Scientific facts to fuel good health during the Covid-19 crisis

By Emma Hogan for Fit Planet

The latest research tackles the big lockdown questions: What is the key to happiness? How do we manage our weight? What’s better, a brisk walk or a slow run? What happens when we can’t get to the gym? And should we bother with exercise at all?

News the world needs right now – happiness is highly contagious too

As these unprecedented times test our emotions, the release of the 2020 World Happiness Report provides a timely reminder that it’s social connections (not stockpiles of toilet paper) that are key to sustained happiness. The report ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be and explores how social, urban and natural environments combine to affect our happiness. Findings show that social support and trust are at least as important as income and being healthy. “In this crisis, the more we can create social trust and support and connect with others, despite being isolated, the better we will be,” says lead psychologist Vanessa King. She adds that communities must realize it’s not just coronavirus that’s contagious: happiness is contagious too – as is fear. “If you go outside, smile at people. Be really friendly. It can and will make a huge difference,” she advises.

For the third year running Finland came out on top as the happiest nation. Find out how your country measures up here.


Science shows meal times are key if you’re stuck at home

If you’re confined to your home and routine has gone out the window, chances are you’ll be regularly snacking and your meal times might vary too. This could become a problem! New research shows that it’s not just how many calories you eat, but when you eat them that can determine how calories are burned – and that you’re likely to burn less fat if you eat late at night. These findings come after researchers monitored the metabolisms of two groups of people; both groups ate meals at 12.30 and 17.45 but one group had breakfast at 8.00 and the other had a nutritionally equivalent late-night snack at 22.00. Overall the calorie consumption and activity levels were on par, but those who had the late-night snack burned less fat than those who had an early morning meal. This indicates that fasting overnight and then having breakfast will optimize weight management. Learn more about when to eat to manage your weight here.


A brisk walk or a slow run …What’s the better option?

If you’re no longer able to swipe into the gym, chances are you’ll be exploring other exercise alternatives and looking for any opportunity to get outdoors. Walking and running are the most obvious options, but what’s best? A brisk walk and a slow run are about the same when it comes to exertion and calorie burn. But there are other health benefits to consider. A new study looked at 138 first time marathon runners and found that even light training would likely take four years off the age of their cardiovascular system, and even more for older and less fit individuals. Another six-year-long study compared 16,000 walkers and 33,000 runners, showing that runners had a 38 percent lower blood pressure risk and a 71 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The same researchers also looked at data for breast and brain cancer but found there was no difference between runners and walkers. Basically, running and walking at a moderate pace are both good options. If you’re short on time running is the way to go. Learn how to run faster and smarter with these free training guides.

Is it worth exercising?
We hear that exercise will help you live longer, but does it really pay off? Researchers at Iowa State University recently looked into whether all the time spent exercising throughout life equates to the additional lifespan that fitness creates. The researchers calculated that between the ages of 44 and 80, someone who runs two hours per week will spend a total of 0.43 years running, and they would increase their lifespan by an average of 2.8 additional years. This means that for every one hour of running they added an extra seven hours to their life! Of course it’s not just the additional years that exercisers benefit from. As any exerciser knows, the endorphin high that comes from a good workout is often the best part of their day. Learn more about how exercise adds years to your life here.


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