If you are singer or simply someone who loves to belt out your favourite song along with the radio while you’re driving, you could actually be doing a lot more good for your health than you realise.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing a note in tune, the very act of singing requires your body to take in a deeper breath, which triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin; your feel-good hormones. When this happens you get a natural high from making a bit of noise and it is one of the main reasons why we always feel happy when we sing.
In fact, singing comes packed with an array of extra health goodies for your mind and body to enjoy… and you don’t need to be in full opera-belt mode to get them. Even the humble hum delivers a plethora of health benefits. Here are five surprising health benefits of singing that you may find surprising.
Your core gets an amazing workout
Forget Pilates, the quickest way from flab to ab is singing. As you exhale, your core muscles will activate immediately, and continue to contract until you take in another breath. The more air you push out, the harder your abdominal muscles have to work.
Try taking in a deep breath and slowly exhaling. First you will feel your upper abs activate, then as you keep pushing the air out, your lower abs will activate. These lower abs are the same muscles that exercises such as ‘The Plank’ target, but just keep singing and you’ll give them a workout without even realising it.
You can gain relief from long term respiratory difficulties (ie asthma, bronchitis)
Many people spend their entire life breathing only from their upper chest and don’t access the full capacity of their lungs, even if they practice deep breathing exercises. This is because they haven’t learned to activate their diaphragm which is a thin flexible muscle that sits below your ribcage. Singing requires you to use this muscle, allowing you to take in much more air as a result and the benefits that you would normally receive from deep breathing are super charged.
What this means for people with asthma and other long term respiratory difficulties is an increase in lung capacity and a freeing of the body’s breathing mechanisms, namely the ribcage and surrounding muscles, resulting in the ability to breathe much more easily.
Even those in medical professions agree with the benefits that diaphragmatic breathing can provide. London’s Royal Brompton Hospital started a ‘breathing through singing’ program for lung patients and found that through regular group singing practice, patients were able to perform more strenuous daily activities as a result.
It relieves neck strain and can help with depression
A hard day at the office often leads to a build up of tension in your upper back and chest area which causes stiffness around the neck and shoulders. When you sing, you naturally start to release the strain in these areas and your muscles will begin to soften and let go, often instantly alleviating pain.
Furthermore, singing causes your body to release another delightful little hormone called Oxytocin, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. It is the release of this hormone in particular that has made singing a key practice in the treatment of depression and as a tool for assisting dementia patients and those struggling with other related afflictions.
Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding and when combined with reduced blood pressure, reduced stress, and a healthy dose of the feel-good hormone Serotonin and Endorphones, it’s easy to see why singing may just be what the doctor ordered.
Your skin improves
The act of singing requires you to take in deeper breaths and as a result your body enjoys improved blood circulation and oxygen flow. It is these two factors that are the secret to younger looking skin, but singing also comes with an additional skin saving bonus; facial relaxation and stretching.
You can actually stave off fine lines around the mouth through the use of facial exercises; however it is unrealistic to think that any busy woman with a million things to do in her day is going to commit to a regular schedule of facial yoga! Singing allows you to gain the same benefits without thinking about it.
And seriously, tell me one person who doesn’t look better after singing along to something like Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’.
Stress vanishes into thin air
Prolonged exposure to stress hormones disrupts the body’s metabolism causing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated blood sugar and increased body fat due to increased appetite. Research shows that singing decreases levels of the stress hormone Cortisol lowers our heart rate and relaxes us.
Have you ever noticed how good you feel after singing along to your favourite song on the radio? Singing acts as a conduit to mindfulness, similar to the state you would obtain through the practice of yoga for example. It has a sneaky way of making you completely present as you are focused on the song you are singing, the catchy melody and the emotions that you feel at the time. This state of mindfulness is key to reducing stress, so put on your favourite tune, turn up the volume and watch your troubles melt away.