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Meditation, mindfulness and active recovery, welcome to the next fitness wave

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Kevin Kwok likes to keep fit. He works out six times a week — each day dedicated to a different muscle group. He swims regularly, does crossfunctional training once a week and used to play rugby competitively in his native Australia.

Even when his days were long, he’d make time to go to the gym. But when he moved to Toronto in March to help Uber launch its new accessibility training service, Kwok had to work 15- to 18-hour days to get the program up and running. He still found time to hit the gym, but between his job and settling into a new city he began to burn out.

Kevin Kwok, right, demonstrates meditation techniques in a meditation pod at Mindset Brain Gym. Sean Finnell, CEO, led Kevin through a brief five minute meditation.
Kevin Kwok, right, demonstrates meditation techniques in a meditation pod at Mindset Brain Gym. Sean Finnell, CEO, led Kevin through a brief five minute meditation.  (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star)

“I couldn’t focus,” he says. “I’d read a book and it took me four times as long (as normal) to get through a page.”

He happened on Yorkville’s Mindset Brain Gym, a studio dedicated to training the brain to meditate. The gym offers short instructor-led classes and personal pods for people who want to sneak a few minutes in for a quick refresh. Some classes use Muse, a headset that measures brainwaves and can tell when the mind is drifting, alerting the user to refocus on the meditation at hand. Kwok signed up in October, and loved the experience so much, he’s added it into his regular workout routine.

The fitness world may still be abuzz with the health benefits of CrossFit, SoulCycle and other high intensity training, but community spas, recovery cafés and Zen gyms are gaining ground as soothing the mind and body is poised to be the next big fitness trend.

In its annual survey of fitness professionals, CanFitPro found that active recovery has usurped high intensity workouts to become the second-most popular health routine of the coming year. Personal trainers also said it, alongside meditation and mindfulness training, would be the top activities they recommend to clients in 2019.

Active recovery can be anything from a light jog, tai chi, yoga or a meditation class, says Barb Pontes, author of the study and the certification manager at CanFitPro. “It allows the body to take a break — (but) not just by sitting on the couch,” she says. “We’ve seen HIIT (high intensity interval training) being in the top 10 for quite a while now, but it may be starting to run its life as a top trend. You can’t go 120 per cent all the time, and we’re seeing people (want) to be well and take care of themselves.”

Globally, the number of people who joined restorative classes jumped 16 per cent in 2017 according to the annual Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends. In response to the increasing demand, gyms across the country have added more meditation classes to their mix, says Pontes.

Dedicated meditation gyms have popped up in cities like London, New York and L.A. In Toronto, Mindset has added 100-plus new clients monthly since its July launch, says founder and CEO Sean Finnell. It joined the likes of Hoame, a 5,000-square-foot meditation studio at Adelaide St. and Spadina Ave. opened in August, and the Quiet Company, which opened its permanent home on King W., in June. Even high intensity training-focused companies are getting in on the action. At-home cycling giant Peloton, known for its pulse-pounding workouts, launched subscription yoga and meditation classes on Dec. 26.

And while recovery and meditation doesn’t build muscle or shed calories as effectively as traditional gym-fare, the mindfulness aspect still offers a number of health benefits (not least of which is providing the body time to recover from workouts).

The biggest benefit is in stress reduction. Current research from the University of McMaster’s kinesiology department is looking at how people of varying levels of fitness and mindfulness training recover from stressful situations. And while the findings haven’t been published yet, early results show that people who incorporate some level of physical activity or some level of meditation regain their calm quicker than those who do not, says associate professor Jennifer Heisz. But people who are both physically active and do some form of mindfulness training recover faster than everyone.

Importantly, the brain can be trained to be more mindful, she says. Brain scans have shown that over time, meditation lessens the way the amygdala — the part of the brain that reacts to stress — responds to stressors, she says. This supports other research, which have found that regular meditation helps change the way the mind responds to stimuli. For example, one 2012 study found that people who frequently meditate had more stability in the part of the brain that regulates spontaneous thought.

Indeed, since joining Mindset, Kwok has seen a dramatic improvement in his mental health. When he first began in October, the Muse headset alerted him that his mind was wandering more than 100 times in a short session. At his last visit, his mind didn’t wander once, he says. “I view it like how I go to the gym,” he says. “It’s training (my) brain to be fully present. I’m not as distracted reading, when I’m studying or even at the gym. I can focus in all other areas of my life.”

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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