Some folks like to count their daily steps, while others prefer exercising for a certain amount of time during a day or a week. Luckily, either approach boosts health, a new study finds. Exercise targets based on either step count or minutes are equally associated with lower risks of premature death and heart disease, researchers report in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Given this, personal preferences probably are key when setting up an exercise plan, researchers said. “For some, especially for younger individuals, exercise may involve activities like tennis, soccer, walking, or jogging, all of which can be easily tracked with steps,” said lead author Dr. Rikuta Hamaya, a researcher with the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Preventive Medicine in Boston. “However, for others, it may consist of bike rides or swimming, where monitoring the duration of exercise is simpler,” Hamaya added in a hospital news release.  Current U.S. exercise guidelines focus on minutes – at least 150 minutes weekly of moderate to vigorous physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. But smartwatches have made it easier than ever to track step counts, raising the question of whether steps would be better suited for setting exercise goals, researchers said. “We recognized that existing physical activity guidelines focus primarily on activity duration and intensity but lack step-based recommendations,” Hamaya said. “With more people using…  read on >  read on >

People who regularly ride bikes throughout their life are less likely to develop knee arthritis, a new study suggests. Bicyclists are 17% less likely to have knee pain and 21% less likely to have symptoms of knee arthritis, compared to people who’ve never biked, researchers discovered. It also appears that people who’ve biked all their lives have a lower risk of knee arthritis than people who’ve only pedaled at one point or another, results show. “Each increase in the number of age periods engaged in bicycling resulted in lower likelihood of reporting knee pain” and knee arthritis detected by both symptoms and X-rays, said lead researcher Dr. Grace Lo, an associate professor of medicine in allergy, immunology and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Doctors often encourage regular physical activity to prevent knee arthritis, but some exercises tend to be more effective than others. For this study, researchers analyzed data from more than 2,600 people ages 45 to 79 participating in a study of knee arthritis. About half of the people said they had a consistent history of biking. The participants were asked about their bicycling activities during four age periods of their lives — 12 to 18, 19 to 34, 35 to 49 and 50 or older. These activities could include either outdoor biking or riding an indoor stationary cycle. The new…  read on >  read on >

(HeathDay News) — Following decades of declines, drowning deaths are once again climbing in the United States, new government data shows. More than 4,500 people died from drowning each year in 2020 through 2022, 500 more per year than in 2019, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. Increased access to basic swimming lessons and water safety training could save many lives, researchers said. “I’ve seen firsthand the effects of drowning: families forced to say goodbye to their loved ones too soon,” CDC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Debra Houry said in an agency news release. “Understanding the barriers people face to accessing basic swimming and water safety skills training can help us better understand how to address those barriers, decrease drowning rates and save lives,” Houry added. Drowning is the leading cause of death for toddlers ages 1 to 4 in the United States, and the new study found that drowning rates were the highest in this age group. By race and ethnicity, the highest drowning rates were found among Black people  and American Indian/Alaska Native people, researchers found. Nearly 40 million adults (15%) do not know how to swim, and over half (55%) have never taken a swimming lesson, researchers noted. Black people in particular lack swimming skills. More than one in three (37%) Black adults said they don’t know how…  read on >  read on >

Yoga can help improve the long-term health of people with heart failure, a new study has found. “Patients who practiced yoga on top of taking their medications felt better, were able to do more, and had stronger hearts than those who only took drugs for their heart failure,” lead researcher Dr. Ajit Singh of the Indian Council of Medical Research and Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India, said in a news release. Heart failure can have devastating effects on a person’s quality of life, leaving patients tired, breathless and unable to participate in their usual activities, researchers said. The study included 85 patients between 30 and 70 years of age in treatment for heart failure at Kasturba Hospital in Manipal, India. They all had undergone a heart procedure within the past year, and were taking heart medications. Researchers chose 40 people to participate in yoga, and 45 patients to just take their medicine as a control group. Over a week’s time, people in the yoga group were taught a yoga practice that focuses on breathing, meditation and relaxation. They then were advised to continue yoga on their own at home, in 50-minute sessions once a week. Researchers checked the heart structure and function of all participants at the beginning of the trial, six months in and at one year. The team measured the heart’s…  read on >  read on >

Athletes who push themselves to maximum performance don’t appear to pay a price when it comes to their longevity, a new study says. The first 200 athletes to run a mile in under four minutes actually outlived the general population by nearly five years on average, according to results published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. This counters the popular belief that extreme exercise might push the body too far and shorten life expectancy, researchers said. For centuries, some have promoted the idea of a “U-shaped” association between health and exercise, with either too little or too much physical activity doing damage to a person’s well being. “Our findings challenge the notion that extreme endurance exercise may be detrimental to longevity, reinforcing the benefits of exercise even at training levels required for elite performance,” concluded the team led by senior researcher Mark Haykowsky, research chair of aging and quality of life at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. The study marks the 70th anniversary of the first time a person ran a mile in under four minutes, researchers said. The English neurologist and athlete Roger Bannister first broke this milestone in May 1954. Bannister died in 2018, at the age of 88. For the study, researchers looked at the first 200 athletes to break the four-minute mile and compared them to the average person’s…  read on >  read on >

Children and young adults who are couch potatoes could wind up with enlarged hearts, increasing their risk of heart attack, stroke and early death. Sedentary behavior contributed as much as 40% to the total increase in heart size between the ages of 17 and 24, researchers found. Further, a lack of movement helped enlarge teens’ hearts independent of other risk factors like obesity or high blood pressure, researchers found. Childhood and teenage sedentary behavior amounts to a “ticking time bomb,” researcher Andrew Agbaje said in a news release. He’s an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and child health at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. “There is growing evidence that childhood sedentariness is a health threat that needs to be taken seriously,” he said. On the other hand, children who regularly engaged in light physical activity reduced their increase in heart mass by 49%, researchers said. “Light physical activity is an effective antidote to sedentariness. It is easy to accumulate three to four hours of light physical activity daily,” Agbaje said. Examples of light physical activity include outdoor games, walking a dog, running errands, walking and biking to stores or to school, taking a stroll in the park, playing in the forest, gardening, and casual games of basketball, soccer, golf, frisbee, he said. Kids who regularly worked out even harder tended to increase their heart…  read on >  read on >