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Why Walking Makes Us Feel Good

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Need a reason to get up from your desk? Scientists say each step we take sends a boost of blood to our brains, making us feel sharper and better overall. The research will be presented today at the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting in Chicago.

It’s no secret that exercise makes us happy. It raises our heart rates and floods our bodies with feel-good hormones. But until quite recently, scientists had not considered its effect on the flow of blood to the brain, or how that flow might affect our state of mind.

Researchers at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) began by studying the hemodynamic (blood-moving) effects of pedaling a bike, then looked at running. They found that both activities increased cerebral blood flow, as the impact of each footstep on the ground or pedals squeezed athletes’ arteries, sending a pulse of blood to the brain. The effect was especially pronounced in runners, whose feet hit the ground hard.

The scientists wondered if the same might be true of walking, with its relatively gentle footfalls. They hooked 12 healthy young volunteers up to heart monitors and ultrasound machines, then set them walking on a treadmill.

Sure enough, even a casual stroll boosted blood flow to the volunteers’ brains. The effect was significant, somewhere between the low-impact ride of cycling and running’s hard steps.

"What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow," first author Ernest Greene said in a statement. "There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120/minute) when we are briskly moving along."

The authors believe these boosts of blood—and therefore oxygen—to the brain may help clear our heads and lead to an “overall sense of wellbeing during exercise.”

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Netherlands Officials Want to Pay Residents to Bike to Work
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Thinking about relocating to the Netherlands? You might also want to bring a bike. Government officials are looking to compensate residents for helping solve their traffic congestion problem and they want businesses to pay residents to bike to work, as The Independent reports.

Owing to automobile logjams on roadways that keep drivers stuck in their cars and cost the economy billions of euros annually, Dutch deputy infrastructure minister Stientje van Veldhoven recently told media that she's endorsing a program that would pay employees 19 cents for every kilometer (0.6 miles) they bike to work.

That doesn't sound like very much, but perhaps citizens who need to trek several miles each way would appreciate the cumulative boost in their weekly paychecks. For employers, the benefit would be a healthier workforce that might take fewer sick days and reduce parking needs.

Veldhoven says she also plans on designing a program that would assist employers in supplying workers with bicycles. The goal is to have 200,000 people opting for manual transportation over cars. If the program proceeds, it might find a receptive population. The Netherlands is already home to 22.5 million bikes, more than the 17.1 million people living there. In Amsterdam, a quarter of residents bike to work.

There's no timeline for implementing the pay-to-bike plan, but early trial studies indicate that the expense might not have to be a long-term prospect. Study subjects continued to bike to work even after the financial rewards stopped.

[h/t The Independent]

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New Health-Monitoring Litter Box Could Save You a Trip to the Vet
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Unsure if your cat is sick or just acting aloof per usual? A “smart toilet” for your fur baby could help you decide whether a trip to the vet is really necessary.

Enter the Pet Care Monitor: More than a litter box, the receptacle is designed to analyze cat urine for health issues, The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo reports. Created by the Japan-based Sharp Corporation—better known for consumer electronics such as TVs, mobile phones, and the world's first LCD calculator—the product will be available for purchase on the company’s website starting July 30 (although shipping limitations may apply).

Sensors embedded in the monitor can measure your cat’s weight and urine volume, as well as the frequency and duration of toilet trips. That information is then analyzed by an AI program that compares it to data gleaned from a joint study between Sharp Corp and Tottori University in Japan. If there are any red flags, a report will be sent directly to your smartphone via an application called Cocoro Pet. The monitor could be especially useful for keeping an eye on cats with a history of kidney and urinary tract problems.

If you have several cats, the company offers sensors to identify each pet, allowing separate data sets to be collected and analyzed. (Each smart litter box can record the data of up to three cats.)

The Pet Care Monitor costs about $225, and there’s an additional monthly fee of roughly $3 for the service. Sharp Corporation says it will continue developing health products for pets, and it has already created a leg sensor that can tell if a dog is nervous by measuring its heart and respiratory rates.

[h/t The Asahi Shimbun]

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