Five potential health benefits of music

Most of us love to sing in the shower, or dance to our favourite tune. But did you know that music could actually make you healthier?

If you’ve ever needed an excuse to play your favourite song at full volume, keep reading.

Dancing can help you keep fit

An elderly man dancing in a club
You can let loose on the dancefloor at any age.

Getting your groove on at a disco can help you keep fit and healthy. There’s even an equation to help you work out how many calories you burn per hour when you’re throwing your favourite shapes. As our graph shows, general disco dancing helps shift the most calories, but rehearsing some ballet and doing the flamenco aren’t half bad either. Just think of all the calories the dancers on Strictly will burn!

A graph showing how many calories you burn doing different types of dance
The equation multiplies an acitvity’s ‘MET’ value with a person’s weight in kilos. Here, we’ve taken someone who weighs 70 kilos. Per hour, that person would burn 315 calories doing the flamenco, 350 calories rehearsing a ballet routine, and 546 dancing in a disco.

Singing alone and in groups could make you happier

Young woman singing karaoke
Luckily, singing can improve your health regardless of whether or not you're in tune.

Various studies have suggested that singing could potentially lower stress and make you feel happier (although, depending on the quality, the same might not be said for the people around you). This is because it increases chemicals in your body such as oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins.

What's so good about these chemicals?

  • Oxytocin is sometimes called the ‘love hormone’, and increases the bond you feel with people.
  • Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that is released when basic human biological needs like eating food are satisfied. It’s also why you feel a shiver down your spine when you listen to music you like.
  • Endorphins are feelgood chemicals that account for feelings of pleasure. You also release endorphins when you eat chocolate and laugh.

Singing can boost your immune system

Women singing in a gospel choir
A moment's thought for how gross measuring other people's saliva must have been.

That’s right - the act of singing in a group might literally make your body stronger against diseases. A study in 2003 measured the saliva of a choir before and after singing, and saw an increase in antibodies after their rehearsal. Antibodies are proteins that attack germs that enter your body.

Singing might help you stop snoring

A man snoring in the back of his car with his children
Some snoring can reach as loud as 100 decibels - that's as loud as a chainsaw!

There is evidence to suggest that, because singing tones the muscles in your airways, it might also help you stop snoring. It’s time to send your noisy relative to singing lessons!

Playing an instrument keeps your brain in shape

A boy playing a flute
The earliest known musical instruments were flutes. They were made of bird bones and mammoth ivory, and between 42,000-43,000 years old.

Playing musical instruments can improve lots of things, such as your memory, hand-eye coordination, and your ability to track different voices. It also changes the way your brain sees your body, as you learn to use parts of your body in a new way. Depending on your skill level though, it can also have the added effect of annoying your family and friends.

What is harmony?
How does music make you feel?
Why is a healthy lifestyle important?