Ten Thousand Steps to a Longer, Healthier Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 13, 2012

A longer walk = a longer life.

We all know that exercise is good for you, but how good? While previous studies have shown the link between physical activity and a lower risk of premature death, the actual number of years of life expectancy gained from different physical activity levels has been unclear — until now.

In a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, researchers examined the relationship between physical activity and mortality or life expectancy among more than 650,000 participants over a ten-year period.  The findings showed that physical activity was associated with longer life expectancies across a range of activity levels and body mass index (BMI) levels.

“We found that adding low amounts of physical activity to one’s daily routine, such as 75 minutes of brisk walking per week, was associated with increased longevity: a gain of 1.8 years of life expectancy after age 40, compared with doing no such activity,” explained Dr. I-Min Lee, an associate epidemiologist in the Department of Preventive Medicine at BWH and senior author on this study. “Physical activity above this minimal level was associated with additional gains in longevity. For example, walking briskly for at least 450 minutes a week was associated with a gain of 4.5 years. Further, physical activity was associated with greater longevity among persons in all BMI groups: those normal weight, overweight, and obese.”

Read More »

Moving Day: Tips for Keeping Tears to a Minimum

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 30, 2012

Don't overdo it on moving day!

A friend recently told me that he cried for nearly half the car ride home after helping his daughter move in to her college dorm room for the first time. Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid the emotional pain of such a momentous occasion, but it doesn’t have to be physically painful as well. Jeffrey Neal, a physical therapist in Rehabilitation Services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), has some sound advice for preventing the injuries that can occur when friends and family chip in to help lug heavy items on moving day:

Start with proper preparation.

  • Pack boxes over time to avoid sore muscles.
  • Disperse heavy items in the bottom of a box, with lighter items on top, to maintain even weight distribution. The heavier the items, the smaller the box should be.
  • Place boxes on an elevated surface while packing to avoid repeatedly bending over.
  • Secure boxes with tape to prevent spilling.
  • Wear lightweight, comfortable clothes and supportive and sturdy shoes (e.g., not sandals).
  • Stretch your muscles and warm up with a light activity as you would before any exercise.

Improper lifting techniques can cause a variety of injuries, including neck and back muscle strain, ligament sprains, herniated discs, and even compression fractures of the spine. To prevent potentially serious and lasting injuries, follow these techniques:

Read More »

Serious News for Couch Potatoes

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 7, 2012

Physical inactivity leads to a shorter life expectancy, causing as many premature deaths as tobacco smoking or obesity.

New Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) studies are bringing to light the serious health impact of a sedentary lifestyle. Physical inactivity leads to a shorter life expectancy and increased risks of many chronic diseases. In fact, it causes as many premature deaths worldwide as tobacco smoking or obesity.

A recent study led by BWH epidemiologist Dr. I-Min Lee estimates that physical inactivity causes between six and ten percent of coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer cases worldwide.  Inactivity also is responsible for some 5.3 million deaths worldwide each year – comparable to the 5 million deaths worldwide per year that are attributed to tobacco smoking or the 3 million deaths worldwide per year attributed to obesity.  Physical inactivity was defined in the study as not getting the recommended amount of physical activity, which is 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g., 30 minute brisk walk, 5 times a week).

“Physical inactivity has a major health effect globally,” said Dr. Lee, the lead author of the study. “While it is unrealistic to suppose that we can eliminate inactivity worldwide, a decrease in the number of people worldwide who are inactive by just 25 percent could save as many as 1.3 million lives worldwide each year.”

Read More »