Exercise: The Key
to Better Grades?
For better or worse,
we live in an increasingly competitive world, which
means when it comes to education, grades matter –
big time. While they don't necessarily reflect the
learning process, effort expended or lessons
learned, grades remain an important indicator of
knowledge, critical thinking and other variables
that translate well into adulthood.
And of course, when
applying for college, few application reviewers
consider the straight D student, even if that
student gave 100 percent in the classroom every day.
With all the tutoring
clubs, online support groups and other tools at
students' / parents' disposal these days, it's
encouraging to know a simple grade-booster exists
that doesn't require money or even a great deal of
extra time: exercise. Research suggests children who
exercise more perform better in several academic
subjects and are more attentive compared to their
The most recent study
to examine this association reviewed 26 studies
involving more than 10,000 children ages 4-13.
Results, published in the peer-reviewed research
journal Pediatrics, showed that increased physical
activity, particularly physical education, improved
various aspects of academic achievement ,
"especially mathematics-related skills, reading, and
composite scores." Students who exercised more also
appeared to stay more focused on their schoolwork
than students who exercised less.
In the studies
analyzed, researchers increased physical activity
levels through expanded recess, afters-school sports
or active breaks between lessons throughout the
school day – which also may suggest academic
performance is related to whether kids get breaks
from their long days sitting in the classroom.
Definitely food for thought for the education
From a parent
standpoint, teaching your kids to exercise and
encouraging them to take active breaks at home,
particularly while doing schoolwork or studying for
quizzes / tests, could help their academic
performance – and will certainly help avoid the
health perils of a sedentary lifestyle.
Stop Parkinson's in Its Tracks
Current treatment strategies for Parkinson's disease include medications
such as dopamine agonists. Other treatment options focus more on maintaining
independence, reducing fall risk and overcoming the progressive speech
difficulties that can develop as the disease advances.
In other words, not an encouraging picture for someone faced with
What about exercise? Could something as natural, simple and straightforward
as exercise help? Yes, suggests a growing body of research that includes a
study in JAMA Neurology, a journal of the American Medical Association. The
study found that intense treadmill exercise can substantially slow
progression of the disease, while less-intense forms of exercise do not
delay the progression of symptoms.
Researchers divided Parkinson's disease patients into three groups for
comparison, with one group walking gently on a treadmill for 30 minutes a
day, four times a week (moderate intensity – 60-65 percent of maximum heart
rate); a second group exercising for the same duration and frequency, but at
a more intense pace and incline (high intensity – heart rate 80-85 percent
of maximum); and a third group that did not participate in either exercise
Patients received supervision for one month and then continued the program
for an additional five months, at which time researchers evaluated disease
status using the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale motor score, which
had been assessed at the start of the study as well. Patients who
participated in the high-intensity treadmill program showed almost no
decline in scores compared to baseline, while patients in the
moderate-intensity program declined by approximately two points, and
patients in the control group declined by three points. In other words,
Parkinson's symptoms got worse in patients who did not exercise or who
exercised at only moderate intensity, but stayed the same in patients who
exercised at high intensity.
Just as significant, the exercise program proved tolerable to almost all
patients, meaning it is a safe option for helping Parkinson's patients avoid
progression of their disease. Considering the debilitating, frustrating
nature of Parkinson's disease, that's news we're more than happy to share.
The Problem With Surgery for Low Back
If you've ever experienced back pain,
whether acute or chronic, there are a few facts you should know. First,
you're not alone; studies suggest 80 percent of adults experience at
least one episode of low back pain in their lifetime. Second, thousands
of people undergo back surgery every year for back pain, putting their
bodies at risk for surgical complications. Third, chiropractic and other
conservative, nonsurgical treatment methods have been shown to be
effective for uncomplicated cases of LBP.
And here's one more important fact:
Research suggests the big problem with surgery for back pain,
particularly chronic back pain (recurrent pain over weeks or months), is
that it doesn't seem to work – at least not any better than conservative
care. The latest evidence: study findings published in the research
journal Spine that found: "After an average of 11 years follow-up, there
was no difference in patient self-rated outcomes between fusion and
multidisciplinary cognitive-behavioral and exercise rehabilitation for
cLBP (chronic low-back pain).
The results suggest that, given the
increased risks of surgery and the lack of deterioration in nonoperative
outcomes over time, the use of lumbar fusion in cLBP patients should not
be favored in health care systems where multidisciplinary
cognitive-behavioral and exercise rehabilitation programs are
This isn't the first study to suggest
surgery isn't your best option when it comes to the back. And if you
think you can go to any type of doctor, think again. Expertise aside,
research indicates that the type of doctor you visit first – namely a
surgeon vs. a doctor of chiropractic – can essentially determine whether
you'll eventually undergo surgery. So think surgery last and visit a
chiropractor first. Your back will thank you for it.
Go Nuts About Protecting Your Heart
If you're nuts about nuts, you're in luck:
besides tasting great, they're also a tasty way to help reduce your risk
of heart disease, and the research continues to prove it. According to
one of the latest studies, published by the Journal of the American
College of Cardiology, eating nuts five times or more a week reduces the
risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 14 percent and lowers the
risk of coronary heart disease by even more - 20 percent.
In the study, nut consumption was defined
as one 28-gram serving, which translates to about one ounce - the
standard serving size for most nuts. The study also determined
individual risk reductions based on the type of nut consumed:
Walnuts (at least once weekly): 19 percent lower risk of cardiovascular
disease / 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease
Peanuts (at least twice weekly): 13 percent lower risk of cardiovascular
disease / 15 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease
Tree nuts (almonds, cashews or pistachios; twice weekly or more
frequently): 145 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease / 23
percent lower risk of coronary heart disease
So grab a handful of your favorite nuts
and enjoy the heart benefits! Talk to your doctor for more information,
and keep in mind that nuts are high in fat and can be high and sodium,
so look for a no-salt variety if available.
Don't Make Low Back Pain Worse
Don't think your spouse's back pain is a
big deal? It may actually make the pain – which is a big deal to them,
no matter what you think – even worse, according to new research.
While positive support and encouragement
has been shown to reduce feelings of pain, this study confirms just the
opposite: Lack of support can intensify pain.
The study involved couples, one of whom
was suffering from chronic low back pain. While the back pain patient
performed standing, walking, reclining, bending and stretching
activities for 10 minutes, their spouse watched while researchers
evaluated any criticism and/or hostility toward their spouse / the
patient, as well as perceived criticism on the patient's part. Needless
to say, greater hostility / criticism from the pain-free spouse
correlated with greater pain experienced by the patient – particularly
when the patient was a woman.
The moral to this story is a simple one:
When someone's in pain, give them your full support! That means not only
trying to understand and appreciate their pain, but also recognizing
that what you think is support / helpful advice may actually be
perceived as negative and lead to more pain, not less. Talk to your
chiropractor to learn more about back pain, the potential causes, and
how couples can work together whenever pain strikes.