- More American Woman Got Mammograms Thanks to Obamacare
- Why You Don’t Have to Exercise Every Day
- How Exercise Can Help Depression in Kids
Posted: 09 Jan 2017 08:36 AM PST
While Congress grapples over the fate of Obamacare, a new study shows that President Obama’s embattled health care plan helped increase the use of mammography among American women.
The study, published in the American Cancer Society’s journal Cancer, revealed women across all economic subgroups were more likely to go for a mammogram after Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented. This was due in part to the elimination of out-of-pocket expenses for the preventative health-care services, according to the study. However colonoscopy, another preventative screening test, did not see any increases.
Gregory Cooper, the lead author of the study, and his co-authors looked at claims from Medicare beneficiaries, who were 70 and older, before and after the implementation of ACA. “We wanted to see, as a natural experiment, what happens when you change the financial burden on preventive services,” Cooper, program director of gastroenterology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, told CNN.
The Republican party and the President-elect Donald Trump have said that they will repeal and replace Obamacare, but it remains unclear what parts of the act will be replaced. “We don’t know what the future of Obamacare is,” Cooper told CNN. “I haven’t heard anything about preventive services, but I would argue that, even if the program itself is dismantled, that would be a worthy benefit to keep.”
Posted: 09 Jan 2017 08:00 AM PST
Exercise is one of the best ways to avoid chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer, as well as an early death. But it can be tough to squeeze into a schedule: Health experts recommend about 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous, breath-sapping exercise, each week.
Since daily exercise isn’t realistic for everyone, researchers decided to study whether people who tend to cram their weekly exercise into one or two days on the weekend (so-called “weekend warriors”) get the same benefits as those who exercise daily. In the new research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, they found that how often a person exercises might not make a difference in determining how long a person lives.
Gary O’Donovan, a research associate in the Exercise as Medicine program at Loughborough University in England, and his colleagues analyzed data from national health surveys of more than 63,000 people, conducted in England and Scotland. People who said they exercised only one or two days a week lowered their risk of dying early from any cause by 30% to 34%, compared to people who were inactive. But what was more remarkable was that people who exercised most days of the week lowered their risk by 35%: not very different from those who exercised less.
The findings support the idea that some physical activity—even if it’s less than what the guidelines prescribe—helps avoid premature death. Researchers saw benefits for people who squeezed the entire recommended 150 minutes per week into one or two days, as well as for people who didn’t quite meet that threshold and exercised less.
Exercise was also effective at reducing the risk of heart-related death. The people who exercised regularly and those who exercised a couple days a week both cut their risk by about 40%. Again, the frequency of exercise didn’t seem to matter.
The same was true for risk of death from cancer. Those who exercised—whether it was every day or only a few days—lowered their risk of dying from cancer by 18% to 21%, compared to those who didn’t exercise. This risk reduction was true whether they met the recommended physical activity requirements or not.
“The main point our study makes is that frequency of exercise is not important,” says O’Donovan. “There really doesn’t seem to be any additional advantage to exercising regularly. If that helps people, then I’m happy.”
The results remained significant even after O’Donovan accounted for other variables that could explain the relationship, including a person’s starting BMI. In fact, the benefits were undeniable for people of all weights, including people who were overweight and obese.
That should be heartening to anyone who finds it hard to carve out time for physical activity every day. Not that you can slack off: O’Donovan stresses that his results focus specifically on moderate-to-vigorous exercise people did in their free time, and they do not apply to housework or physical activity on the job, since the surveys didn’t ask about those. The study does, however, include brisk walking, which he says is a good way to start an exercise regimen for people eager to take advantage of the findings.
“This is new evidence, and perhaps guidelines have to be revisited as new evidence emerges,” says O’Donovan. In the meantime, it’s clear that exercise—even if it’s only on the weekends—is a worthwhile addition to your routine.
Posted: 08 Jan 2017 09:01 PM PST
Exercise isn’t a cure for depression, but being active has been shown to alleviate some symptoms of depression in both teens and adults. Depending on the severity of the mood disorder, it could go a long way toward helping problems like negativity and rumination.
Scientists are now investigating if the same benefits might apply to young children, an age group with increasing cases of depression. In a new report published in Pediatrics, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology took advantage of data from nearly 800 six year olds who were asked about their exercise habits and depressive symptoms and followed up when they were eight and 10. Overall, children who exercised more, at a moderate to vigorous intensity, showed fewer depressive symptoms years later.
“I think that physicians, parents and policy makers should facilitate physical activity among children,” says Tonje Zahl, the study’s lead author. “The focus should be on physical activity not just for the here and now benefits, such as improving blood pressure, heart rate and other physical benefits, but for the mental health benefits over the long term,” she says. All children should be targeted for this, she adds.
Zahl and her team also wondered about the true connection between exercise and mood disorders like depression. Was depression making children more sedentary and less active, or did being less active bring on depressive symptoms? To find out, they analyzed the data according to how sedentary the children were, determined by data from activity trackers that the kids wore. It turns out that the amount of time the children spent being sedentary did not predict depression—nor did the presence of depression predict how much exercise a child did.
This suggests that even if a child spends much of the day sitting—whether in school or in front of a computer or television screen—her amount of active time might matter more. “I would say that worrying about the time a child is sedentary might not be the right angle,” says Zahl. “Being active is more beneficial, so the focus should be on getting more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity throughout the day.”
The findings support previous work showing similar benefits of exercise in relieving depression for adults and adolescents, but since this is the first study to look at children so young, Zahl hopes that others will replicate and confirm them. Until then, given that physical activity does so much good for the heart, brain and metabolism, Zahl says that doctors should advise children with depression and their parents to be more active. Physical activity could be an important addition to existing treatments, and the benefits might be especially critical for children at high risk for depression.
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