Health & Science
Runners live longer
Running for two hours a week could add about three years to your life, a new study suggests. Analyzing existing literature on the link between exercise and longevity, a research team found that running at any pace is associated with an up to 40 percent lower risk for premature death, The New York Times reports. The researchers suspect that running reduces common risk factors, including high blood pressure and extra body fat, but say it’s also possible that runners are more likely to have other healthy habits, such as eating healthfully and not smoking. For reasons that aren’t clear, the benefits of other forms of exercise, such as walking and biking, weren’t as striking, accounting for a roughly 12 percent drop in risk of early death. Overall, most people who laced up their sneakers for two hours weekly would end up running nearly six months over the course of 40 years. The researchers calculated this would result in a net gain of about 2.8 years. The longevity benefits continue to climb up to a peak of about four hours of running a week, researchers said.
Kids and ‘thirdhand’ smoke
Responsible parents take their cigarettes outside to shield their kids from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, but even that precaution may not be enough.
Long after they’ve tossed the butt, new research shows, toxic chemical residue lingers on their skin, hair, fingernails, and clothes. This “thirdhand smoke” will eventually expose children in the home to significant levels of nicotine, reports KaiserHealthNews.com, by mixing with household dust, settling into rugs, and contaminating furniture, walls, and other porous surfaces. A research team tested skin and saliva from 25 young children of smokers for exposure to nicotine, which increases the risk for asthma, respiratory infections, and other chronic health issues. The average nicotine level on the kids’ skin was dramatically higher than what’s typically found on nonsmoking adults who live with smokers, suggesting children who crawl and play indoors are particularly vulnerable to thirdhand smoke. “Tobacco smoke doesn’t go up in the air and disappear,” says co-author Georg Matt of San Diego State University. “That’s the illusion.”
Why shoelaces untie
At long last, researchers have unraveled one of the world’s most enduring enigmas: Why do shoelaces come untied? Mechanical engineers at University of California, Berkeley put themselves through more than 100 hours of tests—running on treadmills, trudging through hallways, and swinging their legs from tables. They found that the knot’s undoing is a two-fold process, reports ChristianScienceMonitor.com. The impact of a shoe on the ground gradually loosens the knot. Then, swinging the legs whips the ends of the laces, causing them to slip and quickly come apart. The researchers calculated the g-force that acts on a shoelace knot is greater than the force produced by the world’s most powerful roller coaster. These findings could have significant implications far beyond Adidas and Nikes—surgical techniques, aerospace engineering, and other complex applications. “When you talk about knotted structures,” says lead author Christopher Daily- Diamond, “if you can start to understand the shoelace, then you can apply it to other things, like DNA or microstructures, that fail under dynamic forces.”
Health scare of the week
Measles, mumps come back
Measles and mumps are vaccine- preventable diseases that once seemed all but eradicated. But now these highly contagious viral in fec tions are enjoying a resurgence in the U.S., where herd immunity—when enough people are immunized to protect the whole population—is on the decline, thanks in part to the anti- vaccination movement. Texas health officials report the number of mumps cases in the state just hit a 22-year high; so far this year, 221 people have been diagnosed with the virus, which can lead to deafness, brain inflammation, and other complications. Mumps can be prevented with the MMR vaccine, which also protects against measles and rubella, but the recommended two doses are only 88 percent effective against the virus. Immunity against mumps also wanes over time. Recurring outbreaks have prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Preven tion to consider a third routine dose of the vaccine. Safety concerns about the MMR vaccine, however, have also allowed measles, which can cause lung and brain damage, to make a comeback. “Because some parents are withholding their children from vaccination,” infectious disease specialist William Schaffner tells MedicalNewsToday.com, “there is the opportunity for reintroduction and the re-establishment of measles in the U.S.”
Dan Shugar/University of Washington Tacoma, Newscom, Getty ■