Tomm McKinney: Year in health: What we learned

These were the biggest, most groundbreaking studies, exercises and medical revelations in 2013.
Jan 20, 2014
Tomm McKinney

These were the biggest, most groundbreaking studies, exercises and medical revelations in 2013.

• Sitting is the new smoking – The chair became public health enemy number one this year, thanks to the culmination of multiple studies and growing evidence that a sedentary life may be as harmful as smoking. A lack of physical activity has been linked to a 147-percent rise in heart disease and life spans shortened by 22 minutes for every seated hour.

• Rethinking testosterone – Prescriptions for testosterone jumped threefold in a decade, raising the question, are men being overtreated ? A study in JAMA appears to answer that with an unequivocal yes, noting that marketing – promising bigger muscles and a youthful libido – is largely responsible for the fact that 25 percent of guys are treated without getting tested. A recent study also found that the therapy can raise the chance of heart attack, stroke, or death by 30 percent. Unless someone shows dangerously low numbers and symptoms, supplements may not make sense at all.

• Shorter workouts, better conditioning – In gyms everywhere, high-intensity interval training replaced hour-plus cardio sessions. The prevalence of these short, full-body circuits is most evident in the popularity of cross-fits – intense, minutes-long “ workouts of the day.” Shorter workouts allow greater intensity.

• Understanding phytonutrients – Jo Robinson’s “Eating on the Wild Side” introduced the idea that not all vegetables and fruits are equal – there is a wide range in phytonutritional density among wild and farmed plants even in how they are cooked and just as important how they are processed and packaged.

• Rolling is the new stretching – Studies show that too much stretching can sap strength and even slow you down. Last year, millions turned instead to fascia-loosening foam rolling. It helps reset the muscles so that they can then contract and relax without internal resistance.

• Genetics for people – Genetic testing is finally cheap and useful enough for the general public. For just $99, you can assess your genetic risk of 120 diseases at, or go to the gym and take the Pathway fit test to identify more than 75 genetic biomarkers related to fitness success.

• The Mediterranean Diet reigns – In the biggest study of its kind, the New England Journal of Medicine proved the Mediterranean Diet, with its ample fish, nuts, fruits and veggies, is more helpful than anyone had imagined, reducing cardiovascular disease by 30 percent.

• The arsenic scare – Studies from Consumer Reports and the FDA found dangerous levels of this toxin in rice and chicken. Here's how to avoid it. Buy organic chicken, since some factory farms give animals feed that contains arsenic. Avoid rice grown in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and China. For many years this soil was used for growing cotton that required extensive poisoning chemicals.

• Fewer PSA tests – The American Urological Association changed course on the once ubiquitous PSA test, calling for this prostate exam only for high-risk men ages 55-69. In younger and older groups, the risk outweighs the benefits, the association said, with false positives and procedures that can cause erectile dysfunction and incontinence.

Thanks to Men's Journal for providing this information.

Tomm McKinney is a health coach in Lebanon. Email him at


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