If you ever wondered whether music could help protect your health, consider the life of Maria von Trapp — “Louisa” in “The Sound of Music.” The last of the singing von Trapp children, she passed away this year at 99, more than three-quarters of a century after fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria.
But you don’t have to be a world-famous talent to let music soothe the savage beasts of anxiety, pain and depression, and fill you with a feeling of wellness and energy. A recent study out of the U.K. shows that sing-alongs can ease physical discomfort and psychological distress in folks 65 and older who are receiving nursing care for everything from dementia to heart disease. Premature babies seem to breathe, feed and sleep better when lullabies or soothing oceans sounds are brought into the NICU (not too loud, though). And cancer patients report less nausea and lower blood pressure after chemo when they listen to classical tunes.
So if you’re feeling stressed, are recuperating post-op or are making a push to get healthier now, try this:
♦ Set aside 10 minutes daily for singing, playing or listening to music that calms you. (No angry lyrics or aggressive rhythms.)
♦ Let your mind and breathing follow the melody or drift into the sounds, putting aside specific worries or thoughts.
♦ Trying to change a behavior or accomplish a goal such as quitting smoking? Tell yourself, “My urge to breathe free is enhanced by the notes.”
You’ll be amazed at how much more energy and focus you have when the music stops!
❖ ❖ ❖
Groucho Marx hosted “You Bet Your Life” from 1950 to 1961, but he wasn’t a big fan — even of his own work. (“I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on, I go into another room and read a good book.”) Although TV may have you betting your life (and brain) every time you tune in, it’s not the watching that’s the problem (too bad Groucho never saw Dr. Oz’s brain-stimulating show); it’s that you sit for hours at a time.
A recent study concluded that every hour spent sitting in front of the TV shortens your life by 22 minutes. An average North American adult watches nine years of TV over a lifetime. So, if you’re sitting in front of the TV for that long, you’re likely to die about three years earlier than someone who puts in no TV time (unless he or she misses the tornado warning.) Why? Sitting on the couch hour after hour erases muscle tone, slows metabolism and makes fat cells suck in extra fat. That leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, dementia — and a lousy sex life.
But you can tune in to better health. Try walking around the room while you watch your favorite program! Walking for 10 extra minutes a day can add two years to your life; walking an extra 45 minutes daily adds five years! (Aim for 10,000 steps daily.) At home, pedal through a “House of Cards” marathon on a stationary bike. We “Bet Your Life” and your RealAge get younger.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.