RESEARCH ROUNDUP 8: SCIENCE SERVES UP FRESH HEALTH & FITNESS NEWS
By Emma Hogan for Fit Planet
In this roundup: the surprising benefits of napping, what the British love more than exercise, how testing a toddler’s brain could predict future health, new facts about Alzheimer’s and how millions are doubling the risk of early death.
Doubling the risk of early death
Just like smoking, drinking and drugs, being insufficiently active is shown to increase your chances of an early death. A large-scale Norwegian study has revealed people who lead a sedentary lifestyle are twice as likely to suffer premature death than those who are physically active. Tracking 23,000 adults for more than two decades, researchers found those who were consistently inactive had a 99 percent increased risk of early death. When compared to those who did more than two hours of exercise a week, the inactive individuals had a 168 percent higher chance of suffering a deadly heart attack or stroke! The findings make it clear that consistent physical activity is key – as those who maintained moderate or high activity levels over the 20 years enjoyed maximum health benefits in terms of protection against premature all-cause and cardiovascular death. Learn more about how physical activity ensures maximum protection against premature death.
The ‘lazy’ activity that’s surprisingly good for you
A new study of 3500 Swiss adults has revealed that napping may be good for your heart. Researchers found those who took one or two daytime naps a week had a lower risk of heart problems. Experts believe that this is because short snoozes can help relieve stress and compensate for inadequate sleep at night, which will help heart health. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of Americans don’t get the recommended minimum seven hours of rest per night. Such sleep deprivation is associated with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and mental distress. Past studies have linked long naps to increased cardiovascular issues, so experts recommend sticking to short snoozes – 20 minutes is enough to benefit from increased alertness and performance. Interestingly, the study indicated that those older than 65 are unlikely to enjoy the heart-health benefits of napping. Learn more about how snoozing can aid heart health.
Brits spend twice as much time making tea as they do exercising
A 2080-strong study of UK adults has revealed that Brits dedicate an average of 40 minutes a day to making tea. But the average time spent doing moderate physical activity is just 14 minutes. Twenty eight percent of respondents were classed as physically inactive; 13 percent doing no exercise at all and 15 percent doing less than 30 minutes a week. The good news is that 80 percent of respondents ranked personal health and wellbeing as a priority, and well over half agreed that physical activity helps them feel better. Learn more about U.K. exercise habits here.
Tests taken as a toddler could signpost how you’ll age
How your brain functions when you’re three years old might be interesting predictor of your future heath. Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina assessed the brains of 869 New Zealanders who had undergone regular medical and cognitive testing since the age of three. The study participants were all aged between 43 to 46, yet MRI brain scans revealed their ‘brain ages’ ranged from 23 to 71. On delving deeper, the researchers found that those who scored the highest on cognitive tests as three-year olds ended up with the youngest-looking brains in their mid-forties. The study also assessed cholesterol and blood sugar, and researchers acknowledged how environmental factors – such as health, eating and exercise – can influence brain aging. Learn more about how tests taken as a toddler could indicate future brain health.
Some people are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s. Exercise could help change this
Scientists are yet to find a drug that can prevent, cure or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, but there’s mounting evidence to suggest that exercise could help. For nearly a decade researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health have been studying middle-aged individuals with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They have identified how, as people age, there is an increase in the build-up of amyloid and slower breakdown of glucose by brain cells, which are key brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s. Their studies have shown that exercise at moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes a week can significantly reduce the negative brain changes, and that being fit can almost negate the effect of the harmful gene Apo E4. Now, after putting a group of high-risk individuals through six-month exercise regime and using brain scans to assess Alzheimer’s related changes, they have further evidence that regular exercise is associated with higher levels of glucose metabolism and better cognitive function tests. This is supported by a University of Texas study of people with an accumulation of amyloid beta protein in the brain (which is an early sign of Alzheimer’s). They found that exercising for 30 minutes four times a week can slow the effects of the disease in early stages.