Stories from the Road

Category: Quality of Life

10 benefits of a shorter working week

This is a summary of an article by Anna Coote, published by the New Economics Foundation in 2014  »

When done correctly, these are some of the benefits of working less hours per week »

  1. A smaller ecological footprint »
  2. A stronger economy » improves social and economic equality
  3. Better employees » less prone to sickness and absenteeism, a more stable and committed workforce
  4. Lower unemployment » helps to redistribute paid and unpaid time more evenly
  5. Improved wellbeing » greatly reduces stress levels and improves overall wellbeing, mental, and physical health
  6. More equality between men and women » helps change attitudes about gender roles
  7. Higher quality, affordable childcare » helps parents better balance their time, reducing the costs of full-time childcare
  8. More time for families, friends and neighbours » allows more time to value, appreciated, and strengthen all the relationships that make our lives worthwhile and help to build a stronger society
  9. Making more of later life » eases the transition from employment to retirement
  10. A stronger democracy » more time to participate in local activities, to learn and care about what is happening around us

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The paradox of aging »The older we get, the happier we are

LA Times (2016) »

In a recent survey of more than 1,500 San Diego residents aged 21 to 99, researchers report that people in their 20s were the most stressed out and depressed, while those in their 90s were the most content.

There were no dips in well-being in midlife, and no tapering off of well-being at the end of life.

Instead scientists found a clear, linear relationship between age and mental health: The older people were, the happier they felt.

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Sit-ups and abdominal crunches often lead to lower back pain later in life

Amanda Mull, The Atlantic »

As researchers studied more subjects who were upright and, importantly, alive, their understanding of human strength began to change. “If you really want to understand anatomy and how muscles function, you need to understand what they do while the human body is on two feet moving through gravity,” McCall said. When I asked if he could pinpoint the beginning of the end of the sit-up, he directed me to the work of Stuart McGill, a Canadian biomechanics researcher and arguably, he said, the person most responsible for the sit-up’s demise.

McGill, a professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, and the author of the book Back Mechanic, didn’t begin his academic career with a particular interest in the sit-up; his work focused on the spine. But throughout the 1990s and 2000s, he led research that changed the way fitness experts thought about exercise. His findings showed that sit-ups and crunches weren’t just mediocre strength-building moves; they were actually hurting lots of people. “If you bend the spine forward over and over again when not under load, not much happens to the spine,” McGill told me. He gave the example of belly dancers, whose movements he has studied: They flex their spines repetitively without high incidence of injury. “The problem occurs when you flex over and over again with load from higher muscle activation or external objects held in the hands.”

If you’ve ever been told to lift with your legs, this is why. When a person’s spine curves and strains in order to move weight through space—like when a bunch of third graders flail through a set of sit-ups—the movement stresses their spinal disks. The more often you ask your spine to flex in those circumstances, the riskier it is. This is how people who spend their working lives moving inventory around a warehouse or stacking bushels of produce onto trucks end up with back pain later in life, even if they can’t point to any acute back injuries suffered along the way. McGill found that the most reliable way to avoid this kind of chronic problem is to brace your core when you pick up something heavy. That means tensing key muscles in order to protect your spine’s structural integrity, and to help shift the effort to your hips and legs. Not coincidentally, weight lifters follow this advice when they safely execute a dead lift. Perfect form is not always possible for workers dealing with irregular loads and crowded spaces, but intentional exercise is all about form. Getting it right and activating the intended muscles is the whole point. »

A new study suggests regular consumption of cranberries could improve memory, ward off dementia, and reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol in humans

A new study by a research team at the University of East Anglia (UK) highlights the neuroprotective potential of cranberries.

The research team studied the benefits of consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries a day among 50 to 80-year-olds.

They hope that their findings could have implications for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

Lead researcher Dr David Vauzour, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School said, “Past studies have shown that higher dietary flavonoid intake is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and dementia. And foods rich in anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which give berries their red, blue, or purple colour, have been found to improve cognition.

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Mickey Mouse was right. Here’s proof that ‘To laugh at yourself is to love yourself.’ It might even save your life.

The National Health Service (NHS), the publicly funded healthcare system in the UK, is set to start prescribing a 6-week stand-up comedy courses to help to men at risk of suicide “see the funny side” of things after a pilot program for trauma survivors proved successful.

The Guardian »

“That inspired me to prove that the models, exercises and games used in a standup comedy course can help people to recover from emotional problems such as mental illness, postnatal depression, PTSD and anxiety disorders,” she said.

After completing a highly successful six-week NHS course for trauma survivors in Bristol, Comedy on Referral has now won NHS funding to help men at risk of suicide in London. [Angie] Belcher is also in discussions with a private practice to extend the course to young people with autism and ADHD.

“My course for trauma victims encourages them to process their trauma in a different way, so they can change who the victim is and choose the narrative. They can actually go right down into ‘This is what I was thinking and then this thing happened to me’,” said Belcher.

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5 Places Around the World Where People Live the Longest

via Travel and Leisure »

» Sardinia, Italy

The community eats a largely healthy diet consisting of whole-grain bread, beans, garden vegetables, fruits, and mastic oil, all of which are important for heart health. Also important, “They laugh and drink wine together.”

» Okinawa, Japan

“Their purpose-imbued lives give them clear roles of responsibility and feelings of being needed well into their 100s.” The people here also favor a mostly plant-based diet.

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