Health Notes: Exercising in air pollution risky, financial incentives help weight loss - SNEWS

Health Notes: Exercising in air pollution risky, financial incentives help weight loss

This is another in an occasional series of SNEWS® Health Notes reports that will take a look at one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. Here, we feature two different studies -- the first looking at the affects of exercising in polluted air and the second analyzing financial incentives to losing weight.
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This is another in an occasional series of SNEWS® Health Notes reports that will take a look at one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. We'll focus on news you can use and present results in plain English, without all the techno-garble that can make many research studies seem overwhelming to read, let alone understand and explain to somebody else. Let us know what you think, what you would like to see, and how you'd like to see it!

>> Exercising in polluted air could be doing big damage to your heart and lungs

Mounting evidence is showing that getting your aerobic exercise outside in polluted air could be doing a lot more damage than thought -- for both healthy individuals and those with some heart disease already. The study out of Europe made some poor folks exercise while being exposed to diluted diesel exhaust. The exposure reduced an anti-clotting agent in the blood, worsened "ischemia" or the deficient supply of blood to the heart, and could therefore trigger a heart attack.

The researchers aren't saying we shouldn't exercise. They are noting that we should all avoid polluted air when we're breathing hard. The findings were called "the tip of the iceberg," on how air pollution affects our cardiovascular health.

So what? Especially in larger cities or those metropolitan areas with higher pollution, people should watch the pollution index and either plan to workout in early morning or low-pollution hours or exercise indoors. For those who can't be bothered with checking or can't alter their schedules based on the index, an indoor workout would always be safe when in a polluted area.

For the scientifically minded: The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (www.nejm.org) in the Sept. 13, 2007, edition -- Volume 357 (11):1147-1149. An abstract is available by clicking here, but to access the entire issue or study, you'll need to pay a fee.



>> Earning a few bucks can help somebody lose weight, get healthier

So you think a few extra dollars in people's pockets won't get them to eat better, exercise, lose weight and keep it off? Seems it will, according to a recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. And it doesn't have to be a lot of money either.

About 200 overweight employees in three groups were either offered cash if they lost weight and kept it off, basing weight to lose on a percentage (either $7 or $14 per percentage point) or offered nothing but asked to lose weight. No help was given about HOW to lose it.

Those in the $14 group were more than five times as likely to lose 5 percent of their weight (nearly five pounds) -- the amount that research has shown to offer significant health gains. Those in the $7 group lost three pounds on average and those with no incentive lost two pounds on average. The study measured weight loss at three and six months.

Follow-up for a year afterward is being analyzed to see how successful the program will be in the long term.

The dilemma is a lack of equal opportunity to earn extra money if you are already at and stay at a healthy weight. But researchers are looking at other ways those employees can earn a little money, such as participating in health assessments.

So what? Making money with healthier choices and weight loss is a great incentive, since it doesn't have to be a lot of money -- any incentive is a good one. We have to wonder if there is something in this for retailers or dealers in dealing with consumers directly or with corporate centers. How about offering a rebate to consumers who after "x" months have lost a healthy weight instead of upfront at the time of sale? We know a couple of manufacturers have done contests, so perhaps working with a manufacturer on this is possible too. But instead of one big grand prize, make them smaller awards that can be spread among more people.

For the scientifically minded: The study was in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 49(9):981-989, in September 2007. Click here to see an abstract at no cost.

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