Why you should sing for one hour every day

By The Citizen

Singing, apart from being a commercial venture, is one activity that many people engage in at various times daily. And according to a Swedish proverb, those who wish to sing always find a song.

For some, it comes as a reflex as they seem to have the natural inkling to start singing without being prompted to do so, and such people are quick to point out that it is a 'natural talent.' But for some others, they rarely do, until they find a song so appealing or they are obliged to sing at their various religious gatherings.

Due to the passion some have for singing, it has been observed that people sing in the course of almost all their activities, including walking, cooking, working, while in the toilet or bathroom, while eating and some do even when sleeping.

It is however interesting to note that not many people know that singing is actually good for the heart and that there is a way it enhances the body's overall well-being.

A professor of music education at the Institute of Education, University of London, Graham Welch, who conducted a 30-year study on singing, revealed that there are health benefits of singing and the benefits are physical and psychological. He explained that singing ultimately exercises the lungs by opening it up for aeration.

In his post on heartresearch.org.uk, he said, 'Singing has physical benefits because it is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting.

'Singing also has psychological benefits because of its normally positive effect in reducing stress levels through the action of the endocrine system which is linked to our sense of emotional well-being. The psychological benefits are also evident when people sing together as well as alone because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour.'

Meanwhile, scientists have previously found that singing elevates people's mood, occasioned by the release of the feel good hormones, endorphin and oxytocin, which tend to reduce stress, depression and anxiety. They noted that the regular use of the vocal cords when singing automatically exercises the lungs and the heart, leading to a healthy heart and mental stability.

Other health benefits of singing include the fact that it boosts mental alertness, opens up respiratory tubes, reduces snoring and anger, boosts the body's immunity and helps to calm the nerves.

Be that as it may, some scientists have however pointed out that group singing, like being in a choir, has more benefits, as it boosts the immune system and helps the body to fight cancer.

This implies that if you are a member of the choir of any singing group and you actively participate, apart from other benefits for doing so, you have invariably been adding value to yourself by boosting your immune system.

A previous study had found that group singing could produce satisfying and therapeutic sensations regardless of the quality of the sound accompanying the song.

In the study, the scientists, from Imperial College London, University College London and the Royal College of Music, found that one hour of singing every day reduces stress and anxiety, and then increases levels of the proteins that boost immunity to serious illnesses like cancer.

They noted that the reduction in stress and anxiety reduces the tension on the immune system, thereby enabling it to prepare itself for a fight against diseases.

About 193 persons participated in the study, and they came from five different choirs, while 55 of them were found to have cancer. The participants were mandated to give samples of their saliva before an hour of singing and then give another sample after singing.

On analysing the samples they had collected to see if there was any difference in the levels of their hormones and immune proteins, the researchers, according to their findings published in the journal ECancer Medical Science, found that singing reduces the inflammation (which impedes the immune system) in the body and that people who were really suffering from depression had a significant improvement in their mood.

According to their findings, it was revealed that singing for one hour could help to reduce stress hormones like cortisol and increase the proteins that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation and strengthens the capacity of the body to fight some serious illness.

The co-author of the research, Dr. Ian Lewis, described their findings as exciting and eye-opening. The findings were reviewed on Mail Online.

Lewis said, 'These are really exciting findings. We have been building a body of evidence over the past six years to show that singing in a choir can have a range of social, emotional and psychological benefits, and now we can see it has biological effects too.

'We've long heard anecdotal evidence that singing in a choir makes people feel good, but this is the first time it's been demonstrated that the immune system can be affected by singing.'

One of the researchers, Dr. Daisy Fancourt, explained that people who have cancer could suffer psychological troubles like stress, anxiety and depression, which could suppress the effectiveness of their immune system, when in actual fact, such people need their immune system for their well being.

'But this research suggests that an activity as simple as singing could reduce some of this stress-induced suppression, helping to improve wellbeing and quality of life among patients and putting them in the best position to receive treatment.'

Another member of the research team, Rosie Dow, who co-authored the study, said their findings would further show the world that singing is great for the mind, body and soul.

She said, 'This research is so exciting, as it echoes everything all our choir members tell us about how singing has helped them. I've seen peoples' lives transformed through singing in our choirs, so knowing that singing also makes a biological difference will hopefully help us to reach more people with the message that singing is great for you - mind, body and soul.'

Commenting on the study, a psychologist, Prof. Toba Elegbeleye, said singing could make people to be better relaxed and that anything that can reduce stress would boost the immune system.

He said given that not everybody loves to sing, those who do not sing should listen to music as it also has same benefit of reducing anxiety and stress.

He said, 'Psychologically, anything that can reduce stress is good for the body, and whether you like it or not, singing should be part of our system, but it is not everybody that can sing. So, the other half I like to add is that if you have the talent and the passion for it, sing, because it is good for your body and soul but if you do not have the talent to sing, you listen to music.

'Both singing and listening to music work well for the body by helping the system to relax. In the Bible, when Saul was having some issues, David was invited to come and play instrument for him and anytime David played the instrument, he felt better.'

Elegbeleye explained that even though there are some synthetic drugs that are used to relax the body and the mind, singing or listening to music are like natural ways to derive same benefits.

He added, 'Anything that can reduce stress would boost the immune system and keep you in a happy state, and you would see the better side of life. So if you sing, it is good for you. It is even more complementary when you sing and people want to listen to you.

'So, singing is good and psychologically advisable and that is why most keep-fit organisations accompany exercises with music. Singing is like an agent that can reduce stress, and that is the psychological connection.' - Culled from Punch.