Why Walking Might Be One of The Best Exercises For Health

To walk is to be human. We’re the only species that gets around by standing up and putting one foot in front of the other. In the 6 million years humans have been bipedal, our ability to walk upright has allowed humankind to travel great distances and survive changing climates, environments and landscapes.   

But walking is more than just transportation — it also happens to be really good for us. Countless scientific studies have found that this simple act of moving our feet can provide a number of health benefits and help people live longer. In fact, a walking routine — if done properly — might be the only aerobic exercise people need.

Many people have taken up strolls around the neighborhood and in nature to pass the time during the pandemic — and there are many reasons to keep it up, says Emmanuel Stamatakis, a professor of physical activity, lifestyle and population health at the University of Sydney.

“Regular walking has all the standard benefits of aerobic exercise, such as improvements in the heart and circulatory systems, better blood glucose control, normalization of blood pressure and reduction of anxiety and depression,” Stamatakis says.

The beauty of walking is that it’s free, it doesn’t require a lot of special equipment and can be done almost anywhere. Most people can maintain a walking practice throughout their lifetime. Yet, in the age of CrossFit and high-intensity cardio, walking is perhaps an under-appreciated way to get the heart pumping and muscles working. It also happens to be one of the most studied forms of exercise there is.   

Do You Really Need to Walk 10,000 Steps a Day?

In general, walking is good exercise because it puts our large muscle groups to work, and has a positive effect on most bodily systems, Stamatakis says.

But for the sake of efficiency — how much walking should one aim for? Public health experts have drilled into us the idea that we need 10,000 steps a day — or about five miles. But contrary to popular belief, this recommendation doesn’t come from science. Instead, it stems from a 1960s advertising campaign to promote a pedometer in Japan.

Perhaps because it’s a round number and easy to remember, it stuck. Countries like the U.S. began to include it in broader public health recommendations. Today, it’s often a default step count to reach on walking apps on smartphones and fitness trackers.

Since the 1960s, researchers have studied the 10,000-steps-a day standard and have turned up mixed results. Although clocking 10,000 steps or more a day is certainly a healthy and worthwhile goal — it’s not a one-size-fits-all fitness recommendation.

“Several studies have consistently shown that significant health benefits accrue well below 10,000 steps per day,” Stamatakis says.  

For instance, a recent Harvard study involving more than 16,000 older women found that those who got at least 4,400 steps a day greatly reduced their risk of dying prematurely when compared with less active women. The study also noted that the longevity benefits continued up to 7,500 steps but leveled off after that number. Put simply, 7,500 is also an ideal daily goal with comparable benefits to 10,000 steps.

Stamatakis notes that 7,500 steps also tend to be in line with common public health recommendations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week for adults.

But picking up the pace might be a good idea. As with any exercise, the physical benefits one gains from walking depends on three things: duration, intensity and frequency. Put simply: walk often, walk fast and walk long. The goal is to walk fast enough to raise your heart rate — even if just for a short burst.

 “Any pace is OK, but the faster the walking pace the better,” Stamatakis says. “It’s ideal for 3,000 to 3,500 [of those steps] to be completed at a brisk or fast pace.”

Walk Faster, Live Longer

In a recent review study involving around 50,000 walkers, Stamatakis and his colleagues linked faster walking speeds to a reduced risk of dying from almost everything except cancer. How much you walk, rather than how fast you walk, might be more important for reducing cancer mortality, the review noted.

Similar boosts to longevity have been found in other studies. Recent work published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings analyzed the life expectancy of nearly 475,000 men and women who self-reported as slow or brisk walkers. The faster walkers — around a speed of 3 miles per hour (or, a 20-minute mile) — could expect to live roughly 15 to 20 years longer than slower walkers, or those who clocked 2 mph (a 30-minute mile.)

Participants who considered themselves brisk walkers had an average life expectancy of nearly 87 years for men and 88 years for women. Increases in lifespan were observed across all weight groups the study included.

What’s considered a quick pace is relative to an individual’s fitness level, but it generally falls somewhere between 3 and 5 mph. A cadence of 100 steps per minute or greater is a commonly accepted threshold for turning a walk into a moderately intense exercise.  

While we know walking is good for the body, research is also beginning to reveal how it impacts brain function. Particularly, walking might be an effective way to slow or decrease the cognitive declines that come with growing older.

A study of older, sedentary adults found that walking for six months improved executive functioning, or the ability to plan and organize. Studies also have found that that walking and other aerobic exercises can increase the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in memory and learning.

Researchers think exercises like brisk walking might improve brain plasticity, or the ability to grow new neurons and form new synaptic connections.  

Can You Lose Weight By Walking?

If walking can help you live healthier and longer, can it also help you shed excess pounds? Not exactly. A common misconception is that working out in and of itself can help someone lose weight. Diet is a far more important piece of the weight-loss equation, research suggests.  

At least one study illustrates that daily walks make little difference in weight management. Weight gain is common among first-year college students. Researchers wanted to determine if walking could ward off the pounds. Their study, published in the Journal of Obesity, monitored 120 freshman women over six months. Over the course of 24 weeks, the students walked either 10,000, 12,500 or 15,000 steps a day, six days a week. Researchers tracked their caloric intake and weight — and found that step count didn’t seem to influence the number on the scale. Even students who walked the most still gained around the same amount of weight. 

Often, when someone increases physical activity, some of the body’s normal physiological responses kick in to make up for the calories burned. One might start getting hungry more often and may eat more, without realizing it.

Even if with a tight control on daily caloric intake, it takes a lot of walking to accumulate a meaningful deficit. To put this in perspective, a 155-pound person would burn roughly 500 calories walking for 90 minutes at a rate of 4.5 mph.

However, walking does seem to influence a person’s body composition. Where a person carries fat might be a more important indicator of disease risk than body mass index. Avid walkers tend to have smaller waist circumferences. Waist measurements that are more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men have been linked with a higher risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

So a walk in the park maybe won’t make you “ripped” — but it sure beats sitting.

By Megan Schmidt

Source: https://www.discovermagazine.com

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How Exercise May Affect Our Alcohol Consumption

People who work out regularly and are aerobically fit tend to guzzle a surprising amount of alcohol, according to a new study, well timed for the holidays, of the interplay between fitness, exercise and imbibing. The study, which involved more than 40,000 American adults, finds that active, physically fit men and women are more than twice as likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers as people who are out of shape.

The results add to mounting evidence from previous studies — and many of our bar tabs — that exercise and alcohol frequently go hand in hand, with implications for the health effects of each. Many people, and some researchers, might be surprised to learn how much physically active people tend to drink. In general, people who take up one healthy habit, such as working out, tend to practice other salubrious habits, a phenomenon known as habit clustering.

Fit, active people seldom smoke, for instance, and tend to eat healthful diets. So, it might seem logical that people who often exercise would drink alcohol sparingly. But multiple studies in recent years have found close ties between working out and tippling. In one of the earliest, from 2001, researchers used survey answers from American men and women to conclude that moderate drinkers.

Defined in that study as people who finished off about a drink a day, were twice as likely as those who didn’t drink at all to exercise regularly. Later studies found similar patterns among college athletes, who drank substantially more than other collegians, a population not famous for its temperance.

In another revealing study, from 2015, 150 adults kept online diaries about when and how much they exercised and consumed alcohol for three weeks. The results showed that on the days they exercised the most, they also tended to drink the most afterward.

But these and other past studies, while consistently linking more physical activity and more drinking, tended to be small or centered on the young, or relied on somewhat casual reports of what people told researchers about their workouts and alcohol intake, which can be notoriously unreliable.

So, for the new study, titled “Fit and Tipsy?” and recently published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers with The Cooper Institute in Dallas and other institutions turned to more objective data about tens of thousands of American adults. All were part of the large and ongoing Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, which looks at cardiovascular health and its relationship to various behavioral factors and other medical conditions.

Study participants visited the Cooper Clinic in Texas for annual checkups and, as part of those exams, completed treadmill tests of their aerobic fitness. They also completed extensive questionnaires about their exercise and drinking habits and whether they worried about their alcohol intake.

The researchers gathered records for 38,653 participants who were of legal age and reported drinking at least once a week. (The authors left teetotalers out of the study mix, because they wanted to compare light drinkers to heavier drinkers.) Then they ran numbers.

As in earlier studies, the fitter people were, the more they tended to drink. The fittest women were about twice as likely to be moderate drinkers as women with low aerobic capacities. Moderate drinking meant the women drank between four and seven glasses of beer, wine or spirits in a typical week. The fittest men were more than twice as likely to be moderate drinkers — up to 14 drinks per week — as men who were less fit.

The researchers considered people’s reported exercise habits and adjusted for age and other factors that could have influenced the results, and the odds remained consistently higher. Fit men and some women also had a slightly higher likelihood of being heavy drinkers — defined as having eight or more weekly drinks for women and 15 or more for men — than their less fit peers.

Interestingly, fit women who were heavy drinkers often reported concerns about their level of alcohol intake, while fit men in that category rarely did. What might these results mean for those of us who work out regularly to try to stay in shape?

While they clearly show that fitness and increased drinking go hand-in-hand, “most people probably don’t associate physical activity and alcohol intake as linked behaviors,” said Kerem Shuval, the executive director of epidemiology at the Cooper Institute, who led the new study. So, people who exercise should be aware of their alcohol intake, he said, even tracking how often they imbibe each week.

Doctors and scientists cannot say with certainty how many drinks might be too many for our health and well-being, and the total likely differs for each of us. But talk to your doctor or a counselor if your drinking worries you (or worries your spouse or friends or training partners).

Of course, this study has limits. It mostly involved affluent, white Americans, and it showed only an association between fitness and alcohol intake and not that one causes the other. It also cannot tell us why working up a sweat might lead to excess boozing, or vice versa.

“There probably are social aspects,” Dr. Shuval said, with teammates and training groups bonding over beers or margaritas after a competition or workout. Many of us likely also put a health halo around our exercise, making us feel our physical exertions justify an extra cocktail — or three.

And, intriguingly, some animal studies show that both exercise and alcohol light up parts of the brain related to reward processing, suggesting that while each, on its own, can be pleasurable, doing both might be doubly enticing.

“We need a lot more research” into the reasons for the relationship. Dr. Shuval said. But for now, it is worth keeping in mind, especially at this festive time of year, that our running or cycling outings or trips to the gym could influence how often, and how enthusiastically, we toast the new year.

Source: How Exercise May Affect Our Alcohol Consumption – The New York Times

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3 Things To Know Before You Arm Your Employees With Fitness Trackers

Even the most seasoned and well-adjusted remote workers know the risk: If you’re not careful, working from home can bring your physical activity to a standstill.

Employers know this too. Increasingly, they are looking for ways to bolster their wellness programs by offering fitness trackers, such as those made by Fitbit, Garmin, and Amazon, to help employees log more movement during the day. Another popular option called Oura makes smart rings that can track sleep, fitness, temperature, and even signs of illness. An Oura dashboard even lets employers view the likelihood of illness across their entire workforce.

Employees who log a certain amount of physical activity can then receive insurance discounts through many major health insurance companies, such as UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and Aetna. Beneficiaries can get reimbursed for prescription co-pays and other health care costs under their deductibles.

But fitness trackers in the workplace, and health surveillance in general, also carry considerable privacy risks. More than 60 million records from Fitbit, Apple, and other companies were compromised in June after a data breach on GetHealth, a third-party group that provides employee fitness incentives.

Data breaches of fitness trackers like Strava have revealed personal details such as the name and location of participants, even in anonymized data. Security risks aside, you may not even want to have so many personal details about your employees at your fingertips. After all, constant surveillance won’t exactly put your team at ease.

Before offering fitness trackers to your employees, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

1. Fitness trackers will save you money on premiums, for now.

Workplace fitness-tracker programs often offer discounts on insurance premiums if employees meet certain fitness goals. Some employees can earn as much as $1,500 a year they can apply toward their health insurance premiums. Workers can get free or discounted wearables, workout clothing, and even gym equipment. On the employer side, a few studies have shown that fitness trackers can help you save money on premiums. But some companies have reported that their insurance costs have remained the same.

At present, there are no laws or regulations in place to stop insurers from using fitness-tracker data to raise premiums. In an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from the AMA raised concerns that such data could increase insurance premiums for some groups.

“Wearables can collect information on physical activity, calorie intake, blood pressure, and weight. Insurance companies are now using this data for rewards programs, but there are no regulations stopping them from doing the opposite,” wrote the authors.

2. The data your employees share isn’t protected by HIPAA.

Health care providers and health insurers are barred from sharing any patient information by HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. But that ban doesn’t extend to Google, Apple, or any private companies through which employees elect to share their health care data. As The Wall Street Journal reports, there’s nothing under HIPAA that would bar third-party companies from analyzing or selling the health care data users voluntarily give up.

If you’re looking to adopt fitness-tracker programs, read up on the device-maker’s privacy policies and be prepared to answer questions from employees. You will have the added responsibility of explaining to workers how much access your own company has to their data, and how it’s being used. Workers need to understand that you will not be using data from the fitness trackers against them, and are under no obligation to sign up for the program.

3. The research on fitness-tracker effectiveness is mixed.

For some people, wearing a device that tracks their activity levels is enough of a reason to get off the sofa. But changing health habits permanently requires a lot more effort. One study published in The Lancet from researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School found that wearing an activity tracker, along with a cash incentive, improved the fitness levels of employees.

But after the cash incentive was discontinued after six months, employees didn’t maintain their previous fitness levels. The study also compared employees who wore fitness trackers with those who did not, and found no real difference in the amount of activity performed.

But a number of other studies indicate that fitness trackers do help increase activity levels, either by small or moderate amounts. In one analysis of 28 studies with more than 7,000 participants published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that those with fitness trackers were more physically active than those in groups without. Added features like setting personal goals and text reminders were the most effective in getting people to exercise.

If your company chooses to enroll in a fitness-tracker program, keep in mind that you’re unlikely to entice all of your employees to adopt it. If you want to help improve the health of workers, you can also try methods like subsidized gym memberships, healthy food choices at work, or reimbursement for fitness equipment. While fitness trackers can certainly play a role in improving health outcomes, they are just one tool. Substantive lifestyle changes, including good nutrition, sleep, and fitness, also are required.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the fitness tracker Strava had a data breach that revealed personal details such as the name and location of participants, including in anonymized data. According to Strava spokesman, the company has never had a data breach.

By Amrita Khalid, Staff writer@askhalid

Source: 3 Things to Know Before You Arm Your Employees With Fitness Trackers | Inc.com

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Böhm, B; Karwiese, SD; Böhm, H; Oberhoffer, R (30 April 2019). “Effects of Mobile Health Including Wearable Activity Trackers to Increase Physical Activity Outcomes Among Healthy Children and Adolescents: Systematic Review”. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 7 (4): e8298. doi:10.2196/mhealth.8298. PMC 6658241. PMID 31038460.

 

The Best Thing for Back Pain is Actually More Movement

Roughly 80 percent of Americans have back pain at some point in their lives. Historically, many of those people were told that, barring a specific, treatable injury, there’s one prescription for back pain: rest. But research today tells us that the answer is actually just the opposite.

“The advice to rest and not stress your back runs counter to what we now understand to be the best course of action,” says Eric Robertson, a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association and an associate professor of clinical physical therapy at University of Utah and University of Southern California. One of the main issues that physical therapists and physicians alike have run into is that we don’t actually know what causes the pain.

Pain in any muscle can come from being too tight or stiff, but it could also be from a weakness or if it’s not moving in the right way, explains Robertson. Like a car, he says, if there’s one weak spot other parts of the vehicle are going to wear down more quickly—and that’s where you can get pain.

Strengthening your core and back muscles, then, can be incredibly helpful in treating and preventing back pain. And the good news is that you don’t need to do serious weight training to see benefits. The more you move generally, the less likely you are to have pain.

“Standing frequently throughout the day, walking or pacing whenever feasible, and stretching the hips, hamstrings, and hip flexors regularly are a good way to be proactive in preventing these issues,” says Lauren Shroyer, Senior Director of Product Development and a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) at the American Council on Exercise. Robertson agrees.

He says walking is one of the best exercises for back pain, since it’s non-load bearing and easy to do—but even just moving more overall is going to be helpful (and research backs him up). Back pain can often be the predictable result of a sedentary lifestyle that more and more Americans have, so it may not take much movement to increase strength in the core and back enough to relieve pain.

Still, lifting may be able to help even more. Studies suggest that even low-levels of strength training can improve back pain. Discomfort in the back can often be the result of weaknesses elsewhere, like the gluteal muscles and adductors, both of which are in your hips and legs. Strengthening those muscles with exercises like squats, leg presses, or any single leg movement, can help with the pain, Robertson says.

If you’re having pain right now, you should consult a physical therapist who can design a program specific to your body and your pain. But if you want a general exercise regimen to help prevent back issues, Shroyer has some recommendations.

For beginners, try these exercises:

Once you’ve mastered those, or if you’re already more experienced, try these:

You may also want to incorporate stretching in with your strength training. Shroyer recommends a basic program for staving off back issues. “In general, when you are not experiencing acute pain and want to be proactive in preventing it, a regular program of stretching the hips and strengthening the legs, abdominals and spine is best.” If you want specifics, check out Williams flexion exercises, the figure-4 piriformis stretch, the cat-cow stretch, and the spinal twist.

You can also determine from your lumbar (or lower) spine position which types of other exercises may be the most helpful, Shroyer says. If you look at yourself from the side in a full-length mirror, check out how much your lower back curves. If it’s fairly straight, hamstring stretches are going to give you the best benefit. If you have a deep curve, hip flexor stretches may be best.

If you’re experiencing minor pain or are simply trying to prevent back problems in the future, the recommendations so far may be all you need. But many people who have chronic back pain find that even doing basic stretches or exercises are overwhelming.

“All pain experiences are a combination of physical and emotional responses,” Robertson says. That might seem tangential to solving your back pain, but the truth is that a large part of overcoming that discomfort is about overcoming the fear of being in pain.

If you’re in pain every time you move, he explains, it’s normal to become afraid of moving—and it’s a physical therapist’s job to enable you to start moving enough that you can move past the fear. Lots of people are told that they simply have a bad back. But the truth is that about 90 percent of back pain isn’t serious, Robertson says, and that means most people can get on track to being pain-free with the right training.

Some folks will get flare-ups, but recurrences don’t mean that you have to live with a bad back for your whole life. (If you have changes in bowel or bladder like trouble peeing, tingling or numbness especially in the groin, or neurologic symptoms like weakness or numbness that may be a sign that you are in the 10 percent of people with a more serious issue—and you should go see a doctor!).

Robertson says that he’s personally experienced back pain intermittently throughout his life, and that it’s still a struggle for him. “Every time, I have this feeling that it’s going to be forever. It’s an okay thing to acknowledge—it’s scary and overwhelming,” he says. We all need to talk about back pain in a more positive light, he says, as something that might be awful now but can be overcome.

By: Sara Chodosh

Source: The Best Thing for Back Pain is Actually More Movement

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Four Causes For ‘Zoom Fatigue’ & Their Solutions

Even as more people are logging onto popular video chat platforms to connect with colleagues, family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford researchers have a warning for you: Those video calls are likely tiring you out.

Prompted by the recent boom in videoconferencing, communication Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), examined the psychological consequences of spending hours per day on these platforms. Just as “Googling” is something akin to any web search, the term “Zooming” has become ubiquitous and a generic verb to replace videoconferencing. Virtual meetings have skyrocketed, with hundreds of millions happening daily, as social distancing protocols have kept people apart physically.

In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on Feb. 23, Bailenson has taken the medium apart and assessed Zoom on its individual technical aspects. He has identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that he says contribute to the feeling commonly known as “Zoom fatigue.”

Bailenson stressed that his goal is not to vilify any particular videoconferencing platform – he appreciates and uses tools like Zoom regularly – but to highlight how current implementations of videoconferencing technologies are exhausting and to suggest interface changes, many of which are simple to implement. Moreover, he provides suggestions for consumers and organizations on how to leverage the current features on videoconferences to decrease fatigue.

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“Videoconferencing is a good thing for remote communication, but just think about the medium – just because you can use video doesn’t mean you have to,” Bailenson said.

Below are four primary reasons why video chats fatigue humans, according to the study. Readers are also invited to participate in a research study aimed at developing a Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale (ZEF) Scale.

Four reasons why

1) Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.

Both the amount of eye contact we engage in on video chats, as well as the size of faces on screens is unnatural.

In a normal meeting, people will variously be looking at the speaker, taking notes or looking elsewhere. But on Zoom calls, everyone is looking at everyone, all the time. A listener is treated nonverbally like a speaker, so even if you don’t speak once in a meeting, you are still looking at faces staring at you. The amount of eye contact is dramatically increased. “Social anxiety of public speaking is one of the biggest phobias that exists in our population,” Bailenson said. “When you’re standing up there and everybody’s staring at you, that’s a stressful experience.”

Another source of stress is that, depending on your monitor size and whether you’re using an external monitor, faces on videoconferencing calls can appear too large for comfort. “In general, for most setups, if it’s a one-on-one conversation when you’re with coworkers or even strangers on video, you’re seeing their face at a size which simulates a personal space that you normally experience when you’re with somebody intimately,” Bailenson said.

When someone’s face is that close to ours in real life, our brains interpret it as an intense situation that is either going to lead to mating or to conflict. “What’s happening, in effect, when you’re using Zoom for many, many hours is you’re in this hyper-aroused state,” Bailenson said.

Solution: Until the platforms change their interface, Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimize face size, and to use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between oneself and the grid.

2) Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.

Most video platforms show a square of what you look like on camera during a chat. But that’s unnatural, Bailenson said. “In the real world, if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that,” he added.

Bailenson cited studies showing that when you see a reflection of yourself, you are more critical of yourself. Many of us are now seeing ourselves on video chats for many hours every day. “It’s taxing on us. It’s stressful. And there’s lots of research showing that there are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror.”

Solution: Bailenson recommends that platforms change the default practice of beaming the video to both self and others, when it only needs to be sent to others. In the meantime, users should use the “hide self-view” button, which one can access by right-clicking their own photo, once they see their face is framed properly in the video.

3) Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.

In-person and audio phone conversations allow humans to walk around and move. But with videoconferencing, most cameras have a set field of view, meaning a person has to generally stay in the same spot. Movement is limited in ways that are not natural. “There’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively,” Bailenson said.

Solution: Bailenson recommends people think more about the room they’re videoconferencing in, where the camera is positioned and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility. For example, an external camera farther away from the screen will allow you to pace and doodle in virtual meetings just like we do in real ones. And of course, turning one’s video off periodically during meetings is a good ground rule to set for groups, just to give oneself a brief nonverbal rest.

4) The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.

Bailenson notes that in regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural and each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously. But in video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals.

In effect, Bailenson said, humans have taken one of the most natural things in the world – an in-person conversation – and transformed it into something that involves a lot of thought: “You’ve got to make sure that your head is framed within the center of the video. If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. That adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate.”

Gestures could also mean different things in a video meeting context. A sidelong glance to someone during an in-person meeting means something very different than a person on a video chat grid looking off-screen to their child who just walked into their home office.

Solution: During long stretches of meetings, give yourself an “audio only” break. “This is not simply you turning off your camera to take a break from having to be nonverbally active, but also turning your body away from the screen,” Bailenson said, “so that for a few minutes you are not smothered with gestures that are perceptually realistic but socially meaningless.”

ZEF Scale

Many organizations – including schools, large companies and government entities – have reached out to Stanford communication researchers to better understand how to create best practices for their particular videoconferencing setup and how to come up with institutional guidelines. Bailenson – along with Jeff Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab; Géraldine Fauville, former postdoctoral researcher at the VHIL; Mufan Luo; graduate student at Stanford; and Anna Queiroz, postdoc at VHIL – responded by devising the Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale, or ZEF Scale, to help measure how much fatigue people are experiencing in the workplace from videoconferencing.

The scale, detailed in a recent, not yet peer-reviewed paper published on the preprint website SSRN, advances research on how to measure fatigue from interpersonal technology, as well as what causes the fatigue. The scale is a 15-item questionnaire, which is freely available, and has been tested now across five separate studies over the past year with over 500 participants. It asks questions about a person’s general fatigue, physical fatigue, social fatigue, emotional fatigue and motivational fatigue. Some sample questions include:

  • How exhausted do you feel after videoconferencing?
  • How irritated do your eyes feel after videoconferencing?
  • How much do you tend to avoid social situations after videoconferencing?
  • How emotionally drained do you feel after videoconferencing?
  • How often do you feel too tired to do other things after videoconferencing?

Hancock said results from the scale can help change the technology so the stressors are reduced.

He notes that humans have been here before. “When we first had elevators, we didn’t know whether we should stare at each other or not in that space. More recently, ridesharing has brought up questions about whether you talk to the driver or not, or whether to get in the back seat or the passenger seat,” Hancock explained. “We had to evolve ways to make it work for us. We’re in that era now with videoconferencing, and understanding the mechanisms will help us understand the optimal way to do things for different settings, different organizations and different kinds of meetings.”

“Hopefully, our work will contribute to uncovering the roots of this problem and help people adapt their videoconference practices to alleviate ‘Zoom fatigue,’” added Fauville, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. “This could also inform videoconference platform designers to challenge and rethink some of the paradigm videoconferences have been built on.”

If you are interested in measuring your own Zoom fatigue, you can take the survey here and participate in the research project.

By Vignesh Ramachandran

Source: Four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their solutions | Stanford News

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