Category Archives: Nutrition and Fitness

Looking to Improve Sleep? Solution: Exercise

Statistics indicate that almost one third of all Americans, approximately 108 million people, suffer from insomnia and poor sleep hygiene. While many turn to pharmaceuticals and sleeping pills, science offers a safer and more effective solution: exercise.

Rush University clinical psychologist Kelly Glazer Baron states that an increasing amount of research demonstrates that exercise can reduce insomnia; moreover, those who engage in physical activity have increased energy levels, and are less depressed. Further studies assessed people with clinically diagnosed insomnia disorder, as opposed to self-described ‘poor sleepers.’ The results likewise showed enhanced sleep quality.

While Arizona State University sleep researcher Shawn Youngstedt admits that while exercise is not quite as effective as sleeping pills, the considerable potential downsides of drugs and pharmaceuticals include increased infection, dementia, and other hazards.

18 million Americans also suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing temporarily stops during the night. Exercise can also assist with this; one study showed a 25% reduction of sleep apnea symptoms over a 12-week period. Youngstedt also points to the efficacy of exercise in helping with restless-leg symptoms.

A large amount of literature shows that people who exercise inevitably have better sleep, reporting an increase in deep sleep and a decrease in the number of awakenings. Moreover, most people feel less depressed, and moods are enhanced.

Attend our upcoming Sleep Workshop in West Palm Beach on July 29th, and learn more about innovative options and various techniques that can assist in healthy sleep hygiene.

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Obesity: The Public Health Epidemic Sweeping America

The prevalence of obesity and overweight in the United States has skyrocketed in the past few decades, leading to jarring statistics that indicate a global public health problem. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey states that more than 2 in 3 adults are considered overweight or obese; more disconcerting is the fact that approximately one-third of children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight or obese.

The causes of overweight and obesity vary, but include genetics, nutrition habits, life habits, geographic location, and income. Obesity is one of the primary risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and a host of other health problems.

A recent study based at and conducted by UT Southwestern Medical Center reveals a strong genetic-environmental interaction: obesity significantly exacerbates the effects of gene variants that increase the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by various metabolic pathways. If untreated and unmonitored, NAFLD can ultimately lead to cirrhosis—chronic liver disease—and liver cancer. Scientists found that the PNPLA3 gene variant spurred the strongest genetic-environmental interaction: “the first genetic cause of NAFLD ever identified.” One of the lead researchers in the study explains that people with lower BMI indexes are unlikely to have excess fat in the liver, despite having the PNPLA3 risk alleles. A longitudinal study further revealed that the risk of having cirrhosis among those with the risk allele increased 5.8 times, compared to those who were obese but lacked the risk allele.

The findings demonstrate an interaction between obesity and genetics, confirming the importance of both genetic screenings and early interventions. While there is no single approach to prevent or treat overweight and obesity, the importance of diet and exercise cannot be overstated—particularly with younger children and adolescents, as childhood obesity almost inevitably leads to adulthood obesity. While some studies suggest that the epidemic will worsen and hit new highs, others advocate for different treatment approaches, including collaboration with the food and restaurant industries regarding calories and portion sizes.

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Physical Activity & Psychological Health

While research has long confirmed the strong correlation between exercise and psychological health, a new study utilizing cellphone data to track activities and moods has confirmed that people who move are overall more content than people who sit.

While previous epidemiological studies have found that people who are active are less prone to depression and anxiety than sedentary people, the majority of these studies solely focused on negative moods. They generally relied on people recalling how they had felt, in addition to how much they had moved or sat in the previous weeks—with little concrete, tangible data to support their recollections.

The new study used a different approach, focusing on correlations between movement and the most positive emotion: happiness. The researchers also looked at what people reported about their respective activities, comparing it with objective measures of movement.

In doing this, the team first developed a special app for Android phones: advertised as helping people understand the ways in which lifestyles choices—like physical activity—might affect moods. As the app sent random requests throughout the day, during which people were asked to enter estimations of their current moods in addition to an assessment regarding their satisfaction with life in general, they also answered additional questions about whether they had been sitting, standing, walking, running, lying down, etc.

The app also asked about the users’ moods at that moment, simultaneously gathering data from the activity monitor built into almost every smartphone available today. Essentially, it checked whether someone’s recall of his/her movement tallied with the numbers from the activity monitor. Overall, the information provided by users and the activity monitors’ data was almost exactly the same.

People using the app also reported greater levels of happiness when they had been moving in the past quarter-hour, rather than when they had been sedentary—although often, they were not engaging in rigorous, strenuous activity. Researchers also found that people who moved more frequently tended to convey greater life satisfaction than those who spent most time in a chair.

The results suggest that people who are generally more active are generally happier, and in the moments during which they are active, they are also happier. While the study does not establish causation, the findings incontrovertibly indicate that if you get up and move often, you are more likely to feel cheerful than if you do not.

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