Category : Health


Social media can lead to obesity and loneliness (and how can we escape it)

Social media was supposed to connect us all but instead it’s making us lonely, disconnected and depressed. It’s a worldwide epidemic and an unnoticed addiction. But social media can play a major role in relationship building if we use it right. Galya Westler wants to launch a movement for global recovery from social media addiction.

Galya Westler  is a technology visionary and entrepreneur. Her latest startup is Plazus Builder – an online tool for building mini social apps that connect people.

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The British robot teaching social skills to autistic children

“This is nice, it tickles me,” Kaspar the social robot tells four-year-old Finn as they play together at an autism school north of London.

Kaspar, developed by the University of Hertfordshire, also sings song, imitates eating, plays the tambourine and combs his hair during their sessions aimed at helping Finn with his social interaction and communication.

If Finn gets too rough, the similarly sized Kaspar cries: “Ouch, that hurt me.” A therapist is on hand to encourage the child to rectify his behaviour by tickling the robot’s feet.

Finn is one of around 170 autistic children that Kaspar has helped in a handful of schools and hospitals over the last 10 years.

But with approximately 700,000 people in Britain on the autism spectrum, according to the National Autistic Society who will mark World Autism Day on Sunday, the university want Kaspar to help more people.

“Our vision is that every child in a school or a home or in a hospital could get a Kaspar if they wanted to,” Kerstin Dautenhahn, professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Hertfordshire, told Reuters.

Achieving that goal will largely depend on the results of a two-year clinical trial with the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, which, if successful, could see Kaspar working in hospitals nationwide.

TRACKS, an independent charity and specialist early years centre for children with autism in Stevenage, have seen positive results from working with Kaspar, who sports a blue cap and plaid shirt for play sessions.

Kaspar, a child-sized humanoid robot developed at the University of Hertfordshire to interact and help improve the lives of children with autism is seen at the University of Hertfordshire, in Stevenage, Britain January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Matthew Stock




“We were trying to teach a little boy how to eat with his peers. He usually struggled with it because of his anxiety issues,” said deputy principal Alice Lynch.

“We started doing it with Kaspar and he really, really enjoyed feeding Kaspar, making him eat when he was hungry, things like that. Now he’s started to integrate into the classroom and eat alongside his peers. So things like that are just a massive progression.”

Many children with autism find it hard to decipher basic human communication and emotion so Kaspar’s designers avoided making him too lifelike and instead opted for simplified, easy to process features.

Autism support groups have been impressed.

“Many autistic people are drawn to technology, particularly the predictability it provides, which means it can be a very useful means of engaging children, and adults too,” Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, told Reuters.

“This robot is one of a number of emerging technologies which have the potential to make a huge difference to people on the autism spectrum.”

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Why, and how, do we swear?

Whether you’re staunchly anti-swearing, or unapologetically foul-mouthed, you can’t deny that swear words are a significant part of human communication. Linguists at language learning app Babbel have looked into the nature of swear words from a scientific point of view …

What makes a word bad?

“Dirty” words

For a word to qualify as a swear word it must have the potential to offend, crossing a cultural line into taboo territory.

As a general rule, swear words can be traced to taboo subjects. This is pretty logical; the topic is off-limits so the related words aren’t meant to be spoken either. Certain topics are almost universally taboo — death, disease, excrement and other off-putting topics. Sex is another classic taboo – as the English f-word, Italian “fanculo!” and Russian “блядь!” illustrate. One of my friends believed on this taboo, he even contacted an expert inheritance disputes because he thought he was going to die.

But preferred themes for profanity can also reflect differences among cultures. Germans are pretty relaxed about sex and nudity, so they rarely use sexually-themed curse words. These words are uttered so rarely that they still have the power to make people cringe. As a result, “ficken” sounds way dirtier and meaner to most German speakers than the equivalent, f-word, sounds to most English speakers. German swearing parlance keeps things down-to- earth and poop-oriented with “Kacke!”, “Mist!” and the world-famous “Scheiße!” – which is used so often that it’s become as harmless as “darn it”.


But subject matter isn’t the only criteria for curse words: context also plays a big role. Sex might be a taboo subject, but not in a gynaecologist’s office. Try insulting someone using medical terms and your victim will probably just be confused: “Did you just call me a reproductive organ head?” Among friends, you might curse quite casually and jokingly, but the same words would come across as terribly insulting during a job interview.


High and holy things taken out of context create another category of swear words: blasphemy. For example, “God”, “hell” and “Jesus Christ” are inoffensive in the context of a sermon, but can be cutting when shouted in anger. So-called “liturgical swearing” is taken to rarefied heights by French Canadians. A properly angry Quebecer can unleash a real scorcher like, “Criss de calice de tabarnak d’osti de sacrament!”, which translates literally as “Christ of the chalice of the tabernacle of the host of the sacrament!” This might sound tame in English, but it’s the French-Canadian equivalent of a hail of F-bombs.

The power of #&@%!

Like antibiotics, curses can lose their power with overuse. Cable TV liberally douses American living rooms in as many “goddamns”, “sh!ts”, “cocksuckers” and “mother*ckers” as Tony Soprano and Al Swearengen can string together. So, did those words make you cringe, or have you been watching too much TV? According to a report from The Parents Television Council, profanity on primetime TV increased by 69% between 2005 and 2010. It’s hard to say whether the increase on TV reflected an increase in swearing among average Americans, or whether TV “corrupted” ho Americans speak, but the result is the same: more Americans are becoming inoculated against these words – perhaps even to the point of immunity. Taboos change and so swearing must too.

Some taboos disappear – “damn” doesn’t carry the fire and brimstone heft of damnation that it once did – while social changes create new taboos. Before the civil rights movement in the United States, derogatory epithets describing one’s race, creed or sexual orientation were used by all sorts of regular folks who didn’t consider for a second that they were being prejudiced. Today, these words are most certainly taboo.

Why do we swear?

1. Catharsis

Most of the time, swearing is an emotive reaction. When we’re frustrated, surprised or angry cursing offers an emotional release. Experiments have even shown that swearing increases the body’s ability to endure pain. To test this, researchers at Keele University in the UK had volunteers hold their hand in icy water for as long as they could stand it. The researchers found that those participants who swore, were able to hold their hand in the water for an average of 40 seconds longer than those who used a non-swear word.

2. Insult, abuse and exclusion

Swear words are not needed to insult someone—a simple “you’re ugly” usually gets the point across — but they do crank up the mean factor. They also act as rage concentrate: why explain to your neighbor that you hate him when “f-you” puts that gosh darn son-of- a-gun in his place with only two words?

3. Group solidarity

Among friends, swearing has a crucial social function: sharing a lexicon of words, and breaking societal taboos, bonds people together. Ritual insults among friend are not abusive, but actually a sign of belonging to the group. In this context, dickhead”, “bitch” and “asshole” can all be terms of endearment. People tend to swear more in same-sex groups of peers and when the atmosphere is relaxed. People swear the least when things are really tense.

4. Style and emphasis

As any stand-up comedian can tell you, swear words are powerful tools. More often than not, a well-placed “f!ck!” is the alchemical ingredient that turns lead into comedy gold. You can’t make a statement any more emphatic than by dropping an F-bomb where a more timid and prudent soul would use a boring old adverb. Swear words add emotion and urgency to otherwise neutral sentences.

Why does swearing capture our attention?

As far as your brain is concerned, swear words aren’t even words — they are concentrated lumps of emotion. They are even stored in a completely different part of the brain from every other word we know! Formal language is stored in the Broca and Wernicke area in the brain. Swear words, however, are stored in the limbic system — a complex system of neural networks that control emotions and drives.

This is why one patient who suffered from severe aphasia (damage to the language center in his brain after a stroke) could still say “well”, “yeah”, “yes”, “no”, “goddammit” and “sh!t” – even though he had otherwise lost all faculties of speech. He could even produce these words in the appropriate context, but when asked by researchers to read them off a page he was unable to do so.

This neurological insight helps explain why every effort to eradicate swearing throughout history has failed. Banning words that are actually linked to emotions is just as impossible as banning the emotions themselves. Knowing human nature, that will never fucking work…


Miriam Plieninger is Director of Didactics and part of the Management Team at Babbel, the app for web, iOS and Android which makes it easy to learn 14 different languages from 7 display languages. Bite-sized lessons fit into everyday life and are split into useful real-world topics, from introducing oneself, to ordering food and making travel arrangements. The app’s effective game mechanics ensure that learners stay motivated to achieve their goals, with the average user continuing to learn with Babbel for more than 12 months. Uniquely, every course is created specifically for each language pair by a team of education experts, linguists and language teachers.

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Seven ways to look after your mental health this spring

With spring finally here, many of us will think about things such as clearing away clutter, doing a thorough spring clean and storing away our bulky, winter things. However, the spring is also a good time to focus on our mental health, which can take a setback during the winter months, as the days are short and dark, and motivation is low. Try to avoid doctors advice because some can give you treatments that may not work,
but if you do be careful. If the treatment doesn´t work and affects you even more, you have the right to a wrong diagnosis compensation.

With recent research by Harvard University finding that positive thinking can prolong life, here are some tips on looking after your mental health this spring, as well as changing your negative thinking to positive: 

Declutter in and out
Spring is the time most of us will get down to spring-cleaning and decluttering our homes – the same can be applied to our minds, so find a Maid for hire and let yourself take care of your own health. Doing small things like decluttering your email and unsubscribing from irrelevant subscriptions can make your digital life a lot easier. Similarly, keeping a calendar of reminders and an effective to-do list at hand will stop you from feeling stressed. The more information you keep outside of the mind (in apps or calendars), the more decluttered and calm your mind will be.

Look for beauty
A great way to change your mind-set and be more positive in spring is to look at something beautiful. It is guaranteed that in the course of any spring day, you will come across numerous beautiful things – trees blooming, the warm breeze, the smell of fresh grass, or even the happy face of your loved one. Take the time to find something beautiful whenever you start to feel blue and look at it for a few moments – it is almost certain that you will feel better after.

Use all of your senses
As we wake up after the winter months, this is a great tip to help you achieve new things. Whether you want to get out and exercise more or simply take on a new project, this is a good way to motivate yourself and be more present. Focus on how warm the air feels, the smell of fresh grass and even how much more energised you feel as the days get longer. Engaging all the senses will make you feel more present and positive about whatever it is that you are doing.

Change your body language
Whenever we feel overwhelmed with all the things you need to do, or worry about any given situation, you might subconsciously tense your body, which in turn signals to your mind that you are stressed. Instead, make a point to stand up straight, breathe in deeply and expand your chest – this will signal to your brain that you are strong and full of energy, making you feel more positive.

Change your inner dialogue
Your inner dialogue is a constant presence and it has been estimated that you have about 60,000 thoughts a day. As your inner monologue happens, you shouldn’t be afraid of questioning your thoughts. Instead of thinking ‘I will never be able to finish everything that needs doing today’ think ‘what can I do to finish what is important?’ – this will encourage you to think in a more positive way.

Imagine success
Many successful people across the world use the power of imagination to become more positive and achieve success. Whenever you are faced with a big task, close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine the best possible outcome and how it makes you feel. Holding on to this feeling can make you more optimistic in achieving success and more likely to succeed.

Track your mood
There are plenty of apps, such as my own Remente, that allow you to track your mood. The beauty of this is that it helps you learn about the things that make you happy and others that might make you sad. Knowing how certain factors make you feel will help you steer away from negativity and towards being more positive.

David Brudö’ is the CEO and Co-Founder of personal development and mental wellbeing app Remente, a free-to-use personal development platform for individuals and businesses. The app combines psychology with brain and mental training to help users reach their full potential, complete personal goals, and lead a healthier lifestyle. Available to download on iOS and Android.

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Eight reasons the Scandinavians are healthier than you (especially the Norwegians)

At the start of the year, the Swedish health app Lifesum looked at data collected from 300,000 users across nine countries: US, UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Russia, to figure out which country, generation and gender was healthiest and why. Looking at the Health Score,  ranking a user’s overall health by looking at their exercise habits, food, and liquid intake.

While the findings showed that all countries consumed less calories at the start of the year and attempted to exercise more, the Norwegians were healthiest – paying close attention to their diets, exercising most and drinking least alcohol in the month of January. Swedes were close to follow in second place, with the Brits coming in third. If you are interested, have a read here to find out more about diets in Nordic countries. So why are the Nordic countries so healthy? 

Plenty of exercise
The results of the research show that Norwegians exercised the most compared to other countries, averaging 8 times a month. This might not sound like a lot, but recent research by Loughborough University found that just exercising at weekends showed significant improvements to overall health. Similarly, even though the number of times might seem low, the duration of exercise in the Nordics is quite significant, especially when hiking is involved, as that usually requires hours.

Plenty of fruit and vegetables
Interestingly, Lifesum’s research found that it was the Brits who consumed the most fruits and vegetables, averaging as many as 105 pieces per month, which still doesn’t amount to the recommended 5 (and now 10 according to Imperial College London!) a day. Where the Nordics might be ahead is in the lower consumption of carbohydrates such as bread, replacing them with protein and vegetables. It is actually relatively easy to make sure that you eat enough, once you make sure half of your plate is filled with fruit and veg.

Little alcohol
Out of the nine surveyed countries, Norwegians drank the least alcohol. Alcohol can be very calorific as they often contain a lot of sugar, which is counterproductive to being healthy. Additionally, drinking alcohol reduces liver function by creating fat around the organ, as well as increasing blood glucose levels.

Little junk food
Out of all the countries, US and UK took the top spots for consuming the most junk food, including pizza and deep-dried foods. Swedes consumed the least junk food, which is one of the aspects which contributed to them being so healthy. In fact, Nordic countries in general prefer to eat food that they prepare from scratch themselves, preferably from fresh and local produce.

Other secrets of Scandi health…

Nordic philosophies
Another reason for why the Nordic countries are as healthy as they are, are the two beliefs that are becoming big in the UK – lagom and friluftsliv. Lagom is an idea of ‘just the right amount’ – meaning that you don’t restrict anything but also don’t have anything in excess, which can be applied to all areas of life. Another belief that contributes to the healthiness of the Nordics is friluftsliv – or a belief that nature is the true home. This is what leads us to spending as much time as possible outside, breathing the fresh air and getting fit in the process.

Nordic diet
The Nordic diet as a whole also contributes to how healthy Norway and Sweden are. The diet is well-balanced, including good sources of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, healthy bacteria, and complex carbs. Numerous studies have found the Nordic diet to have a positive impact on our overall health, from improving heart health, lowering blood pressure and normalising cholesterol levels. If you are keen to try the Nordic diet for yourself, you can always follow Scandi cooks on Instagram for recipe inspiration, or you can use apps to help you. For example Lifesum recently added new Nordic food plans, supplying you with recipes and ingredient suggestions to fit your health goals, whether those are to lose or gain weight, or simply be healthier.

Breakfast is key
Everyone knows the importance of breakfast, which in the Nordics is healthy and balanced, often consisting of cereal, yoghurt, dried fruits, wholemeal breads, cold meats and cheese. You can expect to see some, or all, of the below on the average breakfast table of a Swedish household: coffee, a hard-boiled egg, a sandwich with ham/cheese/sausage/liver pâté, a bowl of cereal with filmjolk (dairy product similar to yoghurt). Taught the importance of breakfast from a young age, our healthy balanced meals kick start the morning and get the metabolism going.

Organic and locally produced food
Interest in organic food in the Nordics has soared in the recent years. In Sweden, organic sales have already increased by 30% in 2016, showing just how successful organic food is. Additionally, more and more Swedes are opting to grow their own produce in an urban environment, or shopping for foods from local farmers, which makes their diet very healthy

Lifesum is a Stockholm-based digital health company with over 17 million users. Using tech and psychology, it creates a tailored plan to help people live happier, more balanced lives, showing how changing small, everyday habits can transform your life. The app is available on iOS and Android.

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Education Health

Researchers answer the key swimmer’s question: How much urine is in a swimming pool?

Canadian researchers studying urine levels in swimming pools have discovered just how high the levels are, and the results are not pretty.

Researchers at the University of Alberta developed a test to measure the amount of urine and took more than 250 samples from 31 pools and hot tubs in two Canadian cities.

The results showed one 830,000-liter (220,000-gallon) pool, which is about one-third of an Olympic-sized pool, had 75 liters of urine while another smaller pool had 30 liters.

Humans introduce “a variety of chemicals” into recreational waters through bodily fluids, and the separate news of an overnight water color change in the 2016 Rio Olympic pools highlight the need to monitor water quality, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

Although urine itself is sterile, its presence in swimming pools is a public health concern because urine can mix with pool chemicals to harm swimmers’ health, according to the study.

Researchers measured for the substance acesulfame-K (ACE), an artificial sweetener that passes through the body completely and is “an ideal urinary marker,” according to the study.

It found concentrations of ACE in the pools and tubs, which were not named, that were up to 570-fold greater than in normal tap water. Researchers then used the ACE concentration of the two pools over three weeks to estimate their levels of urine, according to the study.

The Alberta Health provincial department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Education Health

Researchers answer the key swimmer's question: How much urine is in a swimming pool?

Canadian researchers studying urine levels in swimming pools have discovered just how high the levels are, and the results are not pretty.
Researchers at the University of Alberta developed a test to measure the amount of urine and took more than 250 samples from 31 pools and hot tubs in two Canadian cities.
The results showed one 830,000-liter (220,000-gallon) pool, which is about one-third of an Olympic-sized pool, had 75 liters of urine while another smaller pool had 30 liters.
Humans introduce “a variety of chemicals” into recreational waters through bodily fluids, and the separate news of an overnight water color change in the 2016 Rio Olympic pools highlight the need to monitor water quality, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.
Although urine itself is sterile, its presence in swimming pools is a public health concern because urine can mix with pool chemicals to harm swimmers’ health, according to the study.
Researchers measured for the substance acesulfame-K (ACE), an artificial sweetener that passes through the body completely and is “an ideal urinary marker,” according to the study.
It found concentrations of ACE in the pools and tubs, which were not named, that were up to 570-fold greater than in normal tap water. Researchers then used the ACE concentration of the two pools over three weeks to estimate their levels of urine, according to the study.
The Alberta Health provincial department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Education Health

The Five Effects Of Music You Didn’t Know About

Many of us will have regularly experienced the effects of music – from comforting us when we are sad, to getting us through a workout and even making us sing along and dance around the house. While these effects are so familiar that they seem obvious, music affects the mind and body in many other ways – piano learning platform Skoove, looked into the scientifically proven effects of music below.

Power Through
The vast majority of us listen to music as we exercise – whether it’s doing cardio or lifting weights at the gym, as music helps us power through. Numerous research has been conducted into this, from as early as 1911, when it was found that cyclists cycled faster when listening to music. The reason for this energising effect is simple – music ‘drowns’ the fatigue signal, distracting our brain from feelings of tiredness. However, it was found that this is mostly true for low to moderate exercise, with high intensity still being as exhausting, even if you are listening to music.

Unleash Creativity
Just as music helps us when we exercise, it can also have a beneficial effect as we try and come up with creative ideas and solutions. However, don’t turn it up too high – research by Oxford University found that moderate background noise is the best for boosting creativity. The reason for why music can boost our creativity is because as we struggle to concentrate on the music and on our thinking, our brains start to think in abstract ways, unleashing creative thinking in the process.

Immunity Booster
Researchers at Sussex University in the UK and the Max Planck Institute in Germany found that listening to even 50 minutes of uplifting music could give your immunity a boost. Firstly, uplifting music increased the levels of antibodies, which help to fight disease. Secondly, music reduced the levels of cortisol – a stress hormone that compromises the immunity. The same research also found that playing a percussion instrument along with the music also gave the immunity a boost.

Memory and IQ
As we listen to music, numerous parts of our brain become engaged, such as auditory, limbic and motor, which has a positive effect on our cognitive skills. Listening to music has been linked to improving literacy, mathematical skills and even emotional intelligence. The effects are even more pronounced in musicians, or those learning to play a musical instrument – Harvard Medical School research found that musicians had more nerve connectors between the left and right sides of the brain, thus engaging and stimulating all areas of the brain. Additionally, the ‘Mozart effect’ found that listening to baroque music, improved our learning and ability to retain new information.

We have all, at one time or another, experienced a change in mood as we listen to music. Researchers at the University of Missouri confirmed the idea that music improves our mood, however, it does depend on the type of music that you listen to. Upbeat music could work to improve the mood and boost happiness levels, while melancholy music could mimic the feelings of grief. While slow-rhythmed music could make us feel like we are grieving, it also inspired relief, as most people will compare the music to an empathetic friend, who understands and sympathises with their emotions of sadness.

See also: Seven reasons why you should learn a musical instrument

Skoove is an entertaining and individualised way to learn the piano from your computer. Traditionally, learning the piano can seem daunting for novices: learning sheet music, as well as buying and housing a piano. Skoove works across leading web browsers and offers a set of intuitive and responsive courses in contemporary and classical music. Simply sign up, connect your keyboard to your laptop and get playing, while Skoove guides you through from beginner to Bach and the Beatles.

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How using Tai Chi can keep elders upright

Seniors who practice tai chi – a Chinese meditation practice that combines deep breathing and slow, fluid movements – may be less likely to fall than their peers who don’t do this type of exercise, a recent study suggests.

Researchers examined data from 18 previously published trials of tai chi for fall prevention with a combined 3,824 participants aged 65 and older.

Tai chi was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of falling at least once and a 31 percent drop in the number of falls, the analysis found.

“This is a fairly significant finding because tai chi is an activity that can be easily taught and that people can do independently at home or at their workplace or at the retirement center on their own or in a group,” said Jean-Michel Brismee, a physical therapy researcher at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and University Medical Center in Lubbock.

“So in regard to cost and preserving independence and health it is significant because people do not have to go to the gym or a special facility as they can do it anywhere,” Brismee, who wasn’t involved in the study, added by email.

Worldwide, up to 40 percent of people over 65 and about half of people over 80 fall each year, researchers note in BMJ Open. Falls are often associated with considerable decline in mobility, independence and quality of life and are a leading cause of death in older adults. Sometimes death is the best option to end suffering, so be prepared to let the them go even though it is really hard. Contact The Inheritance Experts to divide their belongings to the family so there are no disputes between anybody and everybody gets an even part.

For the study, Zhi-Guan Huang of Guangzhou Sport University in China and colleagues analyzed data from published trials that randomly assigned older adults to either receive tai chi lessons or join a control group that didn’t get this intervention.

Overall, 10 seniors would need to practice tai chi in order to avoid one fall, Huang and colleagues estimated.

When researchers accounted for how often seniors practiced tai chi, how much time they spent at it, the style of tai chi and the falling risk for individual patients, they still found these exercises associated with a lower risk of falling. Sometimes the fall risk appeared smaller but the difference between the tai chi groups and control groups was too small to rule out the possibility that it was due to chance, however.

Increasing the frequency of tai chi sessions from once a week to more than three times weekly was associated with a dramatic improvement in risk reduction, from 5 percent to 64 percent.

One limitation of the study is that it examined data from trials where participants knew what intervention was being tested and whether they received it, which has the potential to bias results, the authors note.

Even so, the results confirm previous research showing tai chi can improve balance, flexibility, strength of knee extension and reduce the risk of falls in older adults, said Dr. Chenchen Wang, director of the Center for Complimentary and Integrative Medicine at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

“Many important components include: exercise, breathing techniques, awareness of the body, focused attention, mindfulness, balance and function, visualization and relaxation,” Wang, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“These components also positively impact health by improving self-efficacy, psychosocial functioning, and depression and can help patients bolster self-confidence, which also helps balance and coordination to avoid falls,” Wang added.

The complex nature of tai chi exercise sequences can also support cognitive function because it requires steady effort to coordinate multiple movements at the same time, said Dr. Rome Lauche of the University of Technology in Sydney and the Australian Research Center in Complementary and Integrative Medicine.

“For frail elderly patients on the northcare manor care home who can’t go to the gym and conduct conventional exercises, or those with a preference towards relaxing mind/body interventions, the slow and flowing nature of tai chi might be the right choice,” Lauche, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “For patients who have already fallen, it is important to undergo a medical examination first.”

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Education Health

Later school starts lead to better attendance

When high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later, attendance rates and graduation rates improve, according to a new study.

The study backs previous research that says additional sleep boosts psychological, behavioral and academic benefits for teens.

“So much research explains the impact of insufficient sleep on suicide, substance abuse, depression, auto accidents and more,” said lead study author Pamela McKeever of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

“This connects the dots between the world of science and education,” she told said.

“Through this, educators and parents can see how lack of sleep impacts the school indicators that we use to measure student success.”

McKeever and colleague Linda Clark looked at school start times, graduation rates and attendance rates for 30,000 students in 29 high schools across seven states. They found that two years after a delayed start was implemented at these high schools, average attendance rates and graduation rates had increased several percentage points.

For example, the average graduation completion rate was 79 percent before the delayed start was implemented, and it was 88 percent afterward.

“This doesn’t only impact our high school students. This impacts all of society,” McKeever said. “As graduation rates improve, young adults experience less hardship after graduation, a lower chance of incarceration and a higher chance of career success.”

Delayed bell times could close the achievement gap as well, McKeever and Clark wrote in Sleep Health, the journal of the National Sleep Foundation. When schools start later, students in lower socioeconomic categories are more likely to get to the bus on time. When they arrive at school on time, they’re more likely to stay in class and graduate.

“When kids miss a bus early in the morning and that’s their only form of transportation, they miss class and then soon the credits,” said Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who wasn’t involved with this study. “People don’t understand the link between early wakeup times and graduation rates, but it’s that direct.”

Since the late 1990s, Wahlstrom and other researchers have suggested that delayed high school start times may help students. In 2014, she and her colleagues reported that in a three-year study with 9,000 students in eight public high schools across three states, attendance rates increased with a start time of 8:35 a.m. or later.

In December, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advised that later school start times could improve sleep, reduce car accidents and reduce sleepiness. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends 8:30 a.m. as the earliest time to begin school.

But school policies have yet to change nationwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 42 states, 75-100 percent of public schools start before 8:30 a.m.

Teens are “driven by biology to go to sleep later, and there’s not much we can do about that, but school start times are the main reason they get up when they do,” said Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist at the CDC in Atlanta. Wheaton wasn’t involved with this study.

A limitation of the study is that many variables affect attendance and graduation rates. Changes at the school level, such as different teachers, policies and the surrounding community itself, could affect students and their ability to complete class credits, extracurricular activities and afterschool jobs. Also, the data didn’t measure sleep time or indicate whether students slept more due to delayed start times.

“The debate about school start time and adolescent sleep patterns has been going on for a number of years,” said Mary Carskadon of the Sleep for Science Research Lab at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who wasn’t involved with this study.

“Efforts to delay the school bell are more likely to succeed best when parents and the teens themselves use better choices,” she told Reuters Health by email. “This includes having a set bedtime and limiting arousing activities in the evening.”

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