Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we find out the best times to get moving, examine new research on the advantages of going barefoot and highlight concerns about a spike in teens trying to lose weight.
When is the best time to work out?
The answer is not exactly one size fits all, according to this article in The Washington Post. A recent paper suggests that morning workouts may activate certain genes in muscles, boosting the ability to metabolize sugar and fat, which may be a better fit for those looking to lose weight and control blood sugar.
An evening workout, on the other hand, uses less oxygen, making workouts more efficient and improving athletic performance, which is a bonus for athletes who want to shave a few minutes off their time.
Walk this way
Barefoot running enthusiasts have long touted the benefits of losing shoes, from improved balance to better-feeling joints.
A new study in the journal Nature covered by The New York Times sheds a little light on how shoes change how we move and how ditching them affects our body.
Of course, working out outside without shoes does build leathery patches on the heels and ball of the foot that lessen the sensations of pain when you stride over small obstacles like gravel. But when the research team led by Daniel Lieberman, Ph.D., an evolutionary biologist from Harvard University, studied Kenyans, who had grown up without shoes, they found that while these calluses were 25 to 30 percent thicker than those who did wear shoes, it did not stop them from feeling sensation or the ground beneath their feet. And test subjects back at home in Boston who ditched their shoes had about the same foot strike as the unshod Kenyans.
Moreover, researchers found that shoes shake up a walk. While walking in cushioned sneakers, the study’s participants tread more lightly on a treadmill at first because of the cushioning, but the impacts lingered longer than when they were barefoot. These so-called persistent impacts tend to move up and dissipate through leg bones, ankles and knee joints, Lieberman said, whereas the sharper jolts created when we walk barefoot are more likely to rise through soft muscles and tendons.
Shoes may protect our feet and diminish some of the pounding they take, but they also alter our strides and could, over time, increase the pressure and wear on our leg joints. So if you don’t mind a few calluses, Lieberman suggests taking advantage of the summer months and giving barefoot walking a try.
Should so many teens be trying to lose weight?
The wellness movement ushered in a new age of body positivity … or so it seemed.
But new federal data in Time suggests that message hasn’t yet filtered down to adolescents. In fact, the report shows that more American teens are trying to lose weight than in years past.
From 2013 to 2016, 38 percent of adolescents aged 16 to 19 said they had tried to lose weight in the past year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from about a quarter of teens who said the same a decade ago.
While rising childhood and adolescent obesity rates certainly play a part in this increase, weight-loss attempts outpaced increases in obesity in these ages. Among those aged 12 to 19, the obesity rate climbed from 18.4 percent to almost 21 percent between 2009 and 2016—still well below that 38 percent.
When the data was broken out by gender, far more girls reported trying to lose weight than boys—about 45 percent compared with 30 percent of boys. And Hispanic teenagers of both genders were more likely to say they had tried losing weight, compared to black, Caucasian and Asian youths.
The numbers, says Dr. Sarah Armstrong, professor of pediatrics at the Duke University School of Medicine, suggest that the stigma and weight bias against heavy people haven’t changed as much as we might think, and this shame can cause long-term damage to health and self-esteem.
However, focusing too much on weight loss rather than healthy eating during the teen years is problematic, Armstrong says, because eating disorders are thought to be most common among adolescents, and a little dieting can quickly spiral into unhealthy territory.
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