Fresh Health News: Winter 2020

State of the Arts

A new study reveals a major benefit of the arts for middle school-age children

From the physical changes of puberty to a social landscape fraught with cliques and bullies, middle school can be a turbulent time for any kid. Fortunately, a 2019 study out of University College London found a way you can help give your adolescent’s self-esteem a boost: Encourage them to embrace the arts. Researchers analyzed data gathered from 6,209 adolescents aged 11 who participated in the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study. They analyzed the children’s responses to questions from the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. (The test asked the kids to rank their level of agreement with certain statements such as, “I am able to do things as well as most people.”) They also studied how frequently participants read for fun; played or listened to music; or painted, drew or crafted. After accounting for possible confounding factors like economic status, gender and ethnicity, researchers noted that participants who engaged in one of those activities most days a week—regardless of skill level—were more likely to have higher levels of self-esteem than children who did not.

Walk Yourself to Better Sleep

Few things are sweeter than a night of restorative sleep. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of Americans aren’t regularly netting quality ZZZs. If you’re prone to tossing and turning in bed or waking up groggy, a new study offers a straightforward hack: Walk more during the day. Though previous studies have analyzed the effect of organized exercise (like a spin class or jog) on sleep, researchers at Brandeis University studied 59 American adults to better understand the relationship between general movement during the day and sleep quality. After tracking participants for a month, they found a strong and consistent pattern: The more steps a person walked in a day, the higher quality sleep they reported having that night. So get walking!

Overworking = Increased Stroke Risk

You may know from firsthand experience the side effects of logging long hours at the office. There’s less time for hobbies and sleep, increased stress and even physical woes like eye strain or sore feet. A 2019 study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke puts those various side effects into context with an alarming stat. Working long hours (defined by the study as 10 or more hours a day) 50 days or more a year for a decade can increase a person’s stroke risk by 45 percent. For the study, researchers analyzed health and lifestyle data from more than 143,500 French adults. White-collar workers under the age of 50 had the most pronounced risk for stroke, while professionals in more senior positions (business owners, CEOs, farmers) had a lower risk. The risk was equal between men and women. Study authors note that if working less isn’t an option, healthy habits like exercising, getting ample sleep, meditating and eating a nutritious diet can help to offset this concern.