Don’t Be Shy About Belting It Out

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Don’t Be Shy About Belting It Out

Science is discovering that people who lift their voices together in song experience amazing health benefits, including exercising the lungs and combatting stress. An increasing number of people are discovering the joys of singing. Chorus America reports that an estimated 42.6 million Americans regularly sing in choruses today. More than 1 in 5 households have at least one singing family member, making choral singing the most popular form of participation in the performing arts for both adults and children.

Benefits of Singing

It’s easy to make a case for joining a choral group. Not only can you get some of the same health benefits as those you achieve from going to the gym, you get to enjoy others’ company and have fun at the same time. Here are some of the touted benefits:

Provides exercise. Singing can be considered a fun workout. It pumps your lungs, strengthens your diaphragm and stimulates circulation.

Eases asthma. Some research, still in the early stages, has found that singing slightly improves lung function and can ease mild asthma, as well as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Promotes heart health. Like yoga, singing produces larger and slower breathing and improves heart rate variability, a measure of the amount of time between heartbeats. The same research found that chorus members register the same heart rates while singing, as if they were not only bringing their voices together as one but breathing as one.

Improves sleep. Singing helps strengthen our airways’ muscles. When these muscles are soft or weak, they vibrate, causing snoring and sleep apnea. A study comparing choir singers and non-singers found that singers had significantly less severe snoring. (There’s even a series of CDs, Singing for Snorers, that offers vocal exercises designed to stop snoring.)

Boosts immune system. Choir singers had their blood tested before and after an hour-long rehearsal. In most cases, the amount of proteins in the immune system that function as antibodies were significantly higher after the rehearsal.

Lowers stress levels. In addition to reducing cortisol levels, singing clears tension stored in muscles. It also releases the hormone oxytocin, which relieves anxiety and stress, as well as boosts feelings of trust and bonding. In one Japanese study, choir singers reported improved mood and less tension.

Enhances memory. Because of improved blood and oxygen circulation, the brain works better, increasing concentration and memory. The U.K. Alzheimer’s Society offers a “Singing for the Brain” service to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s jostle their memories. Some experts think that activities such as singing may help delay the onset of some age-related cognitive problems.

Eases depression. Singing releases endorphins, the brain chemical that makes you feel happy. And a small organ in the ear, called the sacculus, responds to singing’s frequencies and creates a pleasurable sensation.

Offers social connection. Making music together forms bonds, even when you may not know all the members of your choir. To blend with others’ voices, you need to be aware of and listen to everyone around you. Surveys have found that people who take part in singing groups feel more connected to other people and more self-confident, perhaps partly from being able to perform in front of others.

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