The Pesticides on Your Food

The ‘Clean 15’ and the ‘Dirty Dozen’ – Pesticides and Your Food

We all know we should do it, but how many of us actually bother? Of course, I’m talking about buying organic! You stand there in the fruit and vegetable aisle and look at the enormous, attractive regular produce, then stare at the smaller, less perfect items in the organic section. Why spend the extra money?

The answer is you don’t have to; not really. Sometimes the ordinary fruits and veggies are just as healthy – and sometimes they’re not.

The Danger of Pesticide Exposure

Pesticides are used to eliminate certain insects and plants or prevent mold and mildew.

A disturbing number of them have been found to be harmful to people at high doses.

But, they are still applied to the produce that we eat – worse, pesticide residue is found on almost ninety-percent of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

Some studies have discovered a possible correlation between long-term toxic pesticide exposure and horribly debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s. Our children are even more at risk from exposure because their bodies are smaller, making pesticide doses that are too low to affect adults a worrying concern for children’s health.

Clearly, the widespread use of potentially toxic herbicides (like glyphosate) and pesticides is an issue that must be dealt with up to the highest levels of the government we rely on to protect us. Are the authorities doing enough?

What is the EPA Doing?

Fortunately, pesticide rules were overhauled in 1996; since that time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completely withdrawn permission for a host of the most toxic insecticides used on our on food crops. Sadly, they have yet to place new restrictions on pesticides still in use that are also considered toxic to consume.

Currently, the EPA is considering whether or not to ban chlorpyrifos; used since 1965; it’s an organophosphate insecticide linked to brain problems in children whose mothers were exposed to it during pregnancy.

Chlorpyrifos is still legal to use around your home in ant or roach baits and fire ant mound treatments. And, this is just one example; there are a plethora of other toxic chemicals still being routinely applied to the food we eat.

Apparently, the EPA moves much too slowly to completely safeguard our health. We, therefore, need to educate ourselves to prevent ourselves and our families being harmed by these (currently) readily available toxic substances.

How to Tell Which Produce Has the Most Pesticide Residue

This is when you need to rely on the dirty dozen list. A yearly list of the most pesticide- contaminated food offered for sale.

The Dirty Dozen list for 2017 lists which of twelve fruits and vegetables contain the most significant amount of pesticide residues – the dirtiest in terms of toxins. The Dirty Dozen is an invaluable guide for folks worried about pesticide exposure from the food they eat. Use it to learn which fruits and vegetables are safe to eat and which produce you should avoid.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducts tests on a broad variety of both fruit and vegetable crops every year to check the levels of over one-hundred different pesticides. They place particular emphasis on those foods most often consumed by children and infants.

The dirty dozen list is assembled by the Environmental Working Group and is based on information learned from laboratory tests performed by the USDA Pesticide Testing Program.

How Produce Gets on the List

EWG combines different degrees of contamination to determine a composite score for every type of produce tested:

  • The percent of all samples tested that had measurable pesticide contamination
  • Average number of pesticides present on the sample food
  • Total amount of pesticides discovered on the tested produce
  • Percent of sample produce that had two or more pesticides
  • Maximum amount of pesticides discovered on a single sample
  • Average measurable amount of all pesticides measured

The List for 2017

This is what you’ve been waiting for – the dirty dozen list for 2017. These are the foods that the EWG has determined are the most contaminated with toxic pesticides. In other words; the foods you need to consider replacing with the organically grown version.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet Bell Peppers
  12. Potatoes

As a bonus, they’ve included hot peppers as a 13th item to the usual 12 item list.

But, I Can’t Afford to Buy Organic!

Understandably, buying organic can place an undue financial stress on many families; but what other options are there?

While it’s true that the produce on the EWG dirty dozen list is the most contaminated by surface residues – that’s all it is – surface residue.

A perfectly viable option is to thoroughly wash the fruits and vegetables that you buy before eating them. Many of the fruits and vegetables on the list are those we typically eat unpeeled, or which come without a protective skin. So, one effective method is to wash conventionally grown produce in a container with a mixture of four parts water to one part plain white vinegar. The acetic acid in the vinegar will scour the residue from the food surfaces. Make sure you rinse everything thoroughly afterward.

Another method of removing pesticide residue from individual items is to peel them before use; this is a practical way to minimize your exposure to pesticides on produce such as apples, pears, potatoes, etc.

It’s not all Bad News – The Clean 15

The EWG doesn’t just warn you about the most contaminated foods you’ll find in the fresh produce aisle – they’re happy also to let you know which fruits and veggies are the cleanest items in the store; the ones you don’t have to buy organic because they aren’t as heavily exposed to pesticides.

Here it is; the clean 15!

  1. Corn
  2. Avocadoes
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papaya
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mango
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honey Dew Melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

If I Can Wash the Residue Away – Why Bother Buying Organic?

Regarding pesticide contamination; there’s more to think about than just the residues you risk ingesting as a consumer.

Even peeling foods like apples, avocados and peaches might spare you from potentially toxic exposure to pesticides, the massive amounts of pesticides and chemical herbicides used on the farms producing this food can still hurt you.

These chemicals can contaminate our groundwater, streams, rivers, and otherwise damage our local ecosystems. Help promote our planet’s health along with your own by buying organically grown food whenever you can. Send a message that we – the buying public and also residents on this tiny planet value ourselves and our children more than blemish-free and inexpensive food.

What is My Optimal Heart-Rate for Exercise?

What is my optimal heart rate for exercise?Your heart is the engine of your body; how fast it pumps can provide you with vital information on how well your body is doing while exercising.

It’s critical that you learn how to calculate your optimal heart rate zones, comprehend the meaning of these zones, and how to use that information to meet the specific fitness goals you’re aiming for.

What is Your Reserve Heart Rate?

Your heart rate (measured as beats per minute) ranges from its lowest – your resting heart rate to a maximum (past which it will not go) that you can only achieve when under the most intense exertion. Within this broad range, your heart rate can be further divided into four particular zones:

  1. The fat-burning zone
  2. Your aerobic fitness zone
  3. A transitional zone called the aerobic/anaerobic zone
  4. A purely anaerobic zone

To discover what the heart-rate that brings you in particular into a specific zone; you’ll need to calculate your reserve heart rate.

We can do this by first calculating our maximum heart rate. Just subtract your age from 220 to discover your age-predicted maximum heartbeats per minute.
It’s easy: Let’s say your age is 45, you need to subtract 45 from 220 and 175 beats per minute (bpm) would be your maximum heart-rate.

Next, find your resting heart rate by taking your pulse for one minute when you’re at rest. The recommended time to do this is when lying in bed before getting up in the morning, and the best spot to use is your throat (the carotid pulse).

Finally, your heart rate reserve is the number you get after subtracting the resting rate from your age-adjusted maximum rate. For example – your resting rate is 75 bpm, and your maximum is 175 bpm. Therefore your reserve heart rate will be 100 bpm. This is the figure we’ll use to find your optimal heart rate for each of the four zones.

What Does Age Have to Do with my Maximum Heart Rate?

Let’s begin with the basics; as a child, your heart was smaller than an adult’s. You also had a lower total blood volume (again, smaller body) and each time your heart beat it had to move less blood throughout your body. This is why children typically have higher heart rates than adults. As you age, your cardiovascular system will continue to change, and your working heart rate gradually slows down.

Origin of the 220 Minus Age Formula Came

The origin of the 220 minus age formula.It began in the 70s when doctors from the U.S. Public Health Service’s Program on Heart Disease needed a guideline for very sick heart patients to calculate their levels of exercise intensity.

The doctors never meant the formula they created to be used by the fitness industry.

But, it was an easy to remember formula that anyone could quickly work out in their heads. For the past forty years, this method has been designed into heart rate monitors, plastered on gym walls, and written into almost every health-related textbook.

Why the formula should be Different for Women

Women are advised to use a slightly modified version of this calculation that is based on a sixteen-year study that tracked women exercising on a treadmill.

Researchers concluded that women were at a higher risk for cardiac events when working out using the old maximum heart rate calculations. The advice for women according to this research is to instead subtract 88% of your age from 206 and try to keep within 65 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

Optimal Fat Burning Heart Rate

Optimal fat burning heart rateFirst, we’ll calculate the optimal heart rate to stay in the fat-burning zone; there is both a high and low number which will represent your fat-burning range. One caveat; we burn fat in each of the four zones – but the fat burning zone is the heart rate range where you want to be to maximize your workout efforts for fat loss.

Start by dividing your reserve heart rate in half, and then add that number to your resting heart rate to discover the lowest bpm to enter this zone.

Then calculate what is 75% of the reserve heart rate, add it to the resting heart rate figure, and you’ll have the highest heart rate you can maintain and still stay in the Fat-Burning Zone.

Here are the calculations written out in an easy to use formula – just plug your numbers in to get the right answer:

  • (Reserve HR x 0.5) + Resting HR = Lowest HR of the fat-burning zone
  • (Reserve HR x 0.75) + Resting HR = Highest HR of the Fat-Burning Zone

The Aerobic Zone

Next, we’ll find out what your ideal heart rate range is for aerobic conditioning – you’ll stay in this heart rate range if your goal is to develop greater aerobic endurance.

Find 75% of the reserve heart rate you already calculated and then add it to your resting heart rate to learn what the low end of your aerobic zone is. Next, figure 85% of your reserve heart rate and add it to your resting heart rate. This number is the highest heart rate you can maintain and stay in your Aerobic Zone.

Here are the formulas to make calculations easy:

(Reserve HR x .75) + Resting HR = Lowest HR to stay in the aerobic zone
(Reserve HR x .85) + Resting HR = Highest HR to stay in the aerobic zone

Aerobic/Anaerobic Zone

aerobic anaerobic zone and what they areThis is the range where you’ll be pushing yourself out of your comfort zone; the aerobic/anaerobic threshold, alternately called the lactate threshold. This is the range most important for improving your athletic ability.

We find the heart rate range for this zone by taking 85% of the reserve heart rate and then adding it to the resting heart rate to get the lower end of this zone. To get the higher end, you’ll need to calculate 90% of your reserve heart rate and add it to the resting heart rate figure.

Use this to make it easier:

  • (Reserve HR x .85) + Resting HR = lowest heart rate to stay in the Aerobic/Anaerobic Zone
  • (Reserve HR x .90) + Resting HR = highest heart rate to stay in the Aerobic/Anaerobic Zone

The Anaerobic Zone Range

This is when you’re pushing yourself to the utmost. In this zone your heart is pounding, your lungs are on fire – and seconds can seem like hours. But, this is the all-out effort needed to best build your anaerobic ability (running, biking or swimming sprints). You might as well call this the red-line zone.

This time we’re taking 90% of the reserve heart rate figure and then adding it to our resting heart rate to find the lowest end required to stay in this zone.

Finally, take your reserve heart rate number and add it to your resting heart rate do this to get the highest heart rate you can achieve to stay in the anaerobic Zone.

One last time; two easy formula you can use to make the calculations:

(Reserve HR x .90) + Resting HR = lowest HR of the anaerobic zone
(Reserve HR x .100) + Resting HR = highest HR of the anaerobic zone

An Alternative

alternative heart rate calculationIf you like to try an alternative formula to calculate your MHR, you can try taking 70% of your age and then subtract that number from 208.

This is a formula developed by Dr. Douglas Seals and first published in 2001. It calculates a much higher MHR for seniors.

Of course, if you prefer to avoid any math – you can also measure your work level by these simple rules of thumb:

  • At moderate intensity, you can speak comfortably, but not sing
  • At high intensity, you should be able to talk briefly without gasping for breath.

Is Vinegar Good for You?

Vinegar has been used by people for thousands of years for preserving food and in cooking – but, is vinegar an important part of a healthy diet?

Let’s take a look at what vinegar is, how it’s made, what its uses are, and the facts about what it can (and can’t) do for your health.

What is Vinegar?

Vinegar has played an essential role in human life from ancient times; from recipes to removing stains. But, very few people know exactly what vinegar is.

Vinegar is simply acetic acid combined with other chemicals and flavorings and diluted with water in a concentration that varies from 5% to 20%. Acetic acid (a colorless liquid by itself) gives vinegar its distinct odor and unmistakable taste.

Vinegar can be made from anything containing sugar; which is why there are so many varieties of vinegar available in the supermarket. The most popular one is by far apple cider vinegar which has achieved an almost cult status in the healthy living community for its reputed health benefits.

But there’s also:

  • Red wine vinegar,
  • White wine vinegar,
  • Rice vinegar,
  • Malt vinegar

And a cornucopia of fruit-based vinegars such as; raspberry, fig, and pear vinegar that are also used to bring out flavors in an incredible variety of foods.

How Vinegar is Made

While no one knows when, or even who, invented vinegar – it was likely discovered by accident after stored wine turned sour from being exposed to oxygen due to improper storage. The word vinegar is actually derived from an old French word; vin aigre, which just means ‘sour wine.’

A Two-Step Process

Vinegar is created by 2 separate processes that involve the use of harmless microorganisms to turn sugars into acetic acid.

The first step is alcoholic fermentation, the same as occurs to produce beer or wine. Common yeast changes the natural sugars into alcohol. Depending on the type of vinegar being made, the alcohol can be produced from either grain or fruit sugars. Once the liquid has fermented completely, the alcohol will be blended with water for the second stage of vinegar production.

This is known as acid fermentation and happens when a particular strain of bacteria, Acetobacter, changes the alcohol into acetic acid. The vinegar is then filtered and blended to adjust the strength (acidity) of the vinegar.

The finished product is a mix of water, acetic acid and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. These minerals in the starter ingredients are what develop into the unique flavors of the many types of vinegar.

Common Uses of Vinegar

The first use of vinegar was probably to preserve foods by pickling.

Storing food in vinegar prevented spoilage, meaning food could be stored for long periods (a primary concern before refrigeration was invented). People quickly discovered that vinegar had a wonderful additional use; it improved the flavor of many foods with that classic sour bite. But, over the years people have discovered that vinegar can also be an essential ingredient for environmentally friendly home-cleaning solutions.

Vinegar as an Environmentally Friendly Cleaner

Pet Odors: White vinegar will eliminate the smell of pet urine from carpets, furniture, and clothing – you can apply it straight or dilute it with water for a powerful deodorant mixture.

Soften your laundry: Save money on store-bought laundry softener by instead filling the dispenser with a ¼ cup of white vinegar.

Clean windows: Just mix 50% white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray windows and wipe dry for streak-free clean.

Grease cutting power: Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar in your liquid dish soap to turbocharge its cleaning power.

Health Myths about Vinegar

We’re always on the lookout for that ‘magic bullet’ that can ward off illness while guaranteeing health and a long life – and many myths have grown up around vinegar as one such substance. Take a look at a few of the most common ones.

Myth #1 – It Can Prevent Cancer

One research study suggests that apple cider vinegar could help slow cancer cell growth, but this study is only preliminary and compared to related research, the results are inconclusive. Unfortunately, apple cider vinegar isn’t a cancer-fighting substance and shouldn’t be used as one.

Myth #2 it’s Good for Your Digestion

Research shows that vinegar can worsen gastroparesis (a common condition in diabetics that means the stomach can’t empty itself properly). This is because vinegar can slow the process of food leaving your stomach. The high acidity of vinegar also means that consuming too much can make ulcers and esophageal irritation more painful.

Myth #3 it’s Good for Your Teeth

While a quick swish of vinegar can make your mouth feel fresher – the acidity can easily cause tooth damage if it stays on your teeth too long.

Myth #4 Vinegar Has no Health Benefits

No, vinegar isn’t a panacea for what ails you; but that doesn’t mean that it’s not good for you. Here are six scientifically verified ways that vinegar can benefit your health.

6 Scientifically- Backed Health Benefits of Vinegar

1) Vinegar can lower blood sugar levels for diabetics: Sufferers of type 2 diabetes have to manage chronically elevated blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance, and many of us have elevated blood sugar reasons from dietary or genetic factors. Studies have verified the effectiveness of vinegar for reducing blood glucose and increasing insulin sensitivity after a high carbohydrate meal.

Vinegar can also:

Vinegar is an excellent addition to the diet of anybody with diabetes or that want to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

2) Vinegar Could Aid in Weight-Loss: Besides lowering blood sugar levels (which can help with weight control), studies conducted on humans indicate that it can increase feelings of satiety – helping you to eat less.

According to this study; vinegar consumed with a high carbohydrate meal increased the feeling of fullness and resulted in the test subjects eating up to 275 calories less during the day.

3) Vinegar May Reduce Belly Fat: A three-month study conducted on obese individuals showed that regular vinegar consumption was associated with a modest reduction in abdominal fat resulting in a smaller waist measurement.

4) Could Significantly Lower Cholesterol Levels: Certain studies conducted on rats showed a significant decrease in serum triglyceride and cholesterol levels when given apple cider vinegar.

5) May Reduce Your Blood Pressure: Animal studies showed that consuming vinegar can lower blood pressure. Remember though – what works in animals may not apply to humans.

6) Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease: Harvard University conducted an observational study that concluded that women who ate vinegar-based salad dressings experienced a reduced risk of heart diseased.

The Bottom Line

There is an abundance of incredible claims being made about the health benefits of vinegar, and from the scientific research available to us; it looks like there is a real benefit to including vinegar in your diet. There have also been no harmful side-effects associated with normal use.

For non-health purposes; it has the added benefit of offering an environmentally safe and economical alternative to many chemical-laden detergents for home use. Vinegar can be a welcome addition to any cupboard, pantry or laundry room.

But, vinegar is not a miracle-food, and it shouldn’t be treated as such – just enjoy the taste in moderation and understand that a little can go a long way.

Apple Picking Healthy Exercise & Food?

Apple Picking Tips

It’s that time of year again – the leaves are turning from summer green to the typical riot of glorious fall colors, temperatures are cooling down, and the autumn-kissed countryside is beckoning you. Get out and enjoy the newly arrived fall season with a day of apple picking!

Whether you go as a romantic outing with your significant other or as a wonderful opportunity to create magical memories with your whole family; apple picking is a fantastic excuse to pile into your car for a few hours of fun at the local orchard. Even better, it’s a wonderful way for the family to bond while learning a little about where your food comes from. Remember to take home some souvenirs of your rural adventure to bring a bit of autumn indoors for weeks to come! Orchards will almost always offer visitors the chance to purchase local folk art, farm-themed knick-knacks, and inexpensive toys that will remind you of the great time you had there.

Here is the rundown on how to make the most of your day out and also some ideas on how to put all those apples you collected to good use!

Do Your Homework

Don’t just jump in the car on the spur of the moment; before you set off to find the perfect orchard – do your homework.

Although apple picking is considered an activity for people of all ages, if you’re bringing young kids you need to consider their physical abilities when looking for the perfect place to enjoy your day trip.

Very young kids may be happier (and safer) with a short visit to a no-frills orchard; a short walk or hayride to the trees then the fun of filling a bag with apples you help them reach. Also, consider bringing a wagon or stroller for little ones who can tire quickly.

But, older children (5 and up) will get into the challenge of bigger trees, a longer stay, and extra activities like corn mazes, apple-slingshots, and tours of the cider-making room.

Almost all orchards have promotional websites that showcase their amenities and special events, and many will happily answer a phone call to explain everything they have to offer and things you need to be aware of for the very young (or very old) visitor.

Keep an Eye on the Forecast

Apple picking is an outdoor activity, and an unexpected downpour will end your plans in a hurry. Keep checking the weather forecast in the days leading up to your trip to the country so as to avoid the disappointment of waking up to inclement weather on the day you’d scheduled.

Fall weather is unpredictable; it can go from pleasantly warm to unexpectedly chill in a hurry – and tromping around collecting apples can be sweaty work, even on a cool day. Dress in layers to protect against a chill but are easily removed when you start to overheat.

Don’t just think about the children’s comfort either — if you know you can’t exert yourself for very long; you should find a smaller orchard to save your feet or one with shorter trees to spare your back.

Come Prepared

Pack a bag with the essentials:

  • Enough water for everybody
  • Tissues
  • Band-aids
  • Anything you know you’ll really miss having if you forgot to pack it!

Don’t forget that a day picking apples is a day outside; restrooms and other amenities may be a long walk away. Plan accordingly.

Bring Your Camera

Yes, I know – duh! A day out picking apples is an event tailor-made for creating the kind of unforgettable memories that last a lifetime. Make sure your phone or camera is fully charged, and you have enough memory free to ensure you’ll always be ready to catch that perfect moment. Even better – bring a backup, just in case.

Forget Your Diet

This isn’t just a day out; it’s a celebration of fall – so celebrate! Any orchard worth visiting will have the full selection of apple-based treats available for sale, in addition to delicious pumpkin pies, donuts, cookies, and gallons of hot apple cider, let loose and give yourself permission to enjoy yourself.

Apple picking, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, is typically a once-a-year event, so throw yourself into it! No one ever regretted spending a day out playing with their loved ones and eating tasty treats.

Fun Ideas for those Apples

After an active day outdoors in the crisp country air, you’re going to bring home a lot of apples; what to do with them? Check out these fun ideas for making the most of your apple windfall!

Apple Printing

This is a brilliant activity for your toddler. You only need three items:

  • A large sheet of paper
  • Some water color paint (finger paints are perfect)
  • Apples

Tape the paper by its corners to a table you don’t mind getting messy, set up the paint in shallow bowls for each color, then slice an apple into wedges, circles, rectangles, and so on. Now sit your child down and let them enjoy dipping the apple pieces into the paint and stamping the paper with a rainbow of colors.

Try Making Apple Dolls

This is a traditional American folk craft – and the finished item can look amazing.

Just peel an apple, carve a face into it (I said it could look amazing, not that it was easy) and let it dry completely. It may take a little practice to get it right, but it’s worth the effort. Your dried apple face end up looking like somebody really old, but that’s the idea. Now just add the appropriate doll body and clothes. You can even carve apple hands and feet for the doll, and connect them to the body when they’ve dried. Apple dolls are pretty durable and can also make great puppets.

Homemade Applesauce

Try this easy recipe for applesauce from New York State Apple Country: You’ll need; 6 cups of apple chunks, ¼ cup sugar, a heavy medium saucepan, and a potato masher.
Peel, core, and chop the apples into small pieces then combine the apple pieces with ¾ cup water and sugar in the heavy medium saucepan. Bring it all to a boil, stirring the mixture occasionally.

Now reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the apples are very soft (about 40 minutes). Using the potato masher to mash the apple mixture until it’s at your preferred consistency.

Fall is Special

Fall gets a bad rap for being the end of summer fun in the sun and beach days, but you can turn it into a glorious, sometimes spooky, but always beautiful time to enjoy fun activities with the people you love while taking advantage of the comfortable temps for easy outdoor fun before the first winter blasts roll in.

The Power of Music for Focus and Positivity

Girl loves musicThe growing presence of computers, tablets, and smartphones in our daily lives has made music an essential way to optimize almost every repetitive or intellectually demanding activity.

Music has the power to make drudgery bearable, inspire incredible efforts, and spark creativity – and we have this amazing resource at our fingertips at all times. There’s solid research that proves that music has a significant (and measurable) effect on our bodies and minds.

Consider these three facts:

  1. Music can make you smarter
  2. Music is an effective way to treat chronic pain
  3. You can increase the odds that your school-age child will be an academic high-achiever by simply getting them to take music lessons

Proven Benefits of Music

Check out these 7 scientifically-backed ways that music can not only improve mental focus and mood – but that it will enhance your health, intelligence and emotional wellbeing like nothing else can.

1) Music will Enhance Focus

Most people reach for their headphones when start losing focus.

They likely also do it to escape the discomfort of a noisy (or even too quiet) environment — and especially to make a repetitive job more bearable.

Biologically, music encourages the release of dopamine in the reward area of your brain. Pour minds have a natural tendency to wander; music has the power to bring us back to the present moment.

In one study, it was found that test subjects who listened to the music they enjoyed most finished their tasks quicker and thought up better ideas than those who didn’t, the theory is that it’s because the music improved their mood and inspired them to pursue novel approaches to routine problems.

2) Enhanced Positivity

music stimulates emotionsResearch suggests that music can stimulate all kinds of emotions through specific parts of the brain.

Consider how you perk up or suddenly are lost in memory when you hear a particular song. You’re experiencing a change in mood from the music. We sometimes see the origin of this in a parent and child connecting through a lullaby – it can be one of the most significant bonding experiences people will ever experience.

Years ago, my sons used to enjoy hearing my (admittedly clumsy) rendition of “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin before going to bed; hearing it again always lifts my mood with happy memories.

If you’re in need of an emotional boost, it only takes 15 minutes of listening to your favorite music to enjoy a natural high. Music you love makes your body release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that creates a feeling of excitement and joy.

Another study found that listening to music will positively influence your mood while you’re behind the wheel, likely leading to better self-control and safer behavior on the road.

3) Music can help you be Healthier

music relieves stressThe music we listen to affects our hormones.

Listening to enjoyable music decreases cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in your body, relieving chronic stress. Over 50% of all illness and disease can originate from chronically high stress levels; so lowering stress levels means you have better odds of staying healthy.

One study showed that a group playing percussion instruments and singing had a stronger immune response compared to people who were listening passively; although the health of both groups was affected positively; the group playing instruments and singing still had better results.

Music will even help you lose weight!

According to research, a combination of soft lighting and ambient music leads people to both enjoy what they’re eating more and (ironically) eat less.

If you enjoy exercising – then you’ll be happy to know that listening to music during your training sessions will make you perform better. Scientists discovered that runners who listened to motivational music ran better times than those who ran either without music or while listening to calm music during an 800-meter run. The key to enhancing performance was in the choice of music. So find something that inspires you for a turbocharged workout!

4) Be More Creative

creativity through musicThis is something we all know intuitively; listening to certain kinds of music can inspire us to consider new ideas or figure out better ways to solve a problem. Now we have scientific evidence that it’s true.

Simone Ritter from Radboud University, The Netherlands and Sam Ferguson from the University of Technology Sydney, have concluded that listening to certain types of ‘happy’ classical music facilitates more innovative creative thinking than working in silence.

They theorize that certain variables involved in the classical music selected for study enhanced thought flexibility so that a greater range of solutions might be considered that may not have occurred to study participants as readily as when they performed a similar task in silence.

5) Become Smarter

90% of children between 4 and 6 years had demonstrated increased verbal intelligence after one month of music lessons. The children learned about melody, pitch, rhythm, and voice.

The results of this study suggest that music education had a synergistic effect that improved children’s’ ability to both understand and explain the meaning of the words they encounter.

Another study came to similar conclusions. Musically trained children (and grown women) performed better at verbal memory tests than a group with no music training at all.

These researchers surveyed a group of 6-year-old children who were given either keyboard or vocal lessons for 36 weeks. The result was that these children had measurably greater increases in IQ and standardized test results than children who took part in non-musical activities over the same period. Further evidence suggests that children who get music lessons are predisposed to higher academic performance and better than average grades.

6) Music for Pain Management

pain management through musicA rapidly growing body of research provides evidence that music can effectively alleviate physical pain.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the pain-relieving effect music can have on people. Long-term research shows that music therapy in pain management is associated with reduced reliance on pain relieving drugs and an improved quality of life.
But, how does music accomplish this?

Both stress and anxiety are known to intensify the experience of pain; music can relieve stress and anxiety minimizing the perception pain. Also, music reduces levels of stress hormone in the body – helping you to relax and lessen the effect that pain has on your system.

7) Watching Live Music is Good Medicine

The results of a study which compared the effects of live vs. recorded music conducted at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, showed that live music was better at promoting vigor, relieving stress and easing tension in cancer patients than when they listened to recordings instead.

Similar research found that live music had a greater positive effect for sufferers of Parkinson’s disease – when Parkinson’s patients listened to music which contained a steady rhythm or beat, they experienced significant improvements in their walking.

Maybe it’s the higher level of authenticity and energy that is inherent with live music – the interplay between audience and performer can’t be replicated by even the most amazing sound system.

We all thrive on social interaction and love the joy of belonging.

Hanging out with people who feel a deep connection with the music you love, sharing all that positive energy while listening together can be an intensely spiritual event.

What Now?

Here are two easy ways to enjoy the benefits of music in your life right now:

Learn to play an instrument

You’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar or piano, but never had the opportunity, time, or inclination – how about something smaller and simpler that you can learn how to play on your own?

The harmonica is a shockingly easy and inexpensive instrument to learn, and you don’t need to learn how to read music to play impressively. You could even dust off that recorder from your college music class to start reaping the benefits of music for your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Sing a song

Remember that it’s about the act of singing, not singing well!

Some studies have demonstrated that singing (even bad singing!) provides emotional, social, and cognitive benefits that can reduce stress, give you a positive outlook, and improve your quality of life.

Go to a concert

The physical and emotional benefits of live music are real. Reap the extraordinary benefits of sharing music with people who feel the impact just like you do. Take every opportunity you can to swim in the energy of a concert.