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‘Active workstations’ boost workers’ morale, study finds

Treadmilling at your desk is good for your mental state, a study has found.

A growing number of companies are outfitting their offices with “active workstations” — treadmills, bikes and elliptical trainers reconfigured to allow users to move, talk and type simultaneously.

Beyond helping workers avoid the risks of so-called sitting disease, blamed for everything from more cardiovascular disease to higher blood pressure and shorter lifespans, they offer the perhaps surprising perk of making workers feel better, according to Michael Sliter, an occupational health researcher with the Chicago firm FurstPerson who’s the author of a new study investigating the benefits of in-office physical activity.

“We all know that if you exercise, you feel better, and if you feel better, you tend to perform better as well,” Sliter says.

For a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, he measured feelings of boredom and job satisfaction among workers who used an active workstation vs. those who did not. He found users of active workstations, particularly treadmills, were likelier to feel satisfied and less bored.

USA Today

 

Michael Sliter

Michael Sliter

Sunscreens can be confusing, researchers find

Fewer than half of consumers Northwestern University researchers surveyed about sunscreens understood SPFs — “sun-protection factor” ratings.

And not even one in 10 knew what to look for to protect against the sun’s aging effects on skin, which require a sunscreen that offers protection against both ultraviolet B, or UV-B, rays that are the main cause of sunburn and UV-A rays, they report in the journal JAMA Dermatology.

Researchers led by Dr. Roopal Kundu surveyed 114 people taking part in a dermatology clinic at Northwestern last summer to see whether consumers understand the sunscreen labels that resulted from regulations imposed by the federal Food and Drug Administration and found many were confused.

“We need to do a better job of educating people about sun protection and make it easier for them to understand labels,” says Kundu, a dermatology professor.

“We recommend you buy a sunscreen lotion labeled ‘broad-spectrum lotion — which helps against both types of UV rays — with an SPF of 30 or higher that is also water-resistant,” Kundu says. “But you need to reapply it every two hours.”

Staff report

 

Drink because you’re thirsty, guidelines say, not to avoid dehydrating

New guidelines on hydration for athletes suggest drinking because you’re thirsty and not because you’re worried about becoming dehydrated.

That’s the best way to avoid a dangerous condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia, says Dr. James Winger, a Loyola University sports medicine physician who was among experts who produced the new guidelines on the potentially life-threatening condition published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

The condition results from drinking too much water or sports drinks, overwhelming the kidneys. It’s caused the deaths of at least 14 marathoners, football players and other athletes, according to the experts, who say there’s an easy way to prevent it: Drink only when you’re thirsty.

Dr. James Winger

Dr. James Winger

That goes against the advice sometimes mistakenly given to “push fluids,” drinking beyond thirst, to prevent cramps or heatstroke.

“Muscle cramps and heatstroke are not related to dehydration,” says Winger. “You get heat stroke because you’re producing too much heat.”

Winger says you can lose up to 3 percent of your body weight due to dehydration during athletic competition without affecting performance.

Staff report

 

Scientists try to link food additive to heart disease

Researchers at Northwestern University will study whether phosphates — a little-known food additive present in many processed foods and drinks but often not even listed on the label — cause heart damage, especially among African-Americans.

Dr. Myles Wolf will head the new effort, funded by a nearly $4 million grant from the American Heart Association.

Research has found that a diet high in phosphates — often added to improve taste and shelf life — is associated with higher levels of a hormone that’s a strong predictor of heart failure and death. And Wolf and other researchers have shown that, generally, African-Americans and lower-income people have higher blood levels of phosphates and of the hormone than whites and people with higher incomes.

“Now, we are trying to connect all the dots at a public health level,” says Wolf.

The American Heart Association estimates nearly half of African-American women and men have cardiovascular disease to some degree.

“Poor people and minorities are more likely to eat greater amounts of processed foods because those items are cheaper and more readily available, especially in neighborhoods where there is not a supermarket and a limited availability of healthier fresh foods,” Wolf says. “We think reducing dietary phosphate consumption in low-income and African American populations may reduce their higher risks of heart disease and thereby minimize one of the most glaring health disparities in the U.S.”

Staff report

Dr. Myles Wolf

Dr. Myles Wolf