Health & Fitness

The dangers of time off from exercise

The star of the syndicated comic strip “Garfield” is a big, funny, lazy orange cat of the same name. In one installment, Garfield’s owner, Jon, tells him: “We’re going on a run.” In the next frame, the cat is still flat on his back, arms by his side. His thought bubble reads: “I’m going for a just-lie-here.”

Sometimes a just-lie-here is what’s needed. But new research shows that if you take a few extra days off from your regular exercising, you could be risking your health. For a study presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity, researchers had 28 healthy, physically active adults who usually get at least 10,000 steps a day cut down their activity level by 80 percent. For two weeks they got only around 1,500 steps daily – with no reduction in calorie intake. That sedentary time off produced measurable metabolic changes that put the participants at risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases. They also lost muscle mass and added body fat, especially in the abdomen, a big risk factor for everything from cancer to heart disease.

So don’t let circumstances stop you from staying active. If you usually swim but can’t get to the pool, walk. Usually walk but it’s too hot outside? Use the treadmill at the gym. Your goal: 10,000 steps or the equivalent daily (one minute of activity equals about 100 steps), plus 20 minutes of aerobic activity three days a week, along with two to three 30-minute strength-building sessions and 40 jumps a day.

Dental health and obesity

In season 18 of “The Simpsons,” as Bart leaves the dentist’s office, the hygienist hands him a gift bag, saying, “Here’s a free toothbrush! Keep those teeth clean!” He looks into the bag and responds: “So you’re saying I should do your job for you, at home, for free? You wish!” He drops the bag in the trash.

We know you would never do that. There are plenty of reasons to keep that bag, besides free stuff. One is that there’s a link between dental disease and obesity. In a new study published in Oral Diseases, researchers found that those who were obese had a nearly six times higher chance of serious gum infection. This may be because obese people often have higher levels of inflammation, and inflammation increases the likelihood of gum disease. Plus, gum disease is linked to heart disease and diabetes. In fact, nearly 22 percent of folks with diabetes also have periodontal disease. And past studies have shown that gum disease worsens glucose control and makes it more likely that you’ll develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

So if you’re carrying extra weight, make sure to see your dentist at least twice a year, and brush twice and floss at least once a day.

Sweets and cancer

In 1949, when Candy Land supplanted Uncle Wiggily as Milton Bradley’s top-selling board game, the U.S. was on track to becoming the largest consumer of candy in the world.

These days, Americans spend billions of dollars annually on candy, consuming 22 pounds per person. And overall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that in 2015, each American consumed more than 75 pounds of refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and/or other sweeteners.

Seventy-five pounds of added sugar and sugar syrup is known to cause obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney and joint woes, dementia, a lousy sex life and more. And now a new study out of the University of Texas, Dallas, has found that certain kinds of cancers are sugar-crazed, too. Squamous cell cancers of the lungs, head and neck, esophagus and cervix thrive on consuming glucose, say the researchers. (The U.S. ranks No. 6 in the world in cancer cases, with 318 per 100,000 people; the world average is 182.)

Although more studies are needed to show how consuming blood-sugar-boosting added sugars, sugar syrups and simple carbs invites cancer to take hold, or if avoiding added sugars and syrups will slow cancer progression, we say: “Why wait? Ditch them now!” And if you’re craving a sweet treat: Try eating 1 ounce of 70 percent cacao dark chocolate per day. It’s loaded with anti-inflammatory flavonoids, has a good dose of magnesium and copper, is good for your circulation and raises your level of healthy HDL cholesterol.

Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen is chief wellness officer and chairman of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.