8 ways music can help you stay healthy
Listening to your favourite tunes can pump you up, help you relax and keep you happy. Here’s how listening to music makes you healthier
How music keeps you healthy
Have you ever relaxed to the sound of your favourite album, or popped your headphones in to hear some bass-thumping music during a workout? If so, you’ve seen first-hand how music can help all of us stay fit and healthy.
Research has shown various ways music impacts our health – from helping us sleep better, to strengthening our hearts. Keep reading to learn how you can incorporate music into your healthy lifestyle.
1. Use the beat to become a better runner
Most of us are drawn to dance beats rather than folk rock when we’re pounding the pavement – and it turns out there’s good reason for this preference.
If you sync your running pace to music, there’s a likelihood you’ll increase the intensity of your workout, says Costas Karageorghis, a researcher from the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University in London, U.K. “Syncing music with running for the recreationally active increases endurance by 10 to 15 percent,” he says.
In other words, you’re probably better off playing Daft Punk than Diana Krall to ensure the beat matches your running tempo and keeps you motivated.
2. Listen to music to help you sleep
Research has shown if you listen to relaxing music, even earlier in the day, it’ll help you sleep at night, says Amy Clements-Cortes, a Canadian researcher and music therapist.
“It seems to be a growing trend that people are using music more to facilitate sleep and relaxation,” she says.
One 2008 study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, which looked at a pool of young people ranging from 19- to 28-years-old, concluded that relaxing classical music is an effective way to reduce sleeping problems. Meanwhile, a 2005 study in the same journal shows evidence that soothing music can help older adults sleep better.
So whatever your age, mellowing out to music can help you get quality rest.
3. Play relaxing tunes to beat stress
Studies have shown listening to music can reduce stress levels, according to a review published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences in 2013.
The review of over 400 research papers by McGill University researchers finds listening to relaxing music – as in, tunes with a slow tempo, low pitch and no lyrics – has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in healthy subjects.
So next time you’re feeling anxious, try mellowing out to some Mozart or smooth jazz – you might just find your mind stops racing.
4. Music can calm your nerves before surgery
Whether you’re having a major operation or just getting a tooth pulled, music might be able to help you calm your pre-surgery nerves.
The McGill review found that listening to music not only helps reduce stress levels in healthy people, but also helps reduce anxiety before surgery.
And here’s the kicker: It’s even more effective than prescription drugs.
5. Soothe your newborn (and yourself) with a lullaby
It seems that moms singing to their newborns are doing more than just putting their little ones to sleep – they’re also keeping the infant healthy.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2013 shows that live music can improve the health of premature babies in a few key ways, including their heart and lung function. Parental lullabies can also enhance bonding, the study’s authors wrote, and in turn decrease parents’ stress levels.
It’s win-win all around, so there’s really no excuse not to brush up on “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
6. Use music to develop early social skills
Social skills are important to our mental and physical health, says Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster Institute of Music and the Mind – and music seems to be one of the tools we’ve developed as a species to learn that socialization.
“It’s probably no mistake that in a traditional kindergarten classroom, we have music and all the kids singing a song together,” Trainor says.
If you have a baby, try holding them and moving together to music, she suggests. “Feeling the calming music with you… is probably going to put them on a path to beginning social relationships.”
7. Keep your heart healthy by joining a choir
A study by Swedish researchers published in the Frontiers of Psychology in 2013 determined that when people sing in unison, their heart rates actually synchronize.
Singing together essentially sends “relaxing waves through the choir,” the study notes – a calming effect similar to that of yoga, which benefits cardiovascular function.
Looks like the kids on Glee have the right idea.
8. Or listening to your favourite song
Singing in a choir isn’t the only thing that’s good for your heart.
Research presented in 2013 at the European Society of Cardiology congress found that patients with coronary artery disease improved their endothelial function – something that’s key to heart health – by simply listening to their favourite tunes.
There’s no one-size-fits-all music, by the way. People “should choose music which increases positive emotions and makes them happy or relaxed,” noted lead researcher, professor Marina Deljanin Ilic, in a press release.