Healthy Helpings

By AFM Team – May 1, 2016
photo by Bailey Kopp

Exercise is recommended to maintain a healthy body, but research shows that it’s also beneficial for an astute mind. A study published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease revealed that that regular walking, cycling, swimming, dancing and even gardening may substantially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. In this study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed data of almost 6,000 older men and women from the Cardiovascular Health Study dating back to 1989. The subjects each completed questionnaires about their lives and physical activities, medical and cognitive tests and M.R.I. scans of their brains. After reviewing the scans many years later, the changes were very noticeable. The top quartile of active individuals proved to have substantially more gray matter than their peers—particularly in those parts of the brain related to memory and higher-­level thinking. In some cases, there was even an increase in gray matter among the physically active subset over that time period.

If you’re an avid runner, your mother may be the one to thank. Although many animal studies have confirmed that activity patterns tend to run in families, researchers have taken an interest in narrowing in on when that behavior begins to develop. It was already established that home environment and nurture influence familial activity levels, but still the potential of a rooted genetic connection remained untested. In a new study published in the FASEB Journal, researchers from the  Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University in Houston gathered genetically identical female mice and put them in cages with running wheels. Mice, on average, run about six miles a day. Half of the pregnant mice continued to run at their leisure, while the other half had their running wheels locked, forcing them to become sedentary. When the babies were born, they were weaned from their mothers and placed in separate cages. As they aged, the differences between the two groups dramatized. The spawn of active mother mice developed an enthusiasm and skill for running. The results from this study are not conclusive to any definitive correlations, but it does open new avenues of studies focused on the long-term effects of fitness during pregnancy.

Waking your kids up in the morning could be easier if you implement a new bedtime trick. A new study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that teaching kids about the importance of sleep allowed them to get nearly 20 minutes more of it per night. Additionally, that extra 20 minutes in bed yielded higher grades on students’ report cards. The program consisted of six interactive two-hour classes taught by the students’ homeroom teachers about good bedtime routines, sleep hygiene, the consequences of poor sleep, barriers to good sleep and the importance of sleep. Letters were also sent home to parents reviewing the sleep lessons taught to the kids. In total, 71 students age 7 to 11 participated, with 46 undergoing the sleep intervention and 25 students from a third school in a control group. At the end of the program, the kids who participated slept 18.2 minutes longer per night, fell asleep 2.3 minutes quicker, and slept for more of the time they spent in bed each night, compared with their sleep before participating in the sleep program.


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