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HEALTH

Mat Pilates Moves For When You Miss Your Studio’s Reformer

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When certified Pilates trainer and owner of Speir Pilates Andrea Speir takes her clients through a Pilates mat workout, they tend to agree on the same thing: they’re way harder than reformer workouts.

That’s because she picks moves that replicate a reformer or Pilates Cadillac experience, all while pushing her clients to flow through the entire workout without stopping between exercises.

“With the transitions being part of the movement and workout, you literally never stop moving. This makes it such an effective workout to do at home,” she says.

If you’re missing your Pilates studio and all the equipment in it, Speir’s five moves ahead will give you that intense sweat you’re familiar with, all from your mat.



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NEWS

Brainlab levels up surgical software with acquisition of video game for physicians

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Level Ex makes games to help interventional cardiologists and other specialists brush up on their skills. Photo credit: Level Ex

With Akili’s recent FDA clearance, healthcare video games have been making headlines. A Munich-based medical technology company recently acquired a different kind of game — one designed to help physicians brush up on their decision-making skills.

Brainlab acquired Level Ex at the end of May for an undisclosed amount. The startup will become a subsidiary of Brainlab, with its 105 employees continuing to work out of its offices in downtown Chicago. It will keep its name and management team.

Level Ex was founded in 2015 by Sam Glassenberg, a video game developer who was tasked by his father, an anesthesiologist, to create a game that would help train his colleagues on how to do a difficult procedure.  To date, it has raised $17.2 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. It has released four product lines for gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, interventional cardiologists, and anesthesiologists and airway specialists.

More recently, Level Ex released several Covid-19 patient scenarios. The company says more than 600,000 medical professionals use its products.

“We began working with Level Ex in 2019 for several reasons,” Brainlab CEO Stefan Vilsmeier said in a news release. “They are the best at disseminating best practices through video games, and they are unrivaled in their level of ergonomic user interaction, gaming-industry-quality 3D graphics, precise physics models and game mechanics psychology.”

Munich-based Brainlab makes software to help surgeons plan and navigate procedures. The company plans to integrate Level Ex’s games with its 3D Viewer software, an augmented reality tool used to review patient images prior to a surgery and for medical education. It will also be used as a virtual sales tool for Brainlab’s ExacTrac X-Ray patient position and monitoring system.

With the acquisition, Level Ex will expand its team. It plans to release games for dermatology, orthopedics and oncology in the next year.

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FITNESS

Symptoms of Tight, Overactive Pelvic Floor Muscles

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A young woman experiencing pelvic discomfort, she is grimacing in pain.

When people think of pelvic-floor muscles, it’s usually in the context of pregnancy (or post-pregnancy), urinary incontinence, and the well-known pelvic floor exercise kegels. But, believe it or not, the pelvic floor has a very important job for all genders, regardless of whether you’ve given birth before. “The pelvic floor is a thin, bowl-shaped group of muscles that makes up the bottom-most portion of the abdomino-pelvic cavity,” explained Dr. Sarah Collins, urogynaecologist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Illinois. “It supports your pelvic organs, including your vagina, uterus, rectum, bladder, and urethra. The pelvic floor is so important for a number of reasons. First, your urethra, vagina, and rectum pass through it, and the function of those structures is affected by your pelvic floor.”

If all of this is new to you, you’re definitely not alone. The conversation around pelvic floor dysfunction has predominantly centred around having a weak pelvic floor, with the most common symptoms people present with being urinary or stool incontinence, or a heavy or bulging sensation in the vagina. But, it turns out that having overly tight, or “hypertonic,” pelvic floor muscles is an issue spoken about a lot less often, even though it’s equally important and comes with a whole other set of symptoms.

“The pelvic floor is so important for a number of reasons. First, your urethra, vagina, and rectum pass through it, and the function of those structures is affected by your pelvic floor.”

All the experts who spoke to POPSUGAR agreed that common symptoms of hypertonic pelvic floor muscles are: back pain, difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels, and pain or unpleasant sensations in the bowel or bladder during penetrative sex. On the last point, Dr. Helen Bernie, a urologist at Indiana University Health, added that “sex should never be painful. Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause painful sex, vaginismus, decreased or painful orgasms, as well as positional pain.”

Historically, the only thing we’ve been taught about our pelvic floor muscles is that tighter equals better, and weak is disastrous — but it turns out, that’s not strictly true. “Believe it or not, the focus on ‘strengthening’ and ‘tightening’ the pelvic floor muscles is usually misplaced,” Dr. Collins told POPSUGAR. “In most women with pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, the muscles are not weak but actually too tight, so they can become chronically contracted, losing their range of motion. Muscles that are chronically contracted do not work properly because they are unable to relax or squeeze well.” Dr. Bernie agreed, explaining that “our goal is to have a strong pelvic floor that can lengthen, elongate, relax, and contract as it needs to for normal body functions and support.”

“There are many causes of hypertonic (overly contractile, tight pelvic floor muscles), including emotional states such as high stress, anxiety, or fear,” Dr. Bernie said. “Many people carry their emotions in the pelvic floor, which can cause overly contractile, hypertonic states, leading to weakened pelvic floor muscles and dysfunction.” She explained that there are many causes for this, such as overusing the pelvic muscles (for example, going to the bathroom too frequently or pushing and straining too hard when you do), which eventually leads to poor muscle coordination.

Dr. Bernie also noted that overtraining your pelvic floor muscles with repetitive exercises such as kegels, which focus only on tightening the muscles, can also result in an imbalance in the pelvic floor. Dr. Collins seconded this point, explaining that “kegels actually are not right for most women as a form of exercise because, while it is important to be able to perform a pelvic floor muscle contraction (or kegel squeeze), it is at least as important to be able to relax the pelvic floor.”

“Our goal is to have a strong pelvic floor that can lengthen, elongate, relax, and contract as it needs to for normal body functions and support.”

Dr. Karyn Eilber, MD, a urologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California, who has a subspecialty board certification in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, said that a common scenario is a woman who has recurrent bladder infections eventually developing hypertonic pelvic floor muscles. “Every time she urinates, she contracts her pelvic floor in anticipation of pain, and over time, her muscles can stay tight. Another situation is chronic pelvic pain due to conditions such as endometriosis. Similar to the woman with recurrent infections, because she is in pain, she clenches her pelvic muscles to help ease the pain, which actually makes her situation worse,” thus, resulting in muscles that are overly tight.

Unfortunately, the deeper you dive, the clearer it is that pelvic floor dysfunction is extremely common, so seeing a specialist if you suspect pelvic floor dysfunction is the best way forward. The first step is booking to see your general practitioner, who can then refer you to a urologist, urogynaecologist, or a specialist physical therapist. Dr. Bernie also recommended ISSWSH.org (The International Society For the Study of Women’s Sexual Health), which she said is a wonderful website full of information for women with sexual dysfunctions or pelvic floor dysfunctions.



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HEALTH

Bodyweight Circuits to Add to Your Walking Workouts

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Sporty young woman doing side planks on lawn
I love watching my step count soar during long walking workouts, but sometimes I still crave a little extra something. Instead of challenging myself to walk 10 minutes longer or logging in another mile, I add bodyweight moves into the mix — squats, lunges, high knees, and, if I’m feeling brave, maybe a burpee. After I challenge myself to complete a set or two of each, my boredom has disappeared and I’m dripping in sweat.

My spur-of-the-moment circuits have served me well, but to find out how to really pump up the intensity of my walking workout with bodyweight moves — and safely, at that — I reached out to Corinne Fitzgerald, a head coach at Mile High Run Club and an NSCA-certified personal trainer.

“Adding exercises either during or after can add to the overall intensity of the workout, and can also help you target more muscle groups,” Fitzgerald says. “Also, endurance exercises like walking or jogging are very repetitive, so it can break up the monotony of the workout and keep it more exciting.”

While I prefer to add the moves to the middle of my walk, you can also finish off your walk with bodyweight circuit training — Fitzgerald says there are benefits to both approaches.

“When in a longer walk for exercise, some may find it boring to keep going for 30 minutes or more, so they end up cutting the walk short. By adding exercises during the walk, you give yourself small milestones to hit, and that is an incentive to keep going.”

On the flip side, if you’re looking to build endurance during your walks, Fitzgerald says it might be beneficial to do your strength circuit after the walk is complete. “If you find that it’s challenging for you to start again after stopping, then doing your strength work after a walk might be best for you. Another added benefit to waiting post-walk is that you will be properly warmed up before you hit your circuit.”

No matter where you place your bodyweight moves, Fitzgerald has a workout recommendation for you. Next time you head out for a power walk, give one of these simple, equipment-free circuits a go.

Post-Walk Circuit

Each round should take 6-8 minutes to complete — totalling 32 minutes. Complete “Round 1” two times, and take a two-minute rest in-between. Then, complete “Round 2” twice, with another two-minute rest in between.

Round 1: Complete twice
15 air squats
10 push-ups — these can be done on a wall for a modification
10 reverse lunges — repeat on each side
30-second side plank — repeat on each side

Round 2: Complete twice
15 jump squats
15 tricep dips — these can be done on a chair/bench or on ground as a modification
10 side lunges — repeat on each side
5 burpees
30- to 60-second plank

Mid-Walk Circuit

Every 5-10 minutes, stop for a round of 10 squats, 10 push-ups, and 10 mountain climbers.
Every time you see a certain colour car or, say, a squirrel, do 10 burpees. Fitzgerald recommends getting creative here. Click here for more health and wellness stories, tips, and news.



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NEWS

The Healthcare Holy Grail: A health plan’s guide to succeeding with their value-based care strategy

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present

There is broad consensus across the healthcare industry that value-based care (VBC) is a positive step towards achieving the “triple aim” of healthcare: better healthcare experiences and improved health outcomes at lower costs. However, as health plans move towards quality over quantity-based reimbursement models, they are under immense pressure to ingest and operationalize new datasets to properly inform and pay the providers that have transitioned to VBC contractual arrangements. If health plans do not better align their data management, payment management and reporting execution capabilities to enable their VBC contractual arrangements, they run the risk of antagonizing or even losing providers – which will torpedo even the best strategy.

To avoid this outcome, health plans need to retool their VBC execution capabilities to ensure swift provider buy-in and include sustainable access to valuable and actionable data. This lofty goal goes well beyond the triple aim to what I’m now calling the quest for the “healthcare holy grail.”

I’ve noticed three common challenges in implementing VBC contractual arrangements from my conversations with health plans. First, many health plans are taking a reactive approach rather than proactive. For example, as part of a VBC initiative, providers are often promised that they will receive bonus payments at the end of the year. Unfortunately, health plans struggle to analyze the data quickly enough to provide bonuses in a timely manner. Health plans need real-time transaction data to be able to effectively analyze a provider’s adherence to VBC contracts, allow them to “course correct” before they miss quality or financial targets and compensate them accordingly and quickly.

Second, health plans are challenged to offer variations to VBC contracts that are personalized for each provider network and, in many cases individual providers. For example, providers that have different geographic reaches or different measurement strategies require unique contracts. To address this variation, some health plans have built “super spreadsheets” to track hundreds of different contracts. But the reality is these spreadsheets are incredibly complex, time-intensive, resource-consumptive and prone to errors. Simple data inconsistencies can alter entire data sets. This operational model can quickly become unwieldy. Health plans need a more efficient way to track and scale contract variation.  Similarly, plans that have built custom solutions often find themselves boxed into an inflexible model that does not allow the plan to adapt to market trends and state value-based mandates.

Third, health plans that are operationalizing these value-based contracts struggle to make the transition away from the long-embraced fee-for-service model transparent to their providers. Often times, providers who have switched to a fee-for-value model do not know how they are progressing towards their contractual goals and ultimately, bonus payments until the end of year or, at best, months later.

This is too late to course-correct and can cause provider abrasion and frustration. Whether it’s a federal Medicare VBC program, a contract signed with a commercial health plan or an experimental VBC program being driven by a state Medicaid agency, the delay in receiving the required transparency and visibility into a provider’s transition and progress is a challenge. In fact, providers performing services under Medicaid VBC contracts with Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) have complained and appealed directly to the state. The major complaint is regarding the lack of visibility into how they are progressing in their contracts and when, and if, they will receive payments from MCOs.

To address these challenges, health plans can benefit from this roadmap to reach the healthcare holy grail:

  • User Experience: Choose a solution that allows all the required health plan business units and providers to collaborate and experiment as a team on VBC contract development.
  • Solution Velocity: Ensure the solution will scale and provide the rapid deployment and support of contract variation demanded by each provider’s unique characteristics.
  • Process and Data Transparency: Empower providers with the required data transparency needed for success from contract inception through contract

Health plans have already begun their triple aim journey down the path of VBC, but often they are building this initiative on an infrastructure that lacks the needed scale, transparency and efficiency. To reach the healthcare holy grail, health plans must choose solutions that can streamline their data processes and execution capabilities, so providers are efficiently equipped with both the right data to be successful contractually and financially, and most importantly, to ensure patients are receiving the highest quality of care at the right time.

Photo: Hong Li, Getty Images

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HEALTH

London Trainers Share the Best At-Home Exercise Equipment

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Three weeks after the government announced the closure of all gyms and fitness studios in the UK, you probably have your home workout class schedule organised, but now is the time to upgrade your live classes and create your own boutique studio at home with the help of some functional exercise equipment and gym props to enhance your workout.

Louisa Drake, fitness expert and founder of the Louisa Drake Method (LDM), explained the importance of adding props into your workout and why they are such a benefit to your training. “I use props, including resistance bands, mini stability balls, gliders, blocks, and hand and ankle weights, in the majority of my LDM classes,” she said. “By mixing up the moves and using equipment in my sessions, the workouts stay fresh, clients don’t get bored, and the body is constantly being challenged so it doesn’t plateau.”

Whether you are looking to add more resistance to your barre and Pilates classes, keep tabs on your daily progress with a fitness tracker, or invest in the ultimate yoga mat, using props adds a new dimension to your workouts. “Using props when working out can be hugely beneficial in two ways,” Louisa said. “In some cases a prop can make the exercise more difficult, creating a stability challenge, or increasing the work on one part of your body. They also help to increase muscular strength, conditioning, and support depending on how you master them.”

If you have been furloughed, would rather save money until your favourite London spin studio reopens, or if you’re new to exercise, improvised props also come in handy. Make these with objects you have at home; towels, for example, add extra resistance for core activation, water bottles can become makeshift dumbbells, and even cookbooks can be the perfect ingredient for strengthening exercises.

We discussed all aspects of home exercise equipment with some of London’s top fitness instructors, so you can take inspiration from what they are using at home to step your workout up a gear; the props ahead will give a whole new dimension to your sessions.



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NEWS

Accolade seeks up to $211M in IPO

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Employee benefits software company Accolade will seek up to $211 million in its market debut, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.

The startup had filed preliminary paperwork indicating its plans for an IPO in March. Now, it has shared the terms: It will offer just over 10 million shares priced between $19 and $21.

Accolade, which splits its headquarters between Seattle and Philadelphia, provides users information about their available benefits and can help them pick the most cost-effective providers in their network. The company has a total of 58 customers, which it charges on a per-member per-month basis.

Some of its biggest customers include American Airlines, Comcast Cable, Lowe’s and State Farm. But these four companies also make up a significant portion of its business, accounting for more than 56% of its revenue, with Comcast alone accounting for 24%. (Comcast is also an investor in the company).

Accolade plans to use the funds from the IPO for general purposes and for the repayment of debt. The latter has increased, in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting downturn. In February, Accolade had an outstanding debt of $22 million, but that number increased to $73.2 million as of May 31.

Though the company expects its revenue to increase this year due to several new customer launches, it has been operating at a net loss in recent years. As of February, the company reported $132.5 million in revenue and a net loss of $51.36 from the past year. During the same period last in 2019, it reported $94.81 million in revenue and a net loss of $56.5 million.

Though it happened during very different market conditions, competitor Castlight Health’s IPO may still be fresh in some investors’ minds. The company, which went public in 2014, also offers employee benefit navigation and care guidance. At debut, the startup’s stock soared 149% to nearly $40 per share, giving it a valuation of over $3 billion, despite having no profits and only $13 million in revenue.

Accolade declined to comment on its plans. Eight banks will underwrite Accolade’s IPO, with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Securities leading the deal. The company will be listed on Nasdaq as ACCD.

Photo credit: aurielaki, Getty Images

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WEIGHT LOSS

Who Is Devon Terrell, Who Plays Arthur In Netflix’s Cursed?

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Netflix’s new fantasy series, Cursed, is slated to hit the streaming service this summer. It’s the latest iteration of the Arthurian legend, with the mythical feel of The Witcher and epic fight scenes reminiscent of Game of Thrones, all designed for a young-adult-and-above audience. Cursed is introducing a slate of up-and-comers, and it’s Devon Terrell who’s putting the Arthur in Arthurian.

If Devon looks familiar to you, there’s a good reason. He first hit our screens back in 2016, portraying a young President Barack Obama during his college years in Netflix’s brilliant biopic, Barry. At the time, Netflix wasn’t quite the entertainment behemoth it is now, so it kind of flew under the radar. The good news is, you can still catch his portrayal of Obama on the streaming service. Not only does it offer a glimpse into how the future 44th president of the United States navigated his junior year at Columbia University, but Devon absolutely nails his iconic voice and mannerisms.

BARRY, Devon Terrell, as Barack Obama, 2016.  Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection
Image Source: Netflix / Courtesy of Everett Collection

Fast-forward to 2020, and the Australian-American actor has joined the cast of Cursed, stepping into the boots of another well-known figure: a teenager who will one day become King Arthur (or so the legend goes). Cursed centres Nimue (played by Katherine Langford), who’s an outcast from her village because of her dark, magical powers. But when her entire village is slaughtered, her dying mother tasks her with returning the Sword of Power to Merlin. Along the way, she meets a mercenary named Arthur.

Devon’s casting as Arthur is significant in more ways than one. This is the first time the character of Arthur takes a backseat to a different leader (and a woman, no less), but it’s also the first time a Black actor has been cast in this role — a role that’s historically been played by white actors. On the Cursed set in London back in 2019, Devon told POPSUGAR that he’s excited for the release. “There’s not many fantasy characters for young, Black people — both male and female,” he said. “So it’s really exciting that young people, of any ethnicity really, will be able to see themselves in this because I’m a young, mixed-race kid and I would have been so excited seeing myself up on the screen as well when I was younger.”

Cursed will be released on Netflix on 17 July.



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HEALTH

Is BBC One’s I May Destroy You Triggering?

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BBC One’s new drama I May Destroy You has garnered a lot of praise for the way it adeptly — and even humorously — covers important issues like relationships and consent. But while the show is brilliant, viewers who have survived trauma may want to proceed with caution.

The series centres on Arabella (played by Michaela Coel), an emerging writer who’s convinced by friends to go out for drinks the night before a deadline for a major book deal. The next day, Arabella arrives to the meeting with her agents with a cut on her forehead and almost no memory of the night before. After some hazy, disturbing flashbacks and a suspenseful journey around London to retrace her steps, Arabella comes to the devastating conclusion that she was sexually assaulted.

Because some of these moments are so raw and graphic, I May Destroy You may be triggering for someone who has experienced similar trauma. The flashbacks force viewers to relive the assault from Arabella’s perspective, and her story also serves as a painful reminder of the process of reporting an assault and the often complicated road to recovery after suffering this kind of trauma.

If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, the show could at times be difficult to watch — but if you’re able to get through the darker moments of the series, you’ll find that there are many times when Coel’s humour and heart shines through, and you’ll likely be grateful that she chose to bring elements of her real-life experience to the screen.



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NEWS

Judge rules against hospitals in price transparency lawsuit

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A federal judge ruled against hospital groups in their lawsuit challenging new price transparency rules. The American Hospital Association and other hospital groups filed suit in December after the Department of Health and Humans Services finalized a rule that would require hospitals to disclose price information, including negotiated prices with insurers.

Hospitals claimed that the regulation was beyond HHS’ authority, that it was a violation of commercial speech, and that disclosing price information would actually lead to higher costs. Insurers also pushed back against the regulation, though none joined the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols dismissed these arguments, ruling in favor of HHS. He also dispelled concerns that disclosing negotiated prices could chill negotiations between hospitals and insurers, pointing out that patients still see those prices in their explanation of benefits.

“Plaintiffs are essentially attacking transparency measures generally, which are intended to enable consumers to make informed decisions; naturally, once consumers have certain information, their purchasing habits may change, and suppliers of items and services may have to adapt accordingly,” he wrote in his decision.

Regulators have been pushing for greater transparency since the Bush administration. A portion of the Affordable Care Act required hospitals publish a list of standard charges for items and services. States also pushed hospitals to publish these chargemasters, which provide list prices for each service.

But while chargemaster prices may be useful for negotiating with insurers, the listed prices bear little resemblance to what patients actually pay — or should pay.

When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revisited pricing rules, it added that not only must hospitals publish list prices, but they must also post negotiated rates with insurers, cash discount prices, as well as the minimum and maximum negotiated charges for 300 “shoppable” services.

The American Hospital Association said it will appeal the case and seek expedited review.

“We are disappointed in today’s decision in favor of the administration’s flawed proposal to mandate disclosure of privately negotiated rates,” the AHA said in a statement. “The proposal does nothing to help patients understand their out-of-pockets costs. It also imposes significant burdens on hospitals at a time when resources are stretched thin and need to be devoted to patient care.”

The new requirements are slated to go into effect in January.

The case, The American Hospital Association et al v. Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

 

Photo credit: lbodvar, Getty Images

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