Science & Spirit: Jogging Fights Genetics, Optimistic Sleep, Emotional Support Animals

Science & Spirit: Jogging Fights Genetics, Optimistic Sleep, Emotional Support Animals

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This week in research, a good reason to try jogging. Also, optimism has been linked to better sleep. And finally, people are getting serious about figuring out what the heck an emotional support animal really is. Read on for more.

Jogging to Fight Genetic Obesity

Some people inherit genes that make it harder to lose weight or maintain a healthy BMI. But genetics aren’t destiny, and new research published in the journal Genetics offers suggestions for the best exercises for people with this genetic makeup. The study found that the best exercise to reduce BMI was jogging. Also effective are:

  • Mountain climbing
  • Walking
  • Some forms of dancing
  • Yoga

Exercises that didn’t seem to help are:

  • Cycling
  • Stretching
  • Swimming
  • Dance, Dance Revolution

Umm, fine by me to skip that last one, as I rarely work out in an arcade. But to each their own, and as always, finding an exercise you love—and will therefore stick with—is super important. For more on weight and genetics, read my story “Insights Into the Diabetes Epidemic.”

Optimists Do It Better

Sleep, that is. A new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found there are significant associations between optimism and healthy sleep. The study looked at 3,500 middle-aged people from around the U.S. They were assessed on their optimism levels by being asked to rate sentences such as “Things hardly ever go my way.” The study’s participants also reported on their sleep: how many hours they got, if they experienced insomnia, etc. People who expressed greater levels of optimism turned out to also be the most likely to get enough rest—seven to nine hours a night—and reported less insomnia. Does good overall sleep quality and duration make you a sunny optimist? Do optimists approach sleep problems differently, and are more likely to problem solve? The researchers aren’t yet sure, but more studies may help solve this question. Need help sleeping? Check out editorial director Kalia Kelmenson’s latest piece on “5 Reasons You're Not Sleeping.”

Emotional Support Squirrel?

We’ve all seen “emotional support animals” in places creatures really shouldn’t be. Hello, parrot in the produce section of Ralph’s grocery store! Gross. But to people with diagnosable mental and emotional disorders, a legitimate support animal can make all the difference in their wellbeing. A paper published by the American Psychological Association outlined some of the practices that could be standardized for mental health practitioners. Having industry standards, the paper suggests, could reduce the conflicts that are currently arising around emotional support animals and issues of housing, travel and access. Set guidelines could also help keep companion animals safer, the paper reports.

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