Hugging…

The past year of dealing with the Covid-19 crisis has reminded most people of the need to hug or even feel a friendly touch. A survey before the pandemic hit was conducted by the BBC. The BBC Touch Test was conducted in 112 countries and included 40,000 participants. Half said that they did not get enough physical contact with people. They were referring to contact as simple as an arm around the shoulder to a sympathetic touch. During the pandemic, the number increased to over 60% and is now referred to by the term “Touch Starvation”. Hugging is one of the first sensations we experience as a baby and is necessary for humans to flourish. Hugging increases oxytocin and decreases the stress hormone cortisol. These hormones affect cardiovascular health, sleep, mental health and weight along with reducing anxiety. According to an article published in “Psychological Science” people who give or get hugs often are less likely to get sick. This is the reason why therapy animals exist. A person who doesn’t have a companion or has lost one can receive the same positive effect of hugging by snuggling on a couch with a dog. Just don’t go around giving hugs to strangers you may meet on the street.

Exercise in the Morning or Evening?

The time of day you choose to exercise may have a great deal to do with control of blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol. Our internal clock mechanism is controlled and synchronized by not only sleep and light but also by the type of food we consume. Most past studies dealt with the time of day we ate and presented very different results. Some encouraged exercise before breakfast while others showed the benefits by working out later in the day on both blood sugar levels and heart rate. Most of these studies did not factor in the type of meals being eaten. A new study published in “Diabetologia” was performed at The Mary Hopkins Institute of Health Research in Australia. It involved 24 sedentary, overweight men who had all their vital statistics recorded before the experiment began.  They were placed on a diet of 65% fat for five days and were then invited back to have all their vitals recorded once more. This was a diet that included extreme amounts of fat to concentrate on how the body would use fat during exercise.  They were then divided into three groups. One group started their exercise routine at 6 AM, the next at 6 PM and the last remained sedentary. The exercise routine was identical. After five days they were again tested. Both, the sedentary and the 6 AM workout group had dangerous increases in cholesterol levels as well as the markers for heart disease. The group that worked out at 6 PM showed less of an impact of the poor diet. Their cholesterol, blood sugar levels as well as the molecules which are markers for heart disease were all lower. The study did not reveal how or why the time of day affected fat metabolism. This study did not encourage the intake of high fat diets which have been proven to be extremely unhealthy.

Brain Smear vs. Wind Turbines…

Fast moving rotating objects can register in the brain as a blur. This is what happens when you look at the blades of a rotating window fan. It creates what is known as a “brain or motion smear”. In other words, the blades become invisible. There has been great controversy recently about the use of wind power provided by turbines causing the death of a large number of birds. Birds have excellent peripheral vision but do not see as well when looking straight on. In a recent study performed at the Norwegian Institute for Natural Research it was discovered that painting one of the four blades black reduced the number of bird deaths by 72%. The study was conducted on the Norwegian island of Smola and was published in Ecology and Evolution. There were 8 turbines in the research. Half had one blade painted black. It lasted 7.5 years and there were 1,275 sniffing dogs involved. Their job was to sniff out any birds that may have died. The larger birds of prey seem to have benefited the most. Now what to do about the number one cause of bird demise by cats.

Virtual Reality and Physical Therapy…

After a serious and sometimes debilitating injury, virtual reality can sometimes motivate the patient into seeing what is possible. Over the past several years VR has been used for pain management and for PTSD. Researchers are finding that it may be a helpful tool for physical and occupational therapists. Most patients leave a session, go home and forget exactly what it is or how an exercise should be performed. Virtual Reality can help with not only showing how to do a certain exercise correctly but may also provide a little extra motivation. It is becoming more and more popular with younger practitioners who are well accustomed to gaming. At present it is expensive since most insurance companies will not foot the bill which can be as high as $180 monthly. Not all the programs are fun, some enable patients to practice real life skills such as dishing washing or shopping. However, a well-trained therapist in the use of VR should be on hand to oversee and make sure the patient is not overdoing or hurting themselves. Virtual Reality as a therapy is in its beginning stages. I can tell you from personal experiences with both shoulder and back injuries that I don’t think it can ever replace one to one contact with a practitioner but maybe be useful in addition to.