Your Health the Week of July 20th

Nancy Heppwritten by Nancy Hepp, MS
Research and Communications Specialist

Exercise and Health

Other than diet, exercise is probably the contributor to health that we have the most control over as individuals. Three studies this week provide evidence that exercise affects several aspects of health, sometimes in combination with other factors.

bicyclingAs reported in ScienceDaily, Exercise can improve brain function in older adults. A study was conducted with healthy but underactive or sedentary adults ages 65 and older who showed no signs of cognitive decline. Individuals were randomly assigned to one of four groups: those without any change in their exercise (the control group), and groups that exercised moderately for 75, 150 or 225 minutes per week. All groups who exercised saw some benefit, with greater amounts of exercise related to greater cardiorespiratory fitness and less perceived disability at the end of six months. Those who exercised also saw benefits in cognitive test scores, particularly in improved visual-spatial processing, and an increase in their overall attention levels and ability to focus. In sum, better scores on cognitive tests were related to cardiorespiratory fitness rather than the number of minutes of exercise, so the study concludes that cardiorespiratory fitness may be an appropriate goal for maintaining both physical and cognitive health as we age.

Exercise was one of several factors examined in an opinion statement reviewing evidence from several studies: The role of aspirin, vitamin D, exercise, diet, statins, and metformin in the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer. Exercise has shown a beneficial role, along with aspirin, vitamin D and diet, especially in high-risk individuals.

In Mediterranean lifestyle may decrease cardiovascular disease by lowering blood triglycerides, ScienceDaily reports on a review of studies looking at a Mediterranean lifestyle—including diet, exercise and sleep—on plasma triacylglycerols, an independent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Physical activity has known benefits on plasma triacylglycerols, but the effects are short-lived. Study authors state that “exercise should be included as a part of daily living, as in the Mediterranean lifestyle, and not performed only occasionally.”

Built Environment and Exposures

builtEnvironmentOur built environment—the buildings, roads, playgrounds and other spaces created by humans—affects health in many ways, from defining how we move from one place to another to bringing us in contact with materials, chemicals and electromagnetic fields. Truthdig published a summary of a new report this week reviewing studies involving 69,000 buildings—homes, offices and factories—in 150 countries. The review, Green buildings and health, concludes that “Overall, the initial scientific evidence published to date indicates better measured and perceived indoor environmental quality and health in green buildings versus non-green buildings.” Specifically, green buildings had lower levels of volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, allergens, environmental tobacco smoke, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter, although noise levels were a concern in some buildings. The review found that indoor environmental quality in green buildings is related to improved health and work outcomes, including these:

  • fewer sick building syndrome symptoms (headache; eye, nose, or throat irritation; dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; and sensitivity to odors, according to the EPA)
  • fewer respiratory symptom reports in children
  • better physical and mental health
  • less absenteeism from work and lower employee turnover

One particular built environment—chlorinated swimming pools—was the subject of an article in the UK’s Daily Mail. Added to water to kill bacteria and viruses, chlorine combines with nitrogen in the dirt and detritus found in swimming pools, such as skin particles, sweat, urine, bacteria and body oils. When that happens, harmful chloramines are formed. Frequent exposure to chlorinated pools has been associated with asthma and inflamed lung tissue, and other health impacts of concern include erosion of tooth enamel and eye irritation. The health professional quoted in the article suggests showering before swimming “to remove any make up, dry skin flakes, hair products and body lotion” to reduce the creation of chloramines.

For those who want to track their exposures from traffic and other outdoor sources of air pollution, a new gadget was featured in an article in the International Business Times: Wearable technology takes on air pollution and smog with personal air-quality monitors. Wearers of these monitors can track their exposure to harmful pollutants, seeing results through their smartphones. Users also contribute to neighborhood-specific and communitywide information when data from several users are combined to form crowdsourced air-quality maps.

This post is part of a regular series that summarizes and highlights recent Your Health items and trends. Readers can follow CHE’s Your Health news feed or subscribe via RSS.

While individual actions to safeguard or improve health are important, we cannot individually address broad issues regarding pollutants, food supply, access to health care, poverty, climate change, infectious diseases and other issues that impact the health of individuals and communities. Join CHE to strengthen the science dialogue on environmental factors impacting human health and to facilitate collaborative, prevention-oriented efforts to address environmental health concerns.

Bringing attention to specific resources and findings does not mean CHE endorses or validates them. We highlight the emerging science and its implications for Your Health, knowing that thinking will continue to evolve as new studies are published.

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