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Why Is Europe Keeping Its Schools Open, Despite New Lockdowns?

BERLIN — When Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the latest round of restrictions on public life, she named bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, gyms and tattoo parlors as institutions that would be forced to close. But missing from the list released on Wednesday were schools and day care centers — among the first to be shuttered in the spring lockdown.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron also said on Wednesday that schools would be exempt from wide-reaching nationwide restrictions that are to take effect beginning Friday. Ireland also allowed schools to remain open despite a nationwide lockdown that went into effect earlier this month.

Not everyone is happy with the decisions, but policymakers are taking extra precautions to reduce the risk in schools, from mask requirements for teachers and pupils, to regular airing of classrooms, to split use of schoolyards during breaks. They say they are applying hard-learned lessons from months of fighting the pandemic, and are prepared to change directions if things take a turn for the worse.

Micheal Martin, the Irish prime minister, said that while his country could no longer avoid restrictions, despite the detrimental impact on the economy, it was vital that schools remained open.

“We cannot and will not allow our children and young people’s futures to be another victim of this disease,” Mr. Martin said in a national address. “They need their education.”

Around the world, there is mounting concern that the pandemic is doing lasting harm to the academic and emotional development of an entire generation of children.

Earlier this month, the German conference of ministers of culture, who are responsible for coordinating education policy, stressed children’s right to an education, which they said is best served among peers, in classrooms. “This must take highest priority in making all decisions about restrictive measures that need to be taken,” the minister said.

In making her announcement, Ms. Merkel cited another reason that maintaining access to schools was important, pointing to the “dramatic social consequences” that closing schools and day care centers had on families during the lockdown in March and April.

“To name it clearly: Violent assaults against women and children increased dramatically,” Ms. Merkel said, justifying her government’s decision to halt sports, cultural events and close restaurants instead. “It is important to bear in mind the social consequences if we have to intervene in these issues.”

Keeping children at home often made it hard for parents — especially mothers — to devote their divided attention to work.

Medical experts point to many things they now know that were unknown back in the spring: with proper precautions, the rate of coronavirus transmission in schools is relatively low, especially among the youngest students; children who do get infected tend to have mild symptoms; and measures like mask-wearing, social distancing and air circulation are more effective than they had predicted.

But that does not mean open schools are risk-free. While schools are not known to have been a major

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fitness

PowerUp Fitness keeping students in virtual learning fit during COVID-19 pandemic

PowerUp Fitness is usually in schools, teaching students about shapes, colors and even geometry. But COVID-19 meant they’d have to pivot to online teaching.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Evelyn Price is four years old and serious about two things: drawing pictures of dogs and staying active while learning from home. 

Price’s family is one of more than 2,000 participating in PowerUp Fitness, a school-based physical learning program across hundreds of schools in East Tennessee and throughout the U.S. 

A global pandemic forced what would typically happen in the school gym online.

Evelyn and her mom Alicia use virtual fitness learning videos from Power Up,
a local program helping students learn while being active in school.

“All of our programs are academic, whether it’s ABC’s or geometry,” founder Stacy Baugues said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic means educators need to take different approaches towards keeping kids active. Instead of typical activities, on-demand virtual videos to keep virtual students like Evelyn up and moving.

“Families can pick videos based on age or academic integration,” Baugues said. 

She said that is important to combat learning loss, but it’s also important to keep kids moving in a time when many are learning from home. Experts said that she is not wrong. 

Since the pandemic began, studies everywhere from the University of California to the National Library of Medicine show kids are less active right now and Baugues said there are ways communities can change that.

“They can have lots of fun and get moving and get learning together,” she said.

That is something that is important for Evelyn’s mom, Alicia, too.

“While the pandemic is a very stressful time this helps bring some light to it quite frankly,” she said. 

Power Up Fitness is currently offered in several East Tennessee schools like Oak Ridge and Lenoir City. Families can also find it at the YMCA and Centro Hispano.

RELATED: Students leap into learning at Lenoir City Elementary with PowerUp Fitness

RELATED: Keeping Kids Connected: Top 5 helpful study apps and websites for students

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health

For joint pain, keeping active can be effective

Osteoarthritis is the most common type, and it happens when the cartilage in the joint breaks down and the surrounding bone develops inflammation. Osteoarthritis becomes more common with age, but you don’t have to just grit your teeth and suffer through it, says Jason McDougall, a professor at Dalhousie University in Canada who specializes in arthritis and pain research.

An array of strategies are available for treating joint pain, ranging from physical therapy to pain medications, injections and surgery, but one of the most effective ways to manage joint discomfort is one that can seem counterintuitive: Keep moving.

If you’re feeling pain in your joints, you might be inclined to lay off them, but that’s one of the worst things you can do, says A. Lynn Millar, a physical therapist and fellow emeritus at the American College of Sports Medicine.

It’s a vicious cycle — it hurts, so you stop moving the area that’s painful, but “immobilization actually causes deterioration in the joints,” Millar says. Hence the saying among physical therapists, “Motion is lotion.” Movement brings nutrients to the joints and keeps them healthy, Millar says. “Everyone wants a magic bullet,” she says, and physical activity is the closest thing we have.

Even if you’ve had an X-ray or MRI that shows arthritic changes in your joint, that shouldn’t dissuade you from exercising. “Your structure isn’t your destiny,” says Greg Lehman, a Toronto-based physiotherapist, chiropractor and clinical educator in physiotherapy.

Turns out, the findings on an imaging test aren’t a good indicator of pain, he says. Imagine going to a ski area and finding all the people 50 and older who were skiing around enjoying themselves. Lehman says that if you gave these skiers a scan of their knees and hips, the “vast majority of them” would have structural changes in their knee and hips without even knowing about it.

For a 2012 study, researchers took MRIs of the knees of 710 people 50 and older and found that nearly 90 percent had at least one feature of osteoarthritis on the MRI, irrespective of whether they had knee pain.

An X-ray or MRI is not a good indicator of whether someone has pain, Lehman says. “It’s not that those changes you can see in a joint or tendon or muscle are irrelevant,” he says, but they are not very good at predicting how someone feels or what they can do.

Joint pain is complicated, and it’s not just about what’s going on with your bones and ligaments, but also how your nervous system is interpreting the signals it’s receiving.

Chemical mediators, such as enzymes and neuropeptides, released into the joint when someone has arthritis can sensitize the nerve endings around it to make them more active than normal. “These signals are translated by the brain as pain,” McDougall says.

Researchers are just starting to characterize the different kinds of chemical mediators that might be involved in these pain signals, he says.

Most people with joint pain respond well to physical

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