Courtesy Harley Pasternak
Harley Pasternak
May 08, 2013 03:00 PM

I’m constantly scouring scientific journals so I can stay on the cutting edge of all things nutrition, fitness and health, and that way keep my clients informed.

As a result, I often come across several interesting studies that I think readers of this blog will find helpful and relevant to their own health goals. So this week, I’m going to give you the highlights of a few new studies that I find newsworthy.

Walking Lowers the Risk of Heart-Related Conditions as Much as Running

If you follow my blog, you know how much I believe in the power of walking and its impact on our health. It’s a simple, easy fat-burning activity that doesn’t require any skill or equipment.

A recent new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, “Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology,” found that walking briskly can actually lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as (or maybe even more than!) running.

Researchers studied the heart health of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers over a period of six years and found that both groups resulted in similar, significant reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. What’s more, the walking group actually had slightly better results than the running group!

• Running significantly reduced the risk for first-time hypertension by 4.2 percent and walking reduced risk by 7.2 percent.
• Running reduced first-time high cholesterol 4.3 percent and walking 7 percent.
• Running reduced first-time diabetes 12.1 percent compared to 12.3 percent for walking.
• Running reduced coronary heart disease 4.5 percent compared to 9.3 percent for walking.

This is a hugely signifcant finding, because it shows that you do not have to participate in an intense, vigorous exercise (like running) to get fit and healthy. Walking’s benefits are comparable, if not actually greater than running, but without the stress on your joints!

Mobile Phone Apps Are Helpful in Weight-Loss Programs

Whether it’s calorie counting, menu decoding or step-tracking, there’s certainly no shortage of smartphone apps that claim to help keep us motivated to lose weight. I’m certainly not immune – I check my FitBit app on my phone several times a day to see how active I’ve been and how I’ve progressed toward my goal of 10,000 steps.

Since weight-loss support in the form of an app is a relatively new phenomenon, I often wonder: Is there any proof they’re helping us stay the course?

According to a new study published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, the answer is yes.

Researchers developed and tested two mobile phone apps on a group of individuals participating in a weight-loss program. One app was strictly informational, and one provided support and encouragement, as well. At the end of the eight-week trial, the results showed that the group that received the support app were more engaged, had a better overall mood and were more motivated than those with the control app.

I’ve long had my phone loaded with every imaginable fitness and nutrition app. So whether your motivation comes from a friend, your family, an app or elsewhere, let’s embrace positive encouragement where and when we can.

Exercising or Healthy Eating: Study Shows It’s Either/Or for American Adults

You don’t need a formal study to tell you that there are only 24 hours in a day. How we use that time, however, is another story.

Using data collected from the American Time Use Survey, a U.S. Census Bureau assessment of how Americans spend their time, researchers analyzed a sample of 112,037 adults who had provided responses between 2003 and 2010, particularly focusing on time devoted to exercise and all activities related to food preparation.

Researchers found that time spent exercising and time spent preparing food tend to substitute for one another, rather than complementing one another. In other words, when there was an increase in the time taken to prepare a meal, there was a decrease in time spent on exercise and vice versa.

“There’s only so much time in a day. As people try to meet their health goals, there’s a possibility that spending time on one healthy behavior is going to come at the expense of the other,” said Rachel Tumin, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in epidemiology in the Ohio State University’s College of Public Health. “I think this highlights the need to always consider the trade-off between ideal and feasible time use for positive health behaviors.”

So if this is the case, how can we carve out time to prepare a healthy meal and fit in physical activity? I obviously have my own biases when it comes to food preparation, which is to cook easy, simple meals in under five minutes. If you don’t have five minutes, I suggest taking 60 seconds to blend at least one of your meals each day! Check out my new book The Body Reset Diet for tips and tricks on making a nutritious, wholesome meal in five minutes – from preparation to clean up!

More Evidence Berries Are Good For Our Health, Especially Our Brains

While it’s not exactly breaking news that berries are good for our health, there is new, compelling evidence out that indicates that they’re even better for us than previously thought, particularly for our brains.

Researchers from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and University of Maryland Baltimore County found that diets supplemented with blueberries and strawberries may improve behavior and cognitive functions in stressed young rats.

In the study, the rat subjects were fed a berry diet for two months and exposed to controlled irradiation, a model for accelerated aging. The rats were then divided into two groups, one evaluated after 36 hours of radiation and the other after 30 days.

“After 30 days on the same berry diet, the rats experienced significant protection against radiation compared to control,” said researcher Shibu Poulose, PhD. “We saw significant benefits to diets with both of the berries, and speculate it is due to the phytonutrients present. … Most diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown an increased amount of toxic protein. Berries seem to promote autophagy, the brain’s natural housekeeping mechanism, thereby reducing the toxic accumulation,” said Poulose.

While this research was conducted with rats instead of humans, the findings are very promising to the medical community and its fight against aging’s effects on human bodies as well.

Do you have some cutting edge health news? Tweet me @harleypasternak

Check back every Wednesday for more insider tips on Hollywood’s hottest bodies – and learn how to get one yourself! Plus: follow Harley on Twitter at @harleypasternak

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