9 Surprising Health Benefits of Exercise

Zoom... (Explored 1st July # 10)

Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, millions of Americans resolved to begin exercising and lose weight in 2013. While exercise helps you burn calories and lose weight, it also has numerous other health benefits that will help you have a truly healthier, happier 2013.

Here are 9 surprising health benefits of exercise:

1. Sleep better. Regular exercise helps you sleep better, provided it’s not done within 2 to 3 hours of your bedtime. Exercise can also reduce and sometimes eliminate sleep apnea, a frustrating and potentially health-threatening sleep disorder that causes disruptions in breathing.

2. Reduce your risk for skin cancer. Studies show that regular exercise lowers your risk for skin cancer, including life-threatening melanoma.

3. Be happy. If you’ve heard of “runner’s high,” then you know that exercise makes people happy. That’s because exercise boosts mood-enhancing or feel-good endorphins.

4. Reduce heartburn. Studies show that regular exercise, especially less stressful aerobic types like swimming and walking, reduce the severity of acid reflux or heartburn. And reducing heartburn can also help you sleep better.

5. Improve your acne. Because regular exercise helps regulate blood sugar, it helps reduce inflammation which can improve acne. It also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, which is an acne trigger.

6. Have more energy. Many studies show that exercise, even just a few times a week, boosts energy. And morning exercisers reap the biggest benefit. If you need some help learning how to exercise in the morning, check out this post on 5 Tips for Starting a Morning Exercise Routine.

7. Improve chronic pain. Losing weight is critical to improving chronic pain since the  more weight you carry, the more pressure and pain to your joints and bones you’ll experience. Exercise also reduces pain because it reduces inflammation.

8. Reduce your risk for Alzheimer’sA 2012 study from Rush University Medical Center showed that daily exercise significantly reduced your risk for Alzheimer’s, even if —get this— you start exercising after the age of 80.

9. Reduce your risk for psoriasisA 2012 study from Harvard Medical School showed that vigorous aerobic exercise and calisthenics are associated with a reduced risk of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition.

While this isn’t a direct health benefit, regular exercise saves you money by reducing the  the number of medications and doctor’s visits you’ll need. And who wouldn’t like that?

Photo credit: FCC, Yogrenda174

Is That Beer Causing Your Psoriasis?

Growlers craft beer & ales taps

Craft beer is hot. This is probably good for the world, but maybe not if you’re a woman.

We know that alcohol increases the risk for psoriasis. A recent study showed strong beer (insert favorite San Diego IPA here), increases the risk of psoriasis in women.

It’s not clear why, although some speculate it’s related to the gluten found in beer. Alcohol, especially heavy drinking, seems to disrupt hormones, increase inflammation, and inhibit the effectiveness of psoriasis treatment.

Limiting alcohol, and perhaps avoiding beer, might be helpful for some with this heart-breaking skin disease.

Photo credit: FCC, Beaufort’s, The Digitel

Exercise Reduces Risk of Psoriasis

A new study from the Archives of Dermatology shows that vigorous aerobic exericise and calisthenics are associated with a reduced risk of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition.

The study showed that women who logged 105 minutes of running or 180 minutes of swimming or tennis per week had up to a 25 to 30% reduction in psoriasis. Less intensive workouts such as jogging and walking didn’t work.

Many diseases are linked to chronic inflammation, and exercise is a medication-free way to naturally reduce inflammation and boost feel-good hormones.

Even if you’re not losing weight with exercise, you’re still reaping health benefits. So, keep it up.

Photo credit: FCC, faungg

Extract from White Birch Tree Relieves Itch

The forest is full of things that make you itchy: poison ivy, poison oak, mosquitoes, chiggers. But for the wise adventurer, the forest also provides a way to heal your itch. The remedy might be found in the beautiful white birch tree.

White birch trees are ubiquitous in cold climates. A photo of the white tree against white snow is iconic of New England winters. A bark extract called Betulin (a terpene like tea tree oil) has been shown in animal studies to be antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and to aid in wound healing. Research presented at the annual congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology showed that a cream containing betulin significantly reduced itching in red, irritated skin in psoriasis and eczema patients.

The study is only preliminary, and betulin will need to be tested in rigorous trials to see if the extract makes a cream much better than placebo cream; however, betulin is already available in creams in Europe.

So how do you get the extract out of the bark if you’re  itchy while hiking in a forest? I’ll wait for Bear Grylls to show us on a future episode of Man Vs. Wild. No doubt a fire and half a plastic bottle will be needed.

Photo: Nicolas T

Why Do We Have Fingerprints?

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A patient of mine with severe hand dermatitis has an identity problem. She applied for a job that she is well qualified to get, except she doesn’t have any fingerprints. Her job requires a security clearance, and she has to have fingerprints to verify her identity (and to verify that she isn’t wanted in Montana). But her severe hand dermatitis has left her fingertips scarred, and she is unable to give adequate fingerprints.

Why do we have fingerprints in the first place? The ridges are unique and allow you to be distinguished from billions of other people. Although wonderful for the FBI, your fingerprints were never meant to assist in identifying you.

It has been traditionally thought that the tiny ridges increase the coefficient of friction of the skin making it easier to grasp and hold things. A smooth surface makes handling delicate objects like a dime, difficult, especially if your hands are wet.

New research suggests that the grooves have another, possibly more important function: they improve your sense of touch. Fingertips are exquisitely sensitive to touch. This is partly due to a special nerve called the Pacinian corpuscle. The tips of your fingers are packed with these sensitive receptors. One sensation that they are particularly attuned to is vibration. It turns out that the ridges on your fingertips when rubbed against an object create a  fine vibration that is not noticeable to you, but is detected by your Pacinian corpuscles.

Loss of fingerprints is uncommon. It can happen from trauma, as from a burn, or from chronic skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, or scleroderma. There are also rare genetic conditions such as dyskeratosis congenital, an inherited condition that leads to scaly skin and increased risk of skin cancers, where patients are born without fingerprints.

Excess inflammation, as from dermatitis or psoriasis, can sometimes lead to temporary changes in the fingerprints. These changes can be resolved with topical steroids or other systemic medications to treat the underlying condition. Once the fingerprint is scarred, however, there is no way to regenerate it.

Post written by Dr. Benabio Copyright The Derm Blog 2009

Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt (flickr)

Your Hands Are Teeming With Bacteria

hands-pink-sherbert-photography

Right now your hands are teeming with bacteria. Countless trillions of organisms call your skin home, and that’s a good thing. Skin infections do not arise because you have bacteria on your skin. Rather, they arise because the type of bacteria on infected skin is not healthy bacteria but aggressive pathogenic bacteria.

Determining which bacteria are good and which are dangerous is difficult, but our immune systems have managed to get it right most of the time. When our immune systems are wrong, either an infection develops, or excess inflammation develops, as is the case in eczema or psoriasis.

Telling good from bad is hard. There are hundreds of types of bacteria on your hands right now. A recent study of college students (perhaps not the cleanest group of individuals) discovered that the average student has 140 different types of bacteria on his or her skin. There were over 4,000 different types of bacteria identified across all the students. Not surprisingly, the most common types were familiar household names: Propionobacterium (the bacteria responsible for acne), strep, and staph (of which the infamous methicillin resistant staph aureus, MRSA is a subtype).

There were also differences in the bacteria on the dominate hand versus the non-dominant hand — namely bacteria normally found in the gastrointestinal track was found more often on the dominant hand. This will no doubt lead to a follow up study of: “Do college students wash their hands before leaving the bathroom?” (Research so far does not look promising).

Photo: Pink Sherbert Photography (flickr)