Category Archives: Fitness

Texting, talking and walking – distracted pedestrian injuries jump

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texting walking iPhone cell phone mobileBy Tim Henderson
Stateline

They walk in front of cars, and into tree limbs and street signs. They fall off curbs and bridges into wet cement and creek beds.

They are distracted walkers who, while calling or texting on mobile phones, have suffered cuts and bruises, sustained serious head injuries or even been killed.

As many cities and states promote walkable neighborhoods, in part to attract more young people, some also are levying fines on distracted walkers and lowering speed limits to make streets gentler for the inattentive.

Pedestrian injuries due to cell phone use are up 35 percent since 2010, according to federal emergency room data reviewed by Stateline, and some researchers blame at least 10 percent of the 78,000 pedestrian injuries in the U.S. in 2012 on mobile device distraction.

texting walking graphic

The federal Fatality Analysis Reporting system attributes about a half-dozen pedestrians deaths a year to “portable electronic devices,” including phones and music players.

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Urban parks and trails most cost-effective ways to promote exercise

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small__13075606504By Sharyn Alden
Health Behavior News Service

Providing public parks and walking and biking trails is the most cost-effective strategy to increase physical activity among large populations in urban areas, according to a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Virpi Kuvja-Kollner, lead author of the review, noted that although public budgets for health care and other services are tighter than ever, the most cost-effective approach to increase physical activity among large urban populations is to make changes to the structural environment.

Creation of more outdoor exercise opportunities, such as “pedestrian or bicycle trails en route to public transportation stations or providing public parks in densely populated areas,” can require a substantial public investment but have long life spans.

“The main focus in promoting physical activity should be to get people who are not active to get moving instead of just promoting more exercise to those who are already active.”

“The main focus in promoting physical activity should be to get people who are not active to get moving instead of just promoting more exercise to those who are already active,” added Kuvja-Kollner, a researcher/instructor and doctoral candidate at the University of Eastern Finland. Continue reading

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Wellness programs at work are popular – but do they work?

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yoga-office-570By Julie Rovner
KHN

If you get health insurance at work, chances are you have some sort of wellness plan, too.

But so far there’s no real evidence as to whether these plans work.

One thing we do know is that wellness is particularly popular with employers right now, as they seek ways to slow the rise of health spending. These initiatives can range from urging workers to use the stairs all the way to requiring comprehensive health screenings.

The 2014 survey of employers by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 98 percent of large employers and 73 percent of smaller employers offer at least one wellness program. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of KFF.)

What makes wellness plans so popular?

It really is part of their strategy to help employees be healthy, productive, and engaged,” says Maria Ghazal, vice president and counsel at the Business Roundtable, whose members are CEOs of large firms. “And it’s really part of their strategy to be successful companies.”

And there’s another reason wellness has gotten so pervasive, said health consultant Al Lewis. It’s a big industry. Continue reading

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US takes aim at company ‘wellness’ programs

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ScaleBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

Do it or else. Increasingly, that’s the approach taken by employers who are offering financial incentives for workers to take part in wellness programs that incorporate screenings that measure blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index, among other things.

The controversial programs are under fire from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed suit against Honeywell International in October charging, among other things, that the company’s wellness program isn’t voluntary.

In the wellness program, employees and their spouses are asked to get blood drawn to test their cholesterol, glucose and nicotine use, as well as have their body mass index and blood pressure measured.

It’s the third lawsuit filed by the EEOC in 2014 that takes aim at wellness programs and it highlights a lack of clarity in the standards these programs must meet in order to comply with both the 2010 health law and the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

Honeywell, based in Morristown, N.J., recently got a reprieve when a federal district court judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the company from proceeding with its wellness program incentives next year.

But the issue is far from resolved, and the EEOC is continuing its investigations. Meanwhile, business leaders are criticizing the EEOC action, including a recent letter from the Business Roundtable to administration officials expressing “strong disappointment” in the agency’s actions.

In the Honeywell wellness program, employees and their spouses are asked to get blood drawn to test their cholesterol, glucose and nicotine use, as well as have their body mass index and blood pressure measured.

If an employee refuses, he’s subject to a $500 surcharge on health insurance and could lose up to $1,500 in Honeywell contributions to his health savings account.

He and his spouse are also each subject to a $1,000 tobacco surcharge. That means the worker and his spouse could face a combined $4,000 in potential financial penalties. Continue reading

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Campaign targets health threats posed by sugar

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SugarScience_Web_Ads_300x250By Lisa Aliferis
KHN and the Washington Post

Dean Schillinger is a primary-care physician at San Francisco General Hospital. He first came to the city in 1990 at the peak of the AIDS epidemic. “At that point, one out of every two patients we admitted was a young man dying of AIDS,” he says.

Today, that same ward is filled with diabetes patients.

“I feel like we are with diabetes where we were in 1990 with the AIDS epidemic,” Schillinger said. “The ward is overwhelmed with diabetes — they’re getting their limbs amputated, they’re on dialysis. And these are young people. They are suffering the ravages of diabetes in the prime of their lives. We’re at the point where we need a public health response to it.”

Schillinger and other researchers at the University of California at San Francisco are setting up a project called Sugar Science, to spell out the health dangers of too much added sugar in our diets.

The project aimed at consumers includes a user-friendly Web site and materials such as television commercials that public health officials can use for outreach. Health departments from San Francisco to New York City have agreed to participate.

Photo: Courtesy of Lauri Andler, Phantom under Creative Commons License.
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Seniors’ obesity-counseling benefit goes largely unused

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ScaleBy Phil Galewitz
KHN

Three years ago, the Obama administration offered hope to millions of overweight seniors when it announced Medicare would offer free weight-loss counseling.

Officials estimated that about 30 percent of seniors are obese and therefore eligible for counseling services, which studies have shown improve the odds of significant weight loss.

But less than 1 percent of Medicare’s 50 million beneficiaries have used the benefit so far. Experts blame the government’s failure to promote the program, rules that limit where and when patients can go for counseling as well as the low fees for providers.

Since November 2011, about 120,000 seniors have participated, including about 50,000 last year, according to federal data.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University.

“It’s a huge lost opportunity,” said Bonnie Modugno, a registered dietician in Santa Monica, Calif., who advises doctors how to provide weight loss counseling.

By  comparison, about 250,000 seniors last year used Medicare’s tobacco cessation counseling benefit, which started in 2005 and offers greater flexibility about how providers can offer it. Nationally, 9 percent of seniors smoke, while 30 percent are obese. Continue reading

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27% of Washington state residents are obese

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Twenty-seven percent of Washington state residents are obese, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

You are considered obese if your body mass index, or BMI, is 30 or more.

To find out your BMI go here

Obesity prevalence in 2013 varies across states and regions

  • No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%.
  • 7 states and the District of Columbia had a prevalence of obesity between 20% and <25%.
  • 23 states had a prevalence of obesity between 25% and <30%.
  • 18 states had a prevalence of obesity between 30% and <35%.
  • 2 states (Mississippi and West Virginia) had a prevalence of obesity of 35% or greater.
  • The South had the highest prevalence of obesity (30.2%), followed by the Midwest (30.1%), the Northeast (26.5%), and the West (24.9%).

Prevalence* of Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S. Adults by State, BRFSS, 20132013-state-obesity-prevalence-map

 

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Use a Rule of Thumb to Control How Much You Drink

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Picture of a table after a party with wine and beer bottlesSticking to a general rule of pouring just a half glass of wine limits the likelihood of overconsumption, even for men with a higher body mass index. That’s the finding of a new Iowa State and Cornell University study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy.

via Use a Rule of Thumb to Control How Much You Drink.

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How to pick running shoes

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Running shoes full shotThe American College of Sports Medicine has written a short a guide for picking running shoes:

Running shoes should be selected after careful consideration. With so many brands and styles of shoes on the market today, it is important to find the best fit for your feet and your needs. There is no “right shoe” that fits all runners. However, research and injury patterns have shown that there are some general characteristics of a good, safe running shoe.

To read the guide go here: Selecting Running Shoes

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King County’s wellness plan beats the odds

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By Christine Vestal, Stateline

Seattle

SEATTLE – When King County, Washington, launched its employee wellness program seven years ago, its motive was clear. “We were being eaten alive by runaway medical costs,” says the county’s top executive Dow Constantine.

By all accounts, the previous administration was desperate to bring down double-digit health care cost growth that threatened to destroy the entire budget.

That partially explains why King County, which spends nearly $200 million per year to insure 14,000 workers and their families, who mostly live and work here in the county seat, was willing to risk millions more on a wellness program that would prove to break the traditional mold.

Why has King County’s  employee wellness program far surpassed all others in employee participation, health improvement and health care savings?

It may also explain why labor unions took the unusual step of joining management in a plan that would ultimately shift more health care costs to workers.

But it doesn’t explain why this employee wellness program, which received an innovation award this year from Harvard University, has far surpassed all others in employee participation, health improvement and health care savings.  Continue reading

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Extreme obesity may shorten life expectancy up to 14 years

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ScaleFrom the National Cancer Institute

Adults with extreme obesity have increased risks of dying at a younger age from cancer and many other causes including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney and liver diseases, according to a new study.

The study, led by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, found that people with class III (or extreme) obesity had a dramatic reduction in life expectancy compared with people of normal weight. The findings appeared July 8, 2014, in PLOS Medicine.

 Six percent of US adults are now classified as extremely obese

“While once a relatively uncommon condition, the prevalence of class III, or extreme, obesity is on the rise. In the United States, for example, six percent of adults are now classified as extremely obese, which, for a person of average height, is more than 100 pounds over the recommended range for normal weight,” said Cari Kitahara, Ph.D., Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI, and lead author of the study.  Continue reading

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In bid for Millennials, cities and states promote cycling

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Though its bike commuter percentage is lower than that of some other states, Washington State has topped the list of bike-friendly states compiled by The League of American Bicyclists for seven years in a row. It gets especially high marks for educating and encouraging cyclists. Much of the credit for that ranking goes to Seattle, which has a bike commuting rate of 4.1 percent. The city is known for its innovative pavement markings and plans to put protected lanes near every home.

Road BikeBy Tim Henderson
Stateline

If a 90-minute commute from Brooklyn to New Jersey sounds grueling in a car, just imagine it on a bicycle.

Until a recent job change, 40-year-old Peter Schneider made that daily trip, biking 22 miles from his home in Brooklyn to his marketing job in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey—and he loved it. “Commuting and exercising at the same time kills two birds with one stone,” he said.

Cycling to work wouldn’t have been possible, Schneider said, without the protected bike lanes of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a 32-mile route that circumnavigates the island of Manhattan.

Communities across the country are weighing similar routes, believing that a cycling-friendly reputation will help them attract millennials and the creative and economic energy that comes with them. Continue reading

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Are you the 1 in 4 who doesn’t know? – CDC asks

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Question MarkMore than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, up from the previous estimate of 26 million in 2010, according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One in four people with diabetes doesn’t know he or she has it. 

Another 86 million adults – more than one in three U.S. adults – have prediabetes, where their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Continue reading

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Women’s Health – Week 40: Pregnancy, exercise and weight

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tacuin womenFrom the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Exercise It is a good idea to start a regular exercise program before you become pregnant, and continue to be physically active throughout your pregnancy.

Ask your health care provider about the level of exercise that is safe for you. Regular, moderate-intensity physical activity during pregnancy may:

  • Help your baby to grow to a healthy weight.
  • Reduce the discomforts of pregnancy, such as backaches, leg cramps, constipation, bloating, and swelling.
  • Lessen your risk for gestational diabetes(diabetes during pregnancy, see Week 18).
  • Improve your mood, energy level, and sleep.
  • Help you have an easier, shorter labor, recover from delivery faster, and achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Follow these safety tips for activity during your pregnancy: Continue reading

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All about sugar substitutes

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fda-logo-thumbnailAn FDA Consumer Update

Whether it’s to cut down on the number of calories they consume or any of a variety of other reasons, some people use sugar substitutes – also called high-intensity sweeteners – to sweeten and add flavor to their foods.

They can be used alone to sweeten foods and beverages such as iced tea or coffee, or as an ingredient in other products. There are a number of sugar substitutes on the market from which to choose. Continue reading

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