Why You Shouldnt Worry About Your Gut Health


hands holding a model of the intestines

Photo: LightField Studios (Shutterstock)

Our digestive system is a hugely important part of our bodies, and its health is rightly important to us. Without good gut health, we might be in pain, or suffer embarrassing symptoms, or worse. But it does not follow that we need to load up on foods or products that promise to improve our gut health.

Gut health, it turns out, is not a well-defined concept. That means it’s not always possible to tell whether it’s improving or whether we even have a problem with it in the first place. Two researchers from the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University recently wrote in a Lancet journal article and on the Conversation about the fact that gut health has become more of a marketing buzzword than a scientific or medical phenomenon.

After all, what do we mean when we talk about gut health? Often it’s either the absence of unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, or the absence of medical conditions like Crohn’s disease. These conditions and symptoms are each different, so there’s not a single state of “gut health” that we can achieve to prevent all of them. Scientists are still trying to understand the details, and research is ongoing.

The microbiome is also important, but again, scientists have not managed to come up with a way to reliably tell the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy microbiome. The exact population of microbes in two healthy people’s guts may differ from each other, for example. And despite ongoing research, we still can’t test your microbes and tell you what’s wrong with you (outside of a few specific cases, like Clostridium difficile infection).

But the idea that gut health must be important has provided a marketing boost for a plethora of products, foods, and practices that are supposed to be good for us. Probiotics, for example, are suggested to treat or prevent gastrointestinal troubles. But many fermented foods like yogurt and kombucha don’t affect the makeup of our gut microbiome, and even when they do, we don’t always know if they’re affecting it for the better.

Basically, if someone says a certain food or diet is supposed to be good for your gut health, they’re usually making assumptions they can’t back up. The scientists, Amy Loughman and Heidi Staudacher, write:

For example, there is no solid human evidence yet that intake of processed foods or refined sugar leads to negative effects on the entirety of the aforementioned gut health parameters. Neither are lists of top ten gut health foods particularly helpful or insightful; instead they simplify the complexity of diet to a handful of foods high in fibre without appreciation of important nuances.

They also point out that there are many types of fiber and that they probably aren’t all equally good for us; there is evidence that some fibers could be harmful if we eat too much of them.

A generally varied diet that includes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will probably be good for our gut health. So will other healthy habits like exercising and avoiding smoking. As they further discuss in the Conversation article, gut health isn’t a thing you achieve by drinking kombucha or eschewing sugar: “it’s dietary patterns and overall habits, not individual foods, that shift the dial.”

16 health, fitness, and wellness apps on sale this weekend


Products featured here are selected by our partners at StackCommerce.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Invest in your health with one of these fitness and wellness apps.
Invest in your health with one of these fitness and wellness apps.

Image: Verv

Want to kick your wellness routine into high gear? These fitness, health, and sleep tracking apps are all on sale for a limited time. 

All you have to do is enter the code DOWNLOADIT at checkout and you can slash the already-on-sale prices by an extra 30%.

Using just the camera on your phone, the 3D capture system on the Onyx app counts your reps, helps correct your form, and tracks nearly any exercise you do. For a limited time, get a lifetime subscription for just $55.99 when you enter the code DOWNLOADIT at checkout.

If you have specific fitness goals in mind, enter them in this app and let BetterMe take it from there. It’ll create a personal diet plan for you, track your water intake, give you advice, and more. For a limited time, get started with a lifetime subscription for just $27.99 when you enter the code DOWNLOADIT.

Even if you’re eating well and exercising, poor sleep can throw you off track. Guide yourself toward restful sleep by streaming over 20 personalized channels of sleep meditations, bedtime stories, calming visuals, and more with Restflix. Two years of access will cost you just $34.99 (normally $99) for a limited time if you use the code DOWNLOADIT.

If you want a workout that doesn’t feel like a workout, try dancing. With Dance Forever on Demand, you can work out to cardio dance classes, mood-boosting workouts, and more. With the code DOWNLOADIT, you can get lifetime access for just $27.99 (normally $197) for a limited time.

On Rootd, you’ll engage with therapist-approved exercises, breathing tools, guided visualizations, and even an on-demand button designed to help you get through panic attacks. A one-year subscription is just $18.19 (regularly $59) for a limited time with the code DOWNLOADIT.

Fitness Ally uses your device’s camera to coach you through workouts in real time with effective feedback and helpful motivation. Get access for a year for just $13.99 (regularly $59) when you use the code DOWNLOADIT.

Get over 700 guided workouts that you can do at home, in the gym, or even outdoors, plus music to pair them with. Everything on the Auro app is led by expert trainers and tailored to your fitness level and goal intentions.  Enter the code DOWNLOADIT at checkout and get a one-year subscription for just $17.49 (normally $59).

This versatile home workout planner covers exercise, nutrition, sleep, and mindfulness. You’ll get access to a wide range of fitness activities, meditations, and meal plans, allowing you to embrace holistic health and wellness. Get lifetime access for just $27.99 (normally $1,200) when you enter the code DOWNLOADIT.

Ultrahuman helps people achieve their fitness goals, but not just through exercise: It also helps you manage your sleep and is designed with your mental health in mind. Get lifetime access for just $55.99 (normally $399) with the coupon code DOWNLOADIT.

This app is designed to help you improve your sexual health. For a limited time, get access for a year for just $13.99 (normally $59) when you use the code DOWNLOADIT.

With YogaDownload, you’ll get access to over 1,500 yoga and other fitness classes for a full year. For a limited time, get started for just $20.30 (normally $119) when you use the code DOWNLOADIT.

Missing group fitness classes? This interactive online yoga app helps you feel like you’re in the yoga studio with others. Enter the code DOWNLOADIT at checkout to get a lifetime subscription for just $209.30 (normally $399) for a limited time.

Does falling asleep in two minutes sound like a far-away dream? Make it your reality with Restly sleep app. For a limited time, pay just $27.99 (normally $100) for a lifetime subscription when you use the code DOWNLOADIT.

Quotely helps you re-train your brain from naturally thinking negative thoughts to positive ones. Read through thousands of quotes, find motivational books, and more for just $20.99 (normally $280) for a limited time. Just enter code DOWNLOADIT at checkout.

Created by top meditation teachers and neuroscientists, MindFi can help you “recharge” and refocus whenever you want. Use the code DOWNLOADIT and pay just $27.30 (normally $365) for a limited time.

Each day of the week, Welzen will provide a new meditation. For a limited time, pay just $20.99 (regularly $149) for a lifetime subscription when you use the code DOWNLOADIT.

Overhaul your nutrition and exercise with the help of these classes


Products featured here are selected by our partners at StackCommerce.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Learn the fundamentals of a balanced plant-based diet.
Learn the fundamentals of a balanced plant-based diet.

Image: Felix HArder

TL;DR: Learn how to take your health and wellness up a notch with the Complete Healthy Living and Cooking Bundle, on sale for $29.99 as of March 28.

Instead of succumbing to social media diet trends like tummy tea, get serious about your health and nutrition by signing up for seven courses on aligning your nutrition, exercise, mindset, and lifestyle.

With this Healthy Living and Cooking Bundle, you’ll get 24 hours of content focused on cooking and eating better, exercising in a way that works for you, and staying motivated with proven strategies. These courses will serve as a solid foundation for overhauling your lifestyle. You’ll learn all about whole food and vegan cooking, superfood nutrition, and how to set up a healthy diet plan based on those three factors. You’ll discover what to eat for weight loss, for boosting your metabolism, for building healthy bones, for gaining energy, and more. There’s even a class that’ll show you how to make deliciously healthy vegan cookies.

Rather than focusing specifically on weight loss, the fitness courses will help you understand the relationship between a healthy mind and body. There are no elaborate and outrageous promises, just all-encompassing information to help you make the lifestyle changes that are right for you.

To ensure you’re getting quality education on these topics, this bundle tapped popular chefs and fitness instructors to lead the way. Nikki Vegan, a popular YouTuber, and vegan recipe developer, teaches quick and easy vegan cooking. Amy Kimmel, a professional baker, will show you how to whip up sweet treats that are also healthy. And Felix Harder, a certified nutritionist, fitness coach, and self-improvement instructor, will lead you through the complete health and fitness masterclass. 

Overhaul your health habits with this seven-course guide to cleaner living. Sign up for just $29.99 for a limited time.

Eating Mostly Restaurant Meals Linked to Higher Risk of Early Death


Signs for Taco Bell, Grinder, McDonalds, Panda Express fast-food restaurant line the streets in the Figueroa Corridor area of South Los Angeles on July 24, 2008, Los Angeles, California.

Signs for Taco Bell, Grinder, McDonalds, Panda Express fast-food restaurant line the streets in the Figueroa Corridor area of South Los Angeles on July 24, 2008, Los Angeles, California.
Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)

Dining out often might come with a hidden cost down the road, new research suggests. The study found an association between frequently eating at restaurants and a higher risk of dying earlier, along with deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Researchers at the University of Iowa looked at 25 years worth of data (1990 to 2014) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a regularly conducted and nationally representative poll of Americans’ lifestyle habits. During that time, more than 35,000 adults over the age of 20 took part in the survey and answered questions about their diet, including how often they dined out. This data was then linked to mortality data updated to 2015. By that time, there had been 2,781 deaths documented among those involved in the survey.

The researchers classified people in the survey who reported eating out at least twice a day as frequently dining out. And when compared to people who dined out less than one meal a week on average, those who frequently dined out had a 49% higher associated risk of death, after accounting for factors like age, sex, and other lifestyle habits. They also had a significantly higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease (18%) and cancer (67%).

“Frequent consumption of meals prepared away from home is significantly associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality,” the authors wrote in their paper, published Thursday in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

These sorts of observational studies can only point to a correlation between the things they’re supposed to study, not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. And that’s one big reason why it’s tricky to make concrete conclusions about how our diets affect our health, especially something as complicated as death. A person who eats out a lot is likely different in other important ways from someone who doesn’t eat out. If someone eats out frequently because they don’t have time to cook at home, for instance, then they might also not have time to exercise or have trouble getting enough sleep.

At the same time, there is plenty of other research showing that the food we get from dining out tends to be less healthy for us than food we cook at home, especially when it comes from fast food or casual dining restaurants. So while you shouldn’t necessarily think that dining out twice a day every day will definitely and directly raise your relative risk of dying earlier by 50%, it’s probably still not very good for you.

“The take-home message is that frequent consumption of meals prepared away from home may not be a healthy habit,” the authors wrote. “Instead, people should be encouraged to consider preparing more meals at home.”

Dont Believe These Myths About Creatine


creatine powder, jar, and spoon

Photo: M.Photografer (Shutterstock)

Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for people who lift, and with good reason: There’s significant evidence showing it’s safe to take and effective at helping you build muscle. But myths persist, so let’s take a look at a few of them.

Myth: It’s a steroid or some kind of scary drug

The truth: It’s not. Creatine is a substance that our bodies make naturally, and we also get it in our diet. A pound of meat contains about a gram of creatine; a typical dose of creatine as a supplement is 3-5 grams per day. Creatine from supplements just adds to what we naturally consume. (That said, if your body is good at making creatine or if you eat a lot of meat, the supplement may not have much to add. That seems to be why some people respond better to the supplement than others.)

Another difference between creatine and steroids—besides the fact that they are completely different in terms of chemistry and biology—is that creatine’s benefits, while well-supported, are minor. It may help you get a few extra reps on a max-effort set, or shave a tiny bit off your sprinting time. Over hundreds of workouts, the extra effects add up, but it’s not going to make you massively larger or stronger.

Myth: You have to cycle on and off

The truth: You don’t. When creatine first became popular, there were still some unanswered questions about how the human body would react to being on it long term. Would we stop making our own natural creatine? Would it be harmful to our kidneys?

One way to deal with that uncertainty was to take creatine for a short time and then stop taking it for a while. But it turns out that there’s no need to cycle; creatine keeps working and our bodies keep making creatine even with long-term supplementation.

And people don’t suffer kidney damage from taking creatine, although if you get a kidney function test your doctor may notice elevated creatinine levels. (Creatinine is a product of creatine breakdown, which is normal, but in people who don’t take supplemental creatine it can be a sign of kidney damage.) There’s some disagreement on whether creatine is safe for people who already have kidney problems; talk to your doctor if that’s a concern for you.

Myth: It doesn’t work for women

The truth: Creatine studies have been conducted with more male subjects than female, but creatine is effective and has very few downsides for women.

There may be subtle differences between how men and women metabolize and use creatine. For example, this review paper points out that women may have more creatine in their muscles to start with, simply due to having smaller muscles on average. There may also be hormonal reasons why creatine has more of an effect during certain times, like pregnancy and certain stages of the menstrual cycle. But this doesn’t change the big picture: If you lift or play a sport where creatine supplementation can help, you’ll likely benefit from creatine, no matter your gender.

Myth: You have to take creatine at a certain time or in a certain way

The truth: Creatine builds up in your body over time, so the recommendation is to just take a dose every day to keep your stores topped up. That means you should take it on rest days as well as workout days, and also that it doesn’t matter whether you take it before your workout, after your workout, or at any other time of day.

Creatine monohydrate is generally the cheapest kind and the easiest to find; none of the alternative formulations like creatine citrate have been shown to be better.

When you first start taking creatine, you can do a “loading dose” for a week if you like; this gets your creatine stores topped up a bit faster. But you can also just start taking a daily dose; you’ll realize the full effects within a few weeks.

While other startups develop alt-proteins for meat replacement, Nourish Ingredients focuses on fat


Plant-based meat replacements have commanded a huge amount of investor and consumer attention in the decade or more since new entrants like Beyond Meat first burst onto the scene.

These companies have raised billions of dollars and the industry is now worth at least $20 billion as companies try to bring all the meaty taste of… um… meat… without all of the nasty environmental damage… to supermarket aisles and restaurants around the world.

Switching to a plant-based diet is probably the single most meaningful contribution a person can make to reducing their personal greenhouse gas emissions (without buying an electric vehicle or throwing solar panels on their roof).

The problem that continues to bedevil the industry is that there remains a pretty big chasm between the taste of these meat replacements and actual meat, no matter how many advancements startups notch in making better proteins or new additives like Impossible Foods’ heme. Today, meat replacement companies depend on palm oil and coconut oil for their fats — both inputs that come with their own set of environmental issues.

Enter Nourish Ingredients, which is focusing not on the proteins, but the fats that make tasty meats tasty. Consumers can’t have delicious, delicious bacon without fat, and they can’t have a marvelously marbled steak replacements without it either.

The Canberra, Australia-based company has raised $11 million from Horizons Ventures, the firm backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing (also a backer of Impossible Foods), and Main Sequence Ventures, an investment firm founded by Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

That organization is actually where the company’s two co-founders James Petrie and Ben Leita met back in 2013 while working as scientists. Petrie, a specialist in crop development, was spearheading the development of omega-3 canola oil, while Leita had a background in chemistry and bioplastics.  

The two had previously worked on a company that was trying to increase oil production in plants, something that the CSRO had been particularly interested in circa 2017. As the market for alternative meats really began to take off, the two entrepreneurs turned their attention to trying to make corollaries for animal fats.

When we were talking to people we realized that these alternative food space was going to need these animal fat like plants,” said Leita. “We could use that skillset for fish oil and out of canola oil.”

Nourish’s innovation was in moving from plants to bacteria. “With the iteration speeds, it feels kind of like we’re cheating,” said Petrie. “You can get the cost of goods pretty damn low.”

Nourish Ingredients uses bacteria or organisms that make significant amounts of triglycerides and lipids. “Examples include Yarrowia. There are examples of that being used for production of tailored oils,” said Petrie. “We can tune these oleaginous organisms to make these animal fats that give us that great taste and experience.”

As both men noted, fats are really important for flavor. They’re a key differentiator in what makes different meats taste different, they said.

“The cow makes cow fat because that’s what the cow does, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fat for a plant protein,” said Petrie. “We start out with a mimetic. No reason for us to be locked by the original organism. We’re trying to create new experiences. There are new experiences out there to be had.”

The company already counts several customers in both the plant and recombinant protein production space. Now, with 18 employees, the company is producing both genetically modified and non-CRISPR cultivated optimized fats. 

Other startups and established businesses also have technologies that could allow them to enter this new market. Those would be businesses like Geltor, which is currently focused on collagen, or Solazyme, which makes a range of bio-based specialty oils and chemicals.

As active investors in the alternative protein space, we realize that animal-free fats that replicate the taste of traditional meat, poultry and seafood products are the next breakthrough in the industry,” said Phil Morle, partner at Main Sequence Ventures. “Nourish have discovered how to do just that in a way that’s sustainable and incredibly tasty, and we couldn’t be happier to join them at this early stage.” 

Where are some Republican Congress members getting their news? From far-right users on Twitter.


Mike Cernovich is a far-right personality who has claimed that “date rape does not exist.” His misogynistic writings catapulted him to fame within the anti-feminist men’s rights movement and GamerGate, a 2014 movement which harassed women in the gaming industry. 

Cernovich later became a high-profile supporter of Donald Trump and a major promoter of the #PizzaGate conspiracy, which falsely claimed a child sex trafficking ring was being run in the nonexistent basement of a Washington DC pizza place popular with Democratic politicians. 

Freshman Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) goes to Cernovich for her news updates.

This insight into Boebert’s news intake as well as the media consumption of all 535 Members of Congress comes courtesy of a new study by Ground News, a digital media outlet that compares news stories for political bias.

The study was conducted with the company’s new tool, Blindspotter. The Blindspotter algorithm analyzes a Twitter account’s tweets, likes, retweets and replies in order to figure out the account holder’s news diet and the ideological bias that news slant produces. The tool provides a Twitter user’s top three sources for news and three “news influencers” they regularly interact with. As of today, the Blindspotter tool is now available for anyone to use.

“At a time when Congress is more ideologically divided than ever, the study reveals the media feedback loops deepening those divisions,” said Ground News CEO and co-founder Harleen Kaur in a statement provided to Mashable. “It appears that highly partisan news sources are playing an influential role in shaping the opinions of the lawmakers whose policies affect the lives of millions of Americans.”

While Boebert’s news bias profile leans fairly right — along with Cernovich, she interacts with the NRA and Donald Trump’s now-suspended account the most — she’s by no means the member of Congress with the most right-leaning news diet on Twitter.

That distinction goes to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), the freshman Congresswoman with a history of promoting misinformation related to the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory. 

WATCH: How to recognize and avoid fake news

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According to the Ground News study, Rep. Greene’s top sources for news consist of right-wing outlets such as Breitbart, Washington Times, and Fox News. She regularly interacts with Big League Politics, a far-right outlet that regularly spreads falsehoods and misinformation. Greene also gets her news on Twitter from OANN anchor Jack Posobiec, who has been tied to neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups.

There are many other interesting findings from the study as well. For example, one of Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R-NC) top news sources on Twitter is Not The Bee, a conservative outlet run by the satirical right-wing website The Babylon Bee. 

Another example is Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), who the study found is influenced by the Twitter account @ThomasSowell. However, the account does not belong to the Black conservative thinker Sowell himself. It’s run by a user that describes themselves as “not Thomas Sowell, but I own all of his books and tweet quotes from them” in their Twitter bio. (Interestingly, Rep. Crenshaw has a fairly balanced news diet on Twitter, taking in sources from right, left, and center).

The study also includes news bias which exists on the other side of the aisle as well. 

However, the bias on the Democratic side of the aisle tends to lie within more respectable news organizations. For example, Senator Bernie Sanders’ (D-VT) frequent sources for news on Twitter are CNN, The Washington Post, and progressive YouTube channel The Young Turks. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) gets her news from the New York Times, a variety of NBC News reporters, and The Intercept.

As Ground News CEO Kaur previously told me, the organization’s hope is that its online tools help users pop their filter bubble and consume a news diet consisting of a variety of sources across the ideological spectrum.

How Sea Chanteys Made Me Love Video Games Again


The ship is on fire. Again.

Actually, now I’m on fire. This is bad. We’re roughly an hour into a three-hour loot run on Sea of Thieves and death has come to my door for the umpteenth time. I should, as the game instructs, offer my soul to the ferryman, but luckily my crewmate revives me (again) and we resume our pained efforts to not sink. The whole thing would be less embarrassing if it wasn’t streaming live on Twitch, but being mortified in front of one’s friends has always been half of the fun of gaming. (Right?)

It’s also what happens when you haven’t played a video game in about a decade. I used to love gaming—and still nurse a mild Mario Kart habit—but it hasn’t been a regular part of my media diet in a long time. Yet, recently it’d been calling to me again. Perhaps it was late-stage Covid-19 lockdown malaise, but like in an actual siren song, gaming called me here, to the deck of a digital ship, hoping to get revived.

This all started back in January. I’d recently gotten caught up in the TikTok sea chantey craze and apparently didn’t know when to shut up about it. Somehow I’d become the go-to person on Slack when anyone wanted to talk about 19th century mariner songs. Eventually, my hype fell on Games editor Saira Mueller’s ears and she suggested it would be fun if we asked the UK a cappella group The Longest Johns to join us on Twitch to play Sea of Thieves and sing some songs. “Sure!” I said, knowing full well I could only do one of those things with any certainty. I forged ahead thinking that the Johns were a long shot.

The band emailed me back in an hour: “Yes, we’d love to.” Oh. At this point, I started to panic. Not only did I not know anything about playing Sea of Thieves, I also didn’t own a PC. Or an Xbox. Or anything on which to play it. Or know how to stream. I got a Razer Blade 15, loaded up Xbox Game Pass, and attempted to not let my sweaty palms muck up the laptop’s shimmering rainbow keyboard.

The learning curve on Sea of Thieves took about four days to overcome. (The damage my dignity required a lot more time to heal.) Half of this was just learning keystrokes and commands; the other half was getting reacquainted with using a PC after 16 years using a Mac. Did you know the two-finger swipe that allows you to scroll down on a Mac will make you pull out your sword on Sea of Thieves? I do now! It will also retrieve your pistol. (All apologies to the various shopkeepers I accidentally shot.) I found myself Googling “How to eat a banana, Sea of Thieves,” and one time, frantically, “video game swimming?!” The latter did not produce the desired results. But, like a pirate who spots a doubloon in the sand, I picked it up.

I was not, however, ready to play for three hours with seasoned gamers. I know this now. Yet, when I hopped online to stream with the Longest Johns, that’s exactly what we did. Luckily, they took pity. Jonathan “JD” Darley channeled instructions about how to use buckets when the ship got flooded and revived my slumped-over corpse more times than I could count. We scored treasure, made sales, and obliterated Flameheart’s ghost ships.

We also sang. Back when the sea chantey craze took off, the Longest Johns garnered some attention because in 2018 they’d recorded a version of “Soon May the Wellerman Come,” which was the track most people on TikTok were singing. During our Twitch stream, we sang that one and many others, including a song I’d never heard called “Here’s a Health to the Company,” which, in a somewhat poetic turn, is all about appreciating moments before they pass. “Let us drink and be merry, all grief to refrain,” the chorus goes, “for we may or might never all meet here again.” It was, Darley said, “a dedication to the uniqueness of every time you get to sing and spend time with people.”

Gaming has changed so much in the time since I stopped playing, I have often feared it’s long since bypassed my skill level. I can’t play like Saira, or even like the average teenager, but I’m glad it was not impossible to return to button-mashing years after my last attempt. And to realize that sometimes, in the waning days of a pandemic, it helps to appreciate where you are because you’ll never go there again.

Twyla Tharp and Her Body of Perpetual Motion


It’s easy to think about Twyla Tharp and immediately picture her body of work. It’s impressive. Tharp has choreographed more than 150 dances for just about every surface and site imaginable: the concert stage, parks, Broadway, film, ice and now Zoom.

But what about the body behind the work? Tharp, 79, was first a dancer. Her magnetic way of moving — turbulent yet not without a lyric softness — is at the root of her dances. What’s most revelatory about “American Masters: Twyla Moves,” a new documentary covering Tharp’s life and career, is the way it dashes past those overarching themes to highlight something else: her wholly original dancing body. Like the woman living inside of it, it’s both meticulous and wild. This body has guts.

“Twyla Moves,” debuting on March 26 on PBS, scans Tharp’s choreographic canon. But you would need multiple volumes to get at the breadth of her work, which began in the avant-garde of the 1960s and ’70s before moving to the world of ballet. Her first effort in that realm, “Deuce Coupe” for the Joffrey Ballet in 1973, mixed classical and modern dance to become the first crossover ballet. She also likes to tell stories through movement, and has had shows on Broadway (“Movin’ Out,” “Come Fly Away”) and choreographed for films, including “Hair,” “Amadeus” and “White Knights.”

In “Twyla Moves,” directed by Steven Cantor, with each dance segment — dating back to her first piece, “Tank Dive” in 1965 — her dancing is a through line. “It’s certainly not about me as a choreographer and it’s not really about me as a person though we pretend in that direction,” Tharp said about the movie in an interview. “It is about me as a dancer.”

It’s also about the connection between her body and the dances she’s made. “She’s moving all the time,” Cantor said. “When she is working, she’s moving. When she rehearses the dancers, she practices on herself first and she works out for at least an hour and a half a day.”

As Tharp says in the film: “Dancers have to work every day. I have to work every day.”

And we see her in the studio, proving the point: On all fours, she warms up, rolling the top of her head in tiny circles on the floor; once on two feet, she swings her arms back and forth and thrashes at the air until the camera pans down to her feet, which, in white buttery jazz shoes, tap and brush the surface. She swirls across the space, kicking a leg, flicking a wrist and finally disappearing from the frame — all to Sylvan Esso’s “Ferris Wheel.”

Dancing is her life. In a 1979 interview, shown in the documentary, Dick Cavett asks her: “What do you do to recharge yourself when you work long periods, hard?”

“Work more,” she says.

Unsurprisingly, Tharp has continued to choreograph during the pandemic, a process that the film documents. We see her working remotely, on Zoom, with dancers including Misty Copeland, Herman Cornejo, Charlie Hodges and Maria Khoreva.

“You try to take what’s a disadvantage and make it into an advantage, not do a whole lot of whining about it,” she said. “Right?”

More recently she has been working on an ambitious quarantine project: a ballet, set to Terry Riley’s “In C,” for the Ballett am Rhein in Germany. The work, for 17 dancers, was to have its live premiere in March, but Covid restrictions in Europe have forced the company to postpone. She worked from New York with dancers in Düsseldorf and put herself in their time zone to do it. “I actually am jet-lagged as though I had traveled,” she said.

She knows it sounds extreme that she changed her hours to match theirs. “I project myself into their bodies,” she said. “You’ve got to know how their body is feeling. You’ve got to know what hour of the day it is for their body. I needed to feel that physically.”

What has made all of her Zoom works possible is her archive, a repository of movement phrases and choreography that she compares to a composer’s bench. Using it, she has created teaching tapes of her dances that include original casts with the score running alongside the choreography to preserve the correct timing and movement intention. She knows that dances erode over time; her hope is that this video model can be used by other choreographers, too.

“For me, it comes down to figuring out a way to leave how I dance, why I dance and what the dances actually are,” she said. “Trying to make a mechanism that will allow that to be is basically the purpose of the rest of my life.”

That how — as in how she dances the way that she does — is complex. She is silky and strange, urgent and eccentric — and legible even on grainy black-and-white, as seen on the videos Tharp recorded of herself improvising while pregnant with her son, Jesse Huot, in the attic of a farmhouse in upstate New York.

Those improvisations are included in the film, along with footage of her early days, when she worked only with women. Rehearsals with Mikhail Baryshnikov at American Ballet Theater capture some of her early experiments with partnering. At one point in an upside-down lift, she slips from his grip and lands on her head. It looks painful; but it’s also charming — her yelps are dotted with laughter — and telling: Tharp, with the rubbery resilience of Buster Keaton, isn’t afraid to fall.

She, too, is a bit of a clown, with an abandon that turns her movement into something like liquid. In a clip from “Eight Jelly Rolls,” Tharp, wearing a tuxedo-halter jumpsuit, is alternately spry and limp; she lurches and rises — collapsing onto the stage like a waterfall and then winding around to spread her legs in a straddle. It looks entirely uninhibited, as though she has tipped over an edge and is no longer guiding her body but, instead, it is guiding her to a place of unrestrained chaos.

It may look uninhibited, but the wildness in her dancing is “completely studied,” Tharp said. “The wildness is a thing that I have been able to insert because I have the control to hold onto it.”

Of course, there is physical articulation. But studied or not, what’s striking about Tharp’s dancing is its ferocious abandon; she seems to be dancing as if no one were watching. “You have no idea you’re being looked at,” she said in agreement. “And anyway, look, I’m blind. I’ve been blind since I’m a kid. I’ve never known how I look. I’ve only known how I felt. I can’t see myself in the mirror. So I didn’t ever use a mirror.”

To her, it’s inhibiting — and hopeless — to think about how others see you. “If they want to laugh at you, they will,” she said. “And just be assured, there will always be someone who can find their way round to laughing at you. You might as well get over it.”

But preserving her longevity as a dancer is another matter. That is important to Tharp, who said she made a point of studying the choreographers who came before her, including Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. “I wanted to keep going longer than they could,” she said. “All our bodies become cranky. ‘Body don’t get cranky. Please. Could we find a way of trying to experience positively what our options are? Can you do more?’ Can we kick the can any further down the road?”

She knows that medicine and diet have improved since Graham and Cunningham’s time, along with the study of well-being. “One of the problems for the great modern dancers is that they developed their own style,” which led to an overuse of the same muscle sets. A body needs balance and, as it ages, different ways to build strength and stamina.

Her movement pulls from many sources; she has no codified technique. “They lived within the parameters of those styles,” she said of Graham and Cunningham. “I have consciously not done that partially for the mind, because to develop one style is limiting, but also for the body. So when it becomes 80, it can still work.”

It seems highly likely that hers will. But while no one can dance quite like Tharp, the film shows how her dancing body has radiated out to her dances — and to her dancers. As much as “Twyla Moves” is about that — her dancing — it also honors the dancers she has worked with over time, from Sara Rudner to Misty Copeland.

“I see them as very special,” she said. “Graham said, ‘acrobats of God.’ I wouldn’t even use the word acrobats. But they are singularly gifted and singularly total people in the degree of commitment that they have made. As I try to indicate in this picture, I love them.”

A Big List of Podcasts for Bigger Kids


Dream Big Podcast” — The show’s 10-year-old host, Eva, aims to “inspire her listeners to believe in their potential to achieve their biggest dreams in life.” She does this through interviews with motivational speakers, authors and athletes, and she shares her own experiences and tips for overcoming challenges.

At Your Level” — After his school shut down last spring, Ari Kelly, who was 10 at the time, launched this podcast with an episode about the coronavirus. Now, with a full year of podcasting behind him, he covers everything from video games and superheroes to heady concepts like time, soliciting audio recordings from kids, interviewing his friends, and letting listeners vote on the next episode’s theme.

Cool Facts About Animals” — Ali Wilkinson and her kids explain what makes the coolest animals (Colossal squids! Bird-eating tarantulas! Honey badgers!) so unusual. They also interview scientists and other animal-obsessed kids.

The Show About Science” — The show’s 10-year-old host, Nate, skillfully interviews scientists about everything from insects to nanotechnology.

You Must Know Everything” — Jeremy Smith and his daughter, Rasa, started co-hosting this podcast when Rasa’s school shut down. They take turns leading the show, sharing personal theories or lessons, explaining a poem, and challenging each other to answer “vexing questions,” like “How many people have ever been alive?”

Now that you’ve just plowed through a long list of podcasts, start expanding your kid’s audio diet by working them into your daily life: during morning commutes, after school or as part of bedtime routines. I usually load up a kids’ podcast for my 7-year-old while I make dinner or while we do a craft or puzzle together. Whatever we listen to, I always feel good that I’m not just entertaining him in the moment, but cultivating a habit that will benefit my kid for life.