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Health and Fitness English Mega Class! One Hour of New Vocabulary! BBC News

Health and Fitness English Mega Class! 

Health and Fitness

Health and Fitness Hello, I’m Neil. And welcome to 6 Minute English,   where we vigorously discuss a new topic and six related items of vocabulary.Health and Fitness And hello, I’m Rob. Today we’re discussing vigorous exercise – and whether adults take enough of it! Vigorous means using a lot of energy to do something. So how many steps do you do in a day, Rob? How many steps? How should I know, Neil? – It would be pretty hard to count them all. Oh, come on! You can track steps on your phone! I do ten thousand a day – which is the magic number for keeping fit and healthy, apparently. Not if you saunter, Neil, surely? Sauntering from the sofa to the fridge and back – Or from the house to the car. Well, I never saunter, Rob. Saunter means to walk slowly. And you’d have to make a   lot of trips to the fridge to clock up ten thousand steps.


To get some vigorous exercise, you need to get out and about – round the park at a brisk pace… Brisk means quick and energetic – the opposite of sauntering. OK, well, perhaps you can you tell me,   Neil, how many people aged between 40 and 60 do less than ten minutes of brisk walking every month?   Is it…a) 4%,  b) 14% orc) 40%? I’m going to say… 4% because ten minutes is such a short amount of time! Indeed. Now, I’ve got another question for you, Neil. Why is exercise so important? Because it sounds pretty boring – counting steps, going to the gym, running on a machine. Well, when you exercise, you stimulate the body’s natural repair system.

Your body will actually stay younger if you exercise! That sounds good. Exercise also lowers your risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Hmm. I’m getting a bit worried now,   Neil. But I don’t have enough time to do a thousand steps every day… I’m far too busy! Well, Rob. Now might be a good time to listen to Julia Bradbury. She’s a TV presenter and outdoor walking enthusiast who will explain how she builds walking into her busy life. I will walk to meetings instead of catching a bus, or getting a taxi or a car – into meetings.   And I will also if I can’t build that into my working day, if it’s a day when I haven’t got meetings and I’m maybe at home with the kids, I will take the time – I will take my kids out with the buggy and I will definitely do 30-40 minutes at least every day. Going to the park,   going to the shops, picking up my things en route, and really sort of building it into my life. Taking the stairs and not taking lifts, all of these kinds of little decisions can incrementally build up to create more walking time in your day. So if you build something into your day – or your life – you include it from the beginning. And Julia Bradbury has built walking into her day.   Even though she’s very busy too, Rob! You should learn from her! So she walks instead of driving or taking the bus.


And takes the stairs instead of the lift. I could do those things. You could indeed – before you know it, you’d be doing ten thousand steps – because the amount of walking you do in a day builds incrementally. Incrementally means gradually increasing in size. OK, well, before I think that over, perhaps   I could tell you the answer to today’s quiz question? OK. You asked me: How many people aged between 40 and 60 do less than ten minutes of brisk walking every month? The options were: a) 4%,  b) 14% orc) 40%? And you said 4%. But I’m afraid it’s actually 40%. And that’s according to the Government body   Public Health England here in the UK. Oh dear, that’s a lot more people than I expected.   But it isn’t that surprising – people in all age groups are leading more sedentary lifestyles these days. Our job is very sedentary – which means it involves a lot of sitting and not much exercise! Well, I might just run on the spot while we go over the new vocabulary we’ve learned today!

Good plan. First up we heard ‘vigorous’ – which means using a lot of energy to do something. OK. “I am running vigorously on the spot!” Great example! And good to see you taking some vigorous exercise! Number two – ‘saunter’ – means to walk slowly in a relaxed way. “When I saw Rob, I sauntered over to say hello.” Hi Neil. Number three – ‘brisk’ means quick and energetic. “It’s important to take some brisk exercise every day.” Yes! And I’m beginning to realize that might be true. Yep! I think you’ve done enough jogging for today, Rob.   You’ve probably done about a hundred steps. Is that all?   OK, number four – if you ‘build something into something’ – you include it from the beginning. “It’s important to build regular exercise into your daily routine.” Very good advice. Number five is ‘incrementally’ which means gradually increasing in size. Incremental is the adjective. “The company has been making   incremental changes to its pay structure.” Does that mean we’re getting a pay rise? I doubt it! And finally, number six – ‘sedentary’ means sitting a lot and not taking much exercise. For example, “It’s bad for your health to lead such a sedentary lifestyle.” Duly noted, Neil! Well, it’s time to go now. But if today’s show has inspired you to step out and take more exercise, please let us know by visiting our Twitter,   Facebook, and YouTube pages and telling us about it! Goodbye! Bye-bye! Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English.

I’m Rob. And I’m Sam. With the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, people in many countries around the world have started wearing face masks to protect both themselves and others they come into contact with.   In this program, we’ll be asking whether wearing masks in public can help prevent the spread of coronavirus in the community. Face masks have long been popular in some Asian countries but with the spread of Covid- 19,   they’re increasingly being seen in other parts of the world too. Wearing a protective mask or face covering is nothing new. Medical masks have a long history from the plagues of medieval Europe to nineteenth-century outbreaks of cholera in the United States,   but when did they start to be commonly used? That’s my quiz question for today:   when and where were face masks first widely used? Was it: a) 1855 in Vienna, b) 1905 in Chicago, or c) 1955 in London? Well, you mentioned cholera outbreaks in the US, so I’ll say b) 1905 in Chicago. Right, Sam, we’ll find out later if you were right.

Now, face masks may inspire confidence but what is the evidence that they actually protect the wearer from contracting the virus or prevent infected people from spreading the virus to others? Professor Robert West has conducted a review of over twenty studies looking into the evidence.   Here he is speaking to the BBC World Service program Health Check… The evidence is equivocal on it. It doesn’t tell you anything yet – hopefully, that will change.   So we’re thrown back on first principles and this is why, as in so many areas of public health,   you get such a heated debate because people are really relying on their opinion on things and you will have one group who say, ‘Well, it stands to reason’,-   the good old ‘stands to reason’ argument – which is: obviously, if you’ve got a   covering in front of your face, and you’re speaking or coughing into that covering,   it’s going to trap quite a lot of the virus on the droplets you’ll be emitting.

So far the evidence over whether face masks are helpful or harmful is equivocal – difficult to interpret because it seems to have two opposite or contradictory meanings. Based on current evidence,   Professor West feels we cannot say whether mask-wearing is beneficial. Some evidence suggests that wearing masks can prevent the disease from spreading and some suggest the opposite. There may be reasons why wearing masks could actually increase the spread of coronavirus. However, for some people, it stands to reason that masks are beneficial–   meaning it is obviously true from the facts. Actually, the evidence is far from obvious. But everyone has an opinion on the issue and after weeks of stressful lockdown, this can lead to heated debate – discussion or argument in which people become angry and excited. Up until recently, the World Health Organisation said two groups definitely should wear masks: people showing symptoms of the virus and their carers. But that left the problem of people who have the virus without knowing it and maybe unintentionally emitting it – sending something out into the air,   for example, noise or smell, or in this case, coronavirus. In June the WHO advice changed – now they say masks should be worn in public where social distancing measures are not possible. But the advantages of wearing masks might be outweighed by other considerations,   as Professor West explains…

It could also have unfortunate negative consequences in terms of mask shaming – that people feel compelled to wear masks in situations where it’s actually not helpful and may be harmful because it’s expected of them and they feel that they would be judged if they didn’t. But I think in addition to that,   one of the problems we have is that masks can potentially create a false sense of security. One negative effect is the practice of mask shaming – criticizing or humiliating someone for not wearing a face covering. Another problem is that wearing masks might create a false sense of security – a feeling of being safer than you really are. Is that what happened in 1905 Rob? Ah yes, today’s quiz question. I asked you when face masks were first widely used? And I said, b) 1905 in Chicago. Well done Sam, you were absolutely right! It was 1905 in Chicago when Dr. Alice Hamilton first noticed that carers wearing masks to treat scarlet fever patients, did not get sick. Interesting. Today we’ve been discussing whether wearing masks helps prevent infected people emitting – or sending out, coronavirus. So far the evidence is equivocal – unclear because it seems contradictory.   In other words, we can’t say either way for certain. But for some, it stands to reason – meaning it’s obviously true – that mask-wearing is a good idea. This disagreement over wearing face coverings has started a heated debate – that’s a discussion that becomes angry or excited. And this in turn has led to incidents of mask shaming – criticizing or mocking people for not wearing a face mask. A final drawback is that masks might give the wearer a false sense of security – that’s the belief that they are safe when they are not. That’s all we’ve got time for today. Bye for now! Bye!

Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English, I’m Neil. And I’m Sam. And in this program, we’re looking at the word objectification. Objectification is when we reduce people to objects. An example of this is an advertising and the media and in particular, the way women have been shown.   Impossibly attractive and implausibly perfect models in adverts and movies and on TV you are much more likely to see naked or half-naked women than men. Objectification can lead to issues in society such as inequality and discrimination.   Objectification of women is a problem but what about the objectification of men? Before we hear more, it’s time for a question.   Today’s question is: on British TV in which decade was a completely naked man first seen? Was it… a) the 1940s b) the 1950s c) the 1960s What do you think Sam? I’m going for the 60s. I’ll answer later in the program.

Now Sam, do you know the TV program Love Island? Yes, it’s a kind of a dating show and all the contestants – men and women – spend a   lot of time in their swimming costumes and they’ve all got perfect bodies. Yes, that’s right. It’s a program that seems equally to objectify men and women equally. But is that a bad thing? Dr. Peter Lucas is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Central Lancashire. He spoke on this topic on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour program.   What does he suggest might be the advantage of featuring men with ‘perfect’ bodies? If you look at the impact of TV series like Love Island, for instance, the producers of that program present that as have described that as being aspirational for their audience.   It’s presenting role models, it’s presenting models that people are supposed to aspire to.   Now many women, thinking about the male bodies that are on display there might think well, if it means that more men get off to the gym, look after themselves physically, surely that’s a good thing. So what might be an advantage of these highly fit athletic bodies on the show? Dr. Lucas suggests that seeing those bodies might encourage men to go to the gym and work hard to improve their fitness and health and that could be a good thing. Yes, the people in the program are described as role models.

A role model is someone whose behavior is seen as a good example for others to copy. I’m not sure the behavior of the people in Love Island makes them good role models, but perhaps from the point of view of their physical fitness they give us something to aspire to. If you aspire to something, it’s something you can aim for, something you want to achieve. Dr. Lucas also used a related word, aspirational. The TV series Love Island was described as being aspirational.   It shows a lifestyle that people would like to have, something they might aim to achieve. But there are also dangers to encouraging people to get to the gym. Here’s Dr. Lucas again. But also it’s likely to generate higher levels of narcissism, self-consciousness, and becoming obsessive about your appearance. It’s not particularly an attractive feature either in men or in women and I suspect that’s impacting on men’s behavior in a way that is detrimental in the same sort of way that’s been detrimental for women really, for decades. He talks about detrimental behavior, which means behavior that has a negative impact.   What behaviors does he say are detrimental? If people become obsessed with their appearance it could lead to narcissism.   This is a condition where you spend so much time focusing on yourself, your own looks,   your own body that you stop caring about anyone else. And because it’s very very hard to get that kind of body it can also lead to people being very self-conscious.   They might become embarrassed about their bodies and lose confidence in themselves as a result. Right. It’s almost time to review this week’s vocabulary, but before that let’s have the answer to the quiz. In what decade was the first naked man seen on British TV? Was it… a) the 1940s b) the 1950s c) the 1960s What did you say, Sam? I said c) the 60s. I’m afraid the revolution had come earlier than that. The correct answer is the 1950s.



It was a 1957 documentary called Out of Step, part of which was filmed at a nudist colony.   Now, time for our vocabulary. Our first word was objectification. This is the noun form when we reduce a human being to an object. We don’t think of them as a real person anymore. The verb is to objectify. Someone whose behavior is a good example that others want to copy is a role model. When it comes to presenting 6 Minute English, you are my role model, Neil. You’re too kind, and I aspire to your level of professionalism, Sam.   To aspire to – to aim to be, to hope to achieve. That is related to the next word, aspirational. This adjective is used to describe the desire to improve parts of your life – for example, getting a better job or a better body.   Aspirational TV programs or adverts show lifestyles that people might want to be theirs. Our next word is an adjective for something bad for you,   something that has a negative effect. The adjective is detrimental. We heard that aspiring to the perfect body can be detrimental because it might lead to narcissism.

Narcissism is the term for someone so obsessed with their own body and life that they don’t care about anyone else. Achieving that perfect body is incredibly hard and impossible for most real people and not achieving it can make people overly self-conscious – which in this situation means that they can lose confidence in themselves. That’s all we have time for today. Do join us next time and remember you can find us on the website bbclearningenglish.com. Bye-bye. Bye! Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English– the show that brings you an interesting topic,   authentic listening practice, and vocabulary to help you improve your language skills. I’m Rob… And I’m Catherine. In this program, we’ll be discussing quitting drinking and staying dry. Right, so when you say ‘quitting’, you mean ‘giving up’ – and when you say ‘drinking’,   you’re particularly referring to ‘the activity of drinking alcohol’. Exactly Rob. But, what about staying dry? It’s nothing to do with the weather? No that’s true. The adjective   ‘dry’ here means ‘no alcohol’. And I, Rob, am currently having a dry January. Ah yes, your New Year resolves to give up alcohol for one month. Any reason? Yes. I’m doing it to improve my health and save some money. And a resolution,   by the way, is a promise to yourself to do something or not to do something. Well, they seem like good reasons. And for now, we must keep up our resolution to always start the program with a question, so are you ready for it, Catherine? I am, crack on, Rob! According to data from the World Health Organisation in 2015,   which country consumed the most alcohol per person? Was it… a) Australia b) Finland c) The Czech Republic Well they all sound quite likely, but I did visit Prague once and I had a lovely time,   so I’m going to say c) the Czech Republic. OK, well as always, we’ll find out the answer later on.   But let’s continue our discussion about drinking – or informally known as boozing – and trying to give it up. We all know that too much drinking can be bad for us and that’s why you Catherine, have decided to quit – but only for a month. Yes, just a month but it’s a start and I might continue into February. But I’m seeing the benefits already.

I’ve managed to shed some weight – most of which I actually put on over Christmas! I can see. So to shed here simply means ‘lose’. And I bet your sobriety is helping you sleep better. Sobriety, by the way, means ‘the state of not being drunk’. It is actually. And I’m not alone: A study of 857 British adults by Dr. Richard de Visser from the University of Sussex found that after going for a month without alcohol,   62% of the people in the study said they had better sleep. So Rob,   does that tempt you to become teetotal and stop drinking? Not me Catherine. I need a drink to help me relax and be more sociable – you know how shy I am! Yes of course Rob! Well, maybe you should listen to Catherine Gray. She’s the author of a book called The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, which she wrote after she discovered the negative effects of going to too many work-related parties where she was just drinking too much.   Here she is speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour program… I had a lot of social anxiety and when I quit I had to deal with that. I think I   used drinking as a crutch, a confidence crutch – it eased the way to go to big glittering parties and stuff like that, and when I quit I had to learn real confidence in a way. So Catherine worked in the magazine business which involved going to lots of boozy parties. Drinking, she says, helped her deal with a nervous and worried feeling that she had when she met new people – she called it social anxiety.


Yes, and she used drinking as a crutch. A crutch here is something you depend on for support – and sometimes you rely on it too much. Yes and eventually she decided to abstain from drinking – in other words,   stop doing something enjoyable but bad for you – and she feels much better for it. So come on Rob, haven’t you got the willpower to just quit drinking for just 30 days? Well according to Catherine Gray, that wouldn’t be long enough… Experts say that it takes 66 days for a new habit to bed in, so I would always recommend trying it for 90 days. 30 days is the hard bit before you get to the rewards.   Because after 66 days it starts getting a lot easier and you start feeling better in yourself. Right, so it takes 66 days for doing a regular activity – a habit – to bed in. And   ‘bed in’ means to ‘become normal and start working properly. Now, earlier I asked you, according to data from the World Health Organisation in 2015,   which country consumed the most alcohol per person? Was it… a) Australia b) Finland c) The Czech Republic And I said the Czech Republic. Was I right? You were Catherine. Spot on, well done. Apparently,   14.1 liters of pure alcohol is consumed per person each year. Well like I said, they do make good beer in the Czech Republic – but people, be careful, only drink it in moderation. Now Rob, shall we take a look at the vocabulary we’ve mentioned today? Indeed. The first word we had was the resolution – that’s a promise to yourself to do or not do something. ‘Catherine’s New Year resolved to give up drinking alcohol for a whole month.’ Yes, and I’m still doing it, Rob – the plan is to shed a few kilos and get fit.   So for example, ‘Rob shed lots of weight when he went on a cake-free diet!’ Really? I’d never give up cake Catherine, but I could be tempted to give up booze as I know sobriety is good for my health – that’s the noun word to mean ‘the state of not being drunk’.

Now our next word has abstained. That means ‘not do something enjoyable but bad for you’. ‘Rob needs to abstain from eating cakes if he wants to wear his skinny jeans.’ Are you dropping a hint there, Catherine? Now, our final word is actually two words – bed in. It means ‘to become normal and start working properly’.   ‘It took a while for the new computer system to bed in but now it’s working perfectly.’ That’s brilliant because now we can go online and find more BBC   Learning English programs at bbclearningenglish.com.   That’s all for today’s 6 Minute English. We hope you enjoyed it. Bye for now. Bye. Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Neil and joining me for this is Dan. Hello. And can I say, Dan, you’re looking very slim – it looks like your diet is working! This is my normal figure – and I have not been on a diet. But it looks like you’ve actually put on a bit of weight. Well, I may have a little paunch – or a fat stomach – but didn’t you know that it’s out of my control?   Some of this has to do with my genes – not the ones I wear – but the cells in my body that control my development. That’s what we’ll be discussing in this program. However our audience might describe themselves – tubby and overweight or thin and skinny,   which means very thin – they’re more than welcome to join us on this voyage of discovery.

So let’s start with answering a question. What’s the name of the popular diet that involves avoiding eating carbohydrates and in which you can eat as much fat and protein as you like? Is it…a) the Mediterranean diet,  b) the Atkins diet, orc) the Graham diet? I’ve heard of the Atkins diet, so I’ll say b). Well, you’ll have to wait a bit to find out. But Dan, you may have also heard of a crash diet – that’s where someone makes a rapid change to the types of food they eat intending to lose weight quickly. Yes, I know that eating this way can be risky for your health and they don’t always work. That’s true and now scientists have some evidence that shows that our weight is not just controlled by what we eat. So it might be quite natural for someone to be thin or fat – it’s all to do with their genes. Research published in the journal   PLOS Genetics, explains how twin studies have shown that about 40% of the variation in a person’s weight is affected by their genes. And also, why thin,   but healthy people have genetic advantages in terms of maintaining a healthy weight.

So that means that losing weight isn’t just about having willpower – that’s controlling your own behavior to achieve something – it’s actually about something that’s out of our control? Yes, possibly. Let’s hear from the study’s author, Sadaf Farooqi, who is a Professor of Metabolism and   Medicine at the University of Cambridge, and has been a pioneer in the genetics of obesity for more than twenty years. Obesity, of course, is where someone is very overweight, in a way that is dangerous for their health. Here she is speaking on the BBC World Service program, Health Check.   What does she say might be one of the benefits of this research for people who are overweight? It actually can be very helpful in trying to get them to come to terms with some of the difficulties they may be having but also help them engage with help and support to try and encourage weight loss… I hope one of the main outcomes of this work might be,   to a little bit, to start to get people thinking about that. Because people are very judgemental and tend to think, look if I can stay thin and control my weight why can’t you? And what I   would say to that is, well the data now shows that you’re probably quite lucky in terms of the genes that you have rather than just being either morally superior or having better willpower. Some interesting thoughts there. For people who are overweight, this research can help them come to terms with the struggle they may be having to lose weight. When you come to terms with something, you start to accept the difficult or unpleasant situation you are in. So I suppose she means accepting that if you’re trying to shed a few pounds unsuccessfully, it’s not all your fault.

And it may stop people from being so judgemental – that’s so quick to criticize people based on their own beliefs. A slim person might say, “Well, I ate less and lost weight, so why can’t you?” – and now we know things aren’t quite that simple.   You are just lucky to have the right genes but it doesn’t make you ‘morally superior’. So it’s not just about having willpower. This research is much more detailed of course than we have time to explain here but for someone who is overweight, will they feel defeated? Absolutely not, according to Professor Farooqi. For people who are obese, this research is helpful. Not only should it give them hope, but it could also lead to the develop medicines to help them. But as genes only play a part in our size and weight,   we should all eat a healthy diet and do some exercise. And there is always new research about the best things to do and the right things to eat. Recently, research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine,   said that bursts of high-intensity interval training may be more effective for weight loss than longer less intense workouts. A burst is a sudden and short increase in something. Even if diets don’t help you lose weight – eating a balanced diet can certainly keep you healthy and make you feel good.

And as I’m talking about diets,   why don’t I answer the question I asked you earlier? What’s the name of the popular diet in which you should avoid eating carbohydrates but you can have as much fat and protein as you want? Is it…a) the Mediterranean diet,  b) the Atkins diet, orc) the Graham diet? I said the Atkins diet. And that is correct, well done. This well-known low-carb diet was developed by the American physician and cardiologist Robert Atkins in the 1960s. Other low-carb diets are available! Neil, I think it’s time we reminded ourselves of some of the vocabularies we’ve discussed today. Good idea. Let’s talk about paunch – another name for a fat stomach that men like me – and you – have. Speak for yourself! I’m closer to skinny – a word to describe someone looking very thin and sometimes ill. Our next word was willpower.   If you have willpower, you can control your own behavior to achieve something. The next phrase, come to terms with something means you start to accept the difficult or unpleasant situation you are in. If you are judgemental, you are quick to criticize people based on your own beliefs. And finally, we mentioned a burst of high-intensity interval training.   A burst is a sudden and short increase in something. Well, we’ve had a burst of the vocabulary there and it’s time to say goodbye.

Please join us next time. And of course don’t forget our website, bbclearningenglish.com. Goodbye.
 Bye! Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil. And I’m Sam. What blood type are you, Sam? Ah, you mean the different groups used to classify humans by blood – types A, B, AB, and O.   I think I’m typing O. How about you, Neil? Well, it may sound strange but actually, I don’t know. Hmm, lots of westerners don’t know their blood type, but in parts of Asia, blood groups are a topic of daily conversation. People select romantic partners based on blood type and different blood groups are associated with different personalities. In this program, we’ll be finding out all about blood – why humans have different blood types and whether blood is something more than just a way of pumping oxygen around your body. And of course, we’ll be learning some new vocabulary as well.   Now, Neil, I have an interesting fact for you – did you know that many Japanese popstars’ websites will feature their blood type alongside information like their age and hobbies? I didn’t, Sam, but Japanese culture is certainly interested in blood.   There’s even a word ‘Urahara’ meaning ‘blood harassment’, which is used to describe hostility towards people from a certain blood group considered to be selfish – but which group?

That’s my quiz question for today – which blood types may fall victim to ‘Urahara’? Is it: a) blood type A? b) blood type B? Orc) blood type O? I’ll say a) blood type A. OK, Sam, we’ll find out the answer later. As we’ve heard, blood is a big deal in Japan.   Marnie Chesterton, from BBC World Service program, CrowdScience, traveled to Tokyo where she asked Japanese translator, Chie Kobayashi, to explain more: For blood type A, generally, it is thought they are perfectionists,   more detail-oriented, pretty much good at precise type jobs, and that makes them good at helping others and good at teamwork and respecting rules and customs. That’s a typical blood A-type. 40 percent of Japan’s population are sensitive, anxious type As. 30   percent are curious and stubborn, generous type Os. Ten percent are creative ABs. But woe betides the twenty percent type Bs because they have a far less desirable personality, apparently. According to Japanese tradition, blood type As are perfectionists – people who want everything to be perfect and demand the highest standards possible. This contrasts with type Os who are considered to be stubborn – people who are determined to do what they want and refuse to change their minds. But it’s unfortunate blood type Bs who have the least desirable personality – selfish and independent. “Woe betides the type Bs,” remarks the presenter, Marnie Chesterton – an informal   British expression said when there will be trouble ahead for someone – in this case, poor type Bs! But apart from customs and traditions, is there actually any science behind these beliefs? Well, not according to Dr. Emma Pomeroy of Cambridge University’s archaeology department.

She thinks that – like horoscopes – there’s no scientific basis for a   connection between blood types and personalities. Which makes me wonder what exactly blood types are. Blood types are kinds of stickers or chemical markers that support our immune system – the organs, cells, and processes that protect the human body from infection and illness. Those chemical markers can identify foreign bodies like pathogens – small organisms,   such as viruses or bacteria, that can cause disease. The variety of blood types seems to be a result of different bodily responses to different disease-causing pathogens. Which explains why blood of the same type is needed in blood transfusions – medical procedures in which blood is taken from one person and put into another person’s body, often after an accident or during an operation.  And explains the high demand for type O blood which can be given to anyone. Ah, generous type Os – like me. I always knew I was special…

and curious and stubborn, wasn’t that the type O personality? Oh yes, today’s quiz question was about blood-type personalities.   I asked you which undesirable blood type is considered selfish in Japan. I said a) blood type A. But as we’ve heard, it’s actually b) blood type B. Never mind, I’ll settle for being curious, stubborn and generous! In today’s program, we’ve been talking all about blood types and personalities. In Japan, blood type A   people are thought of as perfectionists – people who want everything to be perfect. Unlike type Os who are considered stubborn – determined to get their own way and unwilling to change. And woe betides selfish type Bs – an informal expression said when there will be trouble for someone or if they will be punished for doing a particular thing. Scientifically speaking, blood types help support our immune system – the organs and cellular processes which protect the human body from infection. They also help identify foreign pathogens – small organisms,   such as virus or bacteria, that can cause disease. And explain why the same blood type is needed for a successful blood transfusion   – the procedure in which blood is transferred from one person’s body to another during an operation. That’s all we have time for today.

Bye for now. Bye! Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil. And I’m Georgina. Covid-19 has changed everyday life for people in countries around the world.   But coronavirus wasn’t the first pandemic to cause mass sickness and disrupt daily life. Between 2002 and 2004 an outbreak of the disease known as SARS or ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome’   caused hundreds of deaths in southern China before spreading to other parts of the world. The virus that caused SARS survived by mutating – changing as it reproduced itself in the bodies of infected people and this caused the virus to create strains – slight variations of the original. Covid-19, the disease caused by the strain of the original SARS virus we are experiencing now, has been called SARS 2. In this program, we’ll be looking at the origins of Covid-19   and hearing new evidence about the scale of the threat we face from the disease. And of course, we’ll be learning some new vocabulary as well. But first, it’s time for our quiz question.   We know that white blood cells make up part of the immune system our body needs to fight infectious diseases like Covid-19. But how many white blood cells per microlitre does the average adult human need? Is it:a) 7,000,  b) 17,000, orc) 70,000? Hmmm, in that case, I’d say more is better, so c) 70,000. OK, we’ll find out the answer at the end of the program. Now, Georgina, you mentioned that the disease spreading across the world today wasn’t the first Covid-19-type disease. That’s right. In fact, a recent research project in China has identified over 700   different types of coronavirus carried by bats. Some of these virus strains are thought to have already crossed over to humans. Dr. Peter Daszak of New York’s Eco-Health Alliance thinks that new strains of the virus have the potential to cause future pandemics.

He spent years in the Chinese countryside looking for coronaviruses that could jump from bats to humans. Here he is talking to the BBC World Service program, Science in Action… It would have been great to have found the precursor to SARS 2, but what would have been even better was to have found it before SARS 2 emerged and raise the red flag on it and stop the outbreak. But we didn’t do that. What we were looking for was… at the time … our hypothesis was that SARS 1, the original SARS virus which we all thought had disappeared, was still out there in bats – and that was what we were looking for. So we found a lot of SARS-1-related viruses. Covid-19 may have been contained if scientists had known more about the disease’s precursor – that’s a situation that existed before something and led to the development of that thing.   Here, the precursor of Covid-19 was the original SARS 1.

Any new cases of the virus would have been a red flag for another outbreak – a symbol of danger and that some action needs to be taken. Dr. Daszak believed that some form of SARS remained in bats and based his investigations on this hypothesis – an idea that is suggested as a possible explanation of something but which has not yet been proved correct. Another scientist working to prevent new epidemics is the pathologist Professor Mary Fowkes. The original SARS was treated as a respiratory disease that attacks the lungs. But when working with infected patients, Professor Fowkes noticed that Covid-19 was damaging the brain, blood, and other organs as well. Clinicians have recognized that a lot of patients that have Covid-19 are exhibiting confusion, are not necessarily aware of their environment appropriately, and some are having seizures,so there are some central nervous system abnormalities. And as you know, a lot of patients are exhibiting loss of sense of smell and that is a direct connection to the brain as well. In some infected patients coronavirus attacks the central nervous system – the body’s main system of nerve control consisting of the brain and spinal cord. When severe, this can cause seizures – sudden,   violent attacks of an illness, often affecting the heart or brain. It seems that Covid-19-type diseases are not going to disappear any time soon. Reminding us of the importance of the scientific research we’ve heard about today. And the importance of boosting your immunity…

which reminds me of today’s quiz question. You asked me how many white blood cells per microlitre the human body has. I said c) 70,000. Well, if that’s true you’ve definitely boosted your immunity, Georgina because the correct answer is c) 7,000. Today we’ve been discussing the strains – or slight variations,   of the virus which causes Covid-19. Covid-19 has a previous disease called SARS as its precursor – a   situation that existed before something and caused the development of that thing. Researchers used the idea that the virus has passed to humans from bats as their hypothesis – a possible explanation for something which has not yet been proven true. By identifying new virus strains, doctors hope unexplained cases can act as a red flag – a warning sign of danger, to prevent further outbreaks.

Knowing about new strains is increasingly important as we find out more about how coronavirus attacks the body’s central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord,   which in some patients can cause seizures – sudden, violent attacks of an illness,   especially affecting the heart or brain. So try to stay safe, wash your hands and remember to join us again soon. Bye for now! Bye! Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil. And I’m Sam. How do you relax, Sam? Well, I love watching movies and I go swimming. One thing that millions of people around the world do is meditate to relax and that’s the subject of our program. We’ll be looking at experiments by scientists in the US   into the Buddhist practice of meditation. We’ll find out how   Tibetan monks use meditation techniques to focus better and manage their emotions. But what exactly is meditation? People just sitting cross-legged on the floor, thinking of nothing?! There’s a lot more to it than that. After all, Buddhist meditation is an ancient practice – even science, according to some. Tibetan Buddhism, as embodied by the Dalai Lama,   is what many people think of when you mention meditation. This brings me to my quiz question. Which is..?

What is the meaning of the Tibetan word for ‘meditation’? Is it… a) to relax b) to feel blissful c) to become familiar I think it must be either a) to relax, or b) to feel blissful because they sound like positive states of mind. But I’m not sure about calling meditation a ‘science’,   Neil. Isn’t it more like a philosophy or a lifestyle? Not according to Professor Richard Davidson of the Center for Healthy Minds. He spoke to Alejandra   Martins of BBC World Service program Witness History about his remarkable scientific experiment which proved for the first time that meditation can actually change the brain. When I first met His Holiness the Dalai Lama it was 1972. He challenged me,   he said, ‘I understand that you’ve been using tools of modern neuroscience to study anxiety and depression. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and to study compassion?’ Neuroscience is the scientific study of the workings of the human brain and nervous system.   Professor Davidson measured negative mental states like depression, in contrast to positive   attitudes such as compassion – that’s the wish for everyone to be free from suffering. Right. In his test, Buddhist monks sent out loving thoughts to everyone   equally – to friends, enemies and strangers as well as to themselves. Compassionate thoughts such as ‘May you be happy and peaceful’, and ‘May you not suffer’.

And the results were astonishing! What did they show, Neil? Very high levels of gamma oscillations – now that’s brain waves showing increased connections between different parts of the brain. This is what you or I might experience as a flash of insight – a moment of sudden understanding and clarity. For us, it might last less than a   second. But for these experienced Buddhist monks, the gamma waves lasted minutes! Furthermore,   as Richard Davidson explains, brain changes as a result of meditation can be long-lasting. There is no question at this point in time-based upon the current science that has been conducted over the last 10 years, that meditation can change the brain in enduring ways, and the circuits that are involved are multiple,   but they include circuits that are important for regulating attention and regulating emotion. So, this was proof of neuroplasticity – our brain’s ability to change in response to conscious effort. In other words, the meditating monks were intentionally remolding their minds in more positive ways! And this was possible because the brain circuits – different parts of the brain responsible for different functions – start talking to each other in new ways that created enduring – meaning long-lasting – changes. The meditators gained insight into how their minds work.

They were more focused and emotionally balanced and less likely to get upset. How cool is that? Pretty cool! But these Tibetan monks sound like Buddhas! They spend thousands of hours sitting in meditation. I’ve got to go to work, Neil! What good is meditation to me? Well, Sam, in fact the experiment showed that 30 minutes of meditation a day significantly increased feelings of loving kindness in new meditators too! OK, maybe I’ll give meditation a go after all. But not before I find out the answer to today’s quiz. Yes, I asked you what the Tibetan word for ‘meditation’ meant. And I said either a) to relax or b)   to feel blissful. And I’m feeling pretty confident of getting it right this time, Neil. Well, Sam, if the answer came to you in a flash of insight then I’m afraid you need more practice because the correct answer is c) to become familiar,   in this case with more positive thoughts and emotions. You mean emotions like kindness and compassion – the thought of wishing everyone to be free from their problems. What other vocabulary did we learn today, Neil? Well, it turns out meditation is actually a science.   Neuroscience in fact, is the study of the human brain and nervous system.   Meditation experiments proved neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to restructure. By generating and sending out the compassionate wish, ‘May all beings be happy, Buddhist meditators change their brain circuits – different parts of the brain responsible for different functions.

And this is an enduring change, meaning it lasts and increases over a long period of time. I must say, Sam, you took it pretty well when you guessed the wrong answer just then. Thanks, Neil. I don’t like getting upset, so I’m trying out some breathing meditation! Breathing in the positive, breathing out the negative… Join us again soon for another interesting discussion on 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. Bye for now! Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil. And I’m Georgina. I’ve got a puzzle for you, Neil. Ready? Sure. OK. It’s a riddle. I’m as light as a feather but no one can hold me for very long. What am I? Hmmm… as light as a feather but no one can hold you… No idea. What are you? Your breath. Ah, yes, I see. OK, I’ve got one for you – I’m so big I’m everywhere but so small you can’t see me. What am I? You’re everywhere but I can’t see you? Hmmm, tricky…

I give up. The answer is – germs! With the outbreak of coronavirus, people around the world have rediscovered the importance of fighting germs to stop the spread of disease. In this program, we’ll be discussing the importance of handwashing in the prevention of germs and viruses. And we’ll start by meeting the first person to realize that keeping hands clean can really help prevent diseases being passed on. Ah… do you mean the 19th century Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweiss? He was known as the ‘savior of mothers’ for keeping maternity wards germ-free and he had a very interesting life. But do you know what happened to him in the end? That’s my quiz question. Was it: He won the Nobel prize  He ended up in the hospital for mentally ill people and started the first company to produce hand soap Dr. Semmelweiss sounds like a scientific hero so I’ll say, a) he won the Nobel prize. OK. We’ll find out later if you were right. What’s for sure is that Ignaz Semmelweiss was a hero to Val Curtis, a director at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.   Here she is talking to BBC Radio 4’s Science Stories: Semmelweiss is kind of my patron saint.

Handwashing has been my life for the last thirty years working on trying to improve hygiene,   mostly in developing countries and he was really the first to identify the importance of keeping hands clean in the prevention of the transmission of infection.   And since the beginning of my career working in public health, I’ve been trying to understand how diseases get spread and what the best way of preventing it is, and handwashing jumped out as being the most important means of preventing infections, particularly in developing countries. Val’s work is all about improving hygiene – practices for maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness. And she was clearly influenced by the work of Dr. Semmelweiss because she calls him her patron saint – a kind of guide and protector believed to give special help or inspiration. But Dr. Semmelweiss is also a good example of science communication. Getting the message out so people understand the importance of hygiene is difficult. And ‘wash your hands’ jumped out – or made a strong impact – as a simple message to communicate. Here’s Val again: It wasn’t until we wrote a paper in 2003 that showed the evidence that handwashing could save a million lives that actually people started to take it seriously and handwashing became a   big important issue internationally. So for me, the lesson from Semmelweiss is:   don’t scream and shout and accuse people of doing things wrong but patiently get the data out there and tell your story in a positive way.

The idea that handwashing is an essential part of hygiene is supported by scientific evidence – the facts and information used to show that a belief is true – in this case,   Val’s belief that handwashing could help save a million lives. So, handwashing has become an important global issue – or topic of discussion – especially in places without access to clean sanitation and toilets. Val also mentions that if you want people to listen to your message,   it’s better to present the evidence in a positive, scientific way instead of screaming and shouting – speaking in a forceful or even angry way to convince people you’re right. Right, people don’t listen if you scream and shout at them – they just think you’re strange. This brings me back to today’s quiz question.   Remember, I asked you what happened to Dr Semmelweiss in the end? …and I said a) he won the Nobel prize. Well, I’m afraid the answer was, b) he ended up in a hospital for mentally ill people. Today we’ve been talking about handwashing, one of the single best ways to improve personal hygiene – the prevention of disease by keeping clean.

Recently, handwashing has become a top global issue – a subject or topic people are thinking and talking about. Scientific evidence – the facts and information used to prove ideas true or valid – it shows that handwashing jumped out – or was easily noticed – as one of the most important methods to stop the spread of infection. The work of 19th-century scientist Ignaz Semmelweiss was so inspiring that even today,   some doctors consider him the patron saint of hygiene – an expression referring to a protecting or guiding saint believed to give special help or inspiration. But communicating the message of ‘wash your hands’ to people around the world is hard,   especially if you just scream and shout – or try to convince someone by talking to them in a forceful or argumentative way. OK, Neil, the scientific evidence has convinced me – I promise to make sure I regularly wash my hands. That’s all from us today but join us again soon for more topical discussion and vocabulary here at BBC Learning English’s 6 Minute English. Stay safe and remember to wash your hands! Bye for now. Bye!



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