The first bit of advice my physical therapist gave me last week during a visit to address some aches and pains was to get up from my desk every half-hour. It turns out her prescription is backed up by research. In one of our most popular stories over the past week, professor of behavioral medicine Keith Diaz describes results of a new study that found that taking a five-minute walk every half-hour counteracts the harmful effects of sitting all day – which, as many of us know, are numerous. “People who sit for hours on end develop chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, dementia and several types of cancer at much higher rates than people who move throughout their day,” Diaz writes.

At the start of every year, our editors publish articles that take on beginning-of-year themes, such as New Year’s resolutions to adopt healthy practices. That led to this article on the long list of benefits from meditation by Wayne State University neuroscientist Hilary Marusak. She walks us through some highlights of the many scientific studies on meditation and notes that there are some 600 clinical trials currently recruiting participants for various conditions, such as pain, cancer and depression. If actually taking up a meditation practice sounds daunting, she has some tips to get started, along with some encouraging news: Even five minutes a day can have positive health effects.

The pandemic introduced hundreds of millions of people to mRNA vaccines, but this technology can be applied to many health conditions. University at Buffalo biochemist and molecular biologist Mark O’Brian explains the results of a recent clinical trial that found that melanoma patients who took both an mRNA vaccine to fight against tumors and another cancer drug saw positive results compared with people who took only the cancer drug. He writes about how the vaccine functioned in this test and notes how this one experimental immunotherapy, which is customized to each individual, is a sign of the potential for personalized medicine now taking shape.

Also in this week’s science news:

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Martin La Monica

Director of Editorial Projects and Newsletters

Researchers have long known that sitting at your desk hour after hour is an unhealthy habit. Morsa Images/Digital Vision via Getty Images

Sitting all day is terrible for your health – now, a new study finds a relatively easy way to counteract it

Keith Diaz, Columbia University

Short, frequent walks throughout the day are key to helping prevent the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

People of any age or walk of life can access and benefit from meditation. Daniel de la Hoz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Meditation and mindfulness offer an abundance of health benefits and may be as effective as medication for treating certain conditions

Hilary A. Marusak, Wayne State University

Mindfulness, one of the most common forms of meditation, is a skill that must be cultivated and practiced. With some training and discipline, it can help anyone live more fully in the moment.

Moderna is testing an mRNA vaccine in combination with pembrolizumab to treat melanoma. Javier Zayas Photography/Moment via Getty Images

Moderna’s experimental cancer vaccine treats but doesn’t prevent melanoma – a biochemist explains how it works

Mark R. O'Brian, University at Buffalo

Preventive and therapeutic vaccines both train the immune system to fight disease, but they are used in different ways.

Native eastern fence lizards changed their bodies and behavior in response to invasive red imported fire ants

Catherine Tylan, Penn State; Tracy Langkilde, Penn State

The ways eastern fence lizards have changed in response to red imported fire ants demonstrate how species can adapt to survive the presence of invasive predators.

NASA’s busiest year in decades – an astronomer sums up the dizzying array of missions in 2022

Chris Impey, University of Arizona

NASA has been gaining momentum in recent years as investment into space has ramped up in the US. In 2022, missions dealt with the farthest, closest, hottest and coldest conditions in the universe.

Kicking off the new year by cleansing your body with a detox diet? A dietitian unpacks the science behind these fads

Taylor Grasso, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Detox diets and cleanses supposedly clear the body of allegedly toxic substances. But the evidence suggests otherwise.

Deep seabed mining plans pit renewable energy demand against ocean life in a largely unexplored frontier

Scott Shackelford, Indiana University; Christiana Ochoa, Indiana University; David Bosco, Indiana University; Kerry Krutilla, Indiana University

Mining nodules from the deep ocean seabed could provide the metals crucial for today’s EV batteries and renewable energy technology, but little is known about the harm it could cause.

Lobsters versus right whales: The latest chapter in a long quest to make fishing more sustainable

Blake Earle, Texas A&M University

To fish the oceans sustainably, nations must reduce bycatch, or accidental catches. But fishermen often resist changing gear or techniques that kill nontargeted species.

Vaccination to prevent dementia? New research suggests one way viral infections can accelerate neurodegeneration

Andrew Bubak, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; Diego Restrepo, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; Maria Nagel, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Inflammation and damage to the olfactory system from shingles, COVID-19 and herpes infections may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

Stopping the cancer cells that thrive on chemotherapy – research into how pancreatic tumors adapt to stress could lead to a new treatment approach

Chengsheng Wu, University of California, San Diego; David Cheresh, University of California, San Diego; Sara Weis, University of California, San Diego

Some cancers are notoriously resistant to chemotherapy and not curable with surgery. Stopping tumors from adapting to the harsh microenvironments of the body could be a potential treatment avenue.

Flood forecasts in real-time with block-by-block data could save lives – a new machine learning method makes it possible

Valeriy Ivanov, University of Michigan

The majority of flood-related deaths involve vehicles in water. What if flood models could warn of the risks street by street using real-time storm forecasts?