Sometimes it’s the little things that can have a big impact on our health — and we may not even realize that we’re doing anything good for our brains and bodies at the moment. This week’s health news proves that it’s not all about popping your vitamins to stay sharp and healthy. For example, staying musical as you age has been shown to significantly improve brain health, including vital memory function. While running has fallen out of favor when compared to strength training and even walking, runners can also rejoice knowing that there are valid weight management reasons to keep hitting the trails or treadmill.
Unfortunately, it’s not all great news: this week’s health headlines also suggest scaling back on your lip balm habit. Here’s what you need to know.
Music may help your brain
It’s never too late to live out your rock star fantasies — and there’s now an even better reason to pick up an instrument after retirement age. Playing a musical instrument, singing and having an overall musical ability may contribute to improved brain health in older adults, according to a study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
The U.K.-based study focused on 1,107 participants over 40, with a mean age of 68, and found that those who reported playing a musical instrument — particularly the keyboard — had better overall brain function that helped them solve problems. Musical ability also heightened working memory, which is important for older adults who may have memory issues.
The study recommended including musical engagement as part of public health interventions for healthy aging and dementia risk reduction. Always wanted to take music lessons? Consider it an investment in your brain health.
Running can help prevent weight gain
Strength training may be all the rage right now, but there are still advantages to running when it comes to managing your weight. A recent study from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland found that consistent running helps to prevent weight or fat gain. Runners, according to the study, maintain lower fat mass levels than similarly active people, including those who compete in strength-based sports.
The key, the researchers noted, is not to replace strength training with running, but instead to combine it for optimal health. Strength training helps build muscle mass, which is critical for overall well-being — such as maintaining good bone health — as you age. If you want to apply this strategy to your own life, aim for the Department of Health and Human Services recommendation of at least two days of strength training per week, plus 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of intense) aerobic activity, which can include jogging or running.
Switching up your arms for a multidose vaccine may be beneficial
Right arm? Left arm? Let’s make it both, says new research from Oregon Health & Science University. The research found that alternating arms for multidose vaccines — such as those for COVID-19 — may result in up to a four-fold increase in immune response, meaning the vaccine could protect you better than if you picked a single arm for your shots.
The study looked at 947 people who received two-dose COVID-19 vaccinations, with the second dose administered either in the same or opposite arm as the first. The research found a substantial increase in antibody response among individuals who received shots in both arms, persisting for over a year and showing enhanced immunity to both the original COVID strain and the Omicron variant. While the cause of this phenomenon is not clear, and further research is needed, one theory is that giving a shot in each arm activates new immune responses in different lymph nodes, potentially leading to improved memory formation.
What's the best way to keep your immune system up when it comes to vaccines? Actually going out and getting your shots, whether it’s for COVID, the flu or anything else your doctor recommends. .
Cool it on the lip balm for your skin’s health
For years, people have said that using lip balm is addictive. Is that in fact the case? Not quite, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t curb a crazy balm habit.
Experts tell Yahoo Life that while lip balm may not be physically addictive, some people do become fixated on the product and turn its usage into a compulsive habit. This can make your lips worse: According to Dr. Jennifer Gordon, a dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas, signs that a person might be using lip balm excessively include lips that are macerated (with the skin breaking down), excessively dry, peeling, burning or exhibiting acne around them. Medicated lip balm and balm with fragrances or color can can dry lips out or make your skin irritated.
You may think your lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) is a good thing, but there’s a reason to avoid overapplying that too. “Balm that contains SPF can sometimes be not as moisturizing,” Gordon tells Yahoo Life, “so although it is good to always protect your lips, consider this if you’re applying multiple times daily and are not outside.”