Everyone knows one of those people who is always singing or humming along to some imaginary tune in their heads. If you don’t then it’s probably you. (I wholeheartedly know I am that person: the inner workings of my brain are like something out of The Greatest Showman….) We all have a soundtrack to our lives, whether it’s 80s classics, Mozart or showtunes, because music is a universal form of expression as well as a form of communication and connection between people. Relationships are formed over a shared love of an artist, friendships are made at musical groups and families have beloved songs that are shared across generations. We all know how beneficial music can be for us, but did you realise all the good singing can do for your body and mind?
Singing has been scientifically proven to have a positive impact on your health, including training our lungs to have a larger capacity and therefore work better. So, step one, singing helps you breathe better, immediately this is sounding like a good idea. But the benefits don’t stop there, because a study at University of Gothenburg in Sweden identified a “dramatic effect” on heart rate variability in people who did warm-up vocal exercises, which is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. All this doesn’t even begin to cover the impact on our mental health and wellbeing singing has. By singing in a choir, our heartrates naturally synchronise which creates a sense of calm for everyone in the group; correlating nicely with how singing also lowers stress levels.
These benefits can be felt across all ages, whether you’re singing in a primary school play, a university society or a competitive environment: no matter what, singing helps. But there’s one demographic who could benefit a little more than others from the health boost bursting into song can have. Elderly people are more prone to heart and lung issues, and if they have an illness or are out of their comfort zone they will be stressed. These are all health complications that singing can simplify.
I’m not the only one who has put two and two together here.
There are charities and companies popping up across the UK aimed at bringing music to the elderly; with singing classes, choirs and musical groups focussing on all genres, styles and artists. An example of this is Sing for Your Life, a charity that started in 2005 and works to promote the health and wellbeing of older people through singing. They run participatory singing sessions and regular singing clubs in care homes, day centres and hospitals where the elderly can come together, share a song and feel better. Their ethos is “a song a day keeps the doctor away” and given the proven improvements on the physical and mental health starting to sing can have, it seems a good way to live.
Residential care homes are also setting up music programmes where they encourage residents to sing, alone or in groups and play instruments like “maracas, triangles and even coconut shells” as a fun way to spend a few hours while also keeping them in better health. It’s even been proven to help people with Alzheimer’s, as they remember words to songs even if they might struggle communicating normally.
There’s a saying – music is medicine – which usually implied the way singing can make your soul feel good and the general enjoyment of music (thank you endorphins!); but I think given the research, it deserves much more prominence. Music is actually a form of medicine, and this one has no worrying side-effects or doctors warning. Especially for the elderly who are more vulnerable to strong medications, singing might just be the perfect way to avoid certain health issues. So, start spreading the word, get your gran rocking out to her favourite Barbra Streisand or Cardi B song as a preventative health treatment. Maybe try “I’m Your Man” because who can actually feel bad singing along with George Michael? If you love music or play an instrument, then why not take your guitar/piano/xylophone to your local care home to have a sing-a-long with the residents. Or see if your band can perform for hospital patients. Find a way to connect the elderly people you know with music, and you might just help them live longer.
As a wise singing nun once said, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” and all together now:
“Do… Re… Mi…”
By Elena Jones, Marketing Executive at One Stop Social.