Music is as old as time, and the human voice is the oldest instrument of all. Since our prehistoric ancestors first gave their guttural cries, singing has played an essential role in the development of music, bringing people together and providing a convenient, readily available means of creativity and expression. However, singing is more than just the instrument you can take with you wherever you go. It presents a wide range of benefits for your body, your mind, and those around you.
Strengthen Your Immune System
The next time you have a cold, the best medicine might be singing along to your favorite tune. A study by scientists at the University of Frankfurt in Germany found that singing actually strengthens your immune system. In the study, researchers tested the blood of a professional choir before and after rehearsing Mozart’s “Requiem” for an hour. They found that, over the course of the rehearsal, their blood showed increased levels of hydrocortisone—an anti-stress hormone, and immunoglobin A—a protein that functions as an antibody. Both components play an integral role in your immune system’s strength. A week later, the researchers asked the same choir to simply listen to a recording of Mozart’s Requiem without singing. The blood they tested showed no significant changes, suggesting that it truly was the act of singing that helped boost their immune response.
Take a Breath of Fresh Air
One of the key elements to good singing is using plenty of air, so it’s no surprise that singing can help your lungs. Singing gives your lungs a workout, forcing you to breathe in and out in a strong but controlled way. This develops your lungs, increasing their overall capacity and allowing you to breathe better.Singing is so effective with the lungs that it has been used to treat certain lung diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which will reportedly be the third leading cause of death by 2030. A long-term study by the Canterbury Christ Church University found that singing had a profound effect on those suffering from COPD. Measuring air using a spirometer, the researchers found that the average COPD patient could force out about 1.5 liters of air. After singing regularly for a year, the amount of air increased by 30 milliliters. Singing is also beneficial to your heart, especially when you sing with a group. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that collective singing caused singers’ hearts to beat in sync, producing the same calming effects as yoga.
During the study, researchers asked a group of teens to hum, sing a hymn, and chant—three common choral exercises. The results showed that this combination of singing exercises had a dramatic
effect on the singers’ heart rate variability, which measures the time between heartbeats.
Sing Yourself Into Shape
Singing is a surprisingly physical activity. We already know it can work out the most important muscle of all—the heart—but singing comes with many of the same benefits as other aerobic exercises. These benefits include:
- Increased stamina
- Reduced risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health risks
- Reduced cholesterol
Properly controlling your singing voice also requires precise control of muscles throughout your core, particularly your abs. Most people take shallow breaths, but singing requires the powerful support of a deep breath. This involves breathing from your abdomen and expanding your diaphragm. As you take a breath, your stomach should inflate, and when you exhale, your abs should contract—kind of like doing crunches.
Feel the Music to Feel Good
It’s hard for anyone to deny that singing makes you feel good. Singing improves mood by releasing endorphins, the neurochemical responsible for making you feel energized and euphoric. Endorphins are often accompanied by a positive outlook on life, which can ultimately increase your confidence and self-esteem. Furthermore, endorphins can reduce your perception of pain and act as sedatives.
Singing also releases a hormone called oxytocin, which alleviates anxiety and boosts feelings of bonding and trust.
And then there’s the sacculus, a tiny organ found in your inner ear. A study by the University of Manchester found that the sacculus is connected to a part of the brain the responds to pleasure. The sacculus responds to low-frequency, high-intensity sounds, like singing or listening to music at a high volume. This essentially results in immediate feelings of pleasure during and after your song.
- Sound therapists believe that singing exercises provide substantial self-healing benefits.
- Singing with a long E sound—like in “tree”—stimulates the pineal gland, boosting alertness.
- Short E sounds—like in “elbow”—signal the thyroid gland, which regulates how the body uses energy and controls your sensitivity to other hormones.
- The short A sound—as in “apple”—forces more oxygen into your bloodstream and signals the release of endorphins.
- Singing a long O sound—like in “owe”—can stimulate the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar.
Your body and mind are inherently linked by your endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. Singing draws on your physical, mental, and emotional responses for a cumulative, holistic approach to feeling great.
Playing for the Crowd
Singing doesn’t just benefit you. If you sing for a crowd—even if that crowd is small and comprising only your loved ones—you can spread those good vibes and health benefits. Someone listening to your impeccable singing benefits from:
- Reduced stress
- Reduced anxieties
- Diminished symptoms of depression
- Improved sleep quality
If you think you need to sing like an opera star to reap any of these benefits, think again. One study shows that singers of all experience levels and backgrounds can enjoy the “considerable emotional, social and cognitive benefits” that come with singing. So don’t be afraid to sing your heart out, whether you’re on stage or in the shower!