April 20th, 2018

To Your Health: Singing loud for better health

By Gillian Slade on December 18, 2017.

Whether you have a good voice or not, it is the season to be singing.

There are numerous personal benefits emotionally and physically when you sing. Those sing in groups or choirs talk of the exhilarating experience derived from joining together in the experience. There is the act of being together with a common purpose but it goes way beyond that.

Numerous choirs are now being formed around the world based on a shared experience or loss. Those who are grieving the loss of a loved one who simply vanished unexpectedly and has never been found. Others share the grief of a loved one dying by suicide. There is unity in the shared loss and giving it a voice.

Scientists have been trying to determine what it is about singing that triggers such a positive response in our bodies. It may be related to the release of endorphins, which are linked to feelings of pleasure, or a hormone that reduces anxiety. One study found that singing can actually block the neural pathways of pain. Now that’s good news and worth remembering when you are experiencing pain.

A group of seniors in their 80s were enrolled in a singing program, which was part of a research study. The seniors were found to make fewer visits to the doctor, have a brighter outlook on life, were breathing more easily, and in some cases needed less medication.

There has been documented evidence of the benefits of singing among those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The effect of music and singing allows people, who have lost their ability to speak, to make a connection with the words through the melody.

Perhaps the best news about this is that the benefits are not contingent on the quality of your singing voice. If yours is particularly bad there is always the option of singing when you are alone in your vehicle.

It is also worthwhile considering professional singing or voice lessons. Almost anybody can improve their singing voice by having lessons. You will also learn about your physical structure, how your body can facilitate how you breathe when singing and how all sorts of muscles can be trained to support your voice in song. It can improve your concentration and memory, improve lung capacity, and posture.

Here’s to the power of singing, wishing you a merry Christmas and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635.

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