The Health Benefits of Music

Article posted in: Lifestyle
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“Music is a moral law,” Plato wrote. “It gives soul to the universe, wings to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything else.”

Much has changed since Plato’s days in 300 B.C.E.—including the music he so fondly spoke of. But the power music has upon the health of those who listen is nothing short of remarkable. Science is now showing that the power of music is real and may provide many health benefits. Find out how simply listening to a song relates to your healthy lifestyle and weight loss journey.

Stress & Mood

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Think you need medicine for pain, depression or anxiety? Maybe a little music is just what the doctor ordered. Research tell us that listening to some tunes may enhance brain function, lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce stress and inflammation, says Harvard Health.

Numerous studies back up the data. According to Harvard Health, a Wisconsin study had 45 heart attack patients listen to classical songs while recovering in intensive care. Those lucky enough to be serenaded experienced a drop in heart rate, breathing rate and heart-oxygen demand. These benefits lingered for more than an hour afterwards.

According to Brunel University London, a review comprised of 73 studies and around 7,000 patients found that those who listened to music felt less pain and anxiety post-surgery than those who did not. They were also less likely to need pain medication during recovery. Medical News Today explains that this may be because music causes the release of opioids (the brain’s natural pain relievers).

Even infants seem to be positively affected by songs. A study, published in the journal Infancy, discovered that music keeps babies calm longer than speech, says Medical News Today. This remains true even when they are being spoken to in baby talk. Researchers added that parents—especially those who struggle emotionally—may also benefit from playing or singing songs.

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Exercise & Motivation

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So, why have officials in the Boston marathon been unable to ban personal listening devices? Because runners (and most people who exercise) seem to believe music fuels their workout. There’s also some evidence to corroborate the idea.

The faster the music, the harder we work, suggests research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. In a study, a dozen male students listened to a program of six popular tracks (with different tempos) while cycling. When the tempo was fast, overall distance, power and pedal cadence increased. Further, the participants indicated that the songs were more enjoyable when they were fast, suggesting a positive correlation between activity and tempo.

Music also has the power to distract us when we exercise, helping us get that extra mile without thinking about it, says data published in the International Journal of Obesity. Obese adolescents ran significantly longer when they were distracted by music and seemed to experience less symptoms of exertion.

After working out, you should listen to music to recover and maximize the effort of your hard work. A study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that 20 to 30 minutes of slow, meditative music reduces cortisol levels in the body faster than fast music. Researchers explain that “slow, sedative music can expedite the recovery process immediately after strenuous exercise.”

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Diet & Nutrition

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Yes, even music can impact how much food we eat, how much we enjoy a meal and how long we sit at the table. A 2011 study, published in Journal of Culinary Science and Technology, found that playing tunes at a “comfortable” volume (in addition to ambient noise) increases dining pleasure, the likelihood of the diner returning and overall satisfaction. Absence of music or playing it “too loud” lead to opposite behavior patterns.

Results published in a November 2006 issue of Appetite yielded similar findings. Researchers asked 78 college students to record food intake and environmental factors, such as meal duration, music and location. The data showed that the presence of music was associated with higher food intake, higher fluid intake and longer meal duration.

So, what does that mean for weight loss? If you tend to listen to music or are otherwise distracted while you eat, try some old-fashioned silence. The change may make you more aware of the food you eat and how your body feels—whether full or still hungry. The absence of music while enjoying a meal can help you be more mindful and prevent overeating. If you’re trying to drop pounds and get healthier, this may also help you reach your goals.

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