Tag Archives: health benefits

Health Effects of Live Music Go Beyond ‘Feeling Good’

A Q&A by Daniel J. Konick, M.D.

Q: Listening to music can make you feel good. What else is there to know?

A: For the first time, a study has demonstrated that live music can produce beneficial physical effects in listeners ─ it reduces the level of the hormone that causes stress.

Q: How was this discovered?

A: Investigators from the Centre for Performance Science in London used volunteers attending concerts featuring the music of composer Eric Whitacre. Over the course of two concerts, the researchers took saliva samples from the participants before the performance and then during intermission. Laboratory testing found significant reductions in the hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is called the “stress hormone.” When the body is under duress, cortisol spikes. It prepares the fight-or-flight reaction by raising sugar levels in the blood. These activities are designed to keep you safe and ready for action. However, if cortisol levels remain high for long periods, the resulting stress can be physically dangerous.

Q: Why is this research important?

A: Ongoing high levels of stress can lead to serious health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes ─ not to mention making you feel bad. The research found that live music reduces cortisol levels, so it follows that live music can reduce stress and contribute to relaxation and a feeling of well-being.

Q: What can we take away from this study?

A: Go to a concert. Enjoy the music and the health benefits of relaxation. Just one thing: if you’re going to hear loud music, make sure you wear ear protection. Your ears are important too.



Daniel Konick, M.D.Dr. Daniel J. Konick is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He sees patients in the Queenstown office. He is also part of a musical family: he plays piano and clarinet, his wife plays violin, his older son teaches music and voice and plays piano and violin, and his younger son is studying for his Masters in Music Composition and plays multiple percussion instruments, including the marimba and hammered dulcimer.

Small Doses of Nature Can Lead to Big Health Benefits

Many people believe that being outdoors in nature is good for them, and research backs that up. But what “dosage” of nature is needed for good health?

Two recent studies show that just ten minutes of exposure to nature, two to three times per week, provides real health benefits. And you don’t have to visit the wilderness to get the good effects; short nature “time-outs” can happen in small, urban green spaces or even your backyard.

The studies were conducted by Mary Carol Hunter at the University of Michigan and Marc Berman of the University of Chicago. The studies are part of a larger body of research supported by the TKF Foundation, which funds projects across the country integrating the design of urban green spaces with research on user benefits. TKF has funded the creation of more than 130 publicly accessible, urban green spaces, and seeks to prove that green spaces provide health benefits through contemplation and restoration, with the goal of influencing city planning and design.

Hunter’s study had subjects immerse themselves in nature and answer questions before and after about their mental well-being on a mobile app. The digital entries were correlated with participants’ cortisol levels in saliva, an indicator of stress. After being exposed to nature for just ten minutes, two to three times a week, participants reported having significantly less stress, improved ability to focus, and increased satisfaction with their mood and energy levels. Also, benefits were greater in residential landscapes or small parks.

In Berman’s study, subjects were asked to take a 2.5 mile, 50-minute walk through either a dense urban environment or an arboretum. Afterward, they were given memory tests to measure their ability to concentrate or focus. Those who walked through the arboretum had a 20 percent improvement in working memory over the other group.

The two researchers are still working to answer questions such as how senses other than sight might influence health benefits, and which features of nature create a sense of well-being and improve one’s ability to concentrate. However, their studies make a strong case that exposure to nature, even in small doses and in urban settings, makes you feel better. And that’s an important part of good health.



Garth Ashbeck, M.D.Dr. Ashbeck is an MPCP partner and sees patients in the Pasadena office. Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, he received his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed his residency program in Family Practice at Memorial Medical Center.

A New Leash On Life: Pets Are Good For Your Health

Sure, it’s nice to be greeted by a furry face when you come home from work, but besides love are there any health benefits to pet ownership?

Yes, indeed. Research suggests that living with pets can make you healthier, from lowering your risk of heart disease to increasing your overall fitness. Here are four ways pets are good for your health ─ though you can probably think of others.

1. Good for your heart

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health indicate that pets can improve your cardiovascular health. Pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels — all of which can reduce the risk for having a heart attack. And dog owners who have already experienced a heart attack tend to recover better and live longer than those without pets.

Another study looked at people with high blood pressure. Those with pets were found to have lower heart rates and blood pressure than those without pets. Pet owners also seemed to have milder responses and quicker recovery from stress when they were with their pets.

These cardiovascular benefits are thought to be connected with pets’ tendency to help reduce their owners’ overall stress levels. In other words, it’s hard to be uptight when you’re stroking a purring kitty or scratching the ears of a tail-thumping hound.

2. Good for your mood

Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets, and Alzheimer’s patients experience less anxiety. Researchers think that playing with a pet elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine — nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties. These are the same chemicals found in tobacco and some drugs that people abuse. To improve your mood, just say yes to pets.

3. Good for allergies

Some people believe that if your family has a pet, your children are more likely to develop allergies, and for that reason they refuse to welcome pets into their homes. However, a number of studies suggest that kids growing up with furry animals will have less risk of developing allergies and asthma. These kids are also less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. The thinking is that exposure to pets at an early age may actually strengthen the immune system, making children less likely to develop allergies.

4. Good for fitness

Finally, several studies have shown that dog owners tend to get more exercise than other people. Dog owners who regularly walk their dogs are more physically active and less likely to be obese than those who don’t own or walk a dog. Those who regularly walk their dogs also walk faster and for longer times than others who don’t walk regularly. Older dog walkers also had greater mobility inside their homes than others in the study.

Walking is great exercise, but if you want a more vigorous workout, try doing these activities with Fido – and try to keep up:

  • Jogging or running
  • Hiking
  • Playing fetch with a Frisbee or ball
  • Agility training (Obstacle course-based dog sport)


Rachel Sweeney, CRNPRachel Sweeney is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner in MPCP’s Arnold office. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Villanova University and her Master of Science in Nursing degree from Marymount University. She is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Family Practice.