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Fitness in your home à la Netflix: On-demand, unlimited subscription classes

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Your New Year’s resolution to exercise more often could be easier — but more expensive — than ever if you latch on to the latest fitness trend.

Streaming services à la Netflix are disrupting the fitness industry, offering on-demand, unlimited exercise classes on a subscription basis, in the comfort of your home.

Pay a $49 Cdn monthly fee to Peloton, the New York City company leading the trend — plus $3,000 for its internet-connected stationary bicycle — and you get to join in a live spinning class, streamed via the bike’s HD screen. The subscription also includes a library of recorded classes, with different instructors and types of music.

But will the expensive devices end up gathering dust in your home, like so many other pieces of fitness equipment, leaving you stuck paying the subscription till your contract expires?  

Not according to fans.

“It’s just awesome,” enthuses Sasha Exeter of Toronto, who bought a Peloton bike in October, as soon as the service launched in Canada. With a new baby at home, she says convenience was top of mind. “I probably wouldn’t get half the workouts I get if I didn’t have that bike sitting in my office in my condo.”

Exeter says she did the math before buying. “Anyone that’s a cycling enthusiast and is used to doing indoor classes understands how pricey it is. I mean, you’re looking at $35 to $50 a class. So if you ride the bike two or three times a week you’re easily getting your money’s worth.”

The Mirror fitness device reverts to a regular mirror when you’re not using it to stream fitness classes. (Mirror)

Investors have Peloton valued at $4 billion, thanks to its fast-growing base of users. The company recently opened retail outlets in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. But it’s just one of several companies that have sprung up recently, eager to offer home fitness technology to time-pressed consumers.

A company called Echelon offers a similar service, selling its stationary bicycle for $1,300 Cdn and a monthly subscription for $39. The bike will be available in Canada at Walmart, Best Buy, Costco, Canadian Tire and London Drugs in early 2019, according to a spokesperson, who adds that the company is excited about the Canadian market. “Already Toronto is one of our Top 5 cities for sales and inquiries in North America.”  

Fly Anywhere is yet another example — a spinoff from a popular spinning studio in New York City. Its connected bike costs around $2,100 US. The monthly subscription is also $39, although so far, the company has no plan to come to Canada.

Then there’s Mirror, a company offering a variety of at-home exercise classes. Described as a “smart mirror,” the connected device hangs on the wall and shows you more than your own reflection. On screen, an instructor leads you through exercises such as boxing, yoga and strength training. Price tag? $1,495 US plus $39 per month for the subscription.  

No more slogging to the gym

“Fitness traditionally has been a destination activity,” says Tim Shanahan of Peloton. “You packed up your stuff, you went to the gym, you worked out, and then you took a shower and went off to work. It’s hard to do that. The realities of life are such that there are obstacles all the time that get in the way.”

Shanahan says the company chose Canada for its first international expansion after seeing the results of an independent survey it commissioned here. Researchers found that 77 per cent of the participants wanted to work out at home, and over 85 per cent said they wanted to do it on their own schedule.

Peloton’s chief financial officer Tim Shanahan points out the features of the bike’s HD screen. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

“That is exactly the pain we are solving for folks,” says Shanahan. “So it was natural for us to come here.”  

Just another fad?

But critics say these new devices are destined to go the route of so many fitness gadgets before them. Treadmills and exercycles, Bowflexes and stair climbers — it’s impossible to say how many expensive pieces of equipment sit idle in basements or back rooms across the nation, used most often to hang laundry to dry.

“Typically consumers will get bored doing that one thing,” says Mo Hagen, vice-president of program innovation for GoodLife Fitness. “They’ll seek out that live experience whether it’s group fitness or personal training, or just working out in a club where they have so many choices.”

Mo Hagen of GoodLife says the fitness chain is offering virtual, at-home classes to members. She believes the new subscription services may not give consumers enough variety to keep them interested. (Keith Whelan/CBC)

Hagen, who is also a senior executive with Canfitpro, the largest organization to certify fitness instructors in Canada, believes the new streaming fitness companies are “fantastic,” but only when used to complement other activities, ideally done with other people.

“The piece of equipment won’t say, ‘Come work out with me today,'” she insists. “It won’t welcome you and or remind you come.”

An American Facebook group dedicated to buying and selling used Peloton bicycles has over 20,000 members, most of whom are trying to sell their bikes.

Social side of fitness

GoodLife is also tapping into the at-home trend, offering virtual classes to members, but Hagen points to research that shows exercising with a group — in person — boosts endorphin levels higher than exercising on your own.

A phenomenon called rower’s high was documented in 2009 through research with the University of Oxford rowing team. The study’s authors report that “this heightened effect from synchronized activity may explain the sense of euphoria experienced during other social activities, such as laughter, music-making and dancing.”

Research has proven that exercising with a group of people gives participants an extra jolt of energy. (Keith Whelan/CBC)

But Peloton user Exeter believes she’s still getting the benefit of exercising with a group, even if it’s only with a virtual community.

“There are cyclists all over the U.S., so while I’m riding, the technology shows me everyone that’s doing the class with me. People high-five you, people message you, it’s a community. We all root for each other and cheer each other on.”

Neither Peloton nor Echelon is sharing the number of subscribers they have in Canada, but if demand for high-tech fitness ramps up the way they hope, their competitors may also consider a northern invasion.

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Health Ranger posts new microscopy photos of covid swabs, covid masks and mysterious red and blue fibers

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(Natural News) What follows is a series of microscopy photos of covid swabs (a synthetic swab, then a cotton swab), a covid mask and some zoomed-in photos of mysterious red and blue fibers found in the masks.

The magnification range for these photos is 50X to 200X. Most were taken with white light, but several (as indicated) were taken with UV light.

The images shown here are 600 pixels wide. We have higher resolution images available to researchers and indy media journalists; contact us for those hi-res images.

More microscopy investigations are under way, and new images will be posted as they are finalized.

First, this series shows the carbon fiber layer of a covid mask, illuminated with UV light:

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5,800 test positive, 74 die of coronavirus at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated

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(Natural News) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, April 15, confirmed some 5,800 breakthrough coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S.

A breakthrough COVID-19 case is defined as someone who has detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated against the disease.

Nearly 400 breakthrough cases required treatment at hospitals and 74 died. A little over 40 percent of the infections were in people 60 years and above and 65 percent were female. About 29 percent of the vaccine breakthrough infections were reportedly asymptomatic. The figures were for cases through April 13.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a congressional hearing on Thursday that the causes of the breakthrough cases are being probed. “Some of these breakthroughs are, of course, failure of an immune response in the host. And then some of them we worry might be related to a variant that is circulating. So we’re looking at both,” she said.

The CDC is monitoring reported cases “for clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type or lot number, and SARS-CoV-2 lineage.” It has created a national COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough database, where state health departments can enter, store and manage data for cases in their region.

Where available, respiratory specimens that tested positive for COVID-19 will be collected for genomic sequencing “to identify the virus lineage that caused the infection.”

Positive test less than two weeks after getting fully vaccinated is not a breakthrough case

The number of cases the CDC has identified does not include people who contracted COVID-19 less than two weeks after their final dose. The two-week marker is important, said infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

A human body should have enough time to develop antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 after that timeframe. Before then, a person won’t necessarily have the built-up immunity needed to fight off an infection. According to Dr. Adalja, cases that occur before the two-week mark are not considered breakthrough cases.

Dr. Adalja also noted that more research is needed to determine if highly infectious variants of the virus are behind the breakthrough cases. “It is crucial to study breakthrough cases to understand their severity, their contagiousness and what role variants may be playing,” Dr. Adalja said.

More than 78 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S. as of April 15.

“To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics,” the CDC said in a statement. “COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control.”

But the CDC conceded that “thousands of vaccine breakthrough cases will occur even though the vaccine is working as expected.”

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed with the CDC. “These vaccines that we’re using are fabulous but they’re not perfect,” he said. “At best, they’re 95 percent effective in preventing serious illness, but minor illnesses can occur.”

According to U.S. drug regulators, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing infection. Moderna’s was shown in a clinical trial to be 94.1 percent effective while Johnson & Johnson’s was 66.9 percent effective. Only Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received its emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 27, was tested when variants were circulating.

The percentages are based on results from vaccine recipients two weeks after the final vaccination.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated in a briefing last week that the breakthrough cases are not a cause for concern.

“I think the important thing is to look at what the denominator of vaccinated people is. Because it is very likely that the number of breakthrough cases is not at all incompatible with the 90-plus percent vaccine efficacy,” he said. “So I don’t think that there needs to be concern about any shift or change in the efficacy of the vaccine.”

More info needed before drawing conclusions from breakthrough cases

The percentage of vaccine breakthroughs in a population depends on multiple factors, including vaccine efficacy, the amount of virus circulating and the length of time since vaccination, according to Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida.

“I love to see small numbers as much as anyone, but know that numbers like this cannot be directly interpreted as a measure of vaccine efficacy (although I have a feeling they will be). We can only interpret them against a background rate in unvaccinated people,” Dean wrote on Twitter.

“Similarly, ‘most breakthroughs have been in elderly adults’ should not be read as the vaccine is less effective in elderly adults. The majority of vaccinations (and the longest amount of follow-up time) have been in elderly adults. Again, we need more info to interpret.”

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More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus in San Francisco last year

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(Natural News) More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus (COVID-19) in San Francisco last year, a microcosm of a larger nationwide problem coinciding with the pandemic.

Data from San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shows that 708 people were killed by fentanyl in 2020, an astonishing 118 times more since the introduction of the drug in the city just five years earlier.

That figure nearly tripled the 254 COVID-19 deaths recorded in the city for the whole of last year. More than 8 in 10 deaths were male, and just under half were white. People aged 55 to 64 made up nearly a quarter of the fatalities. Nearly 40 percent of the deaths occurred in open-air drug markets such as the Tenderloin and South of Market.

The number of overdose deaths in the city could have been far worse as more than 3,000 addicts suffering from an overdose were administered with naloxone, the lifesaving medication that reverses overdoses.

San Francisco’s death rate from fentanyl overdose continues to rise this year as 135 died by overdose in January and February, putting the city on pace for more than 800 deaths by the end of the year.

The city has become a significant part of a larger trend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data on Wednesday, April 14, showing that more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdose over the 12-month period that ended in September last year – the highest since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s.

Lockdowns lead to more cases of drug overdose

The surge represents an increasingly urgent public health crisis that may be correlated to the government’s monotonous battle plan against the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 19 last year, California became the first state in the U.S. to implement a stay-at-home order. It subsequently endured the longest lockdown of any state in the country.

The pandemic and accompanying lockdowns are believed to be partly responsible for the soaring number of drug deaths for obvious reasons. Lockdowns have badly disrupted the social services in the city, including drug addiction treatment. Drug experts say the isolation of the past 12 months is causing vulnerable residents to turn to opioids.

“We see the death and devastation getting worse right in front of us,” said Matt Haney, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member. “It’s an unprecedented spiraling, directly connected to the introduction of fentanyl in our city.”

Fentanyl first appeared on the streets of San Francisco in 2015. There were just six deaths from the synthetic opioid that year, 12 deaths in 2016 and 37 deaths in 2017. The figure skyrocketed when the drugs became widely available in the city in 2018.

Kristen Marshall, manager of the national drug harm reduction DOPE Project, noted the grim irony that while social isolation could save lives from COVID-19, it had undoubtedly contributed to the number of overdose deaths.

“Isolation is also the thing that puts people at the absolute highest risk of overdose death,” she said.

Pandemic exacerbates rise in deaths from drug overdose

The number of deaths from drug overdose started rising in the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, making it hard to gauge how closely the two phenomena are linked. But the pandemic unquestionably exacerbated the trend. The biggest jump in overdose deaths took place in April and May when fear and stress were rampant, job losses were multiplying and the strictest lockdown measures were in effect.

Many treatment programs closed during that time while drop-in centers, which provide support, clean syringes and naloxone, cut back services.

The data released by the CDC shows a 29 percent rise in overdose deaths from October 2019 through September 2020 compared with the previous 12-month period. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were the primary drivers, although many fatal overdoses have also involved stimulant drugs like methamphetamine.

Unlike in the early years of the opioid epidemic, when deaths were largely among white Americans in rural and suburban areas, the current crisis is affecting Black Americans disproportionately.

“The highest increase in mortality from opioids, predominantly driven by fentanyl, is now among Black Americans,” Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said at a national addiction conference last week.

“And when you look at mortality from methamphetamine, it’s chilling to realize that the risk of dying from methamphetamine overdose is 12-fold higher among American Indians and Alaskan Natives than other groups.”

Dr. Volkow added that more deaths than ever involved drug combinations, typically of fentanyl or heroin with stimulants.

“Dealers are lacing these non-opioid drugs with cheaper, yet potent, opioids to make a larger profit,” she said. “Someone who’s addicted to a stimulant drug like cocaine or methamphetamine is not tolerant to opioids, which means they are going to be at high risk of overdose if they get a stimulant drug that’s laced with an opioid like fentanyl.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supported Dr. Volkow’s claim, saying that transnational criminal organizations cause a spike in overdoses by mixing fentanyl into illicit narcotics.

According to the DEA, Mexican cartels often purchase the drug components in China and use human mules to smuggle the narcotics to lucrative drug markets north of the border.

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