Friday, December 14, 2012

Two more studies today on exercise

The first study below tends to reinforce the Belgian study noted yesterday:  You must do your walking in "nice" areas, not in the nasty old city.  Both studies are very short-term, however, and the second study below tends to suggest that there is no long-term (lifespan) benefit

A walk outdoors away from gadgets can boost brain power by half.  Leaving your laptop at home, switching off the smartphone and taking a walk in nature can help boost brain power by as much as 50 per cent, a study has revealed.

Researchers found that adults performed much better in a creative test after spending four days in the great outdoors disconnected from modern technology.

They say it is the first time that scientists have proven being in a park or woodland can improve your problem-solving skills.

And it may also explain why a holiday helps recharge the batteries after busy periods of work.

‘The study shows that you need to leave the iPhones and other technology at home and give your brain a break,’ said co-author David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah.

‘Too much of a good thing is not a good thing and so for creativity to flourish you need to disconnect from technology and reconnect with the natural world.’

For the novel study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, 54 American adults with an average age of 28 participated in a four to six day hike. No electronic devices were allowed.

Before the trip commenced, 24 individuals were tested and scored an average 4.14 in a 10-question creativity test. The remaining 32 were tested at the end of the walk and answered an average of 6.08 questions correctly - an improvement of 50 per cent.

Researchers said the results indicate that time spent walking in parks and woodlands away from demanding technology helps individuals to restore brain power.

They say a hike provides an easy way to lift your creative abilities after long periods in front of a computer or TV screen.

‘We show that four days of immersion in nature and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 per cent,’ said Prof Strayer.

‘We are not sure if it is the increased exposure to nature or the decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology that helps, but it’s probably a mixture of both.

‘In the real world, you are either in one or other state. When you head out into nature, you’re unlikely to be surrounded by gadgets, while if you’re at home or in the office the opposite is likely true.’

While earlier research has indicated nature has beneficial effects, ‘it’s equally plausible that it is not multitasking to wits’ end that is associated with the benefits,’ Prof Strayer said.

He added: ‘This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn’t been formally demonstrated before.

‘It provides a rationale for trying to understand what is a healthy way to interact in the world, and that burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have costs that can be remediated by taking a hike in nature.’


Can Exercise Extend Your Life?

This is a real lulu, despite the bright-eyed enthusiasm expressed by the authors.  Quite aside from the direction of causation being probably reversed (ill people exercise less), how do we explain that black women were big beneficiaries while Hispanics got no benefit at all?  Whatever is going on seems to be affected by other things than exercise. It's probably just data dredging.  The weakness of the overall effect tends to indicate in fact that activity has no benefit at all

Adults who include at least 150 minutes of physical activity in their routines each week live longer than those who don't, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Promoting the years of life that can be gained from moderate activity may be a better motivator to get Americans moving, said study author Ian Janssen, Ph.D., of Queen's University in Ontario, Canada.

Janssen and his team used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the National Health Interview Study mortality linkage, and U.S. Life Tables to estimate and compare the life expectancy at each age for adults who were inactive, somewhat-active and active. "Active" was defined as doing at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.

They found that men at age 20 were estimated to gain as much as 2.4 years of life from moderate activity. Women at age 20 gained about 3 additional years from engaging in moderate activity. The biggest benefit from physical activity was seen in non-Hispanic black women, who gained as many as 5.5 potential years of life.

Janssen hopes the positive message of the study can help health officials better relay the importance of exercise to the public.
"Research has shown that the health messages that have the greatest effect on changing people's behaviors need to be easy to understand, specific to the individual, and be phrased in a gained-framed and positive manner," he explained.

"The messages on longevity gains associated with physical activity that were developed in this paper meet all three of those characteristics," Janssen added. "That is, people will understand what it means if you tell them they will live 2½ years longer if they become active."

Sara Bleich, Ph.D., assistant professor of Health Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said presenting the issue as "years of life gained" versus "years of life loss" raises the classic issue of the carrot or the stick, that is, when it comes to behavior change, do people prefer to be rewarded or penalized?

"For healthy behavior changes such as dieting or smoking, rewards have been shown to effectively motivate behavior change," she continued. "From the current research, it is unclear whether rewards or penalties are more effective at motivating behavior change, but it is clear that rewards do work."
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