If you feel like the pandemic made you a permanent couch potato, a new study shows you’re not alone: Well after lockdown measures were relaxed, many Americans were still taking fewer steps each day. Researchers found that, on the whole, Americans’ daily step count plummeted at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 — an understandable decline that prior studies have charted. However, based on the new findings, people had not yet bounced back as of December 2021: U.S. adults were still taking around 700 fewer steps per day, compared to their pre-pandemic norm. “It was really surprising to see that kind of impact over a year-and-a-half into the pandemic,” said senior researcher Dr. Evan Brittain, a heart disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. Physical activity is key in staving off weight gain and keeping up cardiovascular fitness levels — which, in turn, lowers the risk of developing serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So any sustained drop in an adult’s physical activity is concerning, said Dr. Carl “Chip” Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans. Lavie, who was not involved in the study, said it adds to research documenting the nation’s collective drop in step count since the pandemic’s start. In some cases, he noted,… read on > read on >
Gear Up (Helmets Included) for a Safe Bike Season
As the weather warms, folks are bringing out their bicycles for a ride. That’s great, but it’s important to be ready for a safe biking season: The national rate of bike accidents is two fatal crashes and 2,630 accidents requiring emergency room visits every week. Angela Mountz, community car seat safety program coordinator at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital in Hershey, offers some tips for parents to help their young cyclists avoid serious childhood riding accidents. “I had a cousin who was hit by a car [while on a bike],” Mountz said in a hospital news release. Mountz’s cousin didn’t die, but suffered from the injuries for the rest of his life. “Kids go around thinking, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’” she said. “But it’s so important to protect yourself.” A helmet is at the very top of her list. The odds that a child will suffer a serious injury if involved in a crash while biking go up 40% if they’re not wearing a helmet, Mountz said. Parents should also wear a helmet while riding: “We need to teach them by example,” Mountz said. Aim for safety over style, Mountz added. Look for a sticker from the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation to be sure your child’s helmet is certified. Check your kids’ helmets every two months to… read on > read on >
Dementia Risk Rises for Elite European Soccer Players
It’s well-established that American football players can suffer significant brain impacts as they age. Now, new research shows that elite European soccer players are also more likely than the average person to develop dementia. Men in the Swedish top soccer division between 1924 and 2019 were 1.5 times more likely to develop neurodegenerative disease than those in a control group. The study of more than 6,000 players found they had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. They did not, however, have any increased risk for motor neuron disease, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). And they had even lower risk of Parkinson’s disease than a control group matched by age, sex and region. Unlike their outfield counterparts, goalkeepers did not have an increased risk of dementia. This supports the theory that heading the ball increases the risk, according to the report published March 16 in The Lancet Public Health. “Goalkeepers rarely head the ball, unlike outfield players, but are exposed to similar environments and lifestyles during their [soccer] careers and perhaps also after retirement,” said Dr. Peter Ueda, an assistant professor at Karolinska Institute in Sweden. “It has been hypothesized that repetitive mild head trauma sustained through heading the ball is the reason [soccer] players are at increased risk, and it could be that… read on > read on >
Yoga Can Help Seniors Regain Their Strength
Practicing yoga might help older adults become a little surer on their feet, a new research review suggests. The review, of 33 small clinical trials, found that older adults who participated in yoga programs typically gained some lower-body strength and boosted their walking speed. Experts said the findings suggest that yoga might help older adults manage some of the strength and movement limitations that can come with age. At the same time, it’s hard to give specific advice based on the research that’s been done, according to lead researcher Dr. Julia Loewenthal, a geriatrician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The trials varied in the groups they studied, she said — sometimes healthy older adults living at home, sometimes nursing home residents, sometimes people with health conditions like knee arthritis or Parkinson’s disease. The studies also differed in the style of yoga they used, Loewenthal said. Yoga is an ancient practice that blends physical postures, breathing practices and meditation. In the modern world, though, yoga classes vary widely in style — with some favoring a vigorous physical practice that requires people to move quickly and get up and down from the floor. For seniors looking to start a yoga practice, Loewenthal said that an Iyengar-based class could be a good fit: That style of yoga focuses on good form in the poses, can be… read on > read on >
Could Walks in the Park Ward Off Postpartum Depression?
New moms who live on tree-lined streets may be somewhat less vulnerable to postpartum depression, according to a new study — the latest to link “green space” to better mental health. The study, of medical records from more than 415,000 new mothers, found that those living in urban areas with more tree coverage had a lower risk of being diagnosed with postpartum depression, versus women from less-green neighborhoods. The link was not explained by factors like household income, or mothers’ race or education level. Experts said the findings do not prove that living among trees lowers the likelihood of postpartum depression. But they do add to a body of research suggesting that having green space within sight is a boon for people’s mental well-being. The study also points to one reason: physical activity. It’s a lot easier to go out for a walk when you live in a tree-lined neighborhood, with its built-in shade and better air quality. And for new mothers, that may be especially important, said senior researcher Jun Wu, a professor at the University of California, Irvine. They have little time and are likely exhausted, Wu said, and getting to the park, especially if they have to drive, might be out of the question. Stepping outside into the fresh air and shade is much more doable, she suggested. Kathleen Wolf is a… read on > read on >
Does Running Bring on Arthritic Knees?
New research offers up some good news for diehard marathon runners: You don’t necessarily have to give up running if you are experiencing hip or knee pain. Contrary to widespread opinion, running marathons does not increase your risk for developing hip or knee osteoarthritis, the wear and tear form of the disease, a new study of seasoned Chicago marathoners showed. “You don’t develop knee or hip osteoarthritis simply because of how fast you run or how many miles you put on your body,” said study author Dr. Matthew James Hartwell, an orthopedic surgery sports medicine fellow at the University of the University of California, San Francisco. So, what does increase a runner’s risk for hip or knee arthritis? Basically, the same things that up these risks in non-marathoners, Hartwell said. This includes advancing age, family history of hip or knee arthritis, and previous injuries or knee surgery, as well as higher body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight. For the study, more than 3,800 Chicago marathoners (mean age: nearly 44) answered questions about their running history, including number of marathons, number of years spent running, and average weekly mileage. They also answered questions about known risk factors for knee and hip arthritis. Participants completed an average of 9.5 marathons, ran 27.9 miles per week, and had been running… read on > read on >
How Soon Can You Resume Tennis, Golf After Shoulder Surgery?
Returning to golf, tennis or pickleball after shoulder replacement surgery shouldn’t be too hard. Healing does take time, but within a few months most people can get back to play at their pre-surgery level without the pain that they experienced before, a pair of new studies show. “Recovery after both an anatomic and reverse shoulder replacement or from any shoulder replacement is identical,” said Dr. Jonathan Levy, director of the Levy Shoulder Center at the Paley Orthopedic and Spine Institute in Boca Raton, Fla., who led both studies. “Patients are protected for the first six weeks and allowed to stretch for the next six weeks, but not allowed to return to the sport for at least three months,” he said. On average, it took patients about six months to play at their former level, Levy said. “But they were given the green light beginning at around three months,” he added. Recovery after shoulder replacements is relatively straightforward, Levy said. “It’s not an extraordinarily painful recovery,” he said. “If people are taking pain medication, it’s for a very short time. It’s just going through the stages of recovery where you go through healing, stretching, and then strength recovery and return to activity.” The first study included 69 golfers who had shoulder replacement surgery. Of this group, 36 returned to the golf course six months after surgery… read on > read on >
Which High School Sports Cause Kids the Most Injuries?
Fewer high school athletes are getting hurt playing sports, but those who do are more likely to suffer severe injuries that require surgery or a timeout from their chosen sport, new research shows. Which teens are most at risk? Those who participate in football, girls’ soccer and boys’ wrestling, the study authors found. Knee and ankle sprains and strains, along with head injuries such as concussions, were the most common injuries seen. Exactly why injuries are becoming more severe isn’t fully understood, but having kids specialize in sports too early may play a role. That can lead to an increase in overuse injuries, overtraining and burnout, said study co-author Jordan Pizzarro, a medical student at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, in Washington, D.C. Still, the new data isn’t a reason for kids to stop playing sports. “Sports build endurance and stamina and help with growth and maturity,” Pizzarro said. Instead, parents should talk to the school or coach about pre-season training programs that may help stave off injuries among young athletes. For the study, the researchers tapped into 2015 to 2019 injury data from 100 high schools. These schools have athletic trainers who report injuries for five boys’ and four girls’ sports. Overall, there were 15,531 injuries that occurred during 6.8 million athletic exposures. (An athletic exposure is defined as one… read on > read on >
Most College Athletes With Genetic Heart Trouble Can Safely Play Sports: Study
New research offers hope to elite athletes who have genetic heart conditions but still want to play sports. In the new study, after a follow-up of seven years, researchers found that 95% of athletes with a diagnosed and treated genetic heart disease had no disease-triggered cardiac events. These would have included fainting or seizures, implantable cardio-defibrillator (ICD) shocks, sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death. The researchers said the study was the first to assess the risk of potentially life-threatening arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) among National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I and professional athletes with heart conditions that can increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and long QT syndrome (LQTS). Although people who have these heart conditions are often advised to avoid vigorous exercise and many are disqualified from sports, the findings suggest that may not be necessary. “This initial data set offers a story of hope and encouragement,” said Katherine Martinez, who conducted the study as an intern in the Mayo Clinic Windland Smith Rice Sudden Death Genomics Laboratory. “With shared decision-making and appropriate risk stratification by an expert, we expect anybody of any age can live and thrive despite their diagnosis.” For players and fans alike, witnessing an athlete experience heart trouble can be traumatic, such as when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during a… read on > read on >
Arm in a Cast? Exercising the Other Arm Can Curb Muscle Loss
You can keep an arm in a cast from wasting away, researchers say, by working out your free arm. A small group of young men who performed eccentric contraction exercises with one arm — lowering a dumbbell in a slow and controlled motion — saw a 4% strength improvement in the other arm, even though it was immobilized by a cast at the elbow. Another group assigned to perform concentric contraction exercises — lifting a dumbbell — only lost about 4% of muscle strength in their immobilized arm, the study results showed. By comparison, a “control group” that did no exercises suffered a 15% decrease in their immobilized arm during the three-week study. It was already known that gaining muscle strength in one limb through resistance training will transfer to the same muscle on the opposite side of the body, said lead researcher Ken Nosaka. He is head of exercise and sports science at the Edith Cowan University School of Medical and Health Sciences, in Australia. “This is known as the cross-education effect,” Nosaka said in a university news release. “The key aspect of this study is one particular type of muscle contraction proved most effective.” For the study, 36 young men had their non-dominant arm immobilized by a cast at their elbow joint for three weeks. They were then split into three groups evenly:… read on > read on >