Health24.com | Here’s why yoga is good for your health

Want to add strength training, flexibility, and even stress reduction to your fitness plan?

Then it’s time to consider – or reconsider, if you’ve shied away from it in the past – the ancient Indian practice of yoga.

Don’t twist yourself into a pretzel

Some 11 million Americans take part in one form of yoga or another. And, far from being a new-age type of exercise, it’s embraced by people from all walks of life – men as well as women, and even pro athletes, according to the American Council on Exercise. And you don’t have to twist yourself into a pretzel.

There are currently no available statistics on the number of people who practise yoga in South Africa.

The most popular discipline is Hatha yoga, which stresses concentration and uses stretching andstrengthening exercises. Many poses or asanas aren’t complicated, but they are effective.

You can choose those specifically targeted to your needs. For example, the Warrior 2 pose improves hip flexibility and strengthens the quadriceps. The Tree pose is great at improving balance. As you hold each pose, you focus on your body, mind, and breathing. Keeping your mind in the moment can help clear your head and reduce stress.

Know what you’re getting into

Yoga can be good medicine, too. Research has found that it can improve lung function in people with the lung condition COPD. Other research shows that it can improve pain, disability, and depression in those with chronic low back pain, according to the US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

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Health24 previously reported that one of the primary purposed of practicing yoga is to bring about relaxtion – your heart rate and your blood pressure should be lower when you have finished, and you should never be short or breath.

Before starting a yoga class, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Some types of yoga, like hot yoga or power yoga, are more challenging than others. They may not be the best choices for beginners or people with certain health conditions.

Different kinds of yoga

Yoga has been around for thousands of years and it’s therefore not surprising that there are many kinds and styles of yoga. Here are a few examples:

Hatha yoga is typically a basic and classical approach to yogic breathing exercises and postures.

Bikram yoga features yoga poses in a sauna-like room. The temperature us turned up to about 40 degrees and 40 percent humidity in official Bikram classes.

Iyengar yoga is a purist yoga named after founder B.K.S. Iyengar. Props are used to get you more perfectly into position and that’s why it is often called “furniture yoga”.

Kundalini yoga features constantly moving, invigorating poses. The practice is intended to release the kundalini (serpent) energy in your body.

Prenatal yoga postures are carefully adapted for expectant mothers. It is tailored to help women in all stages of pregnancy, and also helps those who want to get back in shape after giving birth.

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So, ask questions before you commit to a class. Finding the right fit for you could benefit your mind, body and spirit.

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Health24.com | Why chopping onions makes you cry

Ever wonder why your eyes fill with tears when you chop an onion?

One eye doctor pinpoints the culprit.

Onions use sulphur in the soil to create amino acid sulfoxides, which are sulphur compounds that readily turn into a gas. When an onion is cut, it releases the sulfoxides and enzymes, which react and create a gas called syn-propanethial-S-oxide.

Because onions grow underground, this gas helps deter critters that want to feed on them.

So why do we cry?

But the gas is also what causes your eyes to water when chopping onions, said Dr Robert Rosa Jr., an ophthalmologist at the Texas A&M College of Medicine.

“It really is a complicated chemical process that creates the gas,” said Rosa. “They all act as precursors that create the lachrymatory processor – or what makes you tear up.”

“Your eyes have a set of nerves that detect anything that’s potentially harmful to your eyes. Your eyes react to the gas that is formed, and your eyes try to flush it out with tears,” Rosa explained in a school news release.

However, onions pose no serious threat to your visual health.

“Chopping onions can cause some burning and irritation and tears. Other than that, it’s pretty safe on your eyes. It’s a temporary sensation with no known long-term effects, nor will it worsen any other conditions, like pink eye,” Rosa said.

Goggles can prevent the gas from reaching your eyes while cutting onions, but they aren’t really necessary, he added.

“Some people may cut the onions in a bowl of water,” Rosa said. “I’d personally recommend using eye drops, like comfort drops, to help lubricate or rinse the eyes and dilute the gas exposure to the eyes.”

onions, health, facts, infographic


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Health24.com | SEE: How long should you stay home when you are sick?

You know the scenario: You’ve been booked off with flu, and after a day or two your symptoms start easing up.

You picture your email inbox exploding and your work piling up – and the next morning you brave the elements back to work. Hey, you’ll be fine, and you’re already feeling better, right?

Before you know it, your legs feel wobbly and that achy, feverish feeling starts creeping up on you again. Maybe you should have taken another few days off…

Flu, a sore throat, stomach bugs, the list goes on. Germs abound in winter, especially in confined air-conditioned office spaces. Taking enough time off to heal can be hard, especially when work is piling up and your symptoms are starting to abate.

We look at some of the reasons why you absolutely shouldn’t return to work if you are sick, and how to know when your body is strong enough to get back to the office. 

When you should wait before going back to work:

1. Your illness is contagious

You will risk making your colleagues sick. Diseases like influenza (flu) or the norovirus (stomach bug) spread easily through airborne droplets, human contact and shared surfaces.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incubation period for common illnesses starts before symptoms appear, which means you can be contagious even before you know you’re sick.

Contagious diseases can quickly spread in public spaces, especially open-plan offices with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. According to a previous Health24 article, it is recommended that you only go back to the office 24 hours after your fever breaks or after symptoms clear up to be entirely sure you are no longer contagious. 

2. Your symptoms and medication disrupt your work 

While you might think you are able to cope, you could be costing the company more than you realise by making silly mistakes because you feel lousy. Some medications taken for common illnesses such as cold or flu can impair your cognitive skills and make you feel drowsy.

If your job allows no room for mistakes, stay home until you are fully healed. Your office may also not be equipped for you to heal comfortably – there might be limited bathroom access or no suitable storage for your medication.

3. Even if your symptoms are clearing up, your body still needs rest  

We often mistake lack of symptoms for normal health and don’t give our bodies a proper break. If you rush back into your work routine too quickly, you may have a relapse and get sick all over again. 

Why your body needs rest even after your symptoms are gone

While you may no longer be contagious after your symptoms have cleared up, you should remember that your body took strain. Your immune system is still in fighting mode and has not entirely recovered.

The odds are that you might get infected again if you don’t protect yourself. Dr Will Sorey from the University of Mississippi Medical Centre says that proper care during common illnesses, as well as the steps you take afterwards, are important to build up your immune system He suggests the following:

  • Proper hydration and nutrition
  • Not rushing back into exercise or physical activity
  • Paying attention to worsening symptoms immediately
  • Taking extra precaution not to get reinfected when you are back at work
  • Getting extra sleep at night to replenish your body 
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Health24.com | More and more people smoking in kids’ movies

Movie makers just can’t seem to resist the temptation of depicting people puffing at cigarettes. A recent example is the 2015 movie Carol, which shows endless images of Cate Blanchett taking sultry drags. 

As if smoking in movies aimed at an adult audience isn’t bad enough, progress to keep tobacco use out of kid-friendly movies is apparently also going up in smoke.

The number of youth-focused films that showed smoking rose sharply between 2010 and 2016, a new study reveals.

A public health concern

During that time, 46% of movies with smoking were youth-rated. That’s 210 of the 459 top-grossing films. And the number of smoking scenes in movies rated PG-13 – suitable for teens – surged, from 564 in 2010 to 809 in 2016.

That’s a public health concern that must be addressed, the study’s senior author said, because it could encourage young people to light up.

South Africa has made significant progress in reducing smoking and according to the latest national statistics, 16.4% of South Africans were smokers in 2012. This is a significant drop from 32% in 1993, which has been largely attributed to stricter smoking legislation, advertising limitations and steeper tobacco prices.

“Modernising Hollywood’s rating system to reflect the audience by awarding movies with smoking an R rating would save a million kids’ lives,” said Stanton Glantz. He directs the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

“That is the best way that the six big media companies that control the Motion Picture Association of America could ensure that movies marketed to kids are not also selling cigarettes,” Glantz said in a university news release.

The study was published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

No progress since 2010

A 2012 US Surgeon General’s report said youth with extensive exposure to smoking in movies are two to three times more likely to smoke than those with little exposure.

Glantz – founder of Smokefree Movies, which targets public policy and film industry practice – said no progress has been made to reduce tobacco images in youth-rated movies since 2010.

“All the major media companies have had years where all their youth-rated movies are smoke-free. There is an enormous need to implement an industrywide standard by requiring that all movies rated for kids are smoke-free,” he said.

Between 2010 and 2016, the study found tobacco incidents rose:

  • 72% in top-grossing movies (from 1 824 to 3 145)
  • 43% in PG-13 movies
  • 90% in R-rated movies (those for which children under 17 must be with an adult)

Only in movies rated G or PG – for general audiences or where parental guidance is suggested – did tobacco use fall, from 30 incidents to 4.

Risk of lifetime addiction

Researchers defined incidents as the use – or implied use – of a tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

Nancy Brown, head of the American Heart Association (AHA), called the findings a “troublesome plot twist”.

“As this study points out, there are fewer movies made these days, but you can watch them anywhere on demand, on your tablet and on your smartphone. Easier access, coupled with a growing number of tobacco images in film, means more and more young people will be put at risk of a lifetime addiction, disease and possibly an early death,” she said in an AHA news release.

Brown said scenes that “glamorise” smoking should be eliminated or flagged with a R rating so that they are not marketed to children.

The report suggested state and local health departments take steps to block public subsidies to movie makers that depict tobacco use. It noted that during the study period, movies with tobacco scenes received $3.5 billion in public subsidies.

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