More US adults and kids are doing yoga, meditating

NEW YORK — If you can do a downward-facing dog, you’re among the increasing numbers of Americans doing yoga.

A new report says more adults — and even kids — are practicing yoga and meditation.

A government survey conducted last year found 14 percent of adults said they had recently done yoga, and the same percentage had recently meditated. That’s up from about 10 percent and 4 percent from a similar survey done five years earlier.

For kids ages 4 through 17, about 8 percent had recently done yoga, up from 3 percent. For meditation, it was about 6 percent, similar to the earlier survey.

Experts say yoga, meditation and some other forms of complementary medicine have been increasingly promoted as ways to reduce stress and anxiety and improve health.

New exercise guidelines: Move more, sit less, start younger

CHICAGO — Move more, sit less and get kids active as young as age 3, say new federal guidelines that stress that any amount and any type of exercise helps health.

The advice is the first update since the government’s physical activity guidelines came out a decade ago. Since then, the list of benefits of exercise has grown, and there’s more evidence to back things that were of unknown value before, such as short, high-intense workouts and taking the stairs instead of an elevator.

“Doing something is better than doing nothing, and doing more is better than doing something,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a preventive medicine expert at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Only 20 percent of Americans get enough exercise now, and the childhood obesity problem has prompted the push to aim younger to prevent poor health later in life.

Highlights of the advice released Monday at an American Heart Association conference in Chicago and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

CHILDREN AND TEENS

The biggest change: Start young. Guidelines used to begin at age 6, but the new ones say preschoolers ages 3 through 5 should be encouraged to take part in active play throughout the day. They don’t call for a certain amount but say a reasonable target may be three hours of various intensities. That’s consistent with guidelines in many other countries and is the average amount of activity observed in kids this age.

From ages 6 through 17, at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity throughout the day is recommended. Most of it should be aerobic, the kind that gets the heart rate up such as brisk walking, biking or running. At least three times a week, exercise should be vigorous and include muscle- and bone-strengthening activities like climbing on playground equipment or playing sports.

ADULTS

Duration stays the same — at least 2½ to 5 hours of moderate-intensity or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous activity a week, plus at least two days that include muscle-strengthening exercise like pushups or lifting weights.

One key change: It used to be thought that aerobic activity had to be done for at least 10 minutes. Now even short times are known to help. Even a single episode of activity gives short-term benefits such as lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and improving sleep.

Sitting a lot is especially harmful.

The advice is similar for older adults, but activities should include things that promote balance to help avoid falls.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE LETTER E

Targeting young children is the goal of a project that Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiologist at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, has worked on for years with the Heart Association and Sesame Workshop, producers of television’s “Sesame Street.”

At the heart conference, he gave results of an intensive four-month program to improve knowledge and attitudes about exercise and health among 562 kids ages 3 to 5 in Head Start preschools in Harlem.

“It was really successful,” Fuster said. “Once they understand how the body works, they begin to understand physical activity” and its importance.

When brains are young, “it’s the best opportunity” to set health habits that last, he said.

Wyandanch school district’s budget woes worsen, board tells residents

Budget woes in the Wyandanch school district are far more daunting than originally thought, with cash reserves down nearly $3.3 million from original levels, shocked residents were told at a board meeting Wednesday night.

The district’s external auditor, Marianne VanDuyne, told a capacity crowd that “rainy day” reserve funds upon which the system depends to meet emergencies had been exhausted during the 2017-18 school year. This, she said, could force Wyandanch to make deep cuts in personnel expenses in order to rebuild reserves.

“Now there are going to have to be tough decisions,” VanDuyne said.

Angry residents immediately launched a verbal barrage on school board trustees and administrators who mostly sat stoically silent. Several homeowners wondered aloud how high their taxes would rise.

“I want to know where my money is going,” said one audience member, Denise Edwards, who glared at board members as she explained that she had just bought a house locally in March. “If these people here can’t figure it out, then maybe we’ve got to bring in somebody else to figure it out.”

Wyandanch’s budget problems became widely recognized in January 2017, when the state comptroller’s office reported both the Hempstead and Wyandanch systems faced “significant stress” — the most serious level of financial trouble listed by the state. A more recent report issued by the agency last January raised Wyandanch’s financial status to “susceptible to fiscal stress,” while removing Hempstead from the statewide list altogether.

Immediately following release of the 2017 report, Wyandanch Superintendent Mary Jones said her district had been forced to go over budget to buy portable classrooms to help accommodate immigrants arriving from Central America. More recently, the district also rented a vacant school in Dix Hills to house an overflow of children enrolled in preschool programs and kindergarten.

According to the latest state records, Wyandanch enrolls about 2,500 students, 50 percent of whom are Hispanic or Latino and 48 percent black or African-American. Eighty-seven percent of the district’s students are categorized as economically disadvantaged, compared with an average of 40 percent for Suffolk County.