Maestro to the maternity ward - stat
The benefits of playing Mozart for babies in the womb are still in dispute, but a new study in the Journal Pedriatrics shows that music has real impact on newborns. According to the research, live music that was played or sung to premature babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units helped slow their heartbeats, improved sucking behavior vital for feeding, calmed breathing, improved sleep patterns and increased prolonged periods in the quiet-alert state. The music consisted of a wooden drum called a gato box, a disc full of "whooshing" metal beads designed to simulate womb sounds and a lullaby sung by the parents with tempos coordinated to the babies' vital signs. And the health effects weren't limited to the newborns - parents who participated showed lower stress as well.
for bouncy balls
Bad news for office workers trying to stay in shape: Those who switch from a typical desk chair to an exercise ball not only look ridiculous, they aren't getting any additional health benefits according to Dr. Jack P. Callaghan, the Canada Research Chair in Spine Biomechanics and Injury Prevention at the University of Waterloo. Callaghan told the New York Times that his researchers found exercise balls offered no additional engagement of core abdominal muscles and no improved posture, and in many cases they reported additional back pain. According to Callaghan, the best remedy for desk users is standing occasionally, in periods of 15 minutes or less.
Slow down and walk
If you're thinking of picking up running, you might be better off taking it slow - by walking instead. A new study by the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found that moderate-intensity walking had the same health benefits as vigorous-intensity running when runners and walkers covered the same distances. Participants lowered their risk of high blood pressure, high cholestorol, diabetes and coronary heart disease at comparable rates whether running or walking when the distances were equal. Of course, walking a mile takes significantly longer than running the same distance, but for those prone to injuries from high-impact activities like running, taking the extra time to slow down and walk could be just as beneficial.
IUDs safe at any age
Whether women are trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid it, two new studies point to medical treatments on both ends of the reproductive spectrum as becoming increasingly safe. Researchers at the Center for Interdiscinplinary Research in Women's Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston found that intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are safe for teens, according to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology this month. Examining insurance claims from 90,000 women ages 15-44 with an IUD, the study found teens experience mild symptoms including heavy or missing periods at slightly higher rates than those over 25, but serious complications occurred in only 1 percent of patients, regardless of age.
On the other end of the fertility spectrum, a new study suggests women trying to get pregnant have one less reason for worry. Conducted by the Mayo Clinic and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, research suggests that fertility treatments are not linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer for women, though previous studies conducted in the 1990s has suggested otherwise. Comparing the medical history of 1,028 women with ovarian cancer and 872 women who did not have cancer, researchers found 24 percent of women who did not have cancer had undergone fertility treatments, while 17 percent of cancer patients had used them. Combined with other risk factors, including age and use of birth control pills, the rate of ovarian cancer was the same between both groups.
Bra-less and free
Of course when it comes to big life decisions for women, deciding how and when to start a family is nothing compared with picking the right bra. Or, according to one French doctor, no bra at all. Jean-Denis Rouillon created a media frenzy earlier this month when he told a radio station that his 16-year study measuring the bust of 330 women had concluded that wearing a bra weakens the natural muscles that hold up breasts and that women might be better off going braless. While Rouillon's research has yet to be published, the doctor told Reuters that going braless could increase tissue firmness and circulation. Apparently in France even breasts benefit from liberté.