Belting out your favorite song can feel great, but is it also excellent for your health and well-being.
Singing has physical benefits because it is an aerobic activity. It increases oxygenation in the bloodstream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting! But it’s not just the physical benefits of singing that make it great for us.
According to Dr Dianna Kenny, professor of psychology and music at the University of Sydney, singing does for the soul what food and water do for our bodies.
“We know that singing has very positive effects on people’s mood. It brings people together; it’s used in a whole range of social and personal activities. But there is singing and music in all of the major events in our lives,” Dr Kenny says.
“If you think about weddings, funerals, the call to battle, and the wailing of some cultures when people have died, it’s how they express their grief,” she says. “Babies love to ‘coo’ and sing in response to their mother’s voice, so it’s a very primal thing in many ways. It affects our mood states, and it affects who we are.”
There’s no doubt that singing can affect our mood, but can it boost our health, too?
Biological scientist Dr Sinan Ali and the Macquarie University Choir put singing to the test with the following experiment. The experiment aimed to test whether levels of the stress hormone cortisol would diminish in a one-hour singing rehearsal and whether the protein immunoglobulin A, which is a marker of immunity, would increase.
Dr Ali collected a saliva sample from 10 choir members before they began rehearsals and another saliva sample after the choir members had been rehearsing for about one hour.
The singers needed to be relaxed, as performance tends to cause anxiety and, therefore, could alter our results, so our samples were collected at their usual Monday-night rehearsal.
Dr Ali believed that the tests would “show us levels of the hormone and levels of the protein and from that, we can infer the level of stress and the level of immunity maybe”.
The results showed a reduction in cortisol and an increase in immunoglobulin A following the singing rehearsal?
The results were impressive. The test results revealed that there was about a 40 percent reduction in the level of the stress hormone cortisol overall. “Nine out of the ten people showed a decrease in cortisol,” he said. “There was one individual who showed an increase but nine out of 10; that’s amazing!”
Results weren’t as apparent concerning immunoglobulin A, with the participants registering only a slight increase in immunoglobulin A. But Dr Ali believes this was not unexpected. “We’ve had a slight increase, and that’s not unexpected because it is a protein, and it’s going to take a longer period for that effect to be seen.”
Singing really can do wonders for our health and well-being and help relieve stress, so don’t worry too much about what you sound like, start singing today!
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