Health & Fitness

Smokers may have higher risk for ALS

Smoking cigarettes may increase the risk of developing the rare muscle-wasting disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, according to a study published in Archives of Neurology.

Researchers, led by Hao Wang at the Harvard School of Public Health, found that current smokers had a 42 percent increased risk of developing the disease and former smokers had a 44 percent increased risk.

The longer people smoked and the more cigarettes they smoked per day increased the risk, the study found.

Previous studies have suggested that smoking may be a risk factor for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, but they involved a small number of participants or were conflicting. This study analyzed data from five different long-term studies involving more than 1 million people, 832 of whom developed ALS.

The risk of developing ALS might be caused by damage to neurons from nitric oxide or other components of cigarette smoke (such as pesticide residue), the authors wrote. Chemicals in cigarette smoke also generate free radicals and by-products such as formaldehyde that are associated with the disease.

—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Make exercise more appealing to kids

Family walks, bike rides and backyard sports games are great, but there are many ways to make fitness appealing to kids.

"You are only limited by your own imagination," says Rogenia David, owner of My Gym Children's Fitness Center of Hampton Roads in Newport News, Va. "Once kids get going, it's hard to stop them." A few ideas:

* Turn chores into games. How fast can your child sweep all the "evil monsters" — the dirt and crumbs — off the kitchen floor? How many stray socks can he find by sprinting all over the house and squatting down to look under each bed? How many bags of leaves can he fill in 30 minutes of backyard racing?

* Sign up for a race. Jogging around the neighborhood tends to be more fun if you're getting in shape for a fundraising event such as a charity 5K or one-mile fun run.

* Use commercial breaks. Whenever a favorite show is on, have each child plan and lead an exercise during one of the breaks. You also can just turn on some upbeat music and dance.

* Make walks more entertaining. Turn your regular route into an obstacle course by jumping over fences, running up and down stairs or balancing on rocks. And learn which streets have cute dogs and cats to see — that's always a child-pleaser.

* Create cool indoor games. For example, take a pair of dice from a board game, pick an exercise — jumping jacks, sit-ups or push-ups are good ones — and roll the dice to see how many of the moves to do. Or blow up balloons and see how long your kids can keep them aloft by hitting them with one assigned body part (head, elbow, knee, etc.).

—Newport New Daily Press