running

  1. A little exercise can add years to your life

    A little bit of exercise can go a very long way

    I can't see you, but I know you're about to give me "that look."

    It's the look I get every day from patients when I tell them that exercise is almost as important as diet -- a look that says "UGH!" without actually saying it out loud.

    You'd think I was sentencing people to hard labor instead of the fun and rewarding pastimes that exercise can be -- but while it's true that finding time for exercise can be challenging, it doesn't have to be difficult or even painful.

    All it means is getting some movement each day -- and according to one new study, it doesn't have to be strenuous at all. In fact, it might be better if it's not.

    The study looked at the running and jogging habits of 1,116 men and 762 women, asking them how long and fast they ran each week.

    Those with regular jogging habits were happier, overall. But much more importantly, they lived longer -- about 6.2 years longer on average for men and 5.6 years longer for women.

    But what's most telling of all here is that it didn't take much to get that life-extending benefit, just a slow-to-average pace for an hour or two a week. That's just 10 or 15 minutes a day.

    Even a "power walk" through the local park could count as a slow jog.

    Those who did more serious -- and more strenuous -- running, on the other hand, didn't get a bigger benefit. In fact, they didn't live as long as the moderate-to-light jogging crowd.

    In other words, "all things in moderation," as the old saying goes, and another new study shows how older women in particular can benefit.

    This one looked at more than 700 women in their 70s, and found that those who got regular exercise such as an easy walk around the block had a 71 percent lower risk of death during the five-year study when compared to sedentary women.

    The same study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, also measured blood levels of carotenoids. Those are the healthy pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, and higher levels are a good sign.

    And those who had the highest levels -- those who ate the most fruit and veggies -- had a 46 percent lower risk of death than those with the lowest.

    If you want the biggest benefit of all (by far), don't pick one or the other, because the study also found that women who ate their fruits and veggies AND got that little bit of exercise were 800 percent more likely to live through the five-year study.

    The study didn't look at men, but you really can't go wrong with eating better and getting more movement whether you're a man or a woman -- and that's true no matter how old (or young) you are.

    But if all that's not enough of a reason to get moving, consider one other new study that found a benefit some people might find even more enticing than a longer, happier life: People who exercise earn an average of 9 percent more than people who don't.

    Good health isn't always the best motivator. But money? For some, that one works wonders.

  2. Bursting the water balloon

    Water is plentiful, inexpensive and (relatively) safe.

    So what's my beef with it?

    Nothing... if you're drinking it because you're thirsty.

    But if you've developed a serious bottled water habit because you've heard it can make you faster, thinner, younger, or healthier... well, on some level you probably know it's not that easy, right?

    The truth is, anyone who wants you to believe in these and other supposed health benefits of water is probably just trying to sell you some -- spring water, mountain water, water from Fiji, or plain old tap water in a bottle with a fancy label.

    And they're pulling every trick in the book in the name of marketing.

    A recent editorial in BMJ looked at the growing number of health claims being splashed into water, and found... well, they're all wet -- starting with the claim that you need eight glasses a day to stay healthy.

    You don't.

    In the editorial, Dr. Margaret McCartney looked at the research and found no evidence to prove you need to drink like a guppy to stay healthy or even just hydrated. A 2002 study, for example, found "no scientific evidence" for eight glasses a day.

    So excess water won't make you healthier... but you're probably thinking that at least it's harmless, right?

    Not so fast: Too much water can actually pull essential sodium out of your body, leaving you with a potentially deadly condition called hyponatremia.

    It's not as rare as you might think, especially in the sports world. In fact, hundreds of runners in the New York City Marathon end up sick and even hospitalized with hyponatremia every year because they guzzle water from start to finish in the mistaken belief that they're dehydrating with every step.

    "There are no reported cases of dehydration causing death in the history of world running," Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, medical director for the New York City Marathon told the New York Times back in 2005. "But there are plenty of cases of people dying of hyponatremia."

    And if marathoners don't need all that water, what are the odds you do?

    Answer: You don't.

    In reality, the only time you need water is when you're thirsty -- and even then, almost any liquid will do: coffee, tea, beer, even the water in food.

    And if you want a plain glass of cold water, don't feel obliged to shell out cash for bottled -- most of that stuff is no better than what comes out of your own tap, and some of it might be worse.

    Instead, install a reverse-osmosis filter in your home to keep your faucet free of contaminants such as chemical waste and pharmaceuticals.

    Then, feel free to drink that water -- but only when you're thirsty.

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