The evidence continues to mount that exercise is one of the best cures for psychological ills. And a new group of "running therapists" is substituting or supplementing running shoes for the psychiatric couch.
In a University of Wisconsin study, people ran from depression--literally. "Moderately depressed" individuals who were assigned to a running program experienced a level of improvement on par--and in some cases better than--those assigned to psychotherapy sessions. (Both groups showed marked improvement over a third group of depressed people who did nothing at all.)
University of Florida researchers found anxiety levels and medical complaints significantly lower among people who follow a regular aerobic exercise program, according to a report in Prevention magazine. They divided 54 couples into two groups: daily walkers or joggers and occasional, haphazard exercisers.
Only 10 percent of the regular exercisers reported being troubled by anxiety, while 41 percent of the nonexercisers said they felt anxious. Exercisers reported slightly less than six medical symptoms per person, while the nonexercisers reported over 13.
Endorphins and other chemicals manufactured by active bodies are only part of the reason why improved physical health boosts mental health, says psychiatrist Toner Overley, a professor at the Indiana School of Medicine.
"There's hardly anyone who can't improve if they stick with a running program," says Overley, who prescribes exercise therapy--in conjunction with psychotherapy and nutrition therapy--for selected patients.
"When you find yourself doing something you've never done before, and thought you could never do--like running several miles--it gives you more confidence. That feeling of success spills over into other activities. It's life expanding."
Urban Verve: Despite the bum rap given to city living, new reports from social scientists indicate that urban dwelling is not hazardous to your health.
"Recent studies show that in cities, life expectancy is higher, infant mortality is lower and the incidence of mental illness actually may be less than on farms or in small towns," notes the Smithsonian News Service. "City residents have been found to miss no more days of work because of poor health than other people, and studies of life satisfaction indicate that urban residents are just as happy as their rural counterparts."
While the tensions of life in the fast lane may be a strain on city dwellers, the report notes, "The boredom, lack of variety and low level of stimulation found on a farm may be equally stressful."
Bikers Beware: Observatory Circle NW is the most dangerous intersection for bicyclists in the city, says the Washington Area Bicyclist Association after analyzing six years of accident data. The other most dangerous locations:
Benning Road and Oklahoma Avenue NE
Wheeler Road and Mississippi Avenue SE
22nd, Q and Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Among the most dangerous stretches of road--with accidents between as well as at intersections--were M Street NW between 4th and New York Avenue, K Street between New Jersey and North Capitol, Good Hope Road in Fort Stanton Park and M Street in Georgetown.
The longest "danger stretch" identified was the 1 1/2-mile segment of 14th Street between S Street NW and Quincy Street, where 61 accidents were reported during the six years studied. "The D.C. Department of Transportation, aware of this problem area for some time," WABA notes, "has designated 13th Street as a Bike Route in an attempt to divert bicycle traffic away from the hazardous area."
Men in Heat: Human males may experience a seasonal period of sexual excitation accompanied by increased aggression, similar to mammalian "rutting" behavior, according to Science News magazine. "A statistical analysis of rape reports from 16 locations has now revealed a clear cyclical pattern for crimes of sexual violence," says the article, citing a study reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
"In 14 locations rape peaked in the summer, specifically in the eight-week stretch from July 7 to Sept. 8. They also discovered a significant annual rhythm for assault, which also tended to peak in the summer months, but the other two crimes showed no such pattern: Robbery peaked in the wintertime, but in only five locations, while murder showed no seasonal pattern."
Golden Inspiration: Helen Zechmeister of San Francisco won the Women's Training Center Powerlifting Contest for her age group by lifting more than 214 pounds, notes Ms. magazine. "The champion's age: 78 years old."
Mavis Lindgren started running at age 62 to conquer recurring bouts of pneumonia and is now listed in "Ripley's Believe It or Not" as the oldest woman ever to complete a 26-mile marathon, says New Woman magazine. At 74, she jogs 10 to 15 miles a day to stay in shape and set a new world record last year for women aged 70 to 74 by running a 26-mile marathon in four hours, 34 minutes, eight seconds.