How Much You Need to Exercise for Better Mental Health, According to Science

iStock
iStock

With the recent controversy over the health benefits of fish oil and other wellness strategies, it can be reassuring to know that one thing remains constant: Exercise is good for your body. Any movement, even walking, brings about a host of cardiovascular effects that can help you live longer, feel better, and not run out of breath when chasing children or small animals.

The question of how much exercise is best, though, is open to debate. The answer often depends on your goals. For heart health, sessions four to five times weekly might be ideal. For mental health? As The Independent reports, scientists believe there’s a pretty specific prescription: Exercising for 45 minutes three to five times a week.

The data comes from a new and expansive observational study published in The Lancet Psychiatry and conducted by researchers at Yale and the University of Oxford. The study examined 1.2 million subjects who filled out the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey at two-year intervals between 2011 and 2015. Subjects who didn’t exercise at all had an average of three-and-a-half days per month when they felt mentally unwell—stressed, depressed, or otherwise burdened by emotional problems—while those who exercised regularly reported an average of just two days.

The study found that a regimen of three to five 45-minute sessions a week was optimal for reducing the reported instances of feeling stressed or depressed. Exercising for longer periods—some subjects reported exceeding 90 minutes in the gym—was associated with a drop-off in mental health benefits. Subjects who spent three hours at a time exercising actually reported an increase in depressive symptoms, a possible consequence of having obsessive personality traits that could influence their overall psychological state.

Researchers also found that the kind of exercise undertaken made a difference. While all varieties helped, people who participated in team sports promoting social interaction and gym classes like cycling or aerobics described greater self-satisfaction with mental health.

Because the study involved self-reported outcomes and exercise wasn't monitored, it's possible that the participants could have misinterpreted the volume of exercise performed. The scope of the study, however, makes a convincing case for a popular notion: If exercise were a pill, doctors everywhere would be prescribing it.

[h/t The Independent]

10 Surprising Uses for Cotton Swabs

iStock.com/Clovera
iStock.com/Clovera

If you stick cotton swabs inside your ears, you’re using them wrong. Despite being perfectly-sized to slide inside your ear canal, cotton swabs are never meant to go deeper than the outermost part of your ear, and if they do they could inflict serious damage on your hearing. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth having in your home: From beauty, to chores, to arts and crafts, here are some smart—and safe—uses for the hygiene products.

1. SHINE JEWELRY

When it comes to cleaning precious items like jewelry, cotton swabs are the right tools for the job. The cotton ends are gentle enough to handle valuable materials and make them look brand new. After soaking your jewelry in a cleaning solution, rub it gently with your fingers and use a cotton swab to clean out the detailed areas. Rinse it and set it out to dry before returning it to your jewelry box—or your finger.

2. PAINT POLKA DOTS

Get in touch with your inner Yayoi Kusama and break out the cotton swabs for your next art project. Whether you're painting polka dots on a mug, birthday card, or bedroom wall, start by selecting paint in the color you want to work with. Using cotton swabs in place of a paintbrush, you can create a pattern of tiny, even dots on any surface. Once the project is complete, toss your swabs away instead spending extra time washing art supplies.

3. CLEAN ELECTRONICS

Cleaning a laptop fan with a cotton swab
iStock/lzf

The nooks and crannies of your computer's keyboard and the edges of your phone case—a.k.a surfaces you touch everyday—are magnets for dirt. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your electronics, set aside time to sanitize them with cotton swabs as soon as possible. Cotton swabs are designed to clean delicate parts of your skin, which makes them perfect for cleaning expensive personal devices. They’re also the right size for reaching the tight corners where years' worth of dust and grime like to hide. Just soak the cotton ends in rubbing alcohol before you begin your cleaning spree.

4. LIGHT A CANDLE

Tall candles last a long time, but they also become difficult to light toward the end of their lifespan. If you don’t have a grill lighter or extra-long matches at home, you can use a cotton swab to light a hard-to-reach wick. Soak one end in alcohol before carefully lighting it with a match or lighter and then dip it into the candle holder. Make sure you have cup of water nearby so you can extinguish it quickly.

5. TOUCH-UP PAINT JOBS

Chipped paint on your walls or furniture is no reason to break out your paint brushes. If you already have paint in the matching color at home, all you need is a cotton swab to apply it. Cotton swabs are especially convenient for those smaller home touch-ups you’ve been putting off for months.

6. CLEAN YOUR CAR’S INTERIOR

Woman cleaning the interior of her car
iStock/CasarsaGuru

Before paying someone to detail your car's interior, see what you can do with a pack of cotton swabs. After clearing your vehicle of any trash or junk, you can use cotton swabs and cleaning liquid to tackle those areas that are often neglected, like cup holders, the seams in your steering wheel, and the cracks in your seats. For dirty car floors, you’ll need to use a vacuum cleaner.

7. REMOVE SCUFFS FROM SHOES

A few bad scuff marks may be enough to convince you never to wear nice shoes outside again. But even when they're on patent leather, most unsightly scratches can be erased. Just soak the end of a cotton swab in nail polish remover and gently scrub the damaged area with it. Follow that up by covering the same area with either baby powder or petroleum jelly, in order to protect the material itself. It shouldn’t take long for your shoes to look smooth, shiny, and ready for your next formal event.

8. COLOR ONE STRAND OF HAIR AT A TIME

Not every color touch-up warrants a trip to the hairdresser. If you notice a few stray undyed hairs messing up your newly-colored ‘do, you can take care of them with some cotton swabs and a touch-up kit. Once you’ve applied the colorant to the swab, carefully brush it over the strand, wait 10 minutes, and rinse it out. Using a cotton swab gives you enough control to dye one strand at a time without touching the surrounding hair.

9. FIX A STUCK ZIPPER

A stuck zipper on a pair of jeans
iStock/beyhanyazar

Many jackets have been thrown away due to a stuck zipper. If the zipper on your favorite piece of clothing won’t budge, see what a little lubricant can do. Apply petroleum jelly, soap, olive oil, or something similar to the problem area with a cotton swab and gently tug at it until the snag loosens.

10. ASSEMBLE A TRAVEL BEAUTY KIT

The complex beauty routine you enjoy every morning becomes a lot less appealing when you’re away from home. Give yourself some extra room in your travel bag by preparing a scaled-down beauty kit. Instead of packing your eyeshadow palette, apply your eye makeup to the ends of cotton swabs instead and store them in a plastic bag. Once you’ve reached your destination, just pull out the swabs, swipe them over your eyelids, and toss them out when you're done. This trick also works with lip gloss and perfume.

This Smart Mug Alerts You When You've Had Too Much Caffeine

Ember
Ember

Since 2010, Ember has been giving perfectionists ultimate control over their morning coffee. Their travel mug lets you set the preferred temperature of your drink down to the degree when you're on the go, and their ceramic cup allows you to do the same in the office or at home. Now, in addition to telling you how hot your beverage is at all times, Ember lets you know how much caffeine you're consuming through Apple's Health app, CNET reports.

Ember's new feature takes advantage of the same Bluetooth technology that lets you control the temperature of you drink from your smartphone. Beginning October 17, you can connect your Ember vessel to your Apple device to keep track of what you're drinking. If you drink all your tea and coffee from an Ember mug, the Health app should be able to give you a rough estimate of your daily caffeine intake.

Ember wasn't originally designed to measure caffeine content, but its built-in sensors allow it do so. In order to maintain a constant temperature, the mug needs to know whether it's full or empty, and exactly how much liquid it's holding at any given time. The feature also gives you the option to preset your serving size within the app if you drink the same amount of coffee everyday. And if you like to drink specific beverages at their recommended temperatures, the mug can guess what type of drink it's holding based on how hot it is.

The new caffeine-calculating feature from Ember is especially useful for coffee addicts: If the mug senses you've exceeded your recommended caffeine intake for the day, it will alert you on your phone. Here are some energizing caffeine alternatives to keep that from happening.

[h/t CNET]

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