Daily tasks become less strenuous and require less exertion.” It’s the kind of pep in your step that makes you feel like you’ve peeled off a decade or two.

Exercise jumpstarts your sex drive

A sweat session improves blood flow all over your body, including below the belt, and the extra blood surge makes you feel more responsive and increasing arousal, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine. Exercise also powers your sex drive in a psychological way. “Working out brings on more confidence about your appearance and body, and that puts you in a sexier mindset,” says Dr. Minkin. And don’t forget the all-over energy surge exercise offers, which gives you extra fuel so you can rock the sheets.

Read more: 15 Everyday Habits to Boost Your Libido

Exercise keeps your skin soft and glowing

A dewy sheen on your cheeks thanks to all the sweat dripping off your forehead may not be the only way fitness keeps your skin young. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario studied a small group of adults between ages 20 and 84. The frequent exercisers who were over age 40 had skin that resembled the more supple, elastic skin of people in their 20s and 30s. The difference had nothing to do with sun exposure (which would age your skin faster if you didn’t wear sunscreen), reported the research team; they theorized that exercise creates body substances that help slow aging in skin, though they say more research is needed to learn how exercise changes skin composition.

Exercise improves your posture

Thanks to muscle loss and bone density changes, your posture takes a hit as you age. Counteract this with strength training, which builds muscle and bone health, especially in your core and along your spine, so you naturally stand taller and shave years off your appearance, says Amie Hoff, personal trainer and founder of Hoff Fitness in New York City. Working out also makes you feel more psychologically powerful, so you naturally stop slouching and straighten up, she adds.

Read more: 10 Ways to Have Great Posture as You Age

Exercise improves your flexibility

Aging doesn’t just make your opinions more inflexible—it makes your muscles and joints more fixed in place as well, leaving you feeling stiff and rickety. Regular workouts, especially stretching-oriented routines such as yoga and Pilates, keep you loose and bendy, says Hoff. “If cardio workouts are your preference, you can still boost your flexibility by warming up and cooling down with foam roller exercises,” she suggests. This foam fitness tool gets rid of the knots that form in muscle, reducing rigidity.

Read more: 4 Things You Need To Know About Foam Rolling

Exercise boosts your mood

You’ve heard of runner’s high, and that blissful mood boost can happen during any sweat-inducing cardio workout. It seems to come down to endorphins: the body chemicals your system cranks out when you’re active. “Endorphins are like natural opiates,” says Eric Sternlicht, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at Chapman University. Some evidence shows that gym sessions can trigger changes in other neurotransmitters linked to pleasurable feelings, such as dopamine. And the confidence kick you get helps you feel happier too.

Exercise helps you sleep soundly

Restful sleep is like a fountain of youth, and exercise helps you achieve it. “Research shows that regular exercisers fall asleep more easily and are more likely to experience deep REM sleep,” says Frisch. A heart-pumping workout tires you out, sure, but there’s more to it than that. Sleeping well helps all the systems in your body function optimally, so you’re less likely to feel stressed and then toss and turn all night. A recent study bears this out, finding that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week improved sleep quality by 65%.

Exercise keeps your metabolism high

Metabolism naturally slows as you age, so it’s harder to avoid pound creepage as the years pass. Luckily scheduling regular workout sessions helps you increase the total number of calories you burn, helping you maintain a steady, healthy weight. You’ll torch more calories if you add in resistance training to your routine at least a few times a week, since working out with free weights or doing bodyweight exercises helps build muscle mass. “The more muscle you have, the higher your calorie burn is,” says Sternlicht. “And it stays higher all day long, even after you’ve stopped exercising.”

Exercise slows cell aging

Exercise doesn’t just make you feel younger—it may actually turn off the aging process in your chromosomes. It has to do with telomeres, the caps at the end of chromosomes that control aging. Telomeres become shorter as you get older, and longer telomeres are associated with longevity. Recent studies have found a link between regular exercise and the lengthening of the telomeres, suggesting that exercise can slow the clock so you live longer. “Though exercise won’t guarantee you a long life, it can greatly improve your odds,” says Frisch.

Exercise reduces belly fat

As you creep into middle age, fat that used to primarily land on your hips and thighs starts to increasingly show up along your belly; this is especially true after menopause. Unlike fat on other body areas, this visceral fat, as it’s known, can increase your risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It’s stubborn, but regular cardio sessions appear to reduce or erase it. A 2011 Duke University study found that cardio workouts can lead to more belly fat loss than strength training workouts or a combo of strength training and cardio.

Read more: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Exercise relieves stress

A long outdoor run or scenic hike can distract you from anxiety and worries. But there may be a physiological reason exercise lowers stress levels. “The endorphin release prompted by a workout has a relaxing effect and reduces anxiety,” says Zonoozi. Also, more meditative forms of exercise, such as yoga or Tai Chi, encourage mindfulness along with moving your body. Staying in the moment so you focus on your breathing and heart rate make it a lot harder to mentally freak out about a stressful work project or that fight you had last night with a friend.

Exercise enhances your memory

As years pass, it’s normal to become forgetful. But research suggests that you can fight brain fog with fitness. Researchers writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014 found that regular aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory. Previous research has also linked exercise to sharper cognitive skills. If you’re experiencing more senior moments these days, dial them back by getting on the treadmill.

Exercise makes your heart more efficient

Like all muscles, your heart gets weak and flabby with inactivity. As a result, it has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body, racking up more stress and leaving you feeling easily fatigued and winded. Good thing even moderately intense exercise (like a brisk 30-minute walk) can make your heart stronger, so it pumps oxygen-rich blood more efficiently through your system, resulting in less strain, says Rhonda Zonoozi, exercise physiologist and certified health and wellness coach at the Sun Health Center for Health and Wellbeing in Arizona.

Exercise protects you from heart disease

Exercise’s heart-healthy benefits don’t stop there. Regular workouts also reduce your risk of cardio problems that tend to crop up with age, such as high blood pressure and high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood that can block or harden arteries. Both are big-time contributors to heart disease, the number one killer of men and women, according to the CDC. “Exercise also improves levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, the kind that protects your heart from cardiovascular disease,” says Zonoozi.

Read more: 14 Things Heart Doctors Tell Their Friends

Exercise improves your blood flow

As you age, it’s not only joints that can get stiff—the blood vessels in your body can lose their flexibility. This makes it harder for them to expand and contract as needed to deliver oxygen-rich blood to parts of the body that need it the most (like the brain, heart, and muscles.) And stiffer arteries can raise your blood pressure, meaning your heart has to work harder to pump blood through them. Exercise can lower blood pressure and improve circulation, and some research suggests that even simple stretching—think yoga, Pilates, or any stretching moves—can help boost flexibility of blood vessels.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 5 Fitness Trends That Are Having a Moment

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Exercise

American Medical Schools Aren’t Teaching the Importance of Exercise

"I was surprised that medical schools didn’t spend more time on it"

Many doctors are finishing medical school without getting any training in the importance of exercise, a new study shows.

Researchers at Oregon State University found that less than half of physicians trained in the U.S. in 2013 had received any instruction on exercise, based on curriculum records listed online.

Of the 118 of 170 American medical schools that listed their curriculum online, 51% of schools didn’t offer exercise-related classes, 21% had one class and 82% didn’t require students to learn about physical activity.

“There are immense medical benefits to exercise; it can help as much as medicine to address some health concerns,” Brad Cardinal, an OSU professor of sports science, said in the study’s press release. “Because exercise has medicinal as well as other benefits, I was surprised that medical schools didn’t spend more time on it.”

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com