TIME Exercise/Fitness

Running Reduces Risk of Death Even If You’re Super Slow

"Hazard ratios (HRs) of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality by running characteristic (weekly running time, distance, frequency, total amount, and speed). Participants were classified into 6 groups: nonrunners (reference group) and 5 quintiles of each running characteristic. All HRs were adjusted for baseline age (years), sex, examination year, smoking status (never, former, or current), alcohol consumption (heavy drinker or not), other physical activities except running (0, 1 to 499, or $500 MET-minutes/week), and parental history of cardiovascular disease (yes or no). All p values for HRs across running char- acteristics were <0.05 for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality except for running frequency of $6 times/week (p 1⁄4 0.11) and speed of <6.0 miles/h (p 1⁄4 0.10) for cardiovascular mortality."

Whether you are the tortoise or the hare, running can help reduce the risk of heart disease

Whether you log a marathon or a single city block, running—even slowly—may greatly reduce the risk of a cardiovascular-related death when compared to people who do not run, says a new study published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The U.S. government and the World Health Organization currently suggest either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (brisk walking, gardening or physical chores around the house) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming or competitive sports) per week. Yet very little research exists looking at the benefits of vigorous exercise below 75 minutes.

Researchers examined data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study to see if there was a connection between running and longevity. The research followed more than 55,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 over a period of 15 years, recording their daily activity, including running. They found that the benefits of running were the same regardless of sex, age, weight, health conditions and substance-use history, with all runners showing a 30% lower risk of death from all causes, and a 45% lower risk of death from a heart attack or stroke. Out of the original sample of people, 1,217 died of cardiovascular disease—and only 24% of them reported running as part of their exercise routine.

Ascent—Getty Images

Dr. DC Lee, lead author of the study and assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, found that runners who ran less than an hour per week had the same longevity benefits as runner who clock more than 3 hours a week. However, those who ran more consistently over a period of six years benefited most.

 

TIME Exercise/Fitness

How to Stay Motivated When You Can’t Work Out

Pregnant woman walking
JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images/Blend Images

At one point or another, many of us will be sidelined by something that prevents us from working out. Whether it’s an injury, an illness, or a pregnancy restriction, it can be tough to stick to your usual healthy habits (like eating well and drinking plenty of water) when your exercise routine isn’t what it used to be.

Not being active can really throw you for a loop, so here are five ways to help keep you motivated.

Figure out what you CAN do

Ankle injury? You can you work on your upper-body strength. Just had a baby? Ask when it’s OK to start taking walks with the stroller. You might not be able to exercise like you used to, but with your doctor’s consent, you can work together to decide how you can stay active.

Health.com: How to Recover From an Injury in Less Time

Dial back your diet

If you can’t exercise, it’s especially important to pay attention to what you’re eating. Someone who’s used to burning a few hundred calories per day from working out will likely gain weight if they don’t cut back when it comes to food. Some ways to keep yourself accountable: track your calories (I love MyFitnessPal), invest in a fitness tracker, and search online for nutritious, low-calorie recipes.

Health.com: 24 Food Swaps That Slash Calories

Surround yourself with healthy inspiration

You might feel like you’re out of the game when you can’t exercise, but you can still keep yourself in the right mindset by surrounding yourself with all things healthy. Read health and fitness magazines, watch health-inspired documentaries, create a motivational Pinterest board, or cook some new nutritious recipes. Whatever you do, make sure it inspires you to stay healthy!

Set some goals for the future

You can’t work out right now, but you know you’ll be back to your favorite activities soon enough. Get yourself excited for your comeback by creating some goals for yourself. Do you want to run a half-marathon? Start looking at training plans online. Thinking about trying CrossFit? Check out some “boxes” in your area. Setting some goals for yourself will help keep you motivated until you can get back into the swing of things.

Health.com: The 13 Weight-Loss Goals You SHOULDN’T Make

Stay busy

When all else fails and you’re still itching to exercise, try being active in some other way, such as volunteering, taking up a new hobby, or enrolling in a class to learn something new. Keeping yourself busy will help pass the time until you can work out again.

Health.com: 15 Diseases Doctors Often Get Wrong

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

1 in 4 Americans Admit Doing No Exercise At All

Overweight man using remote controls
Overweight man using remote controls Geri Lavrov—Getty Images

The 10 most sedentary states in America are as follows

The CDC released a new report Tuesday that looks at how states across the country support physical activity, revealing one in four people across the U.S. admit doing no voluntary exercise at all.

The research is intended to show how some states are much more active than others. But to really drill in the point, the CDC included a table that tracks the percentage of adults by state who participate in zero physical activity in their free time.

A total of 25.4 percent across the U.S. admitted making no time at all for leisure-time physical activity, according to the report. Just over half of those surveyed said they met the CDC’s 150-minute weekly guideline for aerobic activity.

The 10 states with the highest percentage of inactivity were as follows:

Mississippi: 36%
Tennessee: 35.1%
West Virginia: 35.1%
Louisiana: 33.8%
Alabama: 32.6%
Oklahoma: 31.2%
Arkansas: 30.9%
Kentucky: 29.3%
Indiana: 29.2%
Missouri: 28.4%

The report states that data on physical activity behavior was gathered using data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (which was used to track youth physical activity.)

While some of the above numbers might look bad, all hope isn’t lost. The CDC’s report suggests strategies states can employ to encourage physical activity. Those include:

1) Creating or enhancing access to safe places for physical activity
2) Enhancing physical education and physical activity in schools and child care settings
3) Supporting street-scale and community-scale design policy.

The CDC found that 27 states are tying to make the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists with Complete Street policies to get people up and moving.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Athletes Should Not Play With Head Injuries, Say Doctors

Christoph Kramer of Germany receives a medical treatment during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro.
Christoph Kramer of Germany receives a medical treatment during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro. Shaun Botterill—FIFA/Getty Images

Germany’s decision to let midfield Christof Kramer keep playing in the World Cup final yesterday after being slammed in the head was understandable—if this were 1962, anyway. Back then, a little concussion wasn’t seen as much of a big deal.

That’s not true anymore, and given the fact that everyone from kids’ coaches to the NFL (if grudgingly) recognize that even mild head injuries can have serious consequences, that decision looks close to insane—especially given that Kramer “looked as if he was on another planet and had to be helped off the field,” as TIME’s Bill Saporito observed.

Of course, it’s possible that the German team didn’t realize that this sort of thing can cause permanent brain damage. Or maybe they think that what applies to American football is irrelevant to real football. Except that studies have shown that soccer players are equally at risk.

Clearly, they didn’t read the editorial in The Lancet Neurology published the day before the game reminding coaches and team officials that “cerebral concussion is the most common form of sports-related traumatic brain injury (TBI), and the long-term effects of repeated concussions may include dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and other neurological disorders.” The decision to let players continue in a game, wrote these learned medical experts, should be made solely by doctors.

It turns out that FIFA doesn’t have any clear rules about what to do in case a player suffers an apparent concussion. But the fact that Kramer stayed in the game, no matter how important a World Cup final match might be, was at best highly questionable. “I can’t remember very much but it doesn’t matter now,” the dazed player reportedly said after the game was over.

If the medical professionals are right about how serious concussions can be, Kramer and his teammates might well have a different take on things a few years down the road.

TIME You Asked

You Asked: Is Hot Yoga Good For You—And For Weight Loss?

Hot Yoga
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Devoted hot yogis swear by the activity’s many benefits. Others roll their eyes and wonder: Is it even safe to work out at 104 degrees? Here's what the experts say

Start poking around for hard science on Bikram or “hot” yoga, and you’ll find something curious: There’s not much of it. “Considering how popular this is, it’s pretty shocking that our study is one of the very first published research efforts on the subject,” says Dr. Brian L. Tracy, an exercise scientist at Colorado State University.

Tracy and his team have conducted two experiments on the physical effects of Bikram yoga, which involves completing a strict series of poses over a period of 90 minutes in a room heated to 104 or 105 degrees. The first experiment included healthy (but sedentary) young adults with no yoga experience. After eight weeks and 24 Bikram sessions, Tracy says the study participants showed some modest increases in strength and muscle control, as well as a big improvement in balance. They also achieved a slight drop in body weight.

“To be honest, we were pretty surprised by the small size of the weight change, because when you’re in the Bikram studio you feel like you’re working really hard,” Tracy says. “And remember, these were people who didn’t regularly exercise before the study. We were expecting a bigger drop.”

For his follow-up experiment, Tracy hooked up experienced yogis to equipment designed to measure their heart rates, body temperatures, and energy expenditures during a typical Bikram session. That new data helped explain some of those disappointing body-weight findings: While heart rate and core temp climbed significantly (but not dangerously) during the 90-minute session, the participants’ metabolic rates—or the amount of calories their bodies burned—were roughly equivalent to those of people walking briskly.

“I think the immediate reaction is disappointment if you’re a Bikram fan,” Tracy says, adding that, if you’ve spent time reading about the activity online, you might assume you’d be shedding up to 1,000 calories per session. “But that’s not the case,” he says. His research shows men burn an average of 460 calories, while women work off about 330. “I think the heat and the difficulty of the postures combine to alter your perception of the intensity of the exercise,” he explains. On the other hand, one part of your body is getting a major workout, Tracy says. “Heart rates are quite high for the amount of work you’re doing. Quite high.”

Is that something you should worry about, though? “Potentially,” says Dr. Kim Allan Williams, president-elect of the American College of Cardiology. When you’re hot, your heart pumps large volumes of blood to the vessels in your skin where, through a process called convection, sweat is produced. “And it’s actually not the sweat, but the sweat’s evaporation that helps cool you off,” he explains. “Sweat does not evaporate efficiently in those conditions,” he adds.

What does this have to do with hot yoga? The humidity in Bikram yoga studios is supposed to be kept at 40 percent. But in reality, Tracy says it’s tough to know how often that goal is achieved or maintained. As the humidity climbs and your heart keeps working to cool you off, you’re sweating out minerals like potassium and sodium, along with H20, Williams says. “It’s the same for athletes working out in the middle of summer,” he adds. “You have to be mindful of the heat and humidity.”

To protect yourself, both Tracy and Williams say hot yoga practicers need to pay close attention to their bodies. Feelings of light-headedness, nausea, confusion, or muscle cramping—either during or after a yoga practice—are all signs that you need to take a break. That’s especially true for inexperienced yogis, whose bodies aren’t acclimated to the rigors of hot yoga, Tracy explains.

Williams also stresses the importance of hydration and nutrient replacement. “You can’t sweat out a bunch of minerals and then replace them with water alone,” he says. Dangerously low levels of potassium, sodium, and other electrolytes contribute to those scary health risks mentioned above.

Left unanswered are questions about the long-term effects of hot yoga practice, or how people with heart defects or other health conditions might react to the strenuous conditions, Tracy says.

Sweaty bodies aside, most hot yoga fans also praise the activity’s mental and psychological benefits. And a growing pile of research on yoga suggests the practice—and not just the hot varieties—may help lower stress while improving pain management and emotion regulation in ways similar to meditation.

“This isn’t something we’ve studied directly, but I do think there’s an element of mindfulness in Bikram yoga instruction,” says Emily Lindsay, who researches stress and mindfulness meditation at Carnegie Mellon University. Focusing your attention on your breathing and body posture can anchor you in the present moment and foster mindfulness, Lindsay explains. Yoga practice can also provide moments of peace without interruption from your cell phone, email, or life’s other routine distractions. It’s not farfetched to think that these components could offer yoga practitioners some psychological benefits, Lindsay says.

“Millions of people do it, and there aren’t just one or two anecdotal stories about how Bikram changes people’s lives,” Tracy says. “So there has to be something to it.”

TIME Exercise/Fitness

An Hour of Exercise Can Make Up for a Day of Sitting Down

It's not just how much exercise you get, but also how much time you spend off your bottom that keeps your heart healthy

Another day, another study that confirms the dispiriting reality that sitting is bad for you. Fortunately, says that same study on heart health published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, it doesn’t take much to offset the harmful effects of sitting.

Because exercise has a more powerful effect in helping the heart than sitting does in harming it, one hour of physical exercise could counteract the effects of sitting for six to seven hours a day, according to researchers led by Dr. Jarett Berry at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

(MORE: It’s Lack of Exercise — Not Calories — That Makes Us Fat, Study Says)

The data Berry and his team reviewed came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an ongoing series of health studies maintained by the Centers for Disease Control. The 2,223 participants between the ages of 12 and 49 wore accelerometers for seven days (except while showering or swimming) to measure their activity levels and sedentary behavior, and the result showed that sitting, regardless of the total amount of physical activity the people did, was linked to lower heart fitness.

But it also found that men and women who logged less time sitting had better fitness, as measured on a treadmill test, than those who spent more hours in a chair or on the couch. So instead of focusing on working out, those worried about their health might think instead about sitting less. “Even people who exercise regularly spend the vast majority of their time not exercising,” says Berry. “And it appears that what we do when we’re not exercising is relevant to our health. Understanding this has the ability to shift the paradigm of thinking about exercise more dramatically than anything else in the field of exercise.”

(MORE: Exercise Snacking: How to Make 1 Minute of Exercise Work Like 30 Minutes)

In general, Berry says, any movement, from walking to taking the stairs and even fidgeting if you absolutely have to be in a chair, is likely better than sitting relatively motionless. “Much more work needs to be done, to develop small scale trials to test the impact that lifestyle changes have irrespective of volitional physical activity,” he says. “We spend so much of our time sitting and doing non-exercise-related activities that it’s relevant for us to understand that better.”

 

TIME Obesity

Siblings More Likely Than Parents to Influence Child Obesity

79514071
Absodels/Getty Images

And the association is even stronger for siblings of the same gender

A new study released Tuesday reported children are more than twice as likely to be obese when they have an obese sibling compared to when they have an obese parent.

The study, which will be published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, showed the likelihood that a child is obese is even greater when they have a sibling of the same gender.

In one-child families, an obese parent meant more than double the risk that the child would be obese. In households with two children, this held true for the older child but not the younger sibling.

“Younger children look up to their big brother or sister for behavioral cues, often seeking their approval; and siblings may spend more time each other than with their parents, often eating and playing sports together,” study author Mark Pachucki said in a statement.

Pachuki, who is an instructor at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, said he initially expected parental obesity would have a stronger association than sibling obesity due to parents’ important role in children’s eating habits, but he was wrong.

Researchers looked at almost 2,000 respondents to the Family Health Habits Survey.

TIME Sex

Can Sex Really Dampen Athletic Performance?

SOCCER: JUN 06 Portugal v Mexico
The Mexican wall waits for a free kick from Portugal's Nani (17) during an international friendly before the 2014 World Cup, Foxborough, Mass., June 6, 2014. Fred Kfoury III—Icon SMI/Corbis

Many teams at the World Cup are abstaining from sex. Does science back up their abstinence?

Several teams participating in this year’s World Cup have team-wide bans on having sex before games, because coaches believe it could interfere with performance.

“There will be no sex in Brazil,” Safet Susic, the coach of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s national soccer team told reporters. “I am not interested what the other coaches do. This is not a holiday trip, we are there to play football at the World Cup.”

Abstinence is not a phenomenon reserved for the World Cup; several Olympic teams have taken temporary vows of celibacy during the games (though that has not stopped Olympic villages from running out of thousands of condoms). It’s even reported that boxer Muhammad Ali refused to have sex six weeks before a match.

However, there’s a lack of evidence proving sex makes people worse—or better—at sports. “It’s often talked about, but it has not been shown to be true,” says sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzel. “There are lots of factors that could account for how a player performs.” For instance, doing the deed can take time away from getting enough shuteye, and getting enough sleep is non-negotiable for peak performance. (French players are allowed to have sex, but “not all night,” the team’s former doctor told 20Minutes.fr) The authors of a 2000 study note that former New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel once said: “It’s not the sex that wrecks these guys, it’s staying up all night looking for it.”

There have been few studies looking specifically at sex and athletic performance but results were inconclusive. For example, a mid-90s study looked at the effects of sex on measures like aerobic power and oxygen pulse among 11 men running on treadmills. The men were tested twice, once having sex 12 hours before and once without sex. Putting aside the fact that it was a very small sample size with limited testing, the data came back showing the results from both experiments were no different.

Another review of 31 studies on sex and athletics published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found weak evidence that having sex the night before competition affects performance. Exhaustion cannot be a great factor since most sexual intercourse burns only 25–50 calories—the equivalent of walking up two flights of stairs. The authors of that research conclude that it likely just depends on the person. Some may feel that sex helps them relieve anxiety, while for others it becomes a distraction.

There’s also the possibility that sex during major athletic events leads to distractions. Some teams, like Nigeria, only allow players to have sex with their wives. Perhaps it’s because the hook-up scene can becoming distracting. “There was a point where I had to be like OK, this is way too distracting. I deleted my [Tinder] account to focus on the Olympics,”American snowboarder Jamie Anderson told reporters.

However, no studies have looked at the psychological effects of having sex before a game and whether athletes believe sex helps or harms them, which may be more important. “In sports, people have all kinds of theories, even if it’s not medically substantiated. For instance: compression gear for speed and titanium necklaces for performance,” says Dr. Metzel. “We don’t have scientific evidence to back those claims, but if players think abstaining from sex helps them, it may give them a psychological edge.”

Many athletes have pre-game rituals, or lucky tokens, and some research has shown that these superstitions actually improve performance. So perhaps a team sex-ban technically isn’t doing much for performance on the field, but when it comes to getting in the right mindset, it’s not out of the question that it could make all the difference for some players.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Talking About “Blue Balls” With Susan Sarandon

13th Annual Samsung Hope For Children Gala
D Dipasupil—FilmMagic

Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon wants men to take better care of themselves

Susan Sarandon is yelling at the TV and her hands are in fists. It’s the Stanley Cup finals, and her beloved Rangers only need one shot to win.

Everyone is screaming—even me, and I don’t root for a team that’s not the Minnesota Wild. It’s only appropriate that we are watching this time-honored testosterone fest since we are at SPiN, Sarandon’s ping pong bar in New York, to chat about men—stubborn ones in particular. And Sarandon is giving out bright blue ping pong balls for charity.

For the entire month of June—men’s health month—Sarandon’s club is promoting a Rally for Men’s Health at all its locations (there are SPiNs in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Dubai). Anyone who comes in is offered the “Blue Ball Special,” which means they will play with blue paddles and balls at a blue ping pong table. For every customer who opts for the special, SPiN will donate $1 to the Testicular Cancer Society. They will also donate $1 for every photo of a blue ball posted to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #SPiNBlueBalls.

Now that Sarandon’s business is off its feet, she says she felt it was time to start doing some good with its popularity. But why men’s health? She says men are an overlooked demographic in public health campaigns. “Men don’t go to the doctor, they don’t get checked. They need someone reminding them,” she says. And humor is the best way to do tackle the issue, she says.

Sarandon has two sons and daughter, and health is something she’s tried to ingrain in them. “I used to try to buy all organic food when it was so hard to find,” she remembers. Now that she is becoming a grandmother—she is also playing one in the upcoming film “Tammy” with Melissa McCarthy—family health and wellness is on her mind. “I want this to be something we do often,” she says. Sarandon says she got into ping pong because it’s fun, but also because she wanted to encourage physical and mental health by making the sport more accessible. She’s given 14 ping pong tables to schools in New York, and some have started getting kids to play before exams to blow off steam.

“I like ping pong because anyone at any age and body type can play. You can play your grandmother. Everyone can have a good time. It’s good for physical activity and mental health” she says.

The campaign is meant to be fun and entertaining, and encourage men to not be embarrassed by their health. And as Sarandon sips tequila and yells at the Rangers to get it together, I’m not sure who wouldn’t take her advice.

TIME Aging

10 Ways to Live to 100

Women exercising and laughing
Sam Edwards—Getty Images/Caiaimage

No one really wants to think about aging, but let’s face it: the habits you practice now can play a role in how long you’ll live, and how much life you’ll have in your years.

The world’s oldest man, Polish immigrant Alexander Imich, passed away on Sunday in New York City at the age of 111. That’s way longer than the average American male life expectancy of 76, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health.com: 13 Everyday Habits That Age You

While Imich told The New York Times that he chalked up his longevity to good genes, there are healthy habits you can pick up to help you live a longer, happier life. Here are some ideas:

Find a hobby
Doing something you find truly fulfilling will give you a sense of accomplishment, and can help reduce stress.

Floss!
Flossing does more than clean your teeth: Getting all that inflammation-causing bacteria off your gums can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Health.com: 14 Reasons Why You’re Always Tired

Plan a vacay
Taking a break from work can lower your risk of heart disease and add 1 to 2 years to your life.

Rest up
Your body repairs cells during sleep, so skimping on it doesn’t do your body any favors. Plus, adequate sleep also affects your quality of life. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye per night.

Get busy
Having sex releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, another stress reliever. Plus, a study from the University of Quebec found that women burn 3 calories per minute of sex while men burn 4.

Health.com: 7 Foods for Better Sex

Be social
People with stronger friendships were 50% more likely to live longer than those with weaker connections, a 2010 analysis found. That makes the impact of friendlessness comparable to that of smoking (more on that below).

Eat right
You need to fuel your body with healthy foods to live a long life. Limit your intake of foods high in fat, salt, and added sugar (which can increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases) and look for superfoods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.

Health.com: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

Hit the gym
Not only is exercise good for the heart, but working out can trigger the release of endorphins, pain-relieving chemicals known to boost your mood. Shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, per the CDC.

Beat stress
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are associated with an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. That’s even more reason to take up calming activities, like meditation and yoga.

Stop smoking and limit drinking
Imich, a former smoker, swore off both cigarettes and alcohol and you should follow his lead-at lease when it comes to the cigs. Smoking causes one out of 5 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. Moderate alcohol consumption is good for you, but experts recommend that women have no more than one drink per day (or up to 7 per week); for men it’s 1 to 2 drinks per day, or a max of 14 per week.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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