Can swapping beef for chicken help your diet and the planet? How many steps do we really need per day? How this health news can impact your life.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

There’s so much health and wellness news out there. Here are some of this week’s health headlines and what you can take away from them to improve your health.

Making diet swaps can benefit your health and the planet

A new study, which looked at the eating habits of 7,700 Americans, found that replacing certain foods can reduce one’s carbon footprint while also improving the quality of one’s diet. These swaps include switching out beef for chicken and drinking plant-based milk instead of cow’s milk.

Why it matters: As previous research has shown, limiting beef and dairy in your diet can reduce your environmental impact — and as more plant-based foods hit the market, it’s easier than ever to make swaps for the benefit of the planet. This study also confirms previous research that limiting your consumption of red meat can improve your health overall: a 2023 study recently found that replacing red meat with healthy plant-based protein sources was associated with reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

This is how much exercise you need to avoid the pitfalls of a sedentary lifestyle

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that 22 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking or even mopping, can eliminate the risk of death that comes from a sedentary lifestyle. The study, which examined data for 11,989 people aged over 50 from Norway, Sweden and the US, found that more activity — over those 22 minutes — also continued to lower risk of death overall.

Why it matters: You don’t need to hit the gym for hours in order to benefit from exercise. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week — just over 21 minutes, seven days a week. Walking is one easy way for many of us to sneak that moderate-intensity exercise in, and research continues to show just how good walking is for you, whether that’s for reducing risk of diabetes or improving one’s mental health. (However, if your preferred exercise is washing the windows or mopping, your household may thank you!)

Counting your steps? There may be an optimal number to aim for

An international study led by the University of Granada found that taking 8,000 steps per day slashes the risk of premature death. When it comes to dying from cardiovascular disease, specifically, most of the benefits were seen at around 7,000 steps. The findings also showed that walking more briskly is more beneficial to one’s health than walking slowly.

Why it matters: For years, 10,000 steps per day was considered the ideal number, but you don’t need to hit that many in order to reap the health benefits. (In fact, that 10,000 step number has been linked to a marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer company in the ‘60s — not any scientific analysis.) Getting 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day is a more manageable goal and can be achieved with short bursts of walking throughout the day — like, say, a walk after lunch or dinner. Make it a brisk one to get your heart pumping and reap the cardiovascular benefits.

Hot yoga may have mental health benefits

A new trial led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found a connection between depression symptoms and hot yoga. Per the study, 59.3% of trial participants who did 90 minutes of yoga in a heated room had a 50 percent or greater decrease in depression symptoms, compared with just 6.3 percent of participants who did not practice hot yoga. The yoga participants were prescribed two classes a week and on average attended more than 10 classes in eight weeks.

Why it matters: The evidence continues to mount when it comes to yoga’s mental health benefits. In 2017, multiple studies found that practicing yoga weekly can alleviate symptoms of depression. While there have previously been mixed findings on whether hot yoga is better for you than yoga performed in a normal temperature room, adding any kind of yoga practice to your exercise routine also comes with physical benefits, too, such as increased strength, balance and flexibility.