Day: December 3, 2020


8 Fitness Gift Cards For Your Virtual Workout Crew

The new year is so close we can taste it. Only thing is, we’re not so sure how 2021 is going to satiate our annual wellness-resolution cravings. If you’re also missing good-old-fashioned group fitness classes (you know, the overpriced ones awash in dim lighting and bumpin’ tunes), then we’ve got a sweaty stand-in for you and your workout crew — one that also happens to make A+ holiday material: the virtual-fitness gift card.

Since 2020 has shifted life as we know it, we’ve swapped cramped studio rooms and nearly-impossible-to-book classes for streaming computer screens and down-dogging it in our living rooms. And, you know what? We are actually feeling our new in-house workout clubs where the classes are never overcrowded and the subway never stops us from making it on time. So, in celebration of continuing to get physical come 2021, we’ve rounded up every awesome virtual-fitness gift we could dig up ahead — including everything from Classpass to trendy resistance-based training and beyond. Grab your sculpting leggings and tell Alexa to put on Olivia Newton-John.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

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The best medicine for 2020: The Finger Awards by Comedy for Change

If laughter is the best medicine, the Finger Awards sponsored by the organization Comedy for Change will be particularly welcome this year.The awards will be presented in a virtual ceremony as part of the British Television conference. It will be broadcast live on December 4 on Content London at 4 p.m. GMT.“We had over 100 candidates this year and we are going to give a special award for COVID-19 projects. There are some surprisingly strong candidates from Vietnam, Bahrain, and Pakistan,” said Omri Marcus, the director of the competition and the founder of Comedy for Change, which spotlights comedy that is both funny and enlightening.British comedian and former TV executive Cally Beaton will host Friday’s online ceremony. Beaton has incredibly funny Twitter and Instagram feeds, which are worth checking out if you need something to laugh about.Ricky Gervais will receive an award for his contribution to comedy, an honor he will likely refer to as “getting the Finger.”Among this year’s finalists are “Medical Bill Art,” a clip from by MSCHF that shows medical bills made into paintings, which were sold for over $73,000 in order to pay, what else? – medical bills.“Naked Ballots” by RepresentUS in the US features naked celebrities – including Sarah Silverman, Josh Gad and Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat (who actually appears fully clothed) – urging voters to mail in their ballots right away.

Other finalists’ clips lampoon the coronavirus crisis, including a Vietnamese film that features the Corona Dance, which raises awareness of the need for hand washing, and “Stay at Home” from Bahrain, which features pajama-clad people who have won medals for performing mundane tasks at home.Marcus was a writer on the comedy series Eretz Nehederet when he was in his early 20s and has written for and created several comic and reality series. He is also the head of Screenz Originals, a global company that creates entertainment-driven, interactive customer experiences, and he volunteers as head of publicity for Eye from Zion, a humanitarian organization that performs free surgeries in Third World countries. The organization, established by his father in 2007, has saved the sight of hundreds of people (mainly children) around the world.His motto is, “Changing the world, one joke at a time.”

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Examining ancient healers in ‘The Invention of Medicine: From Homer to Hippocrates’

Raquel Aparicio for The Boston Globe

Doctors still invoke the Hippocratic Oath, which classics scholar Robin Lane Fox refers to as “the essential ethic of Western medicine” (although, as he characteristically points out, its actual links to Hippocrates are “eminently questionable”). As his new book, “The Invention of Medicine: From Homer to Hippocrates,” makes clear, these roots run deep.

As far back as we look in Western literature, we find doctors and medicine. Medical reflections litter the writings of Herodotus and Thucydides, and in the world of Homer doctors were so prized that the Greeks’ main doctor, Machaon, is considered by the Trojans to be a high-value target. These were the professionals, the men who made the ritual propitiations, read and interpreted the signs, and even sometimes got their hands bloody with actual injuries and disorders.

And it isn’t just these characters, it’s Homer himself. Anyone who’s ever read the many action sequences in the Iliad will have a vivid recollection of how gruesomely specific the poet could be when describing the violent deaths of his characters. The author of the Iliad may not have known about germ theory, but he certainly knew all the specific ways a spear could rip out your spleen.

“‘Doctor Homer’ continues to be discovered by surgeons and pathologists,” Lane Fox writes. “They count and tabulate Homeric wounds as data (53 in heads and necks or 54 thoracic, of which 70.17 per cent are fatal …) and continue to claim Homer as a surgeon like themselves.”

“The Invention of Medicine” is in part a very erudite detective story in which the author uses the tools of archeology and philology to shed light on a “remarkable doctor and thinker” who was active around the Hellespont in the last years of the fifth century BCE, a figure whose travels and insights are reflected in some of the documents of the Hippocratic Corpus of ancient medical lore. “Among his patients, our doctor attended citizens whose names match the names of men known to have been at the very top of their local society,” Lane Fox writes. “Such people could admit him, lodge him and pay for him, although his text never mentions fees.”

But these textual investigations are likely of more interest to Lane Fox’s fellow classicists than they are to the general reader, who’ll tend to be far more absorbed in the other major narrative strand that runs through the book: the excavation of the early, groping history of medicine as a craft.

We see these beginnings reflected in little shards and moments drawn from the Epidemics, a mid-first century BCE collection of medical knowledge. We see murky mysticism doing its best to fill the role that systematic science would perform 20 centuries later; we see raw practicalities offering some definitive answers but virtually nothing in the way of comfort; we see, looking out at us everywhere from these ancient records, the cases and sometimes even the names of long-dead sufferers, and, thanks to Lane Fox’s

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Why You Shouldn’t Set New Year’s Fitness Resolutions

NY running goals

I wish I could say that I’m immune to the allure of setting New Year’s resolutions. But I think just about as long as I can remember, I’ve set some kind of goal come the first week of January. And like so many who make a list of wishes and goals, I set at least one fitness-related resolution.

For the last five years or so, one of these goals (if not more) has been centered around running: run a 10K, then a half marathon, then a full marathon, then get faster, qualify for international races — the list goes on. Some of these goals I’ve attained, others I haven’t. But as the year ends and it comes dangerously close to the time to make new goals, I find myself less than enthusiastic about setting any fitness goals — namely running goals — for 2021.

There’s, of course, the practical reason: we simply don’t know what will happen in the coming months, so setting goals tied to organized racing seems impractical. But beyond that, there’s the mental weight of it all. Typically, setting my New Year’s fitness goals is fun for me. I’ve spent a whole year working toward my goals and I’ll spend the next working toward the new ones.

However, I’ve learned to adjust to canceled races, a fully remote work life that’s caused me to adapt my home into a fitness studio, a living space, and an office, and socially distanced runs where I actively try to avoid others — not to mention a forced training break. I’m not the same runner who sat down this time last year with a laundry list of boxes to check off. I’m not faster. In fact, I’m much, much slower. I didn’t run a single race this year — a first for me in eight years. I haven’t been able to tick off any of my “big” goals for the sport.

I’m a runner that’s no longer motivated by setting PRs at races, collecting medals, and sub four-hour marathons. Sure, those will still be things that I strive for one day long in the future. But not now. Instead, I’m a runner who just misses her sport. Like so many, I’ve had to take a break from the thing I love. While there have been some highs (no one likes a 20-mile training run, trust me), there have also been some lows. Seeing what you love no longer look like it once did is hard. At first I thought it was just my training plans that were changing, but I soon realized that it was me who was really changing.

Running, in some capacity, will always be there for me if I seek it out. The way in which I enjoy my sport and the milestones that surround it may look different, but the consistency and mental clarity that lacing up my trainers and running gives me will always be there — with or without a marathon on the calendar.


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COVID-19 Update: Medicine Hat passes mandatory mask bylaw | 1,685 new cases, 10 deaths

a person standing in front of a sunset: Araleigh Cranch adjusts her mask watching the sunset on Crescent Hill as the province announced plans for vaccines starting in January in Calgary on Wednesday, December 2, 2020.

© Provided by Calgary Herald
Araleigh Cranch adjusts her mask watching the sunset on Crescent Hill as the province announced plans for vaccines starting in January in Calgary on Wednesday, December 2, 2020.

With news on COVID-19 happening rapidly, we’ve created this page to bring you our latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Calgary.

What’s happening now

How have you been impacted by COVID-19?

Postmedia is looking to speak with people who may have been impacted by the growing second wave of COVID-19 here in Alberta. Do you have a child or teen who caught COVID-19? Are you a front-line worker? Send us an email at [email protected] to tell us your experience, or send us a message via this form .

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WHO looks at possible ‘e-vaccination certificates’ for travel

a close up of a painted wall:  This file photo taken on February 24, 2020 shows the logo of the World Health Organization (WHO) at their headquarters in Geneva.

This file photo taken on February 24, 2020 shows the logo of the World Health Organization (WHO) at their headquarters in Geneva.

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend countries issuing “immunity passports” for those who have recovered from COVID-19, but is looking at prospects of deploying e-vaccination certificates like those it is developing with Estonia.

Estonia and the United Nations health agency in October started a pilot project for a digital vaccine certificate – a “smart yellow card” – for eventual use in interoperable healthcare data tracking and to strengthen the WHO-backed COVAX initiative to boost vaccinations in developing countries.

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Health Canada to finish review on Pfizer vaccine candidate soon, federal govt. says

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Canada is drawing closer to making a decision on a leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Wednesday as the federal government continued to face pressure to deliver on doses amid mounting cases and deaths.

In a series of Twitter messages, Hajdu described the United Kingdom’s decision to authorize the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech as “encouraging.”

“Health Canada’s review of this candidate is ongoing, and is expected to be completed soon,” she wrote.

“Making sure a COVID-19 vaccine is safe before approving it is Health Canada’s priority, and when a vaccine is ready, Canada will be ready.”

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Hockey team that picked up COVID in Alberta wreaks havoc in B.C. community

a person wearing a suit and tie:  File photo of B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

File photo of B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

An old-timers hockey team travelled from the Interior Health region into Alberta and returned with sick players, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday.

Those players then spread the disease to dozens of people, including family and workmates.

“I can tell you that it was several dozen families that were infected. Several businesses affected, long-term care was affected,” said Henry.

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Medicine Hat passes mandatory mask bylaw

a sign in front of a brick building:  Medicine Hat’s welcome sign sits on the east side of the city on Wednesday, August 22, 2012.

© Postmedia Archives
Medicine Hat’s welcome sign sits on the east side of the city on Wednesday, August 22, 2012.

Medicine Hat city council passed a mandatory face covering bylaw on Wednesday night.

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Development of new stem cell type may lead to advances in regenerative medicine


IMAGE: Drs. Jun Wu, Leqian Yu, Yulei Wei and colleagues isolated a new type of pluripotent stem cell from mice, horses, and humans, named XPSCs, which are capable of generating chimeras…
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Credit: Photo illustration by Leqian Yu

DALLAS – Dec. 3, 2020 – A team led by UT Southwestern has derived a new “intermediate” embryonic stem cell type from multiple species that can contribute to chimeras and create precursors to sperm and eggs in a culture dish.

The findings, published online this week in Cell Stem Cell, could lead to a host of advances in basic biology, regenerative medicine, and reproductive technology.

Cells in early embryos have a range of distinct pluripotency programs, all of which endow the cells to create various tissue types in the body, explains study leader Jun Wu, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular biology. A wealth of previous research has focused on developing and characterizing “naïve” embryonic stem cells (those about four days post-fertilization in mice) and “primed” epiblast stem cells (about seven days post-fertilization in mice, shortly after the embryo implants into the uterus).

However, says Wu, there’s been little progress in deriving and characterizing pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) that exist between these two stages – largely because researchers have not been able to develop a paradigm for maintaining cells in this intermediate state. Cells in this state have been thought to possess unique properties: the ability to contribute to intraspecies chimeras (organisms that contain a mix of cells from different individuals of the same species) or interspecies chimeras (organisms that contain a mix of cells from different species) and the ability to differentiate into primordial germ cells in culture, the precursors to sperm and eggs.

For this study, the researchers successfully created intermediate PSCs, which they named “XPSCs” from mice, horses, and humans.

Wu says that these results could eventually lead to an array of advances in both basic and applied research. For example, looking at gene activity in XPSCs from different species and interspecies chimeras could help researchers understand which signatures have been conserved through evolution. Examining the communication between cells in chimeras may help scientists identify strategies that could be used to accelerate the development of tissues and organs from stem cells used for transplantation. And using chimera-derived primordial germ cells to create sperm and eggs could aid in preserving endangered animal species and advancing infertility treatments.

“These XPSCs have enormous potential. Our study helps open the door to each of these possibilities,” says Wu, who is a Virginia Murchison Linthicum Scholar in Medical Research.

Wu notes that developing XPSCs presented a special challenge because the conditions that keep naïve PSCs in a stable state are exactly the opposite from those that stabilize primed PSCs. While culture conditions for naïve PSCs must activate a WNT cell-signaling pathway and suppress the FGF and TGF-ß pathways, the conditions to maintain primed PSCs must suppress WNT and activate FGF and TGF-ß.

Aiming for the preferred environment for XPSC derivation, Wu and his

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Onnit’s Chief Fitness Officer Discovered His ‘Non-Negotiables’ in 2020

This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of Men’s Health.

Onnit Chief Fitness Officer John Wolf shares some of the most important lessons he's learned while adjusting to the challenges that arose in 2020.

© Kyle Hilton
Onnit Chief Fitness Officer John Wolf shares some of the most important lessons he’s learned while adjusting to the challenges that arose in 2020.

JOHN WOLF’S job is all about thinking in new ways to break away from conventions—but 2020 was still an unprecedented challenge for him.

The man tasked with leading the fitness curriculum at Onnit, the company behind some of the most unconventional, versatile workout gear on the market, had to adjust the ways he approaches both his work and family.

He wound up building stronger connections than ever before.

Now, in his own words, Wolf shares the lessons he’s learned through a period that was challenging and isolating—but which ultimately led to deeper connections and a renewed sense of focus.

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I think fitness is taking on a little more of a mental-emotional aspect during this pandemic. It is a thing that people have doubled down on in a variety of different ways, but it looks and feels so much different than it did before.

The availability of the equipment is a big issue these days. It’s forced kind of a Spartan and minimalist mindset, like, ‘How creative do I have to be to get the job done?’

Some of the coaching I’ve gone through for personal improvement is what I lean on in this larger group environment because it’s not like everybody looks the same. Not everybody has the same interests—except for everybody feels that they’re alone, to some degree, that their circumstances are uniquely theirs … Then through breaking down the barriers in the group, and me also being vulnerable to my experiences live and being forthright with them about those things, hoping that we’re facilitating an environment where people realize okay, the circumstances might all be really different, but the subjective experience that we’re all having is very consistent as human beings.

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In this day and age, right now, the sense of feeling seen and feeling heard—to feel validated on some platform in some way—takes on a greater meaning and grander meaning than it ever has before… That’s really the biggest message, you show up here and you are seen and you are heard, and that even just that the act of showing up is enough to participate.

If it’s a nice day, we create a space where we can go for an hour-long walk as a pack. Walking together creates either quiet time, being around each other, being okay being quiet, and/or the perfect storm, the perfect opportunity to be able to converse about things that matter and observe the world around us at a tempo where there’s actually time to see something. You drive down the same street, you don’t see the detail on that flower. You might not even notice that those flowers bloomed between yesterday and today.

If you’re

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Health data company expands in Stamford as demand grows for genetic research and personal medicine

Sema4, a health data research company, announced Thursday it opened a 70,000-square foot building in Stamford with more than 300 workers processing genomic tests, its third site in Connecticut to keep pace with growing demand for data-driven health care.

The Stamford laboratory complements Sema4 1/4 u2032s Branford lab that was expanded earlier this year and its headquarters, also in Stamford.

The new Sema4 lab replaces one in New York City, providing additional capacity to support genomic testing and expand digital health services. With its Stamford and Branford labs, Sema4 will increase its ability to provide health information across several thousand genetically identifiable diseases to patients.

Eric Schadt, founder and chief executive of Sema4, said the new Stamford site will be a hub for research and development for predictive modeling and information-driven testing.

In addition to lab employees, the Stamford facility also has capacity for 100 genetic counselors, bioinformatics specialists and support service staff. Sema4 has more than 500 employees in Connecticut across its two lab facilities and Stamford headquarters. Its workforce has quadrupled over the last three years.

Sema4 also maintains an office in New York City.

The company’s growth reflects rapid advances in personal medicine and genomics, which focuses on sequencing and analyzing an organism’s genome, the DNA content in a cell.

The state announced in 2018 a $6 million loan to Sema4 to move its New York City laboratory to Connecticut and create 400 jobs. “We were kind of busting at the seams,” Schadt said at the time.

In Connecticut, Sema4 is part of an expanding cluster of medical technology companies, such as Arvinas, a New Haven cancer pharmaceutical company, and the Guilford medical device company Butterfly Network.

Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected]


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Fitbit Versa 3 review: A happy medium of health features and fitness tracking


  • Up to six days’ battery life
  • Bright, always-on AMOLED display
  • Advanced sleep tracking
  • Onboard GPS
  • Mic and speaker for text dictation

Don’t Like

  • Relies heavily on mobile app
  • Slow to sync
  • Health metrics are hard to find
  • Notification replies are Android-only

The Fitbit Versa 3 is Fitbit’s best smartwatch for most people. With an always-on display, built-in GPS, blood oxygen and temperature tracking during sleep, and a battery that lasts six days, the Versa 3 holds its own against some of its pricier competitors like the Apple Watch SE and even the Fitbit Sense. While you don’t get the stress tracker and FDA-cleared electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) like the Sense, the rest of the Versa 3’s smartwatch and fitness features are similar. As an added bonus, the Versa 3 costs $100 less than the Sense.

Better design all-around 

The Versa 3 still has the same square-ish watch body and metal frame as its predecessor the Versa 2, but it now has a larger 1.58-inch AMOLED screen with slimmer bezels. It’s bright, crisp and easy to see in direct sunlight. It can stay always-on (as a toned-down version with fewer metrics displayed) to give you a quick glance at the time without moving your wrist. And since Fitbit supports third-party watch faces, you have hundreds of different options to choose from. 

Despite its aesthetic improvements, the touchscreen and Fitbit interface still aren’t as responsive as what you’d get on an Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch, which also have AMOLED screens. The Versa 3 lags a bit between swipes and takes a while to load apps and display information.

Instead of a physical button on the side of the watch like its predecessors, the Versa 3 now has an indented haptic side button. In theory, this works exactly like a real button, but the haptic feedback is nowhere near as satisfying as pressing a real button and it takes some getting used to. 

Fortunately, not all the design changes have a learning curve. Fitbit has also overhauled the strap mechanism on the Versa 3 and now all you have to do to swap out bands is press a button. It’s so much easier than previous models, which had a tiny, fiddly clasp.



Better training tools for fitness tracking

At this point it’s safe to assume most Fitbit devices can handle your basic fitness-tracking needs, measuring steps, distance, calories burned and heart rate. The Versa 3 covers the basics well and has the same fitness features as the more expensive Sense. It tracks 20 different activities including indoor and outdoor swimming and has automatic workout detection for some exercise types like running if you forget to start a session. 

It’s also the first Versa smartwatch to have built-in GPS, although not the first Fitbit, as the Charge 4 and Sense also have built-in GPS. As a runner, not having GPS on earlier Versa models

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Thanks To The UN, Cannabis Is Now Officially A ‘Medicine’ & People Are Like ‘Der Aaye Par Durust Aaye’

The entire hullabaloo around drugs and narcotics has put a fair section of Indian youth at an edge. Times have been pretty unpredictable for those who like to take the ‘high’ ground (pun intended) in the way they lead their lives. With the authorities taking a good sniff at the many “underground” drug cartels operating in the country, talk about drugs and narcotics even as means of laughter can be pretty risky

a man talking on a cell phone: © Pexels

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But, you know us. None of that can stop us from reporting on real ‘developments’ that are happening out there. And the most recent news is that cannabis is now officially a medicine. We already know that cannabis has been used therapeutically for thousands of years, but it was today that a historic vote at the United Nations finally recognised the medicinal value of cannabis and removed it from a list of dangerous drugs which are placed under the strictest controls.

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The vote was made after experts at the World Health Organisation recommended that the UN’s Commission for Narcotic Drugs remove cannabis from an international list of dangerous drugs which are discouraged from being used for medicinal purposes. But there’s still a catch. While it’s recognised as a medicine, the UN stated that it still remains banned for non-medical use.

Yet, this sure comes as a welcome news for those who have been rallying for such a reform for a while now. So let’s check out what people have to say about it.

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