Falling During Pregnancy: Reason to Worry?

I’m pregnant and recently fell. Should I be worried?

Answer From Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.

Falling during pregnancy can make you panic. But your body is designed to protect your developing baby during pregnancy. Any injury would have to be severe enough to seriously hurt you before it would directly harm your baby.

The walls of your uterus are thick, strong muscles that help keep your baby safe. The amniotic fluid also serves as a cushion. During the early weeks of pregnancy, the uterus is tucked behind the pelvic bone, which provides more protection.

If you do fall during pregnancy, take comfort in knowing that your baby most likely won’t be hurt. However, if you’re worried about your baby after a fall, see your health care provider.

If you fall later in pregnancy, the concern is that the fall could put you into labor or cause early delivery. Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • Your fall results in pain, bleeding, or a direct blow to the abdomen
  • You’re experiencing vaginal bleeding or leaking amniotic fluid
  • You feel severe pain or tenderness in your abdomen, uterus, or pelvis
  • You have uterine contractions
  • You notice a decrease in fetal movement

In most cases, your baby will be fine. But your health care provider might run tests to make sure everything is OK.

Updated: 2015-01-15

Publication Date: 2015-01-15

Long-term Care: Early Planning Pays Off

Long-term care is a term used to describe home and community-based services for adults who need help taking care of themselves.

If you’re considering long-term care options for yourself, a parent, or another loved one, start the research and discussions early. If you wait, an injury or illness might force your hand—leading to a hasty decision that might not be best in the long run.

Here’s help getting familiar with long-term care options.

Understanding types of long-term care

Understanding the various levels of long-term care can help you choose the type that’s most appropriate for you or your loved one. For example:

  • Home care. Personal or home health aides can help with bathing, dressing, and other personal needs at home, as well as housekeeping, meals, and shopping. Home health nurses provide basic medical care at home, such as helping with medications.
  • Day program. Day programs for adults offer social interaction, meals, and activities—often including exercise, games, field trips, art, and music—for adults who don’t need round-the-clock care. Some programs provide transportation to and from the care center as well as certain medical services, such as help taking medications or checking blood pressure.
  • Senior housing. Many communities offer rental apartments intended for older adults. Some senior housing facilities offer meals, transportation, housekeeping, and activities.
  • Assisted living. These facilities offer staff members to help with activities such as taking medication, bathing, and dressing—as well as meals, transportation, housekeeping, and social activities. Some assisted living facilities have on-site beauty shops and other amenities.
  • Continuing-care retirement community. These communities offer several levels of care in one setting—such as senior housing for those who are healthy, assisted living for those who need help with daily activities, and round-the-clock nursing care for those who are no longer independent. Residents can move among the various levels of care depending on their needs.
  • Nursing home. Nursing homes offer 24-hour nursing care for those recovering from illness or injury and serve as long-term residences for people who are unable to care for themselves. Nursing homes also offer end-of-life care. Services typically include help eating, dressing, bathing, and toileting, as well as wound care and rehabilitative therapy.

Choosing the right long-term care facility

Selecting a long-term care facility can be overwhelming. Ask these questions to ease the process:

  • What level of service do you need? Do you or does your loved one need help with everyday activities, such as getting dressed or walking to the bathroom? Nursing care? What about physical or occupation therapy? What does the doctor say? Determining specific care needs can help you decide which type of facility to consider.

  • What are your personal preferences? Would you or your loved one prefer a smaller facility or certain living arrangements, such as a single room? Would you rather eat your meals in a cafeteria setting or in your own room? What amenities are most important?

    Also consider the rules. Can residents choose when to get up and go to bed? When are visitors allowed, and what social activities are offered? Can residents continue to see their personal doctors?

  • What can you afford? Get the details on prices, fees, and services. Know what’s included in the monthly fee and what costs extra.

  • What’s available close to home? Being close to friends and family can ease the transition to long-term care. If vacancies are an issue, ask about waiting lists.

  • What’s your first impression? Schedule a tour of the facility. Does the facility seem safe, and are residents treated respectfully? Do they seem happy?

    Does the facility smell OK, and is the temperature comfortable? Are there enough caregivers on staff? Later, make unscheduled visits to make sure your first impression was accurate.

  • How does the facility compare with others? What have you heard about the facility? Contact your local Better Business Bureau to check whether any complaints have been filed against the facility, and use online applications such as the Nursing Home Compare tool on the Medicare website.

    Ask a long-term care ombudsman—an official who investigates complaints against long-term care facilities—about the strengths and weaknesses of specific facilities. To find a local ombudsman, use the Eldercare Locator, an online service of the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Get opinions from friends and family who have experience with nursing homes. Also, ask your doctor for a recommendation and if he or she sees patients in any nursing homes. Social workers, hospital discharge planners, and local agencies on aging may provide suggestions as well.

Paying for long-term care

Long-term care can be expensive—and, typically, it’s an out-of-pocket expense.

Medicare, a federal program for people older than 65 and those who have certain disabilities, doesn’t generally pay for long-term care. Medicaid, a joint state-federal program designed for people who meet certain income requirements, might be an option for adults who have limited assets or those who’ve nearly depleted their assets. However, who’s eligible for Medicaid and which services are covered varies by state.

If you don’t expect personal savings to cover the cost of long-term care, you might be able to finance long-term care through long-term care insurance. In exchange for monthly premiums, long-term care insurance covers nursing home care or other long-term care services.

Premiums generally increase with the person’s age, and coverage benefits vary significantly. If you’re considering long-term care insurance, make sure the policy covers any pre-existing conditions as well as conditions that could develop later, such as dementia. Also check whether you can reduce coverage if the premiums become too expensive.

Other options might include a reverse mortgage—in which you convert part of the equity in your home into cash—or the sale of a life insurance policy for the present value of the policy (life settlement).

Be wary of risks and fees, however. Discuss the options with a lawyer or accountant. You might also contact a social worker or the local agency on aging.

Discussing long-term care with a loved one

If you’re researching long-term care options for a parent or other loved one, include your loved one in the process as much as possible. Consider these tips:

  • Plan ahead. Don’t wait until a loved one needs a long-term care facility. Start planning early so that you have time to evaluate the options together.
  • Work long-term care into everyday conversation. If your mother mentions a problem turning on the faucet, for example, you might ask whether she could use help bathing or managing other aspects of personal care.
  • Listen to your loved one’s preferences and concerns. If your loved one is mentally competent, recognize his or her right to make decisions about long-term care. Stay positive as you remind your loved one that his or her safety is your primary concern.
  • Explain the need for care. Let your loved one know why you feel he or she needs long-term care. Is 24-hour safety a concern? Is it difficult to transfer your loved one from home to medical care? These issues can help guide your conversation, and help your loved one understand why you feel long-term care is necessary.
  • Involve others. If your loved one doesn’t respond well to your efforts to talk about long-term care, involving trusted contacts—such as other loved ones, clergy, a doctor, or an attorney—might help.

The idea of leaving home or receiving in-home help for everyday activities can be distressing. The more you know about the options, the better choices you can make.

Updated: 2015-03-20

Publication Date: 2004-01-15

6 Tips for Beginner Snowboarders From Olympian Julia Marino

If you’re toying with the idea of snowboarding but aren’t sure it’s for you (raises hand), Olympic snowboarder Julia Marino gets it.

When the six-time X Games medalist first tried the sport, she wasn’t a fan—at all.

“I didn’t really like it that much,” Marino, a 21-year-old Westport, Connecticut native, tells SELF. Instead, she much preferred skiing, first tackling the slopes at age 3 and a half, and only making the switch to boarding around age 12 as a result of circumstance, not choice. During a fateful family ski trip to Beaver Creek, Colorado, Marino’s ski broke on the mountain. Rather than rent a new pair, Marino’s dad insisted that she use a snowboard he already had on hand. Begrudgingly, Marino strapped on the board, and by end of the week, “actually had fun with it,” she says.

From there, her passion and talent for snowboarding grew quickly. At age 15, she moved to Colorado to train full-time, and at age 18, she emerged on the elite scene, entering her first World Prix event as a last-minute alternate—and shocked the competition by beating everyone.

Nowadays, the slopestyle and big air specialist, who in 2016 became the first female rider to ever land a double flip in a slopestyle competition, is on the snow “every day at least” during the season. She recently competed in two high-profile elite events—the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colorado, where she nabbed second place in both slopestyle portions, and the LAXX Open in Switzerland.

In advance of her next big-name pro event, the X Games Aspen 2019 beginning this Thursday, January 24, we chatted with Marino to learn her tips to help never-before boarders (like me) make that first-time experience as enjoyable and safe as possible.

[Note: Because snowboarding is a technical and nuanced sport with important safety precautions, first-timers should get lessons from a certified instructor before hitting the slopes solo. The following tips are intended to supplement, not replace, that.]

1. Prep yourself with core stability and balance work at the gym.

When Marino is at home in Westport, she regularly works with a personal trainer who creates custom workouts designed to make her a better boarder. And many of those sessions focus on two key skills: core stability and balance.

In addition to weighted, single-leg balance exercises and drills with the battle ropes, Marino does exercises atop an Indo board, which is essentially a balance board with wheels. She’ll stand on the board and perform medicine ball throws on it, or sometimes, throw in a fun twist: “A few times with my dad I would do something where he would throw credit cards at me and I would try to catch them,” says Marino.

Because core stability and balance play such an important role in the sport, doing exercises that specifically build these skills before you hit the slopes can help you ride more comfortably and confidently. Here are some ideas for building core stability with the help of a BOSU ball, plus some great moves for working on your balance.

2. Please consider a butt pad. No, seriously.

Beginning boarders should expect to spend a lot of time on their butts, both voluntarily (when you sit down to strap yourself in and out of your snowboard), and involuntarily (when you lose your balance on the slopes, which will happen regularly as you learn the sport). While there is no magic trick to avoid falling down—it’s pretty much a requisite, if unfortunate, aspect of the sport—you can minimize the impact by padding your behind appropriately, Marino says. This padding comes in the form of butt pads, which Marino wears every single time she rides.

Though Marino’s primary reason for donning these safety buffers is to protect her tailbone, which she describes as “super sensitive” ever since she injured it as a kid, she recommends butt pads for all new snowboarders “just to be safe so you’re not sore the next days.”

You can find them on Amazon, where top-selling brands include Soared 3D Protection Hip Butt EVA Paded Short Pants and KUYOU Protection Hip, 3D Padded Shorts.

3. Layer, layer, layer…and then layer some more.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of snowboarding is braving the cold, sometimes frigid, conditions. It’s something that elites and amateurs alike must face.

“I’m probably the coldest snowboarder of all of them,” says Marino. “I’m always freezing.” Yet the elements, of course, don’t stop her from hitting the slopes, and that’s because she knows how to layer. “I just try to fit as many shirts on myself as I can without feeling like a freakin’ Michelin Man,” says Marino, whose upper body and face are most prone to feeling chilled. She also pulls a neck gaiter above her ears to protect them from biting wind. Of course what gear you’ll need depends on the specific conditions you’ll be riding in—mid-February snowboarding in Quebec is very different than late April snowboarding in Tahoe, for example. Check out SELF’s best skiing and snowboarding gear of 2018 for ideas to get started.

4. Draw from any experience you have skateboarding or surfing.

Marino’s main form of cross-training is snowboarding’s dry land cousin: skateboarding. “I really like to skate,” says Marino. A couple summers ago, she and her dad built a mini ramp in the backyard, where she spends significant time in the warmer months. In general, board sports, like surfing and skateboarding, translate well to snowboarding, says Marino. “All the snowboarders that I know are really good at surfing and skateboarding,” she says. “I think those three sports are very much connected.”

So if you’re hesitant to just start by hauling yourself up a mountain—whether that be due to a fear of heights, the cold, or another reason—you can build up helpful skills in what you may consider less intimidating environments by skateboarding or surfing.

5. Hit the slopes with friends to help manage your fear.

“Snowboarding is a huge mental sport,” says Marino. “You may have the physical talent, but if your mind is not there, it can derail your entire [experience].”

The primary fear Marino struggles with is that she’ll hurt herself. “Some of the jumps in competitions are really, really big and it’s terrifying to hit them,” she says. “It’s not like basketball or soccer where you’re standing on the ground. There’s a lot more at risk.”

And while new snowboarders won’t be attempting the high-flying tricks that Marino and other pros land, the sport in general can still induce understandable anxiety. You are, after all, barreling down a mountain with two feet strapped together. Not exactly a serene scenario. To manage any fear you may experience during your first, second, or 100th time on the mountain, “I think it’s important to surround yourself with people and not just stay alone and stay in your thoughts and start to overthink things, which is what I do all the time,” says Marino, who occasionally talks with a sports psychologist and also calms pre-race nerves by joking with friends, playing music, and filming videos. This helps “take your mind off what you’re about to do” and “lowers your stress,” she says.

Of course, safety should always be your priority when snowboarding, which is why, as mentioned, it’s super helpful for first-time boarders to hit the mountain with a trained instructor. Also know that if a certain run or attempting a specific skill makes you uncomfortable, it’s more than OK to sit it out.

6. Focus on having fun.

“These days I’ve been trying to think about [what I love about snowboarding] because I lost sight of that a bit when I was competing a bunch,” says Marino, reflecting on the grueling schedule she managed during last year’s Olympic season. “I was starting to be really stressed and over the top thinking about my performance.”

That’s why this year, Marino is approaching the season with a fun-first mindset. “I’m not doing as many [competitions] for that reason, so I can go on trips where I’m just snowboarding for fun with my friends,” she says. What she loves about boarding, she says, is simply being on the mountain, no rules or guidelines, and riding for the fun of it.

The same philosophy can, and should, apply to novice boarders. Though there can be a learning curve with snowboarding that’s marked with uncomfortable and/or otherwise challenging moments, once you master the basic skills of the sport, it can be an extremely fun form of fitness and a special way to spend time in the great outdoors. And that pure enjoyment is something pros, like Marino, and novices, like you and I, can share.

Why Do Kettlebell Exercises Make You So, So Sore?

It hurts to walk, it hurts to laugh. It’s basically impossible to hover over public toilet seats. Let us guess: Yesterday—maybe even two days ago—you worked out with kettlebells?

After all, kettlebell exercises have a reputation for being exceptionally challenging. “Kettlebells are unique in that they can be dynamically loaded, meaning you can move them creatively, and through large ranges of motion,” women’s strength coach and RKC-certified kettlebell expert Allison Tenney, C.S.C.S., S.F.G., tells SELF. “For most everyday and even elite athletes, they check off all of the boxes. They train power, develop strength, build muscle, improve cardiovascular conditioning, and more.”

So why is it that the next day, they can feel borderline punishing? The answer varies from person to person and explosive kettlebell swing to Turkish get-up. But here are the most common reasons—some good, some letting you know you’ve got room for improvement.

1. You’re doing something new

Even if you’re super strong and lift dumbbells and barbells on the regular, most kettlebell workouts involve performing entirely new exercises such as the kettlebell clean, swing, snatch, and Turkish get-up, Dave Krueger, S.F.G., kettlebell expert and trainer with REACT Physical Therapy in Chicago, tells SELF. Meanwhile, even if you perform traditional dumbbell and free-weight exercises such as squats and overhead presses with kettlebells, you are loading your body in a slightly different way, altering exactly how your muscles have to work together to overcome the resistance.

Any time you work your body in new ways, you are going to get some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that achy feeling that spikes 24 to 72 hours after some workouts, Tenney says. However, she explains that DOMS lessens after just a few consistent exposures to a given exercise stimulus. So if you perform kettlebell exercises at least a few times per week, your DOMS will likely subside, if not altogether disappear, after a couple of weeks.

2. Kettlebell swings stretch your muscles

Eccentric actions are those in which worked muscles lengthen, rather than contract, and unless you are performing an isometric drill (like a plank or a wall sit), every exercise has an eccentric component. For example, lowering into a squat, lowering a kettlebell from an overhead press, or hiking that weight through your legs during a kettlebell swing. Eccentric work is largely to blame for DOMS, causing way more post-exercise compared to isometric and even concentric (contracting) muscle actions, Tenney says.

It just so happens that kettlebell exercises—particularly kettlebell swings—hammer eccentric strength. “You load the hamstrings and glutes eccentrically, stretching them out and then rapidly snapping them like a slingshot,” she says. If you feel the bulk of your muscle soreness in the backs of your thighs and tushy, and you recently performed kettlebell swings, it’s likely that has something to do with it.

“The ballistic and repetitious nature of the kettlebell swing can leave you pretty sore if you take on too much volume too quickly,” Krueger adds. If you want to cut down on soreness, you can try performing fewer reps per set rather than lowering the amount of weight used. Performing swings with too little weight can throw off your form, balance, and prevent you from really driving the exercise with your hips, Tenney says. She explains that most women should swing with at least 10 or 12 kilograms.

3. Kettlebells increase muscle activation

A lot of times, when you hold a dumbbell or other free weight, your wrist naturally extends, meaning that the back of your hand falls toward the top of your forearm. However, because of kettlebells’ design, you can and should always hold them with a super-straight wrist, as if you’re going to punch someone right in the kisser.

“This makes it easier to create more tension in your arm,” Kruger says. Your wrist is connected to your forearm, which is connected to your upper arm, which is connected to your shoulder, which is connected to everything else in your body, Tenney adds.

She adds that you can push and pull on kettlebells in ways you can’t dumbbells. Think through goblet squats, for example: When performing them with a dumbbell, the weight just rests on top of your hands. When performing them with a kettlebell, you can push both hands into the bell or try to rip the kettlebell apart, both of which will activate more musculature throughout your arms, shoulders, and core. Extra soreness, especially in those areas, is a possible side effect.

4. Your form needs some attention

“If you have poor mechanics or are unable to coordinate all the moving pieces of kettlebell exercises at the same time with the correct amount of tension, walking the next day could be a real chore,” Krueger says. He explains that any time you venture from proper form and technique, muscles will compensate to get the job done and you could be straining muscles or tissues with excess stress.

Both he and Tenney recommend working with a trained professional to learn the basics and set yourself up for success. Even a couple of sessions will make a big impact. While any certified personal trainer or strength coach is qualified to help, those with extra certifications from the Russian Kettlebell Club (RKC) and StrongFirst (SFG) are specially prepared to help you with any and all things kettlebell.

Beware of swinging through soreness

In the end, when battling kettlebell soreness, it’s important to identify your unique why so that you can solve it in the way your body needs, Krueger says. Whatever the cause, though, never train through any muscle soreness that changes the way you move. Doing so could throw off your form and really cause pain down the line, Tenney explains. Give yourself a couple of days for your muscles to recover and grow back stronger. Then you’ll really be able to move some metal.

You Won’t Ever Want to Take These Sweatpants Off—And They’re All On Sale Right Now

When I’m not dressed up for a day of work at the office, chances are that you’ll catch me in a pair of my favorite sweatpants. While I absolutely love pulling on leggings, lounging around in a pair of cozy sweats is a major part of my weekend self-care routine. I’m all in when it comes to being comfortable, but I still want to look somewhat presentable—even if it’s just me and my boyfriend cuddling on the couch for a Netflix and chill session.

Since I sometimes carry my athleisure style past the weekend, it’s important to me to buy chic sweatpants I can “dress up” with a pair of ankle boots, or that I wouldn’t be embarrassed about getting caught in while running errands. Though I can get a little particular about the athleisure pieces I add to my wardrobe, I can’t resist a good deal. That’s why Farfetch’s clothing sale is so clutch.

If you’re looking to update your athleisure collection, read on for a few pairs of hygge-friendly (and stylish) sweatpants the retailer has on deep discount right now.

Women, your inner circle may be key to gaining leadership roles

Women who communicate regularly with a female-dominated inner circle are more likely to attain high-ranking leadership positions, according to a new study by the University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study showed that more than 75 percent of high-ranking women maintained a female-dominated inner circle, or strong ties to two or three women whom they communicated with frequently within their network. For men, the larger their network — regardless of gender makeup — the more likely they are to earn a high-ranking position. Unfortunately, when women have social networks that resemble their male counterparts’, they are more likely to hold low-ranking positions.

“Although both genders benefit from developing large social networks after graduate school, women’s communication patterns, as well as the gender composition of their network, significantly predict their job placement level,” said Nitesh V. Chawla, Frank M. Freimann Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Notre Dame, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications and co-author of the study. “The same factors — communication patterns and gender composition of a social network — have no significant effect for men landing high-ranking positions.”

For the study, researchers reviewed social and communication networks of more than 700 former graduate students from a top-ranked business school in the United States. Each student in the study had accepted leadership-level positions, which were normalized for industry and region-specific salaries. Researchers then compared three variables of each student’s social network: network centrality, or the size of the social network; gender homophily, or the proportion of same-sex contacts; and communication equality, or the amount of strong versus weak network ties.

Women with a high network centrality and a female-dominated inner circle have an expected job placement level that is 2.5 times greater than women with low network centrality and a male-dominated inner circle. When it comes to attaining leadership positions, women are not likely to benefit from adding the best-connected person to their network. While those connections may improve access to public information important to job search and negotiations, female-dominated inner circles can help women gain gender-specific information that would be more important in a male-dominated job market.

“We also saw that inner circles benefit from each other, suggesting that women gain gender-specific private information and support from their inner circle, while non-overlapping connections provide other job market details,” said Chawla.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Notre Dame. Original written by Brandi Klingerman. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Negative experiences on social media tied to higher odds of feeling lonely

Positive interactions on social media are not making young adults feel more connected, whereas negative experiences increase the likelihood of them reporting loneliness, scientists with the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media Technology and Health (MTH) report today in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The findings build on award-winning research the center conducted in 2017 indicating more use of social media was associated with increased feelings of loneliness.

“Social media is, seemingly, about connecting people. So it is surprising and interesting that our investigations reveal social media being linked to loneliness,” said lead author Brian Primack, M.D., Ph.D., director of Pitt’s MTH and dean of Pitt’s Honors College. “Perceived social isolation, which is a synonym for loneliness, is associated with poor health outcomes, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. Because social media is so pervasive, it is critically important that we better understand why this is happening and how we can help people navigate social media without as many negative consequences.”

Primack and his team surveyed 1,178 West Virginia University students ages 18 to 30 about their social media use, to what extent their experiences were positive or negative, and their level of perceived loneliness. The authors studied these perceptions of social media interactions across whatever combination of platforms students were using.

For every 10 percent increase in negative experiences on social media, the participants reported a 13 percent increase in feelings of loneliness. However, for every 10 percent increase in positive experiences on social media, the participants reported no statistically significant change in feelings of loneliness.

It is not clear whether people who feel lonely are seeking out or attracting negative social media experiences, or if they are having negative social media experiences that are leading to perceived isolation, said author Jaime Sidani, Ph.D., who also is assistant director of Pitt’s MTH.

“There is a tendency for people to give greater weight to negative experiences and traits compared with positive ones, and this may be particularly relevant when it comes to social media. So, positive experiences on social media may be associated with fleeting positive reinforcement, while negative experiences — such as public social media arguments — may rapidly escalate and leave a lasting, potentially traumatic impression,” Sidani said. “It also may be that socially isolated people lean toward social media use that involves negative interactions. It is probably a mix of both.”

Although the research team recommends more study to further explain and replicate their research, the findings are strong enough to warrant efforts to intervene now to reduce feelings of loneliness associated with social media use.

“Health practitioners may encourage the public to be more cognizant and thoughtful regarding their online experiences, thereby interrupting a potential cycle of negative experiences and loneliness,” said Primack. “It may be useful to encourage awareness and education around positive and negative social media experiences.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Pittsburgh. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Teens keep active despite asthma or eczema, study finds

A fresh look by the University of Bristol at how teenagers are affected by their asthma, eczema or obesity has some reassuring findings published in BMJ Open today (Jan. 21).

Researchers supported by the NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre found that both girls and boys at the ages of 12, 14 and 16 did not experience different levels of active or sedentary time if they had asthma or eczema compared to their peers. Teenagers who were obese however, were less active and also had increased periods of inactivity.

Using data from 6473 teenagers wearing accelerometers at the three age points, clinical reports of asthma or eczema together with weight and height measurements, this study is the first of its kind using data over time to assess the impact of the conditions on activity levels. All the information was taken from Bristol’s Children of the 90s study that recruited 14,500 pregnant women in the early 1990s.

With an estimated 20 per cent of children diagnosed with eczema, 9 per cent with asthma and 20 per cent found to be obese by the age of eleven in the UK it was thought that the long-term conditions impacted not just quality of life but physical activity. Although the research did not examine differing severity of asthma and eczema there can now be some reassurance that the conditions are not necessarily a barrier to a healthy lifestyle and that tailored fitness plans are not needed.

Professor Russ Jago from the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Bristol said:

“Our findings should reassure parents that although their teenagers are facing long-term conditions such as asthma and eczema we didn’t find any reduced physical activity. The young people studied, both girls and boys, kept the same levels of moderate to vigorous activity as their peers who did not have the conditions.

“Thanks to the Children of the 90s data we were able to look at young people over a long period of time using many different tests which makes our study question the perception that asthma and eczema impacts quality of life in this way.

“The next steps would be to examine any differences in activity for young people with mild or severe asthma or eczema.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Surveillance in our schools, through commercial apps

ClassDojo is one of the most popular education apps in the world. Its company estimates it is used by millions of teachers and children across 180 countries. Beneath its friendly exterior lie disturbing implications, say researchers.

“Happier Classrooms: the simple way to build an amazing classroom community.” So reads the message greeting visitors to ClassDojo’s website. The app is free for teachers and is widely embraced as an innovative means of encouraging positive behaviour in students and building harmonious school environments.

Its interface is colourful and inviting. Each child in a class or school is assigned an avatar: a smiling, cartoonish monster that represents them in the app. Based on a student’s behaviour in different areas, the teacher can assign — with a Pavlovian ding or harsh buzz — positive, neutral or negative Dojo points to their avatar.

This gamifies behaviour for students and helps teachers to keep extensive data on each of them. The app has expanded to become, in many places, a school-wide social media and content sharing network. Users can sign up as school leaders, teachers, parents, or students.

In a new paper, education researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) say that while the technology may be innovative, ClassDojo encourages an archaic approach to school discipline and neglects a genuinely educational approach to developing behaviour.

Further, they express concern that the app conditions children to accept rising levels of surveillance and control.

“Class Dojo can be understood as yet another data-gathering surveillance technology that is contributing to a culture of surveillance that has become normalised in schools,” said Jamie Manolev, a doctoral candidate at UniSA and the study’s lead author.

One of the biggest problems, he said, is that the app focuses on controlling students rather than helping them to build a deeper understanding about the why and how of behaviours in a social setting.

ClassDojo uses Dojo points to deliver a system of rewards and punishments based on a group of pre-selected behaviours. The ClassDojo company even recommends that teachers attach real world prizes to Dojo points. While rewards and punishments can be effective in the short-term, Manolev said research shows they can undermine children’s intrinsic motivation for positive behaviours.

Further, said Mr Manolev, Dojo point scores reduce students’ behaviour to a number, creating an illusion of simplicity that does not help teachers understand the factors driving positive or destructive behaviours. Instead, it creates “a behaviour economy in which individuals appear as balance sheets of behaviour.”

Each child’s total Dojo points — whether in the green or the red — are visible to them, and can be put on display. This too can serve as a means of control.

“Capable of being broadcast on large classroom screens to the entire class, visible to anybody who enters, a numbered ranking of students according to their behaviour fills the screen and invites a comparison of students, said Mr Manolev.

“The audit-like nature of this approach promotes competition between students in race to the top of the rankings while creating a hierarchy that may influence the way in which students understand themselves.”

Mr Manolev said the app conditions students to accept “being watched” on an everyday basis. “The surveillance mechanisms embedded within ClassDojo extend beyond the walls of the classroom,” he said.

“Through its digitised communication network ClassDojo provides teachers with the ability to deliver a child’s behaviour data directly to parents, in real time, along with continual access to constantly updated behaviour profiles in the form of student reports.”

“This feature effectively subjects students to a weekly report card of their behaviour delivered directly to a parent’s inbox.”

“If teachers modify their practice to implement ClassDojo according to company recommendations, students will be subject to an intensification of surveillance at school that encroaches into their homes, extending school-based disciplinary regimes further in the lives of young people.”

As an alternative to the approach to discipline encouraged by ClassDojo, the authors argue for a more educational approach to discipline. “Such an approach would be underpinned by the values of respect, caring, and dignity, promoting practices that exhibit and develop such qualities in students.”

“It would recognise the complexities of behaviour and consider the role of not only internal, but also external influences on behaviour such as curriculum, pedagogy, relationships, and student experiences.

“It would shift away from controlling discipline practices to practices that engage students with learning, and incorporate student voice.”

Mr Manolev points to the detrimental aspects of subjecting students to high levels of surveillance, such as reducing risk taking, creativity, and trust, while simultaneously increasing anxiety.

Comparison can also be drawn between ClassDojo and China’s Social Credit System which works much like a financial credit rating but based on behaviour. Both systems rely on surveillance, rewards and punishments as behaviour reinforcements, converting behaviour data into a score, and using those scores to govern individuals and shape their behaviour.

Invisible labor can negatively impact well-being in mothers

Knowing who needs to be where, on what day and at what time. Buying a bigger pair of pants before a child outgrows what is currently hanging in the closet. Always having a jar of unopened peanut butter on hand.

These caregiving tasks require mental and emotional effort and are examples of the invisible labor women contribute and caring for their families. Researchers from Arizona State University and Oklahoma State University examined how invisible labor impacted the well-being of a sample of American women. The work will be published on January 22 in Sex Roles.

“Until recently, no one stopped to think about mom herself,” said Suniya Luthar, Foundation Professor of psychology at ASU and senior author on the study. “We need to attend to the well-being of moms if we want children to do well, and also for their own sakes.”

Quantifying the invisible

Though men participate in housework and childcare more today than in the past, women still manage the household, even when they are employed. Because this unequal burden can affect the mental health of women, the researchers decided to study how the management of a household was divided among partners and how the division of labor affected women’s well-being.

“Even though women may be physically doing fewer loads of laundry, they continue to hold the responsibility for making sure the detergent does not run out, all the dirty clothes make it into the wash and that there are always clean towels available,” said Lucia Ciciolla, assistant professor of psychology at Oklahoma State University and first author on the study. “Women are beginning to recognize they still hold the mental burden of the household even if others share in the physical work, and that this mental burden can take a toll.”

The researchers surveyed 393 American women with children under age 18 who were married or in a committed partnership. The sample included women mostly from middle upper class homes who were highly educated, with over 70% having at least a college education.

The team measured the division of household labor by asking questions about who was in charge of three sets of tasks: organizing the family’s schedules, fostering children’s well-being, and making major financial decisions. The researchers looked at how these tasks affected the women’s satisfaction with spouses or partners and their satisfaction with life overall. The team also looked how invisible labor was linked to feelings of being overwhelmed and feelings of emptiness in the women’s everyday lives.

A mother’s work is never done

In the category of family routines, almost 9 in 10 women answered they felt solely responsible for organizing schedules of the family, which Luthar said is an extremely large percentage given 65% of the women were employed. At least 7 in 10 women answered they were also responsible for other areas of family routines like maintaining standards for routines and assigning household chores.

The women who indicated they were in charge of the household reported they felt overwhelmed with their role as parents, had little time for themselves and felt exhausted.

“Sole responsibility for household management showed links with moms’ distress levels, but with the almost 90% of women feeling solely responsible, there was not enough variability in the data to detect whether this association was statistically significant,” Luthar said. “At the same time, there’s no question that constant juggling and multi-tasking at home negatively affects mental health.”

A large percentage of the women also felt that it was mostly they who were responsible for being vigilant of their children’s well-being and emotional states. Almost 8 in 10 answered they were the one who knew the children’s school teachers and administrators, and two thirds indicated it was they who were attentive to the children’s emotional needs. Yet, instilling values in children was a shared responsibility. Only a quarter of women said they were solely responsible, and 72% said that this was generally shared equally with partners.

The invisible labor of ensuring the well-being of children did, in fact, show strong, unique links with women’s distress. This category clearly predicted feelings of emptiness in the women. It was also associated with low satisfaction levels about life overall and with the marriage or partnership.

“Research in developmental science indicates that mothers are first responders to kids’ distress,” Luthar said. “That is a very weighty job; it can be terrifying that you’re making decisions, flying solo, that might actually worsen rather than improve things for your children’s happiness.”

Financial decisions were also listed as shared responsibilities, with just over 50% of the women answering they made decisions about investments, vacations, major home improvements and car purchases together with their partner. Because other studies have found participating in financial decisions to be empowering, the researchers predicted it would be positively associated with women’s well-being. But financial decision-making was unexpectedly associated with low partner satisfaction, which the research team attributed to the addition of this job on top of the already high demands of managing the household and ensuring the children’s well-being.

Fixing an unequal burden

Experts on resilience in children agree that the most important protection for kids under stress is the well-being of the primary caregiver in the family, which is most commonly the mother. Mothers must also feel nurtured and cared for if they are to have good mental health and positive parenting behaviors. When women feel overly responsible for the invisible labor of running a household and raising children, it can negatively impact their overall well-being.

“When mothers feel supported, they can have the emotional resources to cope well with the demands they face,” Ciciolla said. “Being able to address inequalities in invisible labor can allow women and families to create households that are more functional and less burdensome, and can also spare women mental gymnastics to find the space and time to care for themselves.”

In addition to talking about invisible labor, Luthar emphasized that mothers must maintain dependable, authentic connections with others who are supportive. Randomized clinical trials have shown that regular support groups with mothers in the workplace led to reductions in distress, burnout at work and the stress hormone cortisol.

“Resilience rests, fundamentally, on relationships,” Luthar said. “As this is true for children, it is true for mothers who tend them.”

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R01 DA014385 and R13 MH082592) and by Authentic Connections and the Rodel Foundation. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the funding agencies.