In this fresh roundup of health science we reveal the type of music that will turbo-charge your training. You’ll also learn the truth about herbal supplements and weight loss, the surprising way stubborn body fat can screw with your thinking, and the perfect reason to get a puppy.

Fast-tempo music will turbo-charge your training

Exercising to music

A new study has highlighted what Les Mills enthusiasts have known for decades – a good playlist is key to a good workout. The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, shows that high-tempo music can both increase the benefits and reduce the perceived effort of certain exercises, particularly when doing endurance training. During the study a group of female participants completed endurance exercises on a treadmill and strength training using a leg press. They exercised in silence and while listening to pop music at different tempos. During each session researchers measured their heart rate and collected details about exertion levels and how challenging they found the training. The researchers found that listening to high-tempo music resulted in the highest heart rate (which suggests it is most beneficial for physical fitness) and the lowest perceived exertion (which suggests it is most enjoyable).

Learn more about the best tunes for training here.

Science says step away from herbal medicines for weight loss

Herbal medicine

For the first time in decades researchers have conducted a global review of herbal medicines for weight loss – and they’ve found insufficient evidence to recommend any current treatments! Completing a systematic review and meta-analysis, scientists from the University of Sydney analyzed the latest international research, finding 54 randomized controlled trials comparing the effect of herbal medicines to placebo for weight loss in over 4000 participants. The researchers said that while in some cases herbal supplements were linked to weight loss, the amount lost was so minimal it was not of clinical significance. What’s more, author Dr Nick Fuller from the University of Sydney's Boden Collaboration for Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders says the concerning thing is that many studies had poor research methods or reporting. "The growth in the industry and popularity of these products highlights the importance of conducting more robust studies on the effectiveness and safety of these supplements for weight loss,” he said.

Find out more about the lack of evidence backing herbal medicines for weight loss here.

Stubborn belly fat linked to stubborn thinking

Stubborn belly fat

According to Iowa State researchers, less muscle and more body fat may affect how flexible our thinking is as we become older. Considering data from more than 4000 middle-aged to older men and women, the researchers examined direct measurements of lean muscle mass, abdominal fat, and subcutaneous fat, and how they were related to changes in fluid intelligence (the capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations) over six years. They found that most people in their 40s and 50s who had higher amounts of fat in their mid-section had worse fluid intelligence as they got older. Researchers say changes in parts of the immune system could be responsible. In women, the link between more abdominal fat and worse fluid intelligence was explained by changes in the lymphocytes and eosinophils (disease-fighting white blood cells). In men, it was basophils (immune system-related white blood cells) that explained roughly half of the fat and fluid intelligence link. Regardless of whether you’re male or female, this research provides more evidence that building lean muscle and cutting belly fat is beneficial.

Learn more about how greater muscle mass is protective against cognitive aging here.

Puppy love: how owning a dog can improve heart health

Puppy love

If you’re keen to stay fit and maintain a healthier diet, get a dog. A team of European and American researchers has found that pet owners are typically more physically active, have healthier diets and better blood sugar levels than those who don’t own pets. The findings come after researchers analyzed the health and demographic information of 1769 people aged 25 to 64, all with no history of cardiovascular disease. The participants were recruited five years ago, and their health will be reassessed every five years (until 2030) as part of a broader study addressing the seven metrics of cardiovascular health: diet, smoking, physical activity, body mass index, blood sugar levels, blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It’s important to note the study is observational only, which means there is simply a correlation between dog ownership and better heart health, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

Learn more about dog ownership can help your heart health here.