ICYMI: 4 Simple Answers To Tough Health Questions

Health stories you may have missed.

ICYMI Health features what we're reading this week.

This week, we sought out simple answers to tough health questions. While such questions require a degree of nuance -- if they didn't, they wouldn't be tough, right? -- consider this an at-glance guide to some of the week's most interesting health findings, a jumping off point to explore the research in more detail.

Read on and tell us in the comments: What did you read and love this week?

Q: What type of exercise is best for the brain?

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Distance running.

In a new study, published in the Journal of Physiology, rodent test subjects who ran long distances on a spinning wheel strengthened the hippocampus area of the brain more than rats that did high-energy interval training or resistance training. While the fact that the results were in rodents is an important caveat -- rats are not people, of course -- it's an interesting reminder that the whole-body benefits of exercise go far beyond the physical.

Q: Why do married couples' (immune systems') look alike?

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Married couples live similar lifestyles.

Okay, so you you might not have asked yourself this exact question, but the answer is so interesting that we just had to share. According to new study published in the journal Nature Immunology, not only do married couples start to look alike on the outside as the years go by, but their immune systems start to resemble each other, too. When researchers compared the immune systems' of strangers to the immune systems' of married couples, they found that the married couples' systems showed 50 percent less variation than the strangers' did.

Because your immune systems is largely a roadmap of your lifestyle (only 25 percent can be traced to genetics), living in the same environment with your partner, being exposed to the same germs, and quite likely making similar diet and exercise choices, means you you share more with your significant other than you may have realized.

Q: Why don't skinny people diet?

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The don't need the structure that dieting provides.

Annoying, but true. According to Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab, which surveyed healthy-weight adults to tease out common diet and exercise behaviors among them, there's no secret diet healthy-weight people all follow to stay svelte.

Instead, almost half of those surveyed responded that they'd never dieted at all, and three-quarters of the group said they "rarely dieted." Still, participants did report health-conscious behaviors, such as eating breakfast, cooking at home and exercising. While genetics surely play a role here, the report is a good reminder that there's no quick fix or magic diet for life-long health.

But as The Atlantic rightly notes, many people who go on diets do so precisely for the structure that dieting provides. Others might not have the resources or time to make healthy choices consistently, meaning that what works for the healthy Cornell participants might not be realistic for everyone.

Q: How can we encourage low-income shoppers to buy healthier food?

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Move farmers' markets closer to public transportation and low-income neighborhoods.

Flint, Michigan, a federally classified food desert -- meaning residents don't have proper access to fresh fruits and vegetables -- made the controversial decision to move its famers market in 2014. The market moved from a location north of Flint that wasn't easily accessible on public transit to the city's downtown area, across from a bus station. The number of low-income residents who shopped there immediately increased.


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