Monthly Archives: May 2016

Workout than a StairMaster

For anyone who has ever used a StairMaster at the gym, the time has come to really sweat—on a stepmill.

Stepmills look like moving staircases, and are so challenging that people brag about their workouts on social media with the tag #stairmonster. Gyms are adding them—and removing the classic stair climbers that have been a staple since the 1980s—as more people seek shorter, tougher workouts.

A traditional step climber’s pedals sink when you step on them and rise when you lift your feet, which can make workouts easier by shortening steps. Stepmill steps are a fixed height and move at a constant rate, pushing the user to keep up.

Stepmills quietly have become the most-used cardio machine after treadmills at gyms across North America. That’s according to data from 967 clubs collected by Ecofit, a company in Victoria, British Columbia, that lets gym owners track equipment usage through a wireless platform. Over the past year, stepmills were used for about 18 times as many hours as two-pedal step machines, Ecofit says.

“It’s a really good workout in a fast amount of time,” said Samantha VanderPutten, a graduate student in physical therapy at New York University, as she climbed onto a stepmill at an NYU fitness center. “I get bored on the treadmill.”

One way for HIV treatment

images-43More than 18 million people now have access to life-saving AIDS treatment, 1.2 million more than at the end of last year, the United Nations said on Monday.

In a report on the AIDS pandemic, which has infected 78 million people and killed 35 million since it began in the 1980s, UNAIDS said the consistently strong scale-up of treatment has seen annual AIDS-related deaths drop by 45 percent to 1.1 million in 2015 from a peak of about 2 million in 2005.

But, as more HIV-positive people live longer, the challenges of caring for them as they get older, of preventing the virus spreading and of reducing new infections are tough, UNAIDS said, even though drugs can reduce virus levels in a patient’s blood to near zero and significantly reduce the risk of passing it on.

“The progress we have made is remarkable, particularly around treatment, but it is also incredibly fragile,” UNAIDS’ executive director Michel Sidibe said as the report was published.

With detailed data showing some of the many complexities of the HIV epidemic, the report found that people are particularly vulnerable to HIV at certain points in their lives.

It called for “life-cycle” approach to offer help and prevention measures for everyone at every stage of life.

As people with HIV grow older, they are at risk of developing long-term side-effects from HIV treatment, developing drug resistance and requiring treatment for other illnesses such as tuberculosis and hepatitis C.

The report also cited data from South Africa showing that young women who become infected with HIV often catch the virus from older men. It said prevention is vital to ending the epidemic in young women and the cycle of HIV infection needs to be broken.

“Young women are facing a triple threat,” said Sidibe. “They are at high risk of HIV infection, have low rates of HIV testing, and have poor adherence to treatment.”

The report, saying the number of people with HIV getting life-saving drugs was 18.2 million, also showed that the rapid progress in getting AIDS drugs to those who need them is having a significant life-extending impact.

Transit regulators targeting sleep

Federal regulators are urging railroads across the country to test train operators for obstructive sleep apnea after the engineer in September’s deadly New Jersey commuter train crash was found to have the fatigue-inducing disorder.

The Federal Railroad Administration will issue a safety advisory this week stressing the importance of sleep apnea screening and treatment, Administrator Sarah Feinberg told The Associated Press. One railroad that already tests its engineers, Metro-North in the New York City suburbs, found that 1 in 9 suffers from sleep apnea.

The advisory, akin to a strong recommendation, is a stopgap measure while regulators draft rules that would require railroads to screen engineers for sleep apnea. That process could take years, and Feinberg said railroads shouldn’t wait for the government to force action.

“At this point it’s unacceptable to wait any longer,” Feinberg said.

Sleep apnea is especially troubling for the transportation industry because sufferers are repeatedly awakened and robbed of rest as their airway closes and their breathing stops, leading to dangerous daytime drowsiness.

“You end up with an engineer who is so fatigued they’re dosing off, they’re falling asleep in these micro bursts and they often have no memory of it, and they’re operating a locomotive at the time, so they’re putting hundreds of people in danger,” Feinberg said.

Airplane pilots with sleep apnea aren’t allowed to fly unless they’ve been successfully treated. Regulators are also pushing for bus and truck drivers to get tested.

NJ Transit engineer Thomas Gallagher, 48, was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea about a month after his train slammed into Hoboken Terminal at double the 10 mph speed limit on Sept. 29, his lawyer said. One woman on a platform was killed by falling debris. More than 100 people were injured.

Gallagher had passed a physical in July and was cleared for duty, lawyer Jack Arsenault said. The engineer told investigators he felt fully rested when he reported to work. He said he had no memory of the crash and only remembered waking up on the floor of the engineer’s cab.

NJ Transit already tests for sleep apnea, but updated its rules last week to prevent diagnosed engineers from operating trains until they’re fully treated, Feinberg said. It is not clear if Gallagher was screened.

NJ Transit declined to answer questions about its screening program, saying it was not authorized to discuss an employee’s medical information and couldn’t discuss specifics about the crash while federal investigators continued their probe.

Sleep apnea also went undiagnosed in the engineer of a commuter train that sped into a 30 mph curve at 82 mph and crashed in New York City in 2013, killing four people. He had fallen asleep at the controls. A deadly freight train crash in 2011 in Iowa and another freight crash in 2013 Missouri have also been attributed to sleep apnea.

Metro-North started testing for sleep apnea after the 2013 crash. Metro-North’s screening program has found sleep apnea in 51 of its 438 engineers and trainees, spokesman Aaron Donovan said. They are undergoing treatment, he said.