Music has an intense power to elicit a vast range of feelings and emotions within us. It can make us feel elated, sad, inspired, energised and relaxed. It’s no wonder that music is also considered food for the soul. Listening to our favorite melodies can give us a natural high. It uplifts the spirit, makes us alert and improves our mood.
Music really does more than entertain us, or give us something to hum or sing along to. According to research done over the years, music keeps the body and mind healthy in a number of different ways. Musical activities such as listening to music and playing an instrument have been found to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, improve memory and concentration, help us manage stress and even give us a good night’s sleep. Let’s go over these in detail.
Musical activities provide a total brain workout
Studying an instrument or simply listening to different kinds of music stimulates the brain and gives it a good workout. To understand music lessons or to get the “feel” of a particular piece of music, the brain does a lot of really quick computing. Music keeps the brain active, slowing down the brain’s ageing process and delaying cognitive decline.
Studies have also demonstrated the role of music in enhancing the memory or individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s. In one study, patients with Alzheimer’s did better on memory tests when they listened to classical music.
Music helps manage stress
Listening to music you like, playing and/or singing your favourite song, and taking part in music therapy sessions are pleasurable experiences that can help in reducing anxiety and stress among older individuals.
Even a simple activity such as listening to your favourite artist or music genre can prevent increases in blood pressure and heart rate. It can also decrease levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. Music can really put you in a positive mood, which can help you manage stress.
Music gets you moving
Music also has the power to move us — literally. This is important especially for seniors, particularly those who tend to have a sedentary lifestyle. Music can accompany any form of exercise, even if it’s just walking on the treadmill. In one study, researchers found that listening to motivational synchronised music helped people exercise longer.
And even if you don’t have a structured workout routine, you can still get moving with music. Dancing along to music is good for your cardiovascular and respiratory health. It also increases your coordination and mobility and may even reduce pain and tension the more regularly you dance.
Music can also help guide movement. Researchers studying Parkinson’s disease observed that hearing drum beats or other slow and steady rhythms helps patients move in a more steady manner.
Those are the three main ways that music keeps the body and mind in tiptop shape. They cover the cognitive, emotional and physical aspects of health, and show how valuable music can be, not just for seniors but also for everybody. So keep listening, start learning, and get moving!
(Cover photo from: Manuel Iallonardi via Unsplash)
Ellie Mckinsey writes regularly about music-related themes and how you can benefit from listening and playing music. Ellie has been playing the guitar and piano since childhood and has been teaching guitar for the past few years. When not writing, Ellie enjoys the great outdoors and walking her dog, Max.