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The Lassie Effect

12 Jun

Not a big surprise, but still interesting, The New York Times reports on the Lassie Effect. Dog owners who walk their dogs are healthier than those who don’t. The dogs are also healthier.

But even though walking the dog can have lifesaving health benefits for owners and pets, a surprisingly large number of dog owners rarely, if ever, walk or otherwise exercise their dogs, research shows. Scientists who had studied the Lassie effect remained puzzled about why someone would forgo an activity that is good for them, potentially imperiling the well-being of both owner and pet.

Interpersonal benefits of walking?

17 May

So argues a paper just published in American Psychologist:

Walking has myriad benefits for the mind, most of which have traditionally been explored and explained at the individual level of analysis. Much less empirical work has examined how walking with a partner might benefit social processes. One such process is conflict resolution—a field of psychology in which movement is inherent not only in recent theory and research, but also in colloquial language (e.g., “moving on”). In this article, we unify work from various fields pointing to the idea that walking together can facilitate both the intra- and interpersonal pathways to conflict resolution. Intrapersonally, walking supports various psychological mechanisms for reconciliation, including creativity, locomotion motivation, and embodied notions of forward progress. Both alone and in combination with its effects on mood and stress, walking can encourage individual mindsets conducive to resolving conflict (e.g., divergent thinking). Interpersonally, walking can allow partners to reap the cognitive, affective, and behavioral advantages of synchronous movement, such as increased positive rapport, empathy, and prosociality. Walking partners naturally adopt cooperative (as opposed to competitive) postural stances, experience shared attention, and can benefit from discussions in novel environments. Overall, despite its prevalence in conflict resolution theory, little is known about how movement influences conflict resolution practice. Such knowledge has direct implications for a range of psychological questions and approaches within negotiation and alternative mediation techniques, clinical settings, and the study of close relationships.

Synchronized team precision walking is actually a sport in Japan!

Oh No! Now it’s 15,000 steps!

31 Mar

I’ve been on the 10,000 steps a day program for years (only 8,813 so far today, I’ll need to get up and get moving after I post this). Now I read in the Times, that the real goal should be 15,000 steps:

. . . precisely how much exercise might be needed in order to avoid heart disease has remained very much in question. The threshold of 10,000 daily steps, incorporated as a goal into many activity monitors today, has not been scientifically validated as a way to lessen disease risk.

They cite a study published in The International Journal of Obesity, here is the abstract:

The relationship between metabolic risk and time spent sitting, standing and stepping has not been well established. The present study aimed to determine associations of objectively measured time spent siting, standing and stepping, with coronary heart disease (CHD) risk.
METHODS:
A cross-sectional study of healthy non-smoking Glasgow postal workers, n=111 (55 office workers, 5 women, and 56 walking/delivery workers, 10 women), who wore activPAL physical activity monitors for 7 days. Cardiovascular risks were assessed by metabolic syndrome categorisation and 10-year PROCAM (prospective cardiovascular Munster) risk.
RESULTS:
Mean (s.d.) age was 40 (8) years, body mass index 26.9 (3.9) kg m-2 and waist circumference 95.4 (11.9) cm. Mean (s.d.) high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) 1.33 (0.31), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol 3.11 (0.87), triglycerides 1.23 (0.64) mmol l-1 and 10-year PROCAM risk 1.8 (1.7)%. The participants spent mean (s.d.) 9.1 (1.8) h per day sedentary, 7.6 (1.2) h per day sleeping, 3.9 (1.1) h per day standing and 3.3 (0.9) h per day stepping, accumulating 14 708 (4984) steps per day in 61 (25) sit-to-stand transitions per day. In univariate regressions-adjusting for age, sex, family history of CHD, shift worked, job type and socioeconomic status-waist circumference (P=0.005), fasting triglycerides (P=0.002), HDL cholesterol (P=0.001) and PROCAM risk (P=0.047) were detrimentally associated with sedentary time. These associations remained significant after further adjustment for sleep, standing and stepping in stepwise regression models. However, after further adjustment for waist circumference, the associations were not significant. Compared with those without the metabolic syndrome, participants with the metabolic syndrome were significantly less active-fewer steps, shorter stepping duration and longer time sitting. Those with no metabolic syndrome features walked >15 000 steps per day or spent >7 h per day upright.
CONCLUSIONS:
Longer time spent in sedentary posture is significantly associated with higher CHD risk and larger waist circumference.

Washington Post’s history of the treadmill

8 Feb

Sunday’s Washington Post tells the story of the treadmill. Fifty million Americans uses treadmills, but I was surprised that so many seem to hate it.

As the weather turns colder, Jen Forman will do what she’s always done to get her runs in: She’ll go to her treadmill in her home, press start and run until she’s done.

And she will hate every moment of it.

I think treadmill time is a great opportunity to learn. I use it to practice foreign languages and listen to podcasts.

Why is New York a Capital of Longevity?

5 Dec

The answer may be walking!

Here’s a New York Magazine piece on the topic:

New York is literally designed to force people to walk, to climb stairs—and to do it quickly. Driving in the city is maddening, pushing us onto the sidewalks and up and down the stairs to the subways. What’s more, our social contract dictates that you should move your ass when you’re on the sidewalk, so as not to annoy your fellow walkers. (A recent ranking of cities found that New York has the fastest pedestrians in the country.) As Simonsick sees it, the very structure of the city coerces us to exercise far more than people elsewhere in the U.S., in a way that is strongly correlated with a far-better life expectancy. Every city block doubles as a racewalking track, every subway station, a StairMaster. Seen this way, the whole city looks like a massive exercise machine dedicated to improving our health while we run errands.

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