By Laura Beil
Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
Vitamin D<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/vitamin-d-supplements-lose-luster" target="_blank">Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied</a> supplements (<em>SN: 1/27/19</em>). <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank">Certain foods</a>, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections:</strong> In 2017, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583" target="_blank">might help prevent respiratory infections</a>, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.</p><p>But one key word here is <em>deficient. </em>That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).</p><p>"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.</p><p>And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19:</strong> Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.</p>
Zinc<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies of using zinc for colds</a> — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in <em>BMJ Open</em> <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">did not find any value for zinc lozenges</a> for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.</p><p><strong>What we know about zinc and COVID-19:</strong> The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19</a> (<em>SN: 8/2/20</em>).)</p>
Vitamin C<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.</p><p><strong>Why it might help:</strong> It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong>Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the <em>Journal of Medical Virolog</em>y, looked at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707" target="_blank">what is already known about vitamin C</a> and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."</p><p>But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">didn't support the idea</a> that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: </strong>About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.</p><p>In a review published online in July in <em>Nutrition</em>, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vitamin may help prevent infection</a> and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.</p><p>Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's <a href="https://www.drugsincontext.com/can-vitamins-and-or-supplements-provide-hope-against-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful</a>, the pair concluded in July in <em>Drugs in Context</em>. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.</p><p>And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."</p>
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By Gudrun Heise
"Although I hadn't used the stove at all, I touched every ring to check that it was off. Finally I had to keep telling myself: 'Off! Off! Off!'" Michaela says (her name has been changed by the editor).
Even when Michaela was a child, there were rituals that she always had to observe and from which her mind would not permit her to deviate. There were things that were simply not "allowed."
OCD Is a Common Illness<p>Checking compulsions often begin at a young age, but can also develop in adulthood. "It is a common mental illness, but it is usually not obvious because it is often made a taboo and concealed," says Wahl-Kordon.</p><p>Sometimes sufferers and the people around them do not really take the somewhat strange behavior seriously. People with this form of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/are-obsessive-compulsive-disorders-amid-coronavirus-pandemic-on-the-rise/a-54567173" target="_blank">obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)</a> must first become aware that their behavior is not normal and be prepared to start treatment.</p>
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back<p>To find out whether someone has OCD, therapists usually work with various screening questions, such as: "Do you clean or wash extremely often? Are you often concerned with symmetries? Are there thoughts that do not let go of you?"</p><p>Wahl-Kordon says that "what is most significant is the intensity at which such actions are carried out and the time the sufferer actually spends on them or thinks about them," he says.</p><p>"With many sufferers, we can achieve very good results through behavioral therapy. Exposure and confrontation exercises are core elements here," Wahl-Kordon says.</p><p>Michaela has also been taking part in these kinds of therapies, which force her to permit situations that she fears and would otherwise try to avoid. They are meant to help her deal with her compulsions and fears, which often have their roots in the past.</p>
'I Thought It Was My Fault'<p>When Michaela was 16, her sister-in-law died at the age of just 28. For Michaela, this was a traumatic experience and one that triggered severe feelings of self-blame.</p><p>"About a week before my sister-in-law died, I told a friend of mine that there was nothing to look forward to and that I dreamed that my sister-in-law was in the cemetery behind the cemetery wall and could not get out. When my sister-in-law died, I blamed myself a lot. I thought it was because of me, because I had moaned so much for no reason," she says.</p><p>She still has these feelings of self-blame and fears some kind of punishment if she complains about something without there being an obvious reason. And it is just one of many fears that she has developed.</p>
Trouble Leaving the Apartment<p>Michaela studied law; during her time at university, her checking compulsion continued to accompany her and became a never-ending ordeal.</p><p>"My apartment had a kitchenette within sight of the bed. In the evening I always had to start checking from left to right to make sure that all appliances were turned off: stove, coffee maker and kettle. Had I pulled out all the plugs? Then check the fridge door again to see that it was really closed. Then I'd start all over again," she says.</p><p>Sometimes the whole procedure lasted several hours, she says, and on occasion she would go and sit outside the front door at 4 o'clock in the morning in desperation because she had not managed to go to bed.</p>
Checking the Checks<p>During her studies, Michaela met her husband. She immediately got him involved, asking him to help her with her checking. "My husband was my salvation back then. I asked him to do a very last follow-up check after my check-ups. This gave me the feeling that he had taken the responsibility from me in case something started to burn because I had forgotten to check everything thoroughly," she says.</p><p>For about 20 years, Michaela checked every evening whether her husband had checked everything properly — checking the checker, so to speak. Thanks to the therapy, this, too, has now improved.</p>
'I Was Afraid of Doing Everything Wrong'<p>Michaela was a specialist lawyer for criminal law and social law. She was on committees, gave lectures and received requests from various associations to join their boards of directors. She was a successful lawyer, at least on the outside. But her constant self-doubt and her checking compulsion made her life so difficult that she finally had to give up her profession.</p><p>"I was always just afraid of not doing anything right, of not being able to do anything, of being too stupid for everything, and thought that it was just a matter of chance that I had a particular position. In my work, I never felt as though I had done enough preparation," she says. "If, for example, I had an appointment at 2 p.m. on one day, it was not possible for me to do anything else that day. I always thought I had to prepare myself more and more and more for this one thing."</p><p> At some point, her fears increased so dramatically that she was no longer able to go in to work at the law firm at all.</p><p>"At some point, compulsions determine their entire lives," Wahl-Kordon says. "Some sufferers withdraw completely, no longer eat properly and lose weight. Those are the most serious cases — when everything revolves around the compulsions."</p>
More Than One Compulsion<p>In addition to her constant drive to check things, Michaela developed other compulsions. Compulsive hoarding is a particular problem for her. People with this form of OCD collect all sorts of things without any necessity or good reason: small notes, old receipts, papers that are no longer valid. Michaela even finds it difficult to part with daily newspapers.</p><p>After one three-week vacation, the newspapers piled up in the apartment, but throwing them away was impossible for her. After all, something important could be hidden somewhere among the countless pages, and then she wouldn't be able to find it again.</p><p>"It is incredibly difficult for me to throw something away. It takes me a very long time to put things in order. I never finish. There is simply no end. I always think that maybe I could use the things again sometime," Michaela says.</p><p>Your partner doing the cleaning and throwing things away does not work either, says Wahl-Kordon. "That can mean that the world collapses for the sufferer, so it doesn't work at all. Hoarding often has to do with objects that I associate with certain events or experiences and which I simply can't get rid of for that reason alone."</p><p>Disposing of those objects thus becomes a difficult and confronting task that the patient must tackle with the support of a psychotherapist. Often the compulsive need to hoard affects older people in particular. In severe cases, they literally become buried in clutter because they simply cannot bring themselves to throw things away.</p>
'But First I Have to Clean Up'<p>Michaela always tries to organize and prepare everything as perfectly as possible and have control over as many things as she can — even when she had suicidal thoughts because her condition was becoming too much for her.</p><p>"It was on a Sunday, and I had actually managed to organize replacements for my appointments for the entire coming week," she relates. After all, she was planning to not be alive the following week. But then, she says, her husband came home unexpectedly and thwarted her plans.</p><p>"Later, I always thought that I couldn't ever kill myself because I would have to clean up first. The thought of someone tampering with my things is simply unbearable for me!" she says.</p>
New Perspectives<p>Michaela has now taken up other forms of employment, including teaching social law to special education teachers. This is easier for her than her work as a lawyer. She can engage with it in a completely different way and sometimes even uses herself as an example.</p><p>After all, aspiring teachers must learn to deal with disabled people like her, she says. She says everyone in her environment knows about her obsessive-compulsive disorder — with the exception of her family.</p><p>In recent years, she has undergone trauma therapy, depression therapy and exposure therapy, which have helped. "I still check the stove and the refrigerator. I still have to do everything right. I'm still afraid that I am doing everything wrong. But compared to the way it used to be, everything is much, much better now."</p>
Worried about the overuse of antibiotics and the emerging trend of bacteria-resistant drugs, researchers recommend that honey should be tried first to treat upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), according to a new review published by Oxford doctors in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine.
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By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.
The Hedonometer measures happiness through analysis of key words on Twitter, which is now used by one in five Americans. This chart covers 18 months from early 2019 to July 2020, showing major dips in 2020. hedonometer.org<p>These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=0P0ZYbIAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">Aaron Schwartz</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10045" target="_blank">compared tweets before, during, and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas</a> in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.</p><p>Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as "no," "not" and "can't," and fewer first-person pronouns like "I" and "me." It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.</p><p>Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. Research has also shown that transmission rates for COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Is-risk-of-coronavirus-transmission-lower-15287602.php" target="_blank">much lower outdoors than inside</a>. As scholars who study <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=yFzb2EUAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">conservation</a> and how nature <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=CCnUeN8AAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">contributes to human well-being</a>, we see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for Americans' current blues.</p>
Park Visits Are Up During the Pandemic<p>According to the Hedonometer, sentiments expressed online started trending lower in mid-March as the impacts of the pandemic became clear. As lockdowns continued, they registered the lowest sentiment scores on record. Then in late May, effects from George Floyd's death in police custody and the following protests and police response once again could be seen on Twitter. May 31, 2020 was the saddest day of the project.</p><p>Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people <a href="https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/sd3h6" target="_blank">using green spaces more</a> since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being during the pandemic.</p>
<div id="4c7e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc0ac146ab2a94228f32d973fc2ab272"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1289428912879964160" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#Goldengatepark #sf #quarantinemood https://t.co/9l3ufnbkt6</div> — Suvd (@Suvd)<a href="https://twitter.com/Suvd19486406/statuses/1289428912879964160">1596258783.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees, but smaller neighborhood parks also provide a significant boost. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.</p><p>Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/2006.10658.pdf" target="_blank">Twitter study</a> to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.</p><p>Parks and public spaces won't cure COVID-19 or stop police brutality, but they are far more than playgrounds. There is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.</p><p>In a 2015 study, for example, Stanford researchers sent people out for one of two walks: through a local park or on a busy street. Those who walked in nature showed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005" target="_blank">improved moods and better memory performance</a> compared to the urban group. And a team led by <a href="https://penniur.upenn.edu/people/eugenia-gina-south" target="_blank">Gina South</a> of the University of Pennsylvania showed in a 2018 study that greening and cleaning up blighted vacant lots in Philadelphia <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298" target="_blank">reduced local residents' feelings of depression, worthlessness and poor mental health</a>.</p>
Creative Strategies<p>It isn't easy to create new parks on the scale of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park or the Washington Mall, but smaller projects can expand outdoor space. Options include greening vacant lots, closing streets and investing in existing parks to make them safer, greener and shadier and support wildlife.</p><p>These initiatives don't have to be capital-intensive. In the University of Pennsylvania study, for example, renovating a vacant lot by removing trash, planting grass and trees and installing a low fence cost only about US$1,600.</p><p>Urban green space is most needed in neighborhoods that have lacked funding for parks, especially given <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html" target="_blank">COVID-19's disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx people</a>.</p><p>Cities can also create parklike spaces by <a href="https://theconversation.com/with-fewer-cars-on-us-streets-now-is-the-time-to-reinvent-roadways-and-how-we-use-them-140408" target="_blank">closing streets to cars</a>. Many cities worldwide are currently retooling their transportation systems for the post-COVID-19 world in order to <a href="https://thecityfix.com/blog/bicycles-slower-speeds-livable-city-paris-mayor-anne-hidalgo-plans-ambitious-second-term-dario-hidalgo/" target="_blank">reallocate public space</a>, widen sidewalks and make more space for nature.</p><p>Urban designers, artists, ecologists and other citizens can play a direct role, too, creating pop-up parks and green spaces. Some advocates <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-15/a-brief-history-of-park-ing-day" target="_blank">transform parking spaces into mini-parks</a> with grass, potted trees and seating for just the time on the meter, to make a larger point about turning so much public space over to cars.</p><p>Or cities can invest a little more. Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Arlington, Virginia, have won <a href="https://www.tpl.org/parkscore" target="_blank">national recognition</a> for their ambitious investments in public park systems. These areas could serve as models for neighborhoods that lack access to parks.</p>
<div id="25fd0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="383f0d2df0237e9359c30dcce6cd6c42"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1276558744835379201" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Looking to safely get outside? Check out the best parks for social distancing in this year's top ten ParkScore citi… https://t.co/HJjEtDsrTD</div> — The Trust for Public Land (@The Trust for Public Land)<a href="https://twitter.com/tpl_org/statuses/1276558744835379201">1593190296.0</a></blockquote></div>
A New Park Deal?<p>The United States has historically driven economic recovery with major infrastructure investments, like the New Deal in the 1930s and the 2009 <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act.asp" target="_blank">American Reinvestment and Recovery Act</a>. Such investments could easily include nature-positive spaces.</p><p>Parks are not panaceas, as evidenced by the widely publicized <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/nyregion/amy-cooper-false-report-charge.html" target="_blank">racist confrontation between a white woman and a Black birder</a> in New York's Central Park in early July. But Hedonometer data add to a <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/7/eaax0903?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news" target="_blank">growing body of evidence</a> that they provide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1807504116" target="_blank">clear mental health benefits</a>. Creating and expanding parks also <a href="https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/f568e0ca499743a08148e3593c860fc5/economic-impact-study-summary.pdf" target="_blank">generates jobs and economic activity</a>, with much of the money spent locally.</p><p>We believe investments in nature are well worth it, offering both short-term solace in difficult times and long-term benefits to health, economies and communities.</p>
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By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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By Alexandra Rowles
Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.
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By Kelli McGrane
Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.
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By Greg Watts
Many of us have been spending more time at home than ever before, and chances are unless you live by yourself in the middle of nowhere, at some point unwanted noise will have infiltrated your lockdown.
Creating Quiet<p>Reducing noise at the source is usually the best course of action. Ideally, many of us would like to reduce the number of noisy vehicles passing our homes and gardens but unfortunately, we can't control this. In the case of road traffic, reducing the speed limit would help – as would a smoother road surface or, better still, a surface that absorbs sound such as porous asphalt. These are all jobs for the highway authority – but they may have more pressing claims on their budgets.</p><p>There are, however, things you can do around your house and garden to make things a little more peaceful. A barrier such as a close boarded fence, earth mound or wall close to the road should help – but they will have to be long enough and high enough to have much effect.</p><p>Much depends on where the house is in relation to the road. The aim would be to position any barrier so that the road is not in view from any exposed window or part of the garden.</p>
A high wall or substantial fence can reduce traffic noise if placed close to the road. Author provided
Natural Features<p>Interestingly our <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-tranquil-spaces-can-help-people-feel-calm-and-relaxed-in-cities-82358" target="_blank">perception of tranquillity</a> is shaped not only by the sounds we hear but also what we see.</p><p>A study involving brain scans has shown that we process auditory information differently <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20600971/" target="_blank">depending on the scene in view</a>. The noise of a sandy beach and highway at distance are quite similar, but research has shown that if using the same sound recording while showing a beach scene (as opposed to a highway scene) to volunteers in an MRI scanner, the resulting brain patterns differ significantly. The rated tranquillity also differs significantly.</p><p>In fact, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273366914_Tranquillity_and_soundscapes_in_urban_green_spaces-predicted_and_actual_assessments_from_a_questionnaire_survey" target="_blank">research on tranquility has shown</a> that the rated tranquillity of a place depends on both the percentage of natural features – such as greenery, rock, sand and water – in view and the level of man-made noise.</p><p>This means there is a trade-off in the sense that if you cannot control the noise, the perceived tranquillity improves if the amount of greenery or water in view increases. This is worth bearing in mind when creating a tranquil garden space.</p>
Finding Tranquillity Indoors<p>Inside the home, some of the same principles apply. Reduce sources of noise by installing double glazing to windows and doors and add a thicker insulation layer in the loft to control aircraft noise.</p><p>If it proves difficult to control noise in the bedroom then think about changing rooms so that you sleep on the non-traffic side of the house. Another thought is to include pictures of nature as wall art – the bigger the better – as <a href="https://core.ac.uk/display/76945458?source=2" target="_blank">research has shown</a> that installing pictures of nature scenes on the walls, as well as playing relaxing sea sounds as background music, can significantly improve people's experiences of tranquillity and anxiety in a doctor's waiting room.</p><p>Many of us have enjoyed listening to the birds more often with the reduced traffic levels of lockdown. It would be nice to think the "new normal" would include some of these gains. Hopefully people will realize that many of the journeys they make by car are not strictly necessary. And it's important not to forget that nature is around us all the time – if only we just take a moment to stop and listen.</p>
By Sara Lindberg
There have never been more choices when it comes to organic, natural, or eco-friendly cleaning products. Knowing which products are certified organic and which ones are just a safer alternative to traditional cleaners is often confusing. And how do you know which ones can really get the job done?
How We Chose<p>To curate our list of top-rated cleaning products, we considered many criteria. Some key elements include:</p><ul><li><strong>The types of ingredients in a product. </strong>We took a careful look at the ingredients used in each product to make sure they were safe, nontoxic, and naturally derived. We avoided products with ingredients that have the potential to negatively impact the health of your family or the environment.</li><li><strong>Top choices from reputable environmental organizations.</strong> Groups like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publish annual reports on organic and natural cleaning products with rankings from best to worst. We also considered cleaners certified with the Green Seal, which are greener and healthier products.</li><li><strong>A product's cleaning ability.</strong> The best organic cleaning products don't only need to be safer and less toxic to use. They also need to do a great job at cleaning. We considered how effectively different products cut through dirt, grease, soap scum, or grime.</li><li><strong>The opinion of cleaning experts.</strong> We spoke to cleaning experts who regularly use organic and all-natural products. We asked for their input on what ingredients to look for — and avoid — and which products they recommend.</li><li><strong>Awards, user reviews, and customer feedback.</strong> We considered feedback from websites that sell organic products and only considered products that had significantly more raves than complaints.</li></ul>
About Organic Products<p>"There are many cleaning products on the market that claim to be organic, but very few have the USDA certified organic label," says James Scott, co- founder of Dappir, a commercial and residential cleaning company.</p><p>"Usually, you'll see [labels] like natural, all-natural, or plant-based, but these do not necessarily mean organic," he explains.</p><p>While many of these cleaners are excellent options and are a lot safer than chemical-laden cleaning products, if they don't carry the USDA organic label, they can't be considered a certified organic cleaner.</p><p>If a product isn't USDA certified organic, we have called that out in our list.</p><h3>A Word About Price</h3><p>Organic cleaners often cost more than nonorganic products. Also, within the organic cleaning category, it's not uncommon to see a wide range of prices. With that in mind, here's how we indicate cost:</p><ul><li><strong>$</strong> = under $10</li><li><strong>$$</strong> = $10–$20</li><li><strong>$$$</strong> = over $20</li></ul>
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Kris Ubach and Quim Roser / Getty Images
By Louis J. Ignarro
Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. It's not just something you do in yoga class – breathing this way actually provides a powerful medical benefit that can help the body fight viral infections.
The Role of Nitric Oxide in the Body<p>Nitric oxide is a widespread signaling molecule that triggers many different physiological effects. It is also used clinically as a gas to selectively dilate the pulmonary arteries in newborns with pulmonary hypertension. Unlike most signaling molecules, NO is a gas in its natural state.</p><p>NO is produced continuously by the 1 trillion cells that form the inner lining, or <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endothelium" target="_blank">endothelium</a>, of the 100,000 miles of arteries and veins in our bodies, especially the lungs. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-201X.1996.557321000.x" target="_blank">Endothelium-derived NO</a> acts to relax the smooth muscle of the arteries to prevent high blood pressure and to promote blood flow to all organs. Another vital role of NO is to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1161/hh0801.089861" target="_blank">prevent blood clots in normal arteries</a>.</p><p>In addition to relaxing vascular smooth muscle, NO also <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_functions_of_nitric_oxide" target="_blank">relaxes smooth muscle in the airways</a> – trachea and bronchioles – making it easier to breathe. Another type of NO-mediated smooth muscle relaxation occurs in the erectile tissue (corpus cavernosum), which results in penile erection. In fact, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199201093260203" target="_blank">NO is the principal mediator of penile erection and sexual arousal.</a> This discovery led to the development and marketing of <a href="https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fda-approves-viagra" target="_blank">sildenafil</a>, trade name Viagra, which works by enhancing the action of NO.</p><p>Other types of cells in the body, including circulating white blood cells and tissue macrophages, produce nitric oxide for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0199998" target="_blank">antimicrobial purposes</a>. The NO in these cells reacts with other molecules, also produced by the same cells, to form antimicrobial agents to destroy invading microorganisms including bacteria, parasites and viruses. As you can see, NO is quite an amazing molecule.</p>
Nitric Oxide Gas as an Inhaled Therapy<p>Since NO is a gas, it can be administered with the aid of specialized devices as a therapy to patients by inhalation. Inhaled NO is used to treat infants born with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/ALN.0000000000002579" target="_blank">persistent pulmonary hypertension</a>, a condition in which constricted pulmonary arteries limit blood flow and oxygen harvesting.</p><p>Inhaled NO dilates the constricted pulmonary arteries and increases blood flow in the lungs. As a result, the red blood cell hemoglobin can extract more lifesaving oxygen and move it into the general circulation. Inhaled NO has literally turned blue babies pink and allowed them to be cured and to go home with mom and dad. Before the advent of inhaled NO, most of these babies died.</p><p>Inhaled NO is <a href="https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04338828?term=nitric+oxide&cond=COVID&draw=2&rank=1" target="_blank">currently in clinical trials</a> for the treatment of patients with <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/primary-care/20200520/evidence-mounts-supporting-inhaled-nitric-oxide-as-covid19-treatment" target="_blank">COVID-19</a>. Researchers are hoping that three principal actions of NO may help fight covid: dilating the pulmonary arteries and increasing blood flow through the lungs, dilating the airways and increasing oxygen delivery to the lungs and blood, and directly killing and inhibiting the growth and spread of the coronavirus in the lungs.</p>
How Nitric Oxide Kills Viruses<p>In an in vitro study done in 2004 during the last SARS outbreak, experimental compounds that release NO increased the survival rate of nucleus-containing mammalian cells infected with SARS-CoV. This suggested <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2004.04.012" target="_blank">that NO had a direct antiviral effect</a>. In this study, NO significantly inhibited the replication cycle of SARS-CoV by blocking production of viral proteins and its genetic material, RNA.</p><p>In a small clinical study in 2004, inhaled NO <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/425357" target="_blank">was effective</a> against SARS-CoV in severely ill patients with pneumonia.</p><p>The SARS CoV, which caused the 2003/2004 outbreak, shares most of its genome with SARS CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. This suggests that inhaled NO therapy may be effective for treating patients with COVID-19. Indeed, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/primary-care/20200520/evidence-mounts-supporting-inhaled-nitric-oxide-as-covid19-treatment" target="_blank">several clinical trials of inhaled NO</a> in patients with moderate to severe COVID-19, who require ventilators, are currently ongoing in several institutions. The hope is that inhaled NO will prove to be an effective therapy and lessen the need for ventilators and beds in the ICU.</p><p>The <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/ar.20782" target="_blank">sinuses in the nasal cavity</a>, but not the mouth, continuously produce NO. The NO produced in the nasal cavity is chemically identical to the NO that is used clinically by inhalation. So by inhaling through the nose, you are delivering NO directly into your lungs, where it increases both airflow and blood flow and keeps microorganisms and virus particles in check.</p><p>While anxiously awaiting the results of the clinical trials with inhaled NO, and the development of an effective <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/heres-exactly-where-were-at-with-vaccines-and-treatments-for-covid-19" target="_blank">vaccine against COVID-19</a>, we should be on guard and practice breathing properly to maximize the inhalation of nitric oxide into our lungs. Remember to inhale through your nose; exhale through your mouth.</p>
By Claudia Finkelstein
As a physician, daughter and socially responsible human, I'm finding Father's Day to be complicated for me this year, as it is for millions. Questions of whether and how to see my adult children and my own elderly father present medical and ethical quandaries. As an associate professor of family medicine with a focus on wellness, I'd like to share with you my thinking about this using some tools to aid discernment as Father's Day approaches.
Personal Risk<p>Assessing your personal risk is one aspect of the matrix. Are you or is your father in a high-risk group? Presence of chronic disease or age over 65 are two major risks. You can check this <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/groups-at-higher-risk.html" target="_blank">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chart</a> for more specific details.</p><p>Besides your specific personal risks, are either of you in repeated contact with the public through your job? Did you participate in the protests or spend time in other crowded public events?</p><p>Are you <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html" target="_blank">symptomatic</a>?</p><p>Have you been exposed to a carrier? Are young children, who can be asymptomatic carriers, in the picture?</p><p>If any of these questions is answered with a yes, it is certainly wise to forgo any thought of an in-person visit. If all are no, you can proceed to the next part of the matrix.</p>
Where You Live Matters<p>Are you in a high-prevalence area for coronavirus or in a state with rising rates? If you are in a sparsely populated area with low regional prevalence, it makes more sense to consider an in-person visit than if you (or he) live in a place with a high number of cases or rising numbers of cases. Check your <a href="https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map" target="_blank">local prevalence here</a>.</p><p>If neither of you is at elevated risk and you are not in an extremely high-prevalence area, the next question is: Can you see each other in person without violating any orders? Consult <a href="https://web.csg.org/covid19/state-reopen-plans/" target="_blank">this link for reopening plans</a> affecting your state.</p><p>Remember that the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico also have restrictions, including a <a href="https://www.cicnews.com/2020/06/how-to-enter-canada-from-the-u-s-during-coronavirus-0614666.html#gs.81blcp" target="_blank">self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Canada</a>. Obviously, any need to travel and ability to quarantine must enter the matrix calculation.</p><p><span></span>Finally, can your in-person visit follow social distancing recommendations? Can you be six feet apart – ideally, outdoors – wash hands frequently and avoid physical contact? Remember, it may be tough not to hug, especially if you do decide to bring children.</p>
By Ryan Raman
Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are commonly available in grocery stores, but many equally delicious berries are abundant in the wild.