Exposure to Light Tied to Activity Level

Here’s another reason to strive for that corner office with a view: People who work in offices with windows actually move more during the day and sleep better at night, according to new research presented at SLEEP 2013, the 27th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.

Researchers looked at 49 day-shift workers, 27 of whom worked in windowless offices while the other 22 did have windows. They each wore a device that tracked their white light exposure (both from daylight and artificial light) and physical activity. The result: People who worked in a building with windows received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours. Plus, they slept an average of 46 minutes more per night and moved more than four times more than those who worked in a space without windows.

Can’t move to a desk with a view? No need to quit your day job: While you can get some white light exposure from artificial lighting used indoors, direct sunlight is always going to be your best bet, says study author Ivy Cheung, doctoral candidate at Northwestern University. So take your lunch outside instead of in front of your computer, or go for a quick walk around the block when you have a few free minutes. And then check out these tips for how to incorporate more movement into your workday—regardless of where the closest window is.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
Sitting Too Much? 
Workspace Rules: Dos and Don’ts
Stand Up For Your Health

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Coffee Intake Tied to Weight, Insulin Problems

Consider this before you go on an afternoon java run: Overdoing it with the coffee may promote weight gain, according to a new research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

For the animal study, Australian researchers divided mice into three groups. The first ate a normal diet, the second a high-fat diet, and the third a high-fat diet that contained a large amount of chlorogenic acid (CGA), a type of antioxidant found in coffee. Over the span of 12 weeks, the critters that ate the high-fat diet with CGA stored more fat and experienced increased glucose sensitivity and insulin resistance, precursors to type 2 diabetes, compared to the mice who ate a high-fat diet without the coffee compound. The results came as a surprise to researchers.

“Our hypothesis was that the coffee compound would reduce weight gain and improve insulin sensitivity,” says study co-author Kevin D. Croft, PhD, of The University of Western Australia School of Medicine and Pharmacology. ”Clearly this is not the case.”

Don’t break things off with Joe just yet, though. The mice in the study consumed doses of CGA equivalent to drinking five or six cups of coffee per day, says Croft. Previous research has shown that consuming CGA in moderation can reduce blood pressure, increase insulin resistance, and—here’s the kicker—even prevent weight gain. While researchers are unsure why the opposite is true at high doses, they believe that excessive CGA intake may hinder the body’s ability to process and use fat.

To reap coffee’s health benefits without increasing your poundage, limit yourself to three or four cups of coffee a day, says Croft. Keep in mind, though, that a cup is eight ounces. Suck down a Trenta from Starbucks, and you’ve already hit your max for the day.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
Coffee Myths Busted
How Much Sugar is in Your Coffee?
The Best Coffee Brands

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Sunlight Tied to Heart Health

Just as the sun is finally starting to peek out after a long, cold winter (bet you almost started questioning its existence for a while there!), a controversial new study says its rays might be heart-healthy: Sunlight exposure may cause lowered blood pressure—which may in turn reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to research presented last week at the International Investigative Dermatology conference in Edinburgh.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh placed participants under tanning lamps for 20 minutes and measured their blood pressure during their lamp exposure and for an hour afterward. The researchers then repeated the experiment, but covered the participants in a foil blanket. Both groups’ blood pressure fell immediately after the sun exposure—but the ones who weren’t covered in the blanket had reduced blood pressure levels 30 minutes afterward, as well. Senior author Richard Weller, MD, a senior lecturer in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh, believes they got these results because of a compound called nitric oxide, which can be released from our skin into our bloodstream when we’re exposed to UV light, possibly causing a decrease in blood pressure.

Weller says more research needs to be done to determine if a long-term drop in blood pressure could come about as a result of UV exposure. “What I’ve shown is an interesting mechanism by which sunlight might prove to have big general health benefits, but it’s not proven,” says Weller. “We want to find the amount of UV that will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke but won’t increase the risk of skin cancer. But for the moment, the advice remains what it’s always been.”

That last part is key: These study results are in no way (none, zip, zero) a go-ahead to ignore your dermatologist’s sun safety recommendations.

You should continue to follow the same guidelines you’re already familiar with:  Avoid the midday sun, wear an SPF 50 or higher, reapply sunscreen when you’re outside (remember it’s not waterproof!), and shade your face with hats and sunglasses, says Michele S. Green, MD, a New York City dermatologist who was not involved in the study. “I don’t want people in a tanning bed under any circumstances,” she says.

You should also note this: These researchers are interested in a risk-benefit ratio for the population—overall, more people die from cardiovascular disease than skin cancer.  But for you, that should be a moot point: You should already be working to keep your blood pressure down the good old-fashioned ways: by eating well, exercising, and never, ever smoking.

Check out these links on sun safety and exercising outdoors—so you can work on your cardiovascular health and reap the health benefits of nature (even with that sunscreen slathered on):

The Best Sunscreen Products

7 Reasons to Take Your Workout Outdoors

Sunscreen Myths Busted

Fun Outdoor Workouts

Sunscreen Questions Answered

The Top 10 Nature Runs in the United States


photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
5 Steps to a Healthy Heart
The Truth About Heart Disease
Heart Health: Numbers to Know

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