Friday, October 18, 2013

Housework Isn't as Healthy as People Think

Exercise is a good stress reliever, but, if you are including doing housework as part of your exercise program, well, STOP IT.

Don't stop doing housework, just stop counting housework as part of your exercise.  Why?

A new study just published in the journal BMC Public Health reveals that people who include housework in their self-recorded physical activity diary tend to be heavier than those whose time is spent in other forms of exercise.
The analysis of data from the Sport NI Sport & Physical Activity Survey (SAPAS) by the University of Ulster, showed that people who include housework as part of their weekly exercise tend to be heavier.
Professor Marie Murphy who led this study commented, "Housework is physical activity and any physical activity should theoretically increase the amount of calories expended. But we found that housework was inversely related to leanness which suggests that either people are overestimating the amount of moderate intensity physical activity they do through housework, or are eating too much to compensate for the amount of activity undertaken."

Women and older people included higher levels of housework. For women, exclusion of housework from the list of activities meant that only 20% met current activity recommendations. Prof Murphy continued, "When talking to people about the amount of physical activity they need to stay healthy, it needs to be made clear that housework may not be intense enough to contribute to the weekly target and that other more intense activities also need to be included each week."
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Story Source:  Marie H Murphy, Paul Donnelly, Gavin Breslin, Simon Shibli and Alan M Nevill. Does housework keep you healthy? The contribution of domestic physical activity to meeting current recommendations. BMC Public Health, October 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Helps Lower Blood Pressure

This week an article appeared in the October issue of the prestigious professional journal Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine written by Joel W. Hughes, PhD, of Kent State (Ohio) University,.  Dr. Hughes et al conclude:
"Our results provide evidence that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for BP in the prehypertensive range."
In everyday English: the research conducted by Dr. Hughes and colleagues adds to the body of evidence that mindful awareness along with other lifestyle changes works to lower the blood pressure of patients with pre-hypertension or borderline high blood pressure, a major pre-condition of stroke and heart attack.

If you've not heard of mindful awareness, it is a series of relaxation and focusing techniques used by many people around the world to reduce the short and long term effects of stress. 

Mindfulness Leads to Drop in Blood Pressure
The study included 56 women and men diagnosed with prehypertension -- blood pressure that was higher than desirable, but not yet so high that antihypertensive drugs would be prescribed. Prehypertension receives increasing attention from doctors because it is associated with a wide range of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. About 30% of Americans have prehypertension and may be prescribed medications for this condition.

One group of patients was assigned to a program of MBSR: eight group sessions of 2½ hours per week. Led by an experienced instructor, the sessions included three main types of mindfulness skills:
  1. body scan exercises,
  2. sitting meditation, and
  3. yoga exercises.
The other "comparison" group received lifestyle advice plus a muscle-relaxation activity. This "active control" treatment group was not expected to have lasting effects on blood pressure. Blood pressure measurements were compared between groups to determine whether the mindfulness-based intervention reduced blood pressure in this group of people at risk of cardiovascular problems.

Patients in the mindfulness-based intervention group had significant reductions in clinic-based blood pressure measurements. Systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1 mm Hg with in the control group who did not receive the mindfulness intervention.

Diastolic blood pressure (the second, lower number) was also lower in the mindfulness-based intervention group: a reduction of nearly 2 mm Hg, compared to an increase of 1 mm Hg in the control group.

Mindfulness-based Could Prevent or Delay Need for Antihypertensive Drugs
Ambulatory monitoring is an increasingly used alternative to clinic-based blood pressure measurements. However, 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring showed no significant difference in blood pressure with the mindfulness-based intervention.

"Mindfulness-based stress reduction is an increasingly popular practice that has been purported to alleviate stress, treat depression and anxiety, and treat certain health conditions," according to Dr. Hughes and coauthors. It has been suggested that MBSR and other types of meditation may be useful in lowering blood pressure. Previous studies have reported small but significant reductions in blood pressure with Transcendental Meditation; the new study is the first to specifically evaluate the blood pressure effects of mindfulness-based intervention in patients with prehypertension.

Although the blood pressure reductions associated with mindfulness-based interventions are modest, they are similar to many drug interventions and potentially large enough to lead to reductions in the risk of heart attack or stroke. Further studies are needed to see if the blood pressure-lowering effects are sustained over time.

The researchers argue that mindfulness-based interventions may provide a useful alternative to help "prevent or delay" the need for antihypertensive medications in patients with borderline high blood pressure.
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Create a Healthy Lifestyle
by Michael A. Panar

Story Source:  J. W. Hughes, D. M. Fresco, R. Myerscough, M. H. M. van Dulmen, L. E. Carlson, R. Josephson. Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Prehypertension. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Work Seems Life Threatening to People Suffering from Stress

Do you experience. . .

Black spots in front of your eyes?
Shooting pain through your body?

These are symptoms in people who go to work with the feeling that their lives are at stake. Even though evolution intended for stress to occur when a person's life is threatened, today we are most at risk of experiencing stress at work, even if our work -- for most of us -- does not bring our lives in actual danger.

Stress causes more prolonged absence from work due to illness.
Why?  According to Copenhagen University researcher Malene Friis Andersen, our identity and the job we hold are more closely knit than ever before, causing work to feel like a matter of life and death to the person suffering from stress.  This is the conclusion of Copenhagen University researcher Malene Friis Andersen in a newly published anthology which questions modern quick fixes for those faced with stress.

"the saber-toothed tiger is our boss. . ."

"Some reach what may seem like an obvious conclusion; that, in our modern world, the saber-toothed tiger is our boss or the deadlines that we have to meet. But even if you have an unpleasant boss, he or she will rarely go so far as to kill you.

Simple advice does not work
Malene Friis Andersen's research is based, among other things, on 15 interviews with people who have been absent from work for longer periods of time due to stress. They all had jobs where creativity, knowledge, and personal commitment were their primary working tools. The 15 interviews were chosen among 51 interviews from her PhD thesis.

"Job identity is extremely important to maintaining our general identity, self- image and sense of worth, and it is necessary to use our identity to be able to perform our tasks at work. This is why today stress poses an existential threat to us. The place of work has become a potential arena for fighting many major battles and achieving recognition," she says.

Subsequently, the simplistic advice which we are given today on stress only makes sense in times of peace at work:  "It is not just about saying no or lowering your own expectations. Once the symptoms of stress have occurred, you end up in an impossible situation in which your life depends on you succeeding at work."

Companies miss the target
Stress especially affects the working ability of employees in companies who make high demands on the knowledge, social competences and creativity of their employees. Malene Friis Andersen bases her research on employees from this category. Quite contrary to their intentions the companies create an environment which is counterproductive to the commitment and welfare of the employees.

"Many companies use different tools to measure and evaluate the performance of the employee, but these tools only make the employee insecure. The parameters for success become too narrow and the employee can no longer take stock after his or hers own authority, values, feelings or hunches. This creates employees who are inflexible and vulnerable to stress," says Malene Friis Andersen.

The myth of perfectionism and stress
Malene Friis Andersen believes it is a myth that perfectionism is a character trait for which you are responsible yourself, and which leads to stress.

"Instead perfectionism must be regarded as behaviour brought about by the demands made by the labour market on the employee. Therefore, if you are suffering from stress, it is important for the outside world not to blame you for being a perfectionist. If you want to eliminate stress, you must first realise that there is no one-size-fits-all solution," she concludes.

"The companies throw money at consultants who promise to make the employees more robust under stress, but there is no indication that stress reactions are less frequent now. There has never been consensus as to what constitutes stress which in turn makes it common property and thus, big business.. It is necessary to come to a common understanding of stress and examine how stress develops in different types of work. The effort must be tailored to the challenges of different sectors of industry, if you want to eliminate stress," says Malene Friis Andersen.
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Story Source: University of Copenhagen (2013, October 7). Work seems life threatening to people suffering from stress. ScienceDaily