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Why Stretching Is a Waste of Time for Runners

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After years of nursing a perpetual hip injury, 48-year-old Amanda Loudin finally stopped doing the one thing she always believed would help her the most: Stretching. Once she abandoned her post-run stretch session, she said her hip started feeling better.

"I always assumed stretching was part of the solution for my running injuries," said Loudin, a Baltimore writer who runs 45 to 60 miles a week. "But after doing my research, I realized I was probably doing more harm than good."

Loudin gave up stretching a few years ago but for the majority of runners, toe touches and quad stretches are still an integral part of their ritual. Most were taught in high school that reaching into a stretch and holding it for 30 seconds or so is a good way to preserve the joints and prevent injury.

The evidence, however, suggests otherwise.

Take, for example, a large analysis of multiple studies recently performed by scientists at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. It found that runners who stretched were just as likely to be plagued with injuries as those who never bothered. Another study that looked at more than 1,500 serious male marathoners found that those who stretched on a regular basis -- whether before or after a run -- actually had 33 percent more injuries than those who didn't, even taking things like age and average weekly mileage into account.

Even worse, some studies suggest that stretching may be detrimental to performance. A 2010 Florida State University investigation found that trained distance runners who did a series of static stretches before a time trial wasted about 5 percent more energy and covered 3 percent less distance than runners who didn't stretch.

"Your tendons don't need to be that pliable for running," said Jason Karp, an exercise physiologist and running coach based in San Diego. "Most injuries are from the pounding of running, something stretching can't do much about."

Karp explained that since most common running injuries tend to occur within a muscle's normal range of motion, attempting to stretch past what a muscle can normally do offers no protection. And forcing the muscle to lengthen to the point of pain will likely cause it to tighten up rather than relax. This in turn can irritate the muscle fibers, exacerbating an injury and possibly causing it to linger, he speculated.

Karp explained that the very idea that runners should be chasing flexibility is somewhat questionable anyway.

"The only thing stretching might be good for is increasing stride length and running fluidity, something that might be helpful to older runners," he said.

But Jim Wharton, a New York-based exercise physiologist who has worked with Olympians and world record holders, said he thought runners do need to focus on flexibility -- but in a very specific way.

"If you don't have joint range of motion, you begin to fight against gravity and you start to shuffle," Wharton said, adding that part of the problem is that most exercisers stretch the wrong way.

"Because muscles work in pairs, the best way to get a muscle to relax is to first tighten the muscle on the opposite side of the joint," Wharton explained. "Instead of moving into a stretch and holding it, you gently move through a series of positions, isolating one muscle group at a time."

To stretch the hamstrings in the back of the thigh, lift your leg up in front of you 8 to 10 times without forcing it any higher than comfortable, Wharton explained. Because kicking upward causes the quadriceps in the front of the thighs to contract, the hamstrings must relax, Wharton said. To stretch out the quads, reverse and kick the leg back behind you, he said.

There is little evidence to support this "dynamic stretching" theory beyond a few small studies that suggested adding movement-oriented flexibility exercises either after a warm up or at the end of a work out does not cause injury and may improve overall running performance.

Wharton said that he's used the method successfully with thousands of runners. Karp also uses a similar technique with his clients.

Loudin for one is a believer in dynamic stretching. She now warms up with a series of swings, kicks and lunges to loosen up her muscles and get her blood flowing.

"It felt strange at first but the voice in back of my head says it's the right thing to do," she said. "In running you sometimes have to let go of your long-held beliefs."

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Nurse Who Contracted Ebola Virus-Free, Mom Says

Debra Berry(DALLAS) -- A Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola from Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan is virus-free, her mother said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

Amber Vinson became the second person to contract Ebola in the United States after she treated Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan died of the virus on Oct. 8, and Vinson's fellow nurse, Nina Pham, 26, tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 11.

Vinson, 29, was diagnosed on Oct. 15 and transported to the isolation unit at Emory University Hospital for treatment.

"We are overjoyed to announce that, as of yesterday [Tuesday] evening, officials at Emory University Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control are no longer able to detect virus in her body," the family said in the statement Wednesday, adding that Vinson should be able to leave the isolation unit.

"Amber and our family are ecstatic to receive this latest report on her condition," Vinson's mother, Debra Berry, said in a statement. "We all know that further treatment will be necessary as Amber continues to regain strength, but these latest developments have truly answered prayers and bring our family one step closer to reuniting with her at home."

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Boy Battling Inoperable Brain Cancer Gets His Own Superhero Theme Song

iStock/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- When Chad Carr fell and broke his nose, the four-year-old boy’s parents took him to a hospital. Medical staffers saw him and sent him home, but the incident had his mother thinking about all the other times her son had fallen.

“I just said I think we have to take him back to the ER, I don’t think something’s right....,” Tammi Carr, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, told ABC News.

While Carr and her husband, Jason, waited on the results of an MRI that was to have taken two hours but which took over three hours instead, Carr said she knew something was wrong.

“When the anesthesiologist came out I just knew something was really bad because she literally couldn’t look at us and she’d been crying…so it was -- she just said they found something, and then a doctor came in later and told us what it was,” Carr said.

The Carrs were told that their son -– the youngest of their three young boys –- had diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive, inoperable tumor in his brain stem.

He was soon started on radiation and put into a clinical drug trial at the University of Michigan. Asked about his prognosis, Carr said doctors said it was “not good,” but she added that her son has been improving.

One bright spot came in the form of a text from a friend, who wrote that his family had been inspired by Chad's challenge and was writing a song about him. He sent them lyrics, and Carr said the song was “totally catchy and adorable.”

It became Chad’s own superhero theme, with rousing music and lyrics that extol the virtues of a boy who’s “stronger than the darkest night, faster than the speed of light,” with a chant in the background: "We need Chad tough." The video features appearances by Chad, his two brothers, his cousins, his father, and the basketball team of the University of Michigan.

The video, first posted to YouTube on Monday, now has over 6,000 views.

Carr said, "It’s a great song. It’s something I’m going to cherish forever."

Proceeds from the sale of the song will go for Chad’s care and treatment. A separate GoFundMe page for Chad had raised more than $9,000 of the stated $50,000 goal. That fund was started fifteen days ago.

Carr hopes the family won’t have to use the funds.

“It’s our goal that we don’t have to use that and we can do something great with it for research but if our son needs it then we’re going to do whatever we can, so it’s great to have that started. It’s a peace of mind for sure because there’s a lot coming our way. We don’t exactly know yet what it is but none of it is expensive,” she said.

Carr said Chad is being kept out of preschool while he undergoes treatment.

“We want to make sure we’re spending time with him as much as we can and, you know, God willing, he’s able to go back to school next year and, you know, get ready for kindergarten the next year,” she said.

Carr said her family also has a fund started at the University of Michigan for brain cancer research.

“I worked in raising money for 11 years to build the hospital that we’re getting treated in now,” she said, adding that the building that houses the unit where her son is treated bears her father-in-law’s name. “It’s just crazy.”

Carr is pleased that the video has caught on, not only because it’s spreading her son’s story, but also because it’s giving her the opportunity to spread the message about the importance for greater funding for childhood cancer research.

According to the National Cancer Institute, childhood cancer is the top cause of disease-related deaths among children and adolescents up to age 19 in the United States. DIPG affects between 200 and 300 children every year, and the outlook for patients is generally poor, according to information from the National Institutes of Health.

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CDC to Monitor All Travelers Coming from Ebola-Affected Countries

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- All people returning to the United States from Ebola-affected countries will undergo 21-day monitoring, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday.

Travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people since the worst outbreak of the virus in history began in March, will be given a home kit with a thermometer and Ebola information so that they can self-monitor and report to the CDC, according to the agency.

If they do not report, officials will track them down, the CDC said.

Travelers will need to take their temperature twice daily and answer several questions about their symptoms, according to the CDC.

The program will focus on the six states that see about 70 percent of the traffic from these regions: Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Some states may monitor these travelers in person.

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Dog of Ebola-Infected Nurse Tests Negative for Deadly Virus

Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center(DALLAS) -- The dog of an Ebola-infected nurse has tested negative for the deadly virus.

Bentley has been quarantined after its owner, Nina Pham, was diagnosed with Ebola earlier this month.

According to a statement from Dallas City Hall, the dog was tested Monday and will be tested again while he remains in quarantine for 21 days, similar to how humans are quarantined for the duration of a possible Ebola incubation.

Pham was diagnosed on Oct. 12.

The dog has been cared for at an undisclosed location by a large team including Dallas Animal Services, Texas A&M University and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and Texas Animal Health Commission, among others.

The Dallas Animal Services, which has helped care for the the dog in quarantine, posted images of the dog on Monday as he was being tested.

A team member from the Texas A&M University Veterinary Emergency Team wore full protective gear as he took samples from Bentley.

In Spain, the dog of an Ebola-infected nurse there was euthanized amid fears the animal could spread the virus although there was no confirmation the dog had been infected with the virus. Thousands protested the decision by local government officials.

Pham contracted the virus after she treated Thomas Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. She was moved to the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, on Oct. 16 for further treatment.

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Ashoka Mukpo Says He Owes Hospital a 'Debt He Can Never Repay'

Ashoka Mukpo(OMAHA, Neb.) -- Ashoka Mukpo, the freelance American journalist who caught Ebola and was discharged from Nebraska Medical Center on Wednesday, said he owes the hospital staff "a debt he can never repay."

Mukpo, 33, a cameraman covering the Ebola outbreak in West Africa for NBC News, Vice and others, contracted the deadly virus. He was flown to Nebraska Medical Center for treatment in its isolation unit on Oct. 6.

"After end weeks where it was unclear whether I would survive, I’m walking out of the hospital on my own power, free from Ebola," Mukpo wrote in a statement read at a news conference at the hospital Wednesday.

He took to social media throughout his treatment, tweeting Tuesday night that he tested negative for Ebola three times over three days.

Just got my results. 3 consecutive days negative. Ebola free and feeling so blessed. I fought and won, with lots of help. Amazing feeling

— ashoka (@unkyoka) October 21, 2014

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People with Kids Laugh, Smile and Are Stressed

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- What’s the matter with kids today? Not a lot, according to most adults who have youngsters running around the house although they'll admit that the responsibility of being a parent is also a strain.

A survey of more than 131,000 adults by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that 84.1 percent of parents with children under 18 -- about 36,000 of those interviewed -- said they smiled or laughed a lot on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, 79.6 percent of survey respondents with no kids in the house reported the same thing.

However, having kids isn’t all fun and games as just about any parent will attest. The poll also reveals that just over 45 percent of people with kids who aren’t adults yet experience greater stress. That’s compared with just under 37 percent of people who don’t live with children.

Interestingly, more women than men feel stress in both groups while they’re both on the same level when it comes to laughing and smiling.

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New Sex Education Program Reduces Middle School Sex

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Get Real is an experimental sex education program used in a limited number of U.S. middle schools that seems to have been effective in getting some youngsters to put off having sex by the time they graduate the eighth grade.

Planned Parenthood, in partnership with the Wellesley Centers for Women, says that Get Real involves regular sex education in conjunction with students discussing classroom work with their parents after school.

After evaluating 24 schools in the Boston area over three years, it turned out that 16 percent fewer boys and 15 percent fewer girls had sex in the 12 schools where Get Real was taught.

The way that Get Real works is that in addition to educating youngsters about sex, it also sharpens their relationship skills, according to Planned Parenthood.

Although the program has been expanded to 150 schools in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Texas, the plan is to roll out Great Real on a national scale.

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Coffee and Beer May Affect Some Couples' Ability to Conceive

FogStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Coffee and beer are a couple of America’s favorite beverages but one may possibly be better than the other when it comes to couples who are having problems conceiving.

According to a surprising study out of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, coffee consumption by men seems to impair infertility treatments. However, a man’s beer drinking might increase the odds of pregnancy, although researchers are not suggesting they imbibe in great quantities of suds.

In a study of 105 men involved in vitro fertilization treatments over seven years, couples in which men drank at least 24 ounces of coffee daily were half as likely to conceive than those in which males drank less than an eight-ounce cup daily.

Meanwhile, couples enrolled in IVF had more luck with live births when the man had the equivalent of two 12-ounce beers daily compared to other couples with limited alcohol consumption among men.

Why do beer and coffee have these effects? Scientists admit they’re stumped and with a small sample size, they’re not about to make any recommendations until further studies are conducted.

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Frequent Restaurant Dining May Cause Health Problems

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you can afford to do it, why not dine out as much as possible?

Well, researchers at Queens College, City University of New York are advising against it and not purely for financial reasons.

According to lead author Ashima Kant, when people dine frequently at restaurants, they run a higher risk of putting on the pounds and boosting bad cholesterol as compared to those who mainly enjoy their meals at home.

In an analysis of 8,300 adults in the U.S. between 2005 and 2010, people who ate at least six meals in restaurants on a weekly basis had a higher body mass index, lower levels of good cholesterol and a deficiency in Vitamins C and E.

Who are the worst offenders? Generally, college-educated men in their 20s and 30s who earn good salaries.

As for why restaurant fare isn’t a great choice on a daily basis, the obvious answers are too much salt, too much fat, large portions and not enough fruits and vegetables offered.

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Employers Need to Prepare for Flu Outbreak Now

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- No one's telling Americans not to take Ebola seriously. However, millions can start preparing now for another contagious disease: the flu.

John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, says that if this year's flu season is anything like last year's, it will be tremendous drain on the economy.

Overall, a seasonal flu outbreak costs the nation's economy $10.4 billion in direct costs for hospitalization and outpatient visits, not to mention another $7 billion dollars annually in lost productivity at work.

Obviously, Americans at risk of catching the flu, such as the young and those over 50, can reduce the risk of contracting the flu by getting vaccinated.

Challenger also advises employers to start taking steps to stop the flu from spreading.

For instance, he recommends "encouraging employees to wash their hands, offering free or low-cost flu vaccination shots, and routinely washing and disinfecting work surfaces."

Perhaps even more important than all that, managers and supervisors should make it a point to tell workers early on that if they're sick, stay home.

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Study: Without Exit Screening, About Three Ebola-Infected Individuals Could Fly Out of West Africa Monthly

Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A study released on Tuesday by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research found that without exit screening, about three people infected with Ebola could fly out of West African nations impacted by the disease's outbreak each month.

The study, published in The Lancet, analyzed historical flight itineraries and concluded that 2.8 travellers infected with Ebola leave impacted countries on commercial flights every month. Notably, 64 percent of travellers leaving Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were traveling to low-income and lower-middle-income countries.

While researchers continue to note the importance of balancing the potential harms caused by travel restrictions, exit screening in West Africa "would be the most efficient frontier at which to assess the health status of travellers at risk of Ebola virus exposure."

Such action, however, would require international support to properly implement.

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Drawing Attention to the Risks of Drowsy Driving

Tomwang112/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to drowsy driving dangers, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that Americans need to wake up.

The NTSB, for the first time, held a forum on drowsy driving in Washington, D.C.

Mark Rosekind, a board member, said one of the biggest problems is that people underestimate just how tired they are.

“Humans are just horribly inaccurate if we have to self-diagnose fatigue,” Rosekind said. “That’s what allows us to put ourselves in life-threatening situations.”

According to the AAA, 40 percent of drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.

Losing two hours of sleep in just one night can affect a person’s reaction time by 20 percent, the NTSB said.

All that can add up to one of the most under-reported problems on the road. One study has suggested that 20 percent of crashes — one out of every five accidents — involves a tired driver.

On test tracks at Virginia Tech, researchers are assessing drivers for alertness and signs of fatigue.

Cameras are also being tested to see whether they can look at a person’s face and find telltale signs of a lack of sleep. Some cars have even been equipped with technology that can sense a driver drifting into another lane.

For now though, the NTSB is issuing this bit of advice: If a driver has not had enough sleep, they should not get behind the wheel.

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Journalist Who Contracted Ebola Now Disease Free

Ashoka Mukpo

(OMAHA, Neb.) -- The freelance cameraman who contracted Ebola while working with NBC in Liberia is now disease free, he tweeted Tuesday.

Ashoka Mukpo was transported from Liberia to the Nebraska Medical Center's biocontainment center on Oct. 6.

The medical center announced Tuesday that he was free of the disease and would be released from the hospital on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old made the announcement himself, tweeting that he is "Ebola free and feeling so blessed."


Just got my results. 3 consecutive days negative. Ebola free and feeling so blessed. I fought and won, with lots of help. Amazing feeling

— ashoka (@unkyoka) October 21, 2014

Throughout his treatment he opened up via Twitter about how he still is not sure how he contracted the disease but does not regret going to Liberia to help spread the word about Ebola's impact on west Africa.



For the record - no idea how I got it. It was something fluky. My best guess is I touched a surface and didn't chlorinate fast enough.

— ashoka (@unkyoka) October 20, 2014

He wrote about the "endless debt, endless gratitude" he owes to his supporters, mentioning how the head of Doctors Without Borders' burial team took time to visit Mukpo while he was still being treated in Liberia.



I was around a lot of sick people the week before I got sick. Thought I was keeping a good distance, wish I knew exactly what went wrong.

— ashoka (@unkyoka) October 20, 2014



But I don't regret going to Liberia to cover the crisis. That country was a second home to me and I had to help raise the alarm.

— ashoka (@unkyoka) October 20, 2014



I'll have time to say more the next few weeks, but for now, I'm in awe of my good fortune. I'm a very very lucky person. #blessed

— ashoka (@unkyoka) October 20, 2014



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Family Denies Teen Was 'Scared to Death' at Haunted House

iStock/Thinkstock(MIDDLETOWN, Ohio) -- The 16-year-old girl who collapsed and died after visiting an Ohio haunted house was not “scared to death,” her family says.

Christian Faith Benge was on a family trip last week to the Land of Illusions haunted house in Middletown last week when she collapsed.

Benge’s mother, Jean Benge, said she and a paramedic performed CPR on the teen before she was taken to a local hospital. The teenager was pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital.

Benge said she has been frustrated by early news reports insinuating that her daughter was “scared to death.” Benge, however, cited a life-long congenital defect as being responsible for her daughter’s not-surprising death.

Benge said her daughter was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. The condition means abdominal organs move into the chest because of a hole in the diaphragm, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The defect had been fixed when Christian Faith Benge was an infant, Jean Benge explained, but there was long-term damage related to the condition, including an enlarged heart and one nonfunctional lung. She said her daughter was never told to avoid certain stressful situations, such as so-called haunted houses.

“It had enlarged four times her natural size,” Jean Benge of her daughter’s heart. “It kicked out. When she collapsed, she died instantly.”

After talking to the coroner, Benge said she believes her daughter’s heart could have given out anywhere and that they just happened to be at a haunted house.

The Warren County Coroner in Ohio will not officially release a cause of death until toxicology tests return.

Benge said she is trying to focus on her daughter’s managing to survive far longer than expected and the many friends in her school and local church. She said doctors had not been optimistic that the girl would live past infancy and even sent her home to die when they couldn’t do anything else to help her, Benge said.

"My husband named her [because] Christian faith is the reason why she lives," Benge said. "People rule out miracles in our society. She was a living proof that God still works miracles."

There are some cases where patients with cardiac conditions should avoid stressful situations, but such cases are rare, according to Dr. Sahil Parikh, a cardiologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

Parikh, who did not treat Christian Faith Benge, said the most common reason for sudden death is an arrhythmia, when a heart’s electrical system malfunctions and can cause the heart to stop beating or to beat irregularly. In cases similar to the one described by Jean Benge, when the heart is enlarged, the patient can be more at risk for sudden heart failure.

“The heart gets bigger and bigger as it gets weaker and weaker,” Parikh said. “It was trying to compensate.”

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