Scientists have long touted the benefits of music, giving credence to what most people intuitively knew: music is powerful. It can set a mood, convey emotion, get people moving, and help cement a moment in time.
What many people don’t realize, however, is the effect that music can have on one’s physical health. With an impressive list of benefits, music can be one of the least expensive forms of therapy as well as one of the most effective.
Helps in Surgery
According to a recent study, Parkinson’s disease patients undergoing brain surgery were calmer when listening to song melodies. There was a significant difference between patients who listened to no music, those who listened to rhythmic musical pieces, and those who heard melodies. Further evidence of how calm they were? Many patients fell asleep during the surgery, waking when the procedure was over.
Increases Heart Health
People often remark that a particular event or activity “makes their heart happy.” Few, however, realize that listening to peppy, joyful music actually does improve their heart’s health. When people listen to upbeat songs, the diameter of their blood vessels increases (some reports show up to a 26 percent increase), allowing for increased blood flow. Conversely, listening to sad, anxiety-inducing music can decrease blood flow by up to 6 percent. Concerned about your heart’s health? Crank up the radio.
Individuals who have taken music lessons demonstrate a higher level of recall ability than those who had no musical training. When shown a list of items and later asked to verbally recount the items on the list, children with musical training outperformed the others. This has long-term implications for adults who may be concerned about memory loss.
Impacts Transplant Longevity
Although it is still in the discovery stage, research suggests that heart transplants in mice can be aided by exposing the mice to classical music. A study done by Japanese doctors showed that mice who underwent heart transplants lived longer when they listened to music by artists such as Mozart and Verdi.
Not all music is the same: mice who were played new age songs, listened to no music, or were simply given a sound frequency did not receive the same benefits. Future implications of this study remain to be seen, but adding a few classical songs to your playlist can only help.
Mimics a Massage
Many people remark on the healing, relaxing benefits of a massage to soothe tired muscles, relieve stress, and improve one’s outlook. Don’t have access to a masseuse? Researchers discovered that over a three-month period, people who listened to relaxing music showed the same results as those who received a one-hour massage once a week. For individuals feeling stressed, this cost-saving measure can help relieve anxiety and improve mood.
Reduces the Effects of Aging
A fascinating study of the brain revealed that individuals aged 60 to 83 who had received musical training during their lifetimes performed better on tests that explored brain function. Across the board, individuals who had received music lessons (at any age) fared better than those who did not. There were significant differences based on the length of lessons given, with the greatest brain function evident in those who had the most musical training.
Not only does music help reduce anxiety and fight aging, listening to music can help reduce feelings of pain, a new study shows. When participants in the study received an electrical shock in their fingertips, those who were listening to music reported less pain than those who did not have music.
Improves Sound Processing
Those who play a musical instrument or who have received musical lessons demonstrate an increased proficiency for sound processing. In addition, there is a direct link between the length of time an individual studied an instrument and his or her performance on hearing tests. The longer people took lessons, the better their results.
Facilitates Stroke Recovery
According to scientific evidence, people who listen to music soon after experiencing a stroke see a significant improvement in verbal memory and show an increased attention span. When combined with physical therapy and other recovery options, it can lead to a faster return to normalcy for many patients.
Music has an impressive list of benefits and applications that humankind is just beginning to understand. Using this effective method of improving mood, increasing blood flow, and recovering from surgery is both cost-effective and efficient. With so many studies validating the positive effects of music training, parents would be remiss in not offering music lessons to their children.
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Photo used under Creative Commons from Marina K Caprara