8 Ways that Music Positively Impacts Physical Health

boy playing saxophone

There’s no argument that listening to your favorite tunes can instantly improve your mood. Countless studies cite the positive effects of music on brain function, mood and even intelligence. Music incites relaxation, positivity and emotional connections – all of which lead to better mental function and responses. The brain-boosting ability of listening to and actively participating in musical activities is well known; but did you know that music has some pretty important physical benefits too?

Increasing research points to music as having a positive effect on physical attributes and health. Music can actually make you healthier, in scientific terms. Take a look at just a few of the ways music has been proven to influence physical well-being:

Pain management

People with chronic pain will try just about anything to escape it. Listening to music has been proven to play a role in the reduction of pain associated with chronic pain conditions like disc problems and arthritis. Research published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that the pain associated with physical conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis was reduced by as much as 21 percent when patients listened to music. How is this accomplished? Researchers hypothesize that music relaxes heartbeat and breathing, while releasing pain-reducing endorphins into the body – all of which contributes to less perceived pain.

There is another theory as to why music can help with pain management. Playing and listening to music tends to force that listener live in the present, according to a University of Wisconsin study. In the testing, researchers found that people who were experiencing pain, but then exposed to music, tended to focus less on the discomfort and more on the sounds they were hearing. By using concentration on music as a form of meditation, pain was lessened. Music therapists second this notion that the sounds can be soothing, and even healing, for listeners who are otherwise experiencing pain.

Heart rate regulation

Soothing music has been shown to have a positive impact on heart rate. Doctors of babies in intensive care units often encourage parents to sing lullabies to their tiny children because it can regulates heart rate and respiration. It is the tempo of the music, not the style, nor the listener’s preference for it, which has the biggest impact on heart rate consistency. Italian and British researchers found that relaxation occurred the most when listeners were exposed to slower tempos and that the heart rate remained regulated even after the music had stopped.

Boosted immunity

It may sound like a stretch, but playing music can actually keep you from getting sick. American researchers studied two groups: those who were actively playing music and those who were simply listening to it. Saliva samples were taken from both groups before the music sessions began to measure baseline immunity. At the end of the 30 minutes, saliva samples were taken again. The group that had actively participated in playing music showed higher levels of the immunity-boosting SIgA than those who simply listened.

Just listening to music is not without its health benefits, though. People who just listen have lower levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone that is known to reduce immunity. The less-stressed the person, the less chance he or she will get sick. While listening to music can’t completely prevent illness, it is certainly a supplementary tactic that can keep you healthier in the long run.

Higher athletic performance

There’s a reason your pace picks up when a good workout song comes on during your run, or why group exercise classes usually blast upbeat tunes through the speakers. Music has been proven to motivate fitness pursuits and to improve athletic performance. Specifically, listening to music while working out improves motor coordination, reduces fatigue, and increase physiological relaxation. Listening to music can also reduce muscle tension which will aid in elevated coordination and body movement.

Better sleep

Getting enough sleep is not just a luxury; the Center for Disease Control reports that Americans’ lack of enough sleep is actually a health epidemic. A person who gets enough sleep has higher immunity, better physical responses, and improved cognitive function, which can aid in everything from elevated productivity to better awareness when driving a car. Sleep is a vital health foundation and music can assist people in falling asleep – and staying asleep. The relaxation and stress-reduction properties associated with listening to or actively playing music translate to a more peaceful transition into sleep and a more restful experience. Music is also known to reduce negative emotions – like depression or anxiety – which can make it difficult to fall asleep. Though music itself does not provide MORE sleep, it does make it easier for the listener to achieve exactly that.

Other conditions improved by music

Music has also been associated with improved physical well-being in the following areas:

  • Seizure regulation. Certain classical music works, particularly some by Mozart, have been proven to have an antiepileptic effect.
  • Reduction of tinnitus symptoms. This “ringing in the ears” condition can be annoying and painful for sufferers. Music therapy intervention when tinnitus symptoms first present themselves has been shown to prevent the condition from becoming a chronic one.
  • Improved childbirth and postpartum experiences. Women who listen to music during childbirth report less anxiety and pain. Those positive feelings can be associated with a reduced risk of developing post-partum depression. For women who do develop some level of post-partum depression, music therapy is prescribed as a safe, non-medicated way to address the issue.

Music as a healer

Tapping into the health benefits of music can really improve your physical state. Things like strengthened immunity, pain management, regulated heart rate, and better sleep can improve your quality of life. Music is not just something that makes us feel mentally better, but should be an integral part of physical health.

So the next time you are feeling stressed, or in pain, or just plain tired, take advantage of the healing power of music to boost your physical health. It may not be able to cure all ails but it sure may make you feel a lot better about everything.