Welcome to Singer Train’s first blog – 2017. I thought I would start by discussing why singing is a great way to keep healthy and happy. There is already a lot of research published to support this claim and may be old news to some but for the people out there who haven’t thought of singing in this way, this is for you!
I have been singing and teaching singing for most of my adult life and although I didn’t sing to keep fit and stay in a good mood; now looking back, I realise that my physical fitness and sense of well being which has been pretty consistant is alot to do with the fact that I sang most days. However, for the last few years I have been working for the University in an office so sang less and I know my emotional and physical energy has definately dropped with the change of life-style. Happily, now that I am devoting all my time again to performing and teaching – hey presto! - life is rosy once more! Of course, many people aren't lucky enough to devote all their time to singing, but introducing singing and making music into your life in some way I am sure will reap rewards.
So, down to the nitty-gritty – what is the science behind this in a nut shell? I must say straight away that the power of music obviously has an important part to play although researchers have said that passive listening to music alone doesn’t give such a positive response than actively taking part, whether it is singing, dancing or playing an instrument with others. When doing the latter, endorphins are released; these hormones can greatly increase the sense of pleasure achieved through participatory activities. Also, cortisol levels reduce and therefore stress and anxiety dissasipate; singing has been identified by the medical profession to be a theraputic tool to help people suffering from depression.
Singing is an aerobic activity, the same as playing a wind instrument which increases the oxygen levels in the blood and therefore improves lung and heart activity and improves the immune system. When singing you engage with major muscle groups of the upper body such as the intercostals and abdominals, giving them a great workout when controlling the breath out-flow to create vocal resonance. You are also working to improve your posture, lengthening your spine and releasing any unnecessary tensions which inhibit movement.
Finally, whether you are singing in a small group or large choir, the act of sharing increases a sense of social integration and well being. Evidence suggests that singers heart rates can sync when singing together and also the hormone oxytocin, often referred to as the 'cuddle hormone' increases when singing in the same way as when bonding with another person and therefore promotes a sense of connectivity with others. Recent research suggests that oxytocin even gives us a sense of connecting spiritually to a higher source which might explain why singing is so prominant in religious practice.
Vocal health enquiries.
Sarah Wright-Owens is an NHS Clinical Vocal Consultant at the University Hospital, Birmingham. If you want to make a private enquiry concerning a vocal issue please contact