Lab report

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 10:16am

Better brain at a stretch

A 20-minute session of Hatha yoga improves certain brain functions compared to walking or jogging. In a new study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 30 female undergraduate students showed more improvement in reaction times and accuracy on cognitive tasks after yoga than after the aerobic exercise, which had no significant effect on these brain functions. "Enhanced self-awareness that comes with meditational exercises is one of the possible mechanisms," says lead researcher Neha Gothe. "Meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which in turn can improve scores on some cognitive tests."

Clear the air for fewer absences

Improving classroom ventilation can reduce student illness absence by about 3.4 per cent, say scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US. They analysed data on ventilation rates collected from more than 150 classrooms in California over two years, and found that more than half did not meet the state's standard ventilation rate. However, the researchers don't know how or why poor ventilation results in more illness absences, or if there is even a causal connection.




Small changes could make a big difference at a stroke

Small lifestyle changes are linked with large reductions in stroke risk, finds a study in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. Researchers assessed stroke risk of nearly 23,000 Americans age 45 and older using seven criteria: being active, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol, eating a healthy diet, managing blood pressure, keeping a healthy weight and not smoking. On a scale of zero to 14, every one-point increase in score was associated with an 8 per cent lower stroke risk. People with the highest scores (10 to 14 points) had a 48 per cent lower stroke risk than those with zero to four points.