Protecting Health Through Fidgeting

SittingIn this day and age, we do a lot of sitting. If you are one of the millions of Americans with an office job, you are sitting for several hours throughout the day. However, office jobs are not the only culprit. Those who travel for extended periods of time are forced to remain seated on airplanes. Those who enjoy watching television may find themselves starting a Netflix show then, hours later, being riveted in the same position. A couple years back, evidence was uncovered concerning the harmful effects of sitting. Remaining seated was found to increase risk of heart disease and diabetes. This new information brought on a standing desk craze, however, it has been found that overusing standing desks is also not good for health. So, what is good for your health? A recently published study found that fidgeting while seated may be your best bet.

One of the immediate dangers of sitting for extended periods of time concern the arteries in the leg. Sitting restricts the amount of blood flowing to the legs, which heightens risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers at the University of Missouri wanted to know if there was a way to offset those negative effects when standing is not an option. Their reasoning was that fidgeting would encourage increased blood flow in the leg. They did not expect it to completely solve the arterial problem, but they hoped it would at least help.

The researchers tested the leg vascular function of 11 men and women. The subjects were made to sit for three hours. Each participant kept one leg still throughout the entire study, and tapped the other one at specified intervals. The subjects averaged about 250 foot movements per minute. At the conclusion of three hours, researchers measured the amount of blood flow in each leg of each subject.

Sure enough, this fidgeting increased blood flow in the legs significantly, to a point where it could help stave off cardiovascular disease. Toe tapping was indeed enough to increase vascular health. This is groundbreaking information in a society in which, a lot of the time, people do not have the option to take breaks to stand up continuously during a long period of sitting.

The researchers want to make it clear, however, that fidgeting should not be used as a substitute for standing and walking around when breaks can be taken. Walking or standing has more overall cardiovascular benefits, and is therefore better for you in the long run. However, fidgeting is a good alternative in situations in which standing is not permitted. As they say, any sort of movement is better than none at all.  

from Derrick Alger | Medical News & Advocacy

Sharing Space, Realistically

TigerThe world is filled with millions of different creatures, many of them carnivorous. Humans, of course, occupy a large amount of space on Earth. However, we are not the only carnivores in existence. Conservation of wildlife is a chief concern in the world and, in order to conserve the lives of other carnivorous species, humans must learn how to effectively and safely coexist in the same space as other carnivores. Unfortunately, many larger carnivorous species cannot be contained to a preservation area, and are therefore put into dangerous situations when they encounter humans. A recently published study takes a look at how humans and other carnivores can peacefully occupy the same space.

The study was done in several different countries, with several different species, such as wolves and bears. The researchers were attempting to discover what factors could be changed to make humans and animals both respond less aggressively when encountering the other. Both would have to adapt. The researchers found that there is an inherent capability of each species to adapt to inhabitants of the other. For example, animal carnivores are able to adapt to living in landscapes that have been altered by humans. Likewise, humans have shown they have the capability of getting used to sharing land with carnivores, whether it means changing the way they look after livestock, or altering cultural practices to make room for other animals.

These adaptations, however, are nonexistent in several parts of the world. People living in areas more populated by humans, such as cities, never have to interact with carnivorous wildlife. This results in undesirable interactions between said wildlife and humans if and when they ever do interact. The initial reaction of humans to such conflict is to eliminate it altogether. We build cities in which carnivorous wildlife only exist in zoos. We ensure that we never encounter animals like wolves and bears in our daily lives.

Researchers on this projects have found that this is one of the worst possible approaches. Unfortunately, when risk is decreased by humans, so are the populations of several different species. Instead, this study suggests that we should focus on how to reduce conflict rather than eliminate it altogether. We therefore have to discover what exactly breeds conflict between humans and wild animals and work on reducing the factors to the best of our ability.

This study is a rude awakening in a world full of people concerned about wildlife, yet unsure how to make more room for other species. I believe that more research can show just how humans and wildlife can peacefully live on the same land by making changes to reduce conflict.

from Derrick Alger

Technology and Nature

FlowersFor every national park, there is a team of rangers constantly working to protect animals, nature, and human visitors. For every natural phenomenon and species of vegetation, there is a nature researcher looking to learn more. The thing these two groups have in common is, of course, nature. However, they also share the fact that they are becoming more and more reliant on modern technology to help them do their jobs. Gone are the days in which such ‘naturalists’ walked around with their wits and a notebook. Now, researchers spend as much, if not more, time in front of a computer as they do in the field. Technology has provided rangers and researchers alike with unprecedented help in their fields. However, relying too much on technology may be harmful as much as it is helpful.

An example of a park ranger using technology is tagging a dangerous animal in order to track its movement. If the animal gets too close to a campsite, park rangers will know right away. This is an instance in which technology has greatly improved processes. There is less of a chance of incident or injury. For researchers, technology is used for things like tracking species in areas affected by global warming. Scientists get a sense of which species is able to exist in harsh temperatures, and how, without having to subject themselves to harsh conditions.

Unfortunately, the increased use of technology in natural fields has changed naturalist curriculum to be more technical. Ecology students, for example, are being taught mostly at computers instead of out in nature. The information researchers are collecting has changed, and not necessarily for the better. Reliance on technology in certain instances is completely rational, and even beneficial. However, using technology for basically everything is harmful to human observational skills and senses. Our scientists, if they continue to be taught with computers and to spend too much time with technology, will experience a withering of their direct observational skills and a dulling of senses.

The good news is that several programs are in existence to combat reliance on technology in the natural world. Most of these programs are not within the realms of professional science, however. Some examples of those who not only rely on, but revel in, direct observation are bird-watchers, plant enthusiasts, and tornado trackers. An official group in place to urge people back toward naturalism is Citizen Science, which encourages nature research through direct observation.

Technology has indeed shifted our relationship with nature, but that does not mean we cannot still be naturalists. While I advocate for using technology in some areas of nature, I truly believe that other information can be gathered just by observations with the five senses.

from Derrick Alger

Unnecessary Antibiotics

Antibiotics Antibiotics have developed the reputation of being a ‘cure-all’ in today’s society. Whenever a patient is feeling ill for more than a couple of days, his or her first request is to be put on antibiotics. This makes sense, of course. In today’s fast-paced world, people do not have the time to be sick for more than one or two days at a time. Feeling ill for a period any longer than that could result in missing work for more time than allowed, or simply not being able to complete daily responsibilities. Unfortunately, putting antibiotics up on a pedestal has had consequences. A new federal study was recently released that stated nearly 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessarily given to patients.

Antibiotics, since they have reached such an unreasonably high status, are being prescribed for many conditions that do not require any medication at all. These conditions mostly consist of respiratory issues that only last a short amount of time. For example, a patient with the common cold can request antibiotics if he or she is still experiencing symptoms a few days after its onset. Also, bronchitis is being treated more and more with antibiotics, as are ear and sinus infections.

This overuse of antibiotics can have detrimental effects on patients in the long run. It allows bacteria resistant to antibiotics to grow and flourish. Such bacteria is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year.

Those who investigated the misuse of antibiotics in the newly released study found that, out of their sample size, hundreds of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions were administered for every 1,000 people when respiratory conditions were present. With all other conditions, the number of unnecessary prescriptions was even higher.

Why is it that doctors are giving out antibiotics to those who do not need them? It is speculated that this is because the patients are asking for them. If a patient enters a doctor’s office and asks for antibiotics to feel better, doctors will prescribe them in order to satisfy the patient’s desires. However, doctors must take everything patient’s say with a grain of salt. Usually, when a patient is asking for antibiotics, he or she just wants something to alleviate the symptoms. There are ways to accomplish this besides antibiotics. More communication is necessary between doctors and patients to determine what is actually necessary.

Therefore, it is useful for doctors and patients alike to know what conditions require antibiotics, and which ones will get better without. For example, antibiotics are not useful in the treatment of the common cold, bronchitis, and viral infections.

from Derrick Alger | Medical News & Advocacy

Beneficial Bees

Honey beesThe outdoors is a beautiful place. Aside from being a place in which people can go to exercise, clear their minds, and truly get a chance to breathe, it is also a haven to animals and insects that help keep humanity alive. Unfortunately, not all species can withstand human intervention. For example, the worldwide population of bees has been very slowly dwindling in the past few years. This is tragic, and not just because bees are a beautiful part of the natural world. When most think about the death of bees, they imagine a world without honey. Sure, we get our honey from bees, but these creatures also provide so much more to our environment.

The honeybee population has begun to decline because of harmful pesticides used on plants. This has not been determined entirely as a fact, but it is the most logical explanation for the destruction of so many bee populations. The European Food Safety Authority did a study in which it discovered one harmful pesticide in particular being used on plants, called clothianidin. They have since banned this pesticide. Unfortunately, it is still used on many of the plants grown in the United States.

A world without bees is a dreary one. Think about it: bees pollinate. They do not just make pretty flowers grow, they also ensure the growth of several different types of vegetables that we consume daily. For example, bee pollination is essential to the growth of fruit such as apples, mangoes, pears, and strawberries. It is also necessary for the growth of vegetables such as eggplant, brussel sprouts, and broccoli. Without bees, there would be no vanilla, tomatoes, macadamia nuts, and avocadoes either!

This is not just a list of foods we eat, it can be equated to a large sum of money. Sure enough, bees are essential to the production of billions of dollars of food each year. When plants are not pollinated sufficiently, they suffer growth defects, which beings less money into the food industry in general. Poorly grown fruits and vegetables cannot be priced as highly, nor can they be sold as well.

Farmers need the revenue from the food they grow, just as we need the food they grow for essential nutrients. Bees are a necessary part of a healthy diet for all human beings. Therefore, it is time we take action against the products that are killing these bees. In order for bee populations to be able to regrow, the Environmental Protection Agency must place more strict restrictions on the pesticides being used on our food. Wholesome, natural food is so much better in the long run, after all.

from Derrick Alger

Warm Weather Festivals in Iowa

The weather is quickly warming up, and that means this is the perfect time to leave the house! Iowa is a beautiful place to be during the Spring and Summer simply for its abundant nature. People can go running outside, hiking, dog-walking, walking, and play outside sports as much as they want. However, there are other reasons to get out of the house besides exercise. For example, the state of Iowa hosts a number of incredible festivals during the Spring and summer months. Below, I have listed a few of my favorites. I encourage you to check them out!

Iowa Flower, Lawn, and Garden Show

Des Moines

This is a perfect event for someone who loves to grow plants. It features over 300 booths with people and companies selling things that help with flower-growing, lawns, and gardens. Landscaping is a focal point in this event. It is overall a great show to attend for those looking to spruce up their garden and home!

Spring Art Expose

Iowa City

This event is hosted by the University of Iowa Fine Arts Council, and it is both an exposition and a sale. If you go, you will find a number of gorgeous original works. They will be in the form of paintings, ceramics, woodworks, drawings, jewelry, and more. This event is free and is a must-see for anyone in the Iowa City area.

Craft Your Environment

Iowa City

Craft your environment is an event held at the Salvage Barn, and is all about the environment. This show hosts a number of artists and other craftspeople that incorporate recycling into their works. This event is complete with works of art, workshops, talks, and events for kids of all ages.

Pella Tulip Time


This is a flower festival celebrating Dutch heritage as the tulips sprout in this wonderful community. Pella transforms itself into a Norwegian town for three days, complete with architecture, Dutch food, and a large amount of history. It’s a lot cheaper than flying abroad, and just as transformative!

Flea Market, Antique, and Collectible Show


This is the largest show in the East of Iowa for a good reason. There are over 150 sellers that travel to the Jackson County Fairgrounds to sell their creations. It is a hot spot for antique collectors, and a beautiful place in which to spend an afternoon.

For more information on Spring and Summer festivals in the state of Iowa, check out FestivalNet.

from Derrick Alger