Thursday, June 30, 2016

Exercise Better for Kids' Brains Than Bodies

Now I'm really in trouble.

I have a couch potato (maybe call him a computer chair) kid who hardly ever goes outside and is as pale as unbleached flour. 

A new study says that kids who perform physical activity (or just run around) improve their academic standing and brain power, according to

The website reports that time taken away from lessons for physical activity is time well-spent and does not come at the cost of getting good grades, say the 24 signatories to a statement on physical activity in schools and during leisure time, published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The Statement, which distills the best available evidence on the impact of physical activity on children and young people, was drawn up by a panel of international experts with a wide range of specialisms, from the UK, Scandinavia, and North America, in Copenhagen, Denmark, in April of this year.

Now my son does play soccer for hours with friends when they're all available, but it's not every day, and he usually runs around and shoots goals into the net in our front yard, when he can.  But he still spends way too much time on the computer, though I suppose it's his generation's Woodstock.

The statement adds:

It says that:
• Physical activity and cardio-respiratory fitness are good for children's and young people's brain development and function as well as their intellect
• A session of physical activity before, during, and after school boosts academic prowess
• A single session of moderately energetic physical activity has immediate positive effects on brain function, intellect, and academic performance
• Mastery of basic movement boosts brain power and academic performance
• Time taken away from lessons in favour of physical activity does not come at the cost of getting good grades

But frequent moderate intensity and, to a lesser extent, low-intensity exercise will still help improve kids' heart health and their metabolism, while physical activity is a key component of the treatment of many long term conditions in 6-18 year olds, explains.

So the next time you want your kid to get good grades, tell him to run around in the sunshine!


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Helicopter Parent? Your Kid May Have Trouble in College

I'm in trouble.

A new study says helicopter parents may have an effect (and not a good one) as kids transition to adulthood.

Guilty as charged.

As thousands of young adults prepare to leave the nest and attend college for the first time, parents may want to examine whether they are kind and supportive or hovering into helicopter parent territory, according to

Parental involvement is crucial to a child’s development into an adult, but Florida State University (FSU) researchers are finding that crossing the line between supportive and too involved could indirectly lead to issues such as depression and anxiety for young adults.

“Helicopter parents are parents who are overly involved,” says FSU doctoral candidate Kayla Reed. “They mean everything with good intentions, but it often goes beyond supportive to intervening in the decisions of emerging adults.”

I suppose it makes sense.  If you do everything for your kid (me), and try to influence teachers over a bad grade (me, again), how can they learn to do things for themselves?

True confession.  I wanted to go argue with a teacher over a grade my son got in his freshman year of high school.  But he said, "Let me handle it."  I held my breath, and did.

Of course, you don't always get the result you want when you stop hovering.  (He still got the "B.")  But I did recognize that it was important for him to stand up for himself and thankfully, he's doing it more and more (and thankfully, I'm letting him).

In the Journal of Child and Family Studies, Reed and Assistant Professor of Family and Child Sciences Mallory Lucier-Greer write that what has been called “helicopter parenting” can have a meaningful impact on how young adults see themselves and whether they can meet challenges or handle adverse situations.

Though much attention has been paid to the notion of helicopter parenting, most of the studies have focused on adolescents. This study specifically looks at the emerging adults, or college-aged students who are navigating the waters of attending college.

I still have a ways to go before I have to worry about that.  But I'm listening.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Working in Teams. Good or Not?

I've never been a group person.  Leave me in a room alone with my work and let me at it.

Though groups are necessary in the business world, and other places, a new study has found that maybe I'm more normal than I know (nah).

According to, whether people enjoy working in groups or not, the cohesiveness of a team can be instrumental in the success or failure of group activities and each person's fulfillment of individual goals.

But can teamwork be taught?

Patrick Sonner, PhD, and Michelle Newsome, PhD, instruct a core natural sciences course for undergraduates in which students work in groups of four for the duration of the semester. “Anecdotally, students report poor experiences working in teams even though, individually, all students in the team are intelligent and capable of completing the task. This suggests that there are certain skills that must be learned in order to work effectively in a team,” the researchers wrote in their abstract. 

"What we found was that students who were exposed to various tools to aid in enhancing group effectiveness had a positive correlation between average group grade and their self-identified score for equality of the distribution of group work, while students in the control class had a negative correlation,” Sonner says. They also found that the experimental classes had a positive association between the group’s influence and the grade the group received. Students in the experimental classes were also more willing to answer open-ended questions about the group’s effectiveness than the control class was.

While the researchers admit more work remains to be done to validate and expand upon these findings, it appears that students who were exposed to a variety of tools throughout the semester to aid in enhancing their group effectiveness had grades that were more closely aligned with how effective they thought their group was. "This alignment may be due to enhanced awareness of the role of their group and how effective it is, due to reminders throughout the course,” Sonner said.

So how does this relate to the work world?  I suppose, if groups are given the tools up front to help them work as a team, rather than just handed a project, and told to do it, we might have a little more success.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Women Who Work Long Hours May Die Sooner

So we live longer, but less healthier than men.  And now a new study says women's long work hours are linked to alarming increases in cancer and heart disease, according to

And it's not just the workaholics who toil for 60 or 70 hours a week.  It's those of us who work 40 hours, as well.

Women who put in long hours for the bulk of their careers may pay a steep price: life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.

Work weeks that averaged 60 hours or more over three decades appear to triple the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart trouble and arthritis for women, according to new research from The Ohio State University.

The risk begins to climb when women put in more than 40 hours and takes a decidedly bad turn above 50 hours, researchers found.

Women – especially women who have to juggle multiple roles – feel the effects of intensive work experiences and that can set the table for a variety of illnesses and disability,” says Allard Dembe, professor of health services management and policy and lead author of the study, published online this week in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“People don’t think that much about how their early work experiences affect them down the road,” he said. “Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s are setting themselves up for problems later in life.”

Men with tough work schedules appeared to fare much better, found the researchers, who analyzed data from interviews with almost 7,500 people who were part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

So let's get back to the juggling.  When I first started working, back in the late '70s, most successful career women weren't married and certainly had no children.  I used to feel sorry for them, on what they were missing out on in life.

But today, a juggler myself, I see how, in some ways, their lives were pretty easy.  They didn't have to work, listen to a husband's boring stories about his day at work and run a child back and forth to school, all pretty much at the same time.  

As much as men have started to help around the house, let's face it.  Women tend to take on the lion’s share of family responsibility and may face more pressure and stress than men when they work long hours, previous research shows. On top of that, work for women may be less satisfying because of the need to balance work demands with family obligations, Dembe says.

So what's the answer?  Researchers suggest employers and government regulators should be aware of the risks, especially to women who are required to regularly toil beyond a 40-hour work week, he adds. Companies benefit in terms of quality of work and medical costs when their workers are healthier, Dembe points out.

More scheduling flexibility and on-the-job health coaching, screening and support could go a long way toward reducing the chances employees become sick or die as a result of chronic conditions.

And if you think that's going to happen anytime soon, I have a bridge to sell you.

In Your Kid's Face? Watch Out For Depression or Anxiety In Him

I'm guilty of this.

I'm an overprotective (some might call it "intrusive") parent and now a new study is saying that parents like me could lead my son to be overly critical of himself. High levels of self-criticalness are linked to depression and anxiety

Great.  I've tried so hard to be a good parent, given my late start, and now this. reports that, in a five-year study on primary school children in Singapore, researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) found that children with intrusive parents had a higher tendency to be overly critical of themselves and this tendency increased over the years. Children in the study who demonstrated high or increased levels of self-criticalness also reported elevated depression or anxiety symptoms. The study examined how maladaptive perfectionism - commonly known as the ‘bad’ form of perfectionism - develops in primary school children in Singapore.

“When parents become intrusive in their children’s lives, it may signal to the children that what they do is never good enough. As a result, the child may become afraid of making the slightest mistake and will blame himself or herself for not being ‘perfect’. Over time, such behaviour, known as maladaptive perfectionism, may be detrimental to the child’s well-being as it increases the risk of the child developing symptoms of depression, anxiety and even suicide in very serious cases,” says Assistant Professor Ryan Hong, who led the study which was conducted by a team of researchers from the Department of Psychology at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. 

I don't think I'm truly intrusive.  I don't read his texts (though when the phone beeps when I'm with him, I do ask who it is), I don't monitor his phone calls.  I let him see his friends whenever he wants.  I admit, I've become a bit of a bug about grades.  My son is an honor student so he usually gets good ones.  But when I see a "B," I admit, I do sometimes ask, "Why wasn't it an 'A'?"

Coming from me, the "C" student.

I try to restrain myself but, like all parents, I want what's best for my kid and I know good grades lead, eventually, to good colleges and good jobs. 

This NUS study examined two aspects of maladaptive perfectionism in children: self-criticalness, which is the tendency to be overly concerned over one’s mistakes and imperfections; and socially prescribed perfectionism, which is one’s perception of others having unrealistic high expectations of oneself.

In the study, Asst Prof Hong and his team recruited children who were seven years old from 10 primary schools in Singapore, and for each family, the parent more familiar with the child was involved in the study. The research was conducted over a five year period, from 2010 to 2014.

While other studies on maladaptive perfectionism focused primarily on adolescents and college students, this NUS study is unique as it demonstrates the link between parental intrusiveness and self-criticalness among young primary school children.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Out of Work? Depressed? Treatment the Same for Both

Unemployed? Desperate for a job?  Go to a therapist.

Well, not really.  But a new study has found that people who use the cognitive skills often taught in therapy can help in landing a new job.

Unemployed people were more likely to land a job if they used skills commonly taught as part of cognitive therapy for depression,according to

These skills included identifying negative thoughts and countering them with more positive responses and planning enjoyable activities to improve mood.

This study is the first to show that cognitive behavioral (CB) skills not only predict changes in depression symptoms, but also real-life functioning, says Daniel Strunk, co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.

Searching for a job is difficult in any circumstance, but it may be even more difficult for people who are depressed,” Strunk says. “But we found that there are specific skills that can help not only manage the symptoms of depression but also make it more likely that a person will receive a job offer.”

The study involved 75 unemployed people, aged 20 to 67, who participated in two online surveys taken three months apart.The participants completed a variety of questionnaires that measured depressive symptoms and a variety of psychological variables, such as dysfunctional attitudes, brooding and a negative cognitive style. They also completed an instrument that measured how often they used CB skills such as countering their own negative thought.

About a third of the sample reported symptoms that would put them in the moderately to seriously depressed category, although they were not formally diagnosed. The remaining two-thirds had scores that ranged from mild depression to no symptoms.

The results showed that participants who reported more use of CB skills were more likely to show an improvement in depressive symptoms in the three months between the surveys – and were more likely to report they had received a job offer.

Many of the skills taught by cognitive behavioral therapy involve rethinking one’s negative automatic thoughts, which are maladaptive thoughts that often pop into one’s head without effortful reflection. Other skills focus on behavior, like breaking up daunting tasks into smaller parts in order to help a person get started.

“The people who got jobs in our study were more likely to be putting into practice the skills that we try to teach people in cognitive therapy,” Strunk said.

“Some people just naturally catch themselves when they have negative thoughts and refocus on the positive and use other CB skills. These are the people who were more likely to find a job.”

Strunk says most job seekers probably feel some discouragement as they look through job ads and get rejected for jobs. But those who keep persisting and use CB skills to boost their mood were the ones who were most likely to succeed.

“Rejection is so much a part of the process of job seeking. Using cognitive behavioral skills are an important way one can deal with that.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Women Live Longer Than Men. But Men, You Live Healthier.

It's probably something you've always wondered.  Why do women live longer than men? Maybe not.

And the answer is, no one knows!  When I was a kid, it was thought because most women didn't work (outside the home, that is!). They stayed home and baked brownies and took the kids to the park and the playground and looked pretty and fetching when Dad came home.  Well, some moms did.  (Not mine.)

But a new study says that women do live longer than men, and their bonus lifespan is the same in mammals and some birds and primates and just about any living (human) thing walking around on the earth.

"Humans are the only species in which one sex is known to have a ubiquitous survival advantage,” the UAB researchers write in their research review covering a multitude of species, according to “Indeed, the sex difference in longevity may be one of the most robust features of human biology.”

Though other species, from roundworms and fruit flies to a spectrum of mammals, show lifespan differences that may favor one sex in certain studies, contradictory studies with different diets, mating patterns or environmental conditions often flip that advantage to the other sex. With humans, however, it appears to be all females all the time.

“We don’t know why women live longer,” says Steven Austad, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, distinguished professor and chair of the UAB Department of Biology in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s amazing that it hasn’t become a stronger focus of research in human biology.” reports that evidence of the longer lifespans for women includes:

• The Human Mortality Database, which has complete lifespan tables for men and women from 38 countries that go back as far as 1751 for Sweden and 1816 for France. “Given this high data quality, it is impressive that for all 38 countries for every year in the database, female life expectancy at birth exceeds male life expectancy,” write Austad and and Kathleen Fischer, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of biology.

• A lifelong advantage. Longer female survival expectancy is seen across the lifespan, at early life (birth to 5 years old) and at age 50. It is also seen at the end of life, where Gerontology Research Group data for the oldest of the old show that women make up 90 percent of the supercentenarians, those who live to 110 years of age or longer.

• The birth cohorts from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s for Iceland. This small, genetically homogenous country — which was beset by catastrophes such as famine, flooding, volcanic eruptions and disease epidemics — provides a particularly vivid example of female survival, Austad and Fischer say. Over that time, “life expectancy at birth fell to as low as 21 years during catastrophes and rose to as high as 69 years during good times,” they write. “Yet in every year, regardless of food availability or pestilence, women at the beginning of life and near its end survived better than men.”

• Resistance to most of the major causes of death. “Of the 15 top causes of death in the United States in 2013, women died at a lower age-adjusted rate of 13 of them, including all of the top six causes,” they write. “For one cause, stroke, there was no sex bias, and for one other, Alzheimer’s disease, women were more at risk.”

So I guess we don't have it all, after all. 

Differences may be due to hormones, perhaps as early as the surge in testosterone during male sexual differentiation in the uterus. Longevity may also relate to immune system differences, responses to oxidative stress, mitochondrial fitness or even the fact that men have one X chromosome (and one Y), while women have two X chromosomes.

But here's a twist.

“One of the most puzzling aspects of human sex difference biology,” write Austad and Fischer, “something that has no known equivalent in other species, is that for all their robustness relative to men in terms of survival, women on average appear to be in poorer health than men through adult life.”


This higher prevalence of physical limitations in later life is seen not only in Western societies, they say, but also for women in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand and Tunisia.

One intriguing explanation for this mortality-morbidity paradox is a possible connection with health problems that appear in later life. Women are more prone to joint and bone problems, such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and back pain, than are men. Back and joint pain tends to be more severe in women, and this could mean chronic sleep deprivation and stress. Thus, the sex differences in morbidity could be due to connective tissue maladies in women, and connective tissue in humans is known to respond to female sex hormones.