Today’s Headlines: Social Media, Insomnia and Exercise

Online weight-loss programs help, but only if you’re involved. There are plenty of weight-loss programs online with communities of fellow dieters to help you along. But a new study out this week has found you’ll get the most out of it if you make an effort to be involved. “Scientists looked at 5,400 people who participated in an online weight-loss program for at least six months and who posted their weight-loss progress at least twice during the study period.” The team found that how connected a person was to other members of the community played a key role in how much weight a person lost. “People who did not have any friends in the online community saw a 4.1 percent decrease in their body weight, on average. On the other hand, those in clusters made up of two to nine friends experienced a 5.2 percent decrease in body weight. The people who were in the largest cluster of friends within the network saw a 6.8 percent decrease in body weight. Deeply embedded members with a high number of friends experienced an 8.3 percent decrease in body weight.” (CBS)

Trouble sleeping may indicate high blood pressure. Sleep troubles have been linked to a variety of diseases and now high blood pressure has been added to the list. “The authors studied about 300 adults, including more than 200 chronic insomniacs who’d had trouble sleeping for at least six months. They all spent one night in the hospital and took a sleepiness/alertness test the following day. The next day, they were given four 20-minute nap opportunities throughout the day.” The researchers looked to see how long it took each person to fall asleep during their naps and also took blood pressure readings. “For chronic insomniacs, the longer it took to fall asleep when they tried to nap during the day, the more likely they were to have high blood pressure. Compared to normal sleepers who fell asleep quickly, insomniacs who took more than 14 minutes to fall asleep during the day were three times as likely to have high blood pressure readings or a doctor’s diagnosis of hypertension.” If you have chronic insomnia, you should consider having your blood pressure measured at your next appointment. (Reuters)

Exercisers move more when they’re not exercising, which keeps weight off. Exercise and weight training has proven to help dieters keep off lost weight. Past research hadn’t given much insight into why exactly this might be, so a new team investigated what might be going on. “They recruited 100 overweight women and had them follow an 800-calorie diet. The women also completed an array of tests to determine their starting body composition, metabolic rate, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or N.E.A.T. (a measure of how much energy people use to move around without formally exercising), and walking economy. A third of the women were asked not to exercise. Another third began a supervised aerobic exercise program, consisting of about 40 minutes of walking or jogging on a treadmill at a brisk pace three times a week. The final third started supervised upper- and lower-body weight training three times per week.” After losing 25 pounds, the women were put on a diet that would keep them at the same weight and maintained their exercise regimen. Unlike the women who didn’t exercise, “exercising women held closer to their level of N.E.A.T. movement before the weight loss and some women, especially those who lifted weights, increased how much they moved.” The study reveals that the benefits of exercise extend well beyond the time spent working out, which contributes directly to whether weight stays off in the long run. (NYT)