Category Archives: Fitness

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue ranked 8th fittest metro area

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Map of SeattleThe Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region is the 8th fittest metropolitan area in the US, just behind Portland, Oregon and just ahead of Boston, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.  Washington, D.C. was ranked number 1. Indianapolis, dead last.

Our good points are we have:

  • Lower death rate for cardiovascular disease
  • More farmers’ markets per capita
  • Higher percent using public transportation to work
  • Higher percent bicycling or walking to work
  • Higher Walk Score®
  • Higher percent of population within a 10 minute walk to a park
  • More dog parks per capita
  • More park units per capita
  • More tennis courts per capita
  • Higher park-related expenditures per capita
  • Higher level of state requirement for Physical Education classes

Our bad points are we have:

  • Higher percent obese
  • Higher percent of days when physical health was not good during the past 30 days
  • Higher percent of days when mental health was not good during the past 30 days
  • Higher percent with asthma
  • Higher percent with angina or coronary heart disease
  • Higher percent with diabetes
  • Fewer acres of parkland per capita
  • Fewer swimming pools per capita

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Washington state ranked most bicycle-friendly state

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Road BikeWashington has again been ranked the most bicycle-friendly state by the League of American Bicyclists. But the we better not get complacent, the league warns:

Although Washington State has been #1 for the past 8 years, the gap between #1 and #2 (Minnesota) has steadily decreased since 2013. The Washington

State Department of Transportation should build upon its past successes by increasing staff capacity for planning, engineering, and implementation of solutions that make bicycling and walking safer and more convenient.

To learn more go here.

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Paying Medicaid enrollees to get check ups, quit smoking and low weight: Will It pay off?

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wellness-incentive-570By Phil Galewitz
KHN

When Bruce Hodgins went to the doctor for a checkup in Sioux City, Iowa, he was asked to complete a lengthy survey to gauge his health risks.

In return for filling it out, he saved a $10 monthly premium for his Medicaid coverage.

In Las Cruces, N.M., Isabel Juarez had her eyes tested, her teeth cleaned and recorded how many steps she walked with a pedometer.

In exchange, she received a $100 gift card from Medicaid to help her buy health care products including mouthwash, vitamins, soap and toothpaste.

Taking a cue from workplace wellness programs, Iowa and New Mexico are among more than a dozen states offering incentives to Medicaid beneficiaries to get them to make healthier decisions — and potentially save money for the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

The stakes are huge because Medicaid enrollees are more likely to engage in unhealthy practices, such as smoking, and are less likely to get preventive care, studies show. Continue reading

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Light rail station planning brings cities and communities together for more walkable, connected neighborhoods

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By Tara Bostock
Public Health – Seattle & King County

The way streets and sidewalks in your community are built can affect your health. How? If a neighborhood is spread out and disconnected, it requires residents to be more dependent on their cars, which discourages walking and other forms of active transportation.

Studies have shown neighborhoods that are more walkable are associated with active transportation, lower body-mass index for adults, and less air pollution.

Studies have shown neighborhoods that are more walkable are associated with active transportation, lower body-mass index for adults, and less air pollution.

The Angle Lake District in the City of SeaTac is an area that was built for cars. International Boulevard (SR99) is a main thoroughfare with very long city blocks.

With large distances between businesses and not many opportunities to cross the street, it’s difficult to get from place to place without a car.

With the construction of the City’s Angle Lake Link Station, however, comes the opportunity to build a more walkable, bicycle-friendly district.

The City of SeaTac clearly values health and has a long-term vision of the type of city it wants to be.

Through the planning process for the Angle Lake District, the City wanted to explore ways land development around the station could meet the needs of the community and support health and community well-being.

The planning project included two main parts: The Pedestrian and Bicycle Connectivity Study and community engagement.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Connectivity Study
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Connectivity Study included a combination of policy and literature analysis, assessment of existing conditions and community outreach.

Recommendations included:

  • Intersection improvements—such as updating crosswalk markings and curb ramps
  • Increased sidewalk widths recommended for busy streetsSidewalks on both sides of the street
  • Shared streets (low-volume, low-speed streets that accommodate cars, bikes, and pedestrians)
  • Separated bike paths
  • A new signal on International Boulevard

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Couch Potatoes Rejoice: Strenuous Exercise May Be Unhealthy – WSJ

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potatoA recent study in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, found that exercising strenuously four to seven days a week conferred an increased risk of vascular disease, compared with two to three days a week of strenuous exercise.

Accompanying the study, published in Circulation’s Feb. 24 edition, is an editorial entitled, “Physical Activity: Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?”

Photo: Courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

via Couch Potatoes Rejoice: Strenuous Exercise May Be Unhealthy – WSJ.

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The Firefighter Workout – NYTimes.com

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NY firefighters have developed workouts to get and stay in shape.

fire extinguisherFour out of five firefighters nationwide are overweight or obese, and roughly half of all firefighters who die in the line of duty each year are killed by heart attacks.

But now a group of health-conscious firefighters is trying to change that with a charity they founded called 555 Fitness, which provides daily workout plans – and even free exercise equipment – to thousands of firefighters across the country.

via The Firefighter Workout – NYTimes.com.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Michael & Christa Richert

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Both High and Low Intensity Exercise Benefit Weight, Waist –Doctors Lounge

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Running shoes full shotFor people who are obese and sedentary, any exercise can help trim abdominal fat, but it may take a bit more effort to get other health benefits, a new study suggests. The findings were published in the March 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

via Both High and Low Intensity Exercise Benefit Weight, Waist –Doctors Lounge.

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Should America go vegan to ward off obesity and save the environment? Medical News Today

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Brocolli ThumbThe researchers placed employees of the auto-insurance firm GEICO who had type 2 diabetes and a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above on a low-fat, low-glycemic, high-fiber vegan diet.

The employee cafeteria menu featured vegetable hummus sandwiches, seasonal leafy green salads, black bean chili and various fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals during the study period.

The authors report that study participants lost an average of 10 lb and experienced a 13-point drop in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, as well as improved blood sugar control.

via Should America go vegan to ward off obesity and save the environment? Medical News Today.

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Few seniors benefiting from Medicare obesity counseling

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ScaleBy Sarah Varney
KHN

VISALIA, Calif. — In the farming town of Exeter, deep in California’s Central Valley, Anne Roberson walks a quarter mile down the road each day to her mailbox. Her walk and housekeeping chores are the 68-year-old’s only exercise, and her weight has remained stubbornly over 200 pounds for some time now.

“You get to a certain point in your life and you say, ‘What’s the use?’”

For older adults, being mildly overweight causes little harm, physicians say. But too much weight is especially hazardous for an aging body: Obesity increases inflammation, exacerbates bone and muscle loss and significantly raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Dr. Mylene Middleton Rucker, a primary care physician in Visalia, Calif., is using the new obesity counseling benefit with her patients, but many doctors aren’t aware of it yet. (Sarah Varney/KHN)

Dr. Mylene Middleton Rucker, a primary care physician in Visalia, Calif., is using the new obesity counseling benefit with her patients, but many doctors aren’t aware of it yet. (Sarah Varney/KHN)

To help the 13 million obese seniors in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act included a new Medicare benefit offering face-to-face weight-loss counseling in primary care doctors’ offices.

Doctors are paid to provide the service, which is free to obese patients , with no co-pay. But only 50,000 seniors participated in 2013, the latest year for which data is available.

“We think it’s the perfect storm of several factors,” says Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University.

Kahan says obese patients and doctors aren’t aware of the benefit, and doctors who want to intervene are often reluctant to do so. It’s a touchy subject to bring up, and some hold outmoded beliefs about weight problems and the elderly. Continue reading

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Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue ranked 4th healthiest metro area – Annual Nerdwallet survey

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Running shoes full shotThe healthiest places are Boston and the West Coast. Boston came in as the healthiest place in the U.S. by scoring well in all of the variables. Four of the other nine places in the top 10 are West Coast metro areas: San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and San Jose.

The unhealthiest cities are in the South. Seven of the bottom 10 places on the list are metro areas in Southern states, including three in Texas — Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Residents in most of these places lag behind in terms of fitness and physical activity levels, while the rate of health insurance coverage is also lower than in many of the healthier places.

via Healthiest Places in America – Health.

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Beware of products promising miracle weight loss – FDA

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A Consumer Update from the US Food and Drug AdministrationScale

“This year, I’m going to lose some weight.”

If you find yourself making this common New Year’s resolution, know this: many so-called “miracle” weight loss supplements and foods (including teas and coffees) don’t live up to their claims.

Worse, they can cause serious harm, say FDA regulators.

The agency has found hundreds of products that are marketed as dietary supplements but actually contain hidden active ingredients (components that make a medicine effective against a specific illness) contained in prescription drugs, unsafe ingredients that were in drugs that have been removed from the market, or compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans.

“When the product contains a drug or other ingredient which is not listed as an ingredient we become especially concerned about the safety of the product,” says James P. Smith, M.D., an acting deputy director in FDA’s Office of Drug Evaluation.

Tainted products

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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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