DR. JIM PALERMO: Six-Pack of Space Coast Daily Health and Medical Headlines
By Space Coast Daily // April 11, 2018
TOPICS INCLUDE: Music Lessons Bolster Academic Performance; Facebook: Source of Stress and Euphoria; Grab a Banana Rather Than a Gatorade–and More
Music Lessons Hit the Right Note for Academic Performance
Having a child take structured music lessons could lead to improved cognitive skills and academic performance, according to a Dutch study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience.
Researchers observed 147 children across multiple schools for two and a half years and found that the children who had participated in music lessons showed significantly better cognitive skills and academic performance than those who didn’t take music lessons.
The researchers also found that children involved in visual arts saw improved visual and short-term memory compared to those who received no lessons lending support to those that endorse reintegrating music and arts education into schools around the world (Frontiers, Laboratory Equipment, 3/26).
When It Comes to Exercise, ‘Little Things’ Add Up
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, even brief exercise breaks are beneficial to your health.
Study findings indicated that people who had about one hour of physical activity throughout the course of the day cut their mortality risk by half. However, the exercise activity did not have to be continuous. In fact, benefits were seen even when people exercised in bouts five minutes or longer, and also when they walked sporadically in short bursts.
William Kraus, a professor at Duke University who conducted the study with researchers from the National Cancer Institute, said “The little things that people do every day,” taking the stairs or walking from the parking lot to the office, “can and do add up and affect the risk for disease and death” (LaMotte, CNN, 5/20/17).
Athletes May Want to Reach for a Banana Rather Than a Gatorade
Sports drinks are ubiquitous at athletic events and are the traditional “coach drench” for the winning celebrants. However, according to a study published in PLOS One, when it comes to athletic recovery, bananas are in the same league as Gatorade and Powerade.
For the Appalachian State University study, researchers asked 20 cyclists, both male and female, to complete 47-mile bike rides on multiple occasions at the campus performance lab. For one ride, cyclists were allowed to drink only water. On the others, the cyclists drank water and were given either eight ounces of a sports drink or roughly half a banana every 30 minutes.
Results of the study revealed that the bananas provided as good, if not better, anti-inflammatory benefits as the sports drinks. In fact, the bananas performed comparably to ibuprofen when it came to preventing and healing inflammation.
The bananas come with a drawback, though: Eating them resulted in “quite a bit of bloating,” according to David Nieman, lead author on the study and the director of the human performance lab at Appalachian State. Also, being pelted with a bushel of bananas after a victory probably wouldn’t set too well with most coaches (Reynolds, NY Times, 4/4).
The Healthiest Way to Improve Your Sleep: Exercise
If you’re one of the third of all Americans who suffer from insomnia — roughly 108 million of us — put away your sleeping pills. Science has a much safer solution.
There has been increasing research in the last decade showing moderate exercise can reduce insomnia and improve poor sleep with results showing exercise improves both self-reported and objective measures of sleep quality, such as what’s measured in a clinical sleep lab.
Most sleep studies have focused on the recommended amount: 2½ hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, along with strength or resistance training that targets every muscle group two days a week (Breus, The Sleep Doctor, 5/22/17).
To Think Clearly, Put Your iPhone Away—Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Trying to perform a tough task? Be wary: Your smartphone could distract you—even if it’s simply sitting face-down on a table near you, according to a recent study, Kristen Duke and colleagues write in the Harvard Business Review.
For the study, Duke, a Ph.D. candidate in marketing at the University of California-San Diego, and colleagues asked almost 800 people to perform a series of complex cognitive tasks: solving math problems while also memorizing random letters, for instance, or looking at incomplete patterns and identifying an image to complete the pattern. According to the researchers, performance on these kinds of tasks is influenced by the availability of a participant’s mental resources.
Before the participants began, they were asked to do one of three things with their smartphone: place it face-down in front of them, leave it in their pocket or bag, or place it in another room. In all cases, the phones had alerts and vibration turned off.
The more accessible their smartphones, the worse participants performed. Individuals whose phones were in another room performed best, while those who had their phones face-down in front of them performed the worst. The results held even when the phones were turned off entirely.
In other words, “merely having their smartphones out on the desk led to a small but statistically significant impairment of individuals’ cognitive capacity—on par with effects of lacking sleep,” the researchers wrote.
To avoid this trap, the researchers suggest that, when you’re performing cognitively challenging tasks, you should simply put your smartphone away—preferably in another room entirely (Duke et. al., Harvard Business Review, 3/20).
Quit Facebook: Less Physiologic Stress, But Lower Feelings of Well-Being
If Cambridge Analytica didn’t put you off Facebook forever, a new study out of the University of Brisbane, Australia investigating the impact of quitting Facebook on the users’ stress levels and overall well-being might.
People occasionally choose to cut themselves off from their online social network by taking extended breaks from Facebook. This study investigated whether abstaining from Facebook reduces stress but also reduces subjective well-being because of the resulting social disconnection.
The results, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, suggest that quitting the social media network can drastically lower your stress levels.
Researchers used two groups of active Facebook users, comprising 138 study participants in total. One group was asked to refrain from using Facebook for 5 days, while the other group continued to use Facebook as usual. Samples from the participants both at the beginning and the end of the intervention were taken in order to measure their levels of the hormone cortisol, which is considered to be the key player in stress, regulating how our body responds to it and soaring when a person is stressed.
Study findings showed that taking a Facebook break for just 5 days reduced a person’s level of the stress hormone cortisol. However, abstaining from Facebook did not change people’s own ratings of their stress — perhaps because they weren’t aware their stress had gone down.
In fact, people experienced less well-being after those 5 days without Facebook — they felt less content with their lives — from the resulting social disconnection of being cut off from their Facebook friends (Sandoiu, Medical News Today, 4/8).
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