Some of the biggest news in exercise science this year concerned the tiniest impacts from physical activity, which does not mean that the impacts were inconsequential. It means they were microscopic.
We learned this year, for instance, that exercise changes how our cells communicate with one another, as well as how rapidly they age. This new research began to detail the many, pervasive ways in which working out alters the inner workings of our bodies and contributes to better health.
There were other, broader themes, too, in 2018’s fitness-related science, including about how older people can be enviably youthful if they are active and the unexpected roles that weight training may play in our health.
But for me, the most exciting exercise research in 2018 went small. A study that I wrote about in January, for instance, found that people’s blood contained more of certain vesicles, which are tiny bubbles filled with biological material, after aerobic exercise.
When the scientists subsequently isolated these vesicles in mice and tagged them with a dye that glows, they tracked where they went and discovered that most homed in on the liver. There, the vesicles entered the organ, dissolved and delivered a load of biological stuff, including snippets of genetic material that can supply messages to other genetic material.
In this way, the scientists speculate, the vesicles probably delivered a biological alert to the liver, letting it know that exercise was underway, and it might want to start releasing stored energy for use by other, working tissues, like the muscles.
This study is a bracing reminder that multiple far-flung bodily systems are involved when we move and they all must communicate, but the process is bogglingly complex and, for the most part, still to be mapped.
A similar message emerged from other studies I wrote about this year, although they delved into how, at a molecular level, exercise makes us healthier. It does, of course. People who exercise tend to live longer and with far fewer diseases and disabilities than people who do not.
But we do not fully understand the many underlying biological steps involved. A study I wrote about just last week examined one small piece of this puzzle, involving the levels of hundreds of different proteins in the bloodstreams of people who regularly exercise or not. And there were differences. People who exercised had more and less of multiple proteins, which matters, since proteins spur other biological operations throughout the body.
In effect, aspects of the exercisers’ everyday physiology appear to be unlike those of people who are sedentary. So, too, the look and to some extent the “age” of their chromosomes may be different, according to another study I covered.
It found that sedentary, middle-aged people who took up aerobic exercise for six months developed longer telomeres in their white blood cells. Telomeres are the tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes that protect our DNA from damage during cell division.
Telomeres shorten as a cell ages, until they are so abbreviated that the cell cannot function and often dies. Lengthy telomeres, on the other hand, are thought to denote relative cell youth and vigour.
In this study, aerobic exercise appears to have lengthened people’s telomeres, almost dialling back time.
If that finding doesn’t motivate all of us to want to move more, several other studies from this year that looked at exercising and aging using a wider lens probably should.
One, from March, showed that older cyclists had immune systems that resembled those of much younger people, as well as muscles that retained a youthful size and fibre content, even among the riders who were well into their 70s.
So, too, older recreational athletes displayed the muscles of much younger people in another study I covered, this one from November, and it found, too, that people who had been working out for decades had the aerobic fitness of whippersnappers 30 years their juniors.
Perhaps most encouraging, a study published in July tells us that it is not too late to benefit if we have managed to avoid exercising into midlife. In that experiment, middle-aged people who began a two-year-long program of regular aerobic exercise reversed the age-related stiffening of their cardiac arteries.
Almost all of this research focused on aerobic exercise. But a few studies this year also provided a plug for resistance workouts. One found that they were associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of experiencing or dying from a heart attack or stroke, even if people did not undertake aerobic exercise.
Another showed a very strong link between lifting weights and avoiding depression. And a third, my favourite, indicates that the weight training can be quite brief but still beneficial. In this experiment, one set each of seven different resistance exercises led to the same overall gains in muscular strength and endurance as two or even three sets of the exercises, as long as people pushed themselves. The full, fast routine required only 13 minutes.
So, look for me in 2019 on the bike paths and running trails and, at least for 13 minutes at a stretch, in the gym.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.