Do, Re, Mi Feeling Better: Singing Shows Surprising Health Benefits

Heart health
April 10, 2017

Maybe you only practice your best Beyoncé in the shower, but according to science, there are a few good reasons why you should consider singing more every day and everywhere. Check out our findings below.

Humans have been singing since the dawn of time. The oldest known songs date back to the 2nd century BC, while the first scores discovered date back even further, to the 5th century BC. But what makes us so eager to sing out loud? Quite simply, it goes beyond music and storytelling — it seems singing offers a whole host of benefits.

Did you know? Singing is great for your body.

The physical benefits of singing are mighty. Check some of them out below.

  • Core work: Singing for 30 minutes to an hour stimulates the abdominal muscles, just as a Yoga or Pilates session might.
  • Happy hormones: When you sing, you secrete oxytocin and endorphins. Oxytocin is referred to as the “love hormone,” and is often triggered by touch. Endorphins are the same hormones that are released during exercise and orgasm. These hormones act on the brain to produce feelings of wellbeing and even euphoria. Not too shabby for a few scales and harmonies!
  • Snore control: A study showed that singing strengthens the palate and the throat muscles, helping to reduce snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Amazing immunity: Rather amazing but singing also strengthens the immune system, according to a study by the University of Frankfurt. Before a rehearsal for Mozart’s Requiem, researchers took blood samples from the choral singers. They then took more blood samples after the rehearsal, and found a much higher level of immunoglobulin A than before. This protein functions as an antibody and helps protect us from infection.
  • Heart health: Singing with a group or choir can actually influence your heart rate, according to a study by the University of Gothenburg. Those that sing in a choir have a tendency to synchronize their heart rate with the beat of the music, and in effect, slow it down. Just like Yogic breathing, singing can strengthen your heart and lower your heart rate.

“Joining a singing group is my favorite way to meet new people. The bonds that you form with other singers, as you all work toward creating beautiful music, are magical.” ~ Rachel G., Somerville, MA

But it’s not just physical. Singing has multiple mental upsides as well. Below, get your mind around some of the most surprising findings.

  • Combats depression: Remember that oxytocin we talked about earlier? This molecule is very strongly linked to the confidence necessary for social interaction, which may explain why studies have shown that singing can help combat depression and loneliness.
  • Improves memory: By favoring blood circulation and oxygenation, singing allows more oxygen to reach the brain. This helps improve mental sharpness, memory, and concentration. The Alzheimer’s Society in the UK even created a program called “Singing for the brain” to help those struggling with Alzheimer’s keep their memories.
  • Reduces pain: One study even went so far as to study the effect of choral singing on those who have been diagnosed with cancer. The results were significant, with patients experiencing less anxiety and physical pain. Singing in a group also helped patients feel supported, and they all improved their self-confidence.

“I often say that my college chorus was what kept me from needing to go to psych services. Gathering once a week and joining in song with my peers always made me feel grounded, connected, and able to put other worries in perspective.” ~ Susie F., Weehawken, NJ

That’s great, but what if you’re shy or can’t sing?

Even if you don’t sing, listening to music produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter released by our brains during experiences that it associates with pleasure. Even classical music can be a source of shared joy, as you can see in the following a concert at the Paris Philharmonic, where the choir and the public came together to celebrate Offenbach during a joyful encore.

“Singing is like meditating and working out at the same time. It brings me joy and peace of mind. When breathing simultaneously with others and creating music, I’m always in awe of what the human body can do!” ~ Anouck V., Paris, France

But we saved the best for last: You don’t even need to sing to reap the amazing benefits of music. Researchers discovered a small sac in the inner ear called a “sacculus,” which vibrates in response to sound frequencies above 90 Hz, and is directly linked to a part of the brain that governs sources of pleasure, such as hunger and sexual urges.
Even singing loudly in the shower counts—and is really good for you. So go for it: Let those vocal cords resonate like your health and happiness depends on it… because it just might.