Turn It Up: The Top Five Ways Music Improves Your Health
It can make you dance, it can make you cry: music is powerful stuff. But did you know that it’s likely that music makes you healthier, too? The research on music has shown some exciting, and surprising, evidence: music has some profound effects on our bodies and our minds.
So go ahead and crank it up, and check out these five ways you can use music to improve your health!
1 – Music Improves Memory
When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher insisted that we sing in Spanish to help us learn. As a teen, it was super-embarrassing to sing cheesy Latin American pop songs with my classmates. But now, I live in Spain with my Spanish husband, so I guess she was on to something!
As it turns out, my teacher was right. One of the ways music improves your well-being starts in your brain. One study showed that adolescents performed better on certain language-learning tasks after completing music-focused training than others whose training didn’t include music.
The benefits aren’t just for teens, either. Other research showed that music helped stroke victims to recover speech, and triggered memories for dementia sufferers. Scientists still don’t know exactly how music improves memory and cognition, but it might have to do with how music improves our mood and sense of well-being.
2 – Music Can Decrease Pain
In some studies, patients recovering from surgeries needed less opiates overall, simply after listening to music in their surgery recovery room. From short-term to long-term pain sufferers, patients have reported feeling less intense pain, having more control over their pain, and feeling less depression associated with pain.
The research on music as a pain treatment has included chronic pain sufferers, like those with arthritis, patients recovering from painful surgeries or injuries, and cancer sufferers. Next time you need some pain relief, put on your favorite soothing music. You might be surprised at the effects.
3 – Music Relieves Stress and Helps You Sleep
Stress might not seem like a big deal, but it could be hurting your health more than you know. The American Institute of Stress claims that stress could be causing 60% of illnesses, and is behind 10% of strokes. This is pretty scary to hear, especially if you’re stressed already!
But one treatment could be as simple as putting on your favorite record. Listening to music has been shown to decrease anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure. The stress-busting benefits of music are enhanced, studies show, by making music in addition to passively listening (so don’t be afraid to sing in the shower, or in the car!).
Music’s positive impact on sleep goes hand in hand with its stress-busting powers. Listening to classical music for an hour before bed can help you fall asleep—but if Mozart isn’t your thing, any relaxing music will have a positive impact on your mood, and reduce your anxiety.
4 – Music Increases Your Motivation and Endurance for Exercise
Music doesn’t just relax you—it can also help you get in the zone. When you want to tackle a tough workout, or a morning run, harness the power of music to get you to the finish line. Music has been shown to improve speed and endurance for runners and cyclists. In one study, runners who listened to music ran 800 meters faster than when they weren’t listening to music. In fact, music can have such a strongly positive effect on performance that some races prohibit competitors from listening to music!
Since music is a proven stress-reliever, and can ease pain, it’s no wonder that it’s a must-have in the gym. Music’s power to help you exercise is so well known that many fitness buffs already report that they hate working out without their headphones.
5 – Music Can Help You Heal
With its ability to decrease pain, relieve stress, and make you happier, music has proven to be a useful tool for recovering, and healing. As I mentioned before, music can help patients recover faster from surgery. Listening to music can also help cancer sufferers with the side effects of chemotherapy, easing not just pain, but also exhaustion and nausea. Other studies of music therapy have shown that music helps people stick to physical therapy routines, and rehabilitate faster.
So go ahead, belt out your favorite tune on your way to work tomorrow. It’ll improve your day, and your health!