Today’s Headlines: Health Goals, Sitting and Exercising With Friends

Motivating partners help you reach your goals. It can be tough to stay motivated to follow your New Year’s resolutions when the going gets tough, but your significant other may be your best motivator. “Researchers found that married or cohabiting couples with a ‘healthier’ partner are more likely to change than those with an unhealthy partner. The study also revealed that having a partner who was making healthy changes at the same time was even more powerful.” The researchers examined a group of people mostly over 50 who were looking to quit smoking, lose weight and get fit. “17 percent of the smokers kicked the habit, 44 percent of inactive participants became newly active, and 15 percent of overweight men and women lost sat least of 5% of their initial weight. Those who were smokers were more likely to quit if they lived with someone who had always been cigarette-free. Similarly, those who weren’t physically active were more likely to start if they lived with someone who was already active. On every measure of health that was tracked, all of those who started off unhealthy were much more likely to make a positive change if their similarly unhealthy partner made a healthy lifestyle change.” (CBS)

Being active doesn’t make up for sitting all day. While getting out and exercising may help lower your risk of a variety of diseases, it doesn’t make up for being inactive all day. “Those who engage in regular physical activity but still spend a large proportion of their day in sedentary activity were found, on average, to be 30% less likely to die of any cause in a given period than were those who get little to no exercise. But even those who punctuate a long day of sitting with a vigorous workout were estimated to be 16% more likely to die of any cause in a given time than were those who do not sit for long.” The risk seemed to hold even if sitting all day didn’t make you heavier. “The amount of time spent sitting was found to drive up health risks independently of other factors that would often contribute to poor health and which might also be linked to sedentary behavior, such as smoking, age and obesity. That suggests, for example, that although long hours spent sitting might indeed contribute to weight gain, it is probably harmful even if it doesn’t make you obese.” The authors recommend “getting up from your desk for one to three minutes every half-hour or so and move around. While watching TV, stand or exercise during the advertisements.” (LA Times)

Working out with a walking group brings major benefits. Regular social walks with friends may not seem like intense exercise, but the benefits those walks bring seem to be big according to new research. “The research team analyzed 42 studies across 14 countries and found that people who were part of walking groups showed significantly lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat, cholesterol levels and even depression scores compared with their levels before they embarked on group walks. They also had better lung capacity — a good indicator of fitness — and were able to walk farther. These weren’t hard and grueling hikes, either. The vast majority, 75%, weren’t even strenuous enough to count as moderate physical activity, yet the health effects were clear.” The social aspect of walking was key to the success of the activity. “Those who were part of walking groups also had low levels of dropout — about three-quarters stuck with it — a finding the authors credit to the presence of other people. Even if you don’t join to make friends, being able to clear your mind and follow the leader is enjoyable and fulfilling.” (TIME)