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Sing to improve your health
July 23, 2013, 11:51 am

If you ever have the desire to break out into song — in the shower, in the car, maybe at your neighbor's infamous karaoke night — you should embrace it whole-heartedly. This ancient art not only feels good, it can enhance your well-being, reduce your feelings of pain and even prolong your life. Using your voice to sing, rather than simply carry out a conversation, offers unique benefits. According to experts, when we sing instead of speak, we have intonation, melody line, and crescendo, which gives us a broader vocabulary to express ourselves. And, because singing is visceral, in that it relates to our bodies, it helps bring about change.

Singing reduces stress and pain:
Studies have linked singing with a lower heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and reduced stress. Therapists have used songs to help patients who suffer from a variety of psychological and physiological conditions. People who have been traumatized often want to leave the physical body, and using their voice helps ground them to their bodies. Singing also seems to block a lot of the neural pathways that pain travels through.

Singing for seniors:
Singing, particularly in a chorus, seems to benefit the elderly particularly well. As part of a three-year study examining how singing affects the health of those 55 and older, a Senior Singers Chorale was formed by the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C. The seniors involved in the chorale (as well as seniors involved in two separate arts groups involving writing and painting) showed significant health improvements compared to those in the control groups. Specifically, the arts groups reported an average of 30 fewer doctor visits, fewer eyesight problems, less incidence of depression, less need for medication and fewer falls and other injuries.

Singing and Alzheimer's disease:
The part of the brain that works with speech is different than the part that processes music, which is what allows people who can no longer converse to still enjoy music. People seem to enjoy doing something jointly with other people and there is a lot of evidence that being socially engaged is good for people with dementia. Singing sessions have beneficial effects on the participants' cognitive powers, physical ability and emotions. Music is so powerful that people who have lost their ability to speak have been shown to access songs and words from the melody. Singing sessions are so popular that similar workshops are being attempted for people with Parkinson's disease and those who have had strokes and head injuries, along with people who have special needs.

Singing boosts the immune system and well-being:
Several studies have found that singing also enhances immunity and well-being. One, conducted at the University of Frankfurt in Germany, found that choral members had higher levels of immunoglobulin A and cortisol—markers of enhanced immunity — after they sang Mozart's 'Requiem' than before. Just listening to the music did not have this effect. In another study, members of a choir filled out questionnaires to report their physical and psychological reactions to singing. The choristers reported: improved lung capacity, high energy, relieved asthma, better posture and enhanced feelings of relaxation, mood and confidence. 

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