How can music have a positive impact on our physical health?

You don’t need to be inspector Clouseau to notice that music and physical health can often be seen hand in hand. Drop by your local gym or notice your next door neighbours exercise distraction as he aims to beat his 1 mile PB. Most will be paired to their music for the duration of the regime. In our last health article we asked if music is beneficial to your mental health, here we explore if it can have a positive impact on your physical health. So, in the words of the late great Olivia Newton John, Let’s get physical…

Music has long been recognised as being beneficial to both mental and physical health, with evidence to suggest that even as far back as the Ancient Greeks. Even Pythagoras himself was known to use musical modes and scales to cure ailments. And more recently, many tribal cultures are known to use music as form of medicine as found by Merriam, A.P 1964.

While it brings all the incredible benefits we highlighted in our mental health blog, like elevate mood, relieve depression symptoms and stimulate memories, it is also shown to improve blood flow, ease pain, improve exercise tolerance and help with healthier eating habits.

Musical therapies began being recognised following the first and second World Wars, where trained musicians performed in hospitals and it was found that patients showed positive physical and emotional responses. The medical fields of today are relative newbies by comparison. That said, Powell, 2017 highlights that over the last 70 years, scientists have been researching the benefits of music on both our brains and bodies. According to Bradt & Dileo, 2009 listening to music can reduce the heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety in heart disease patients while Rebecchini, 2021 points out it can be useful in boosting our immunity.

It's all in the Hormones

So, how does it do these things? Well in short, it’s all to do with hormone production. As your high school Biology teacher will confirm, the body is made up of around 70% water, but slushing around beside it is a number of chemicals and hormones which help keep our bodies in balance. Music has been shown to affect the production of certain hormones, depending on what type of music you are listening to.  It has been found that calming relaxing music decreases cortisol (the stress production hormone) whilst boosting serotonin and endorphin levels which helps to reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and relieves tension. On the other hand faster higher tempo music can achieve the opposite effect.

OK, but what does this mean?

Ever taken a long drive in the dead of night after a hard day grafting? Then you’ll know that cranking up the tunes and winding the window down not only has a devastating effect on that slick hair style, but it also helps wake you up and improve concentration. Studies show that music can help reduce brain fatigue and improve muscle endurance when you are performing repetitive tasks. In short, music helps divert your brain from the feelings of fatigue.

Cranking up your music and winding the window down when driving can help improve concentration.

tired driving music

Music is exercise

You might be the type of person that jumps out of bed in the morning and find yourself in a spin class before the sun has even had the chance to splash on the front lawn or maybe you prefer to end your day by bench pressing the weight of a Vintage Fifteen. Either way it’s likely you do it to some of your favourite “get up and go” tunes. Most athletes or exercise enthusiasts will tell you that listening to their favourite sounds helps them get through their workout and there is good reason for it too, research has shown that it not only reduces their perception of fatigue but helps their bodies work more effectively too.

Sports scientists at Brunel University in the UK, a world-leading research hub on music for athleticism, have demonstrated that music can reduce your rate of perceived effort by 12% and improve your endurance by 15%.

Source: © The Health Sciences Academy ®. All Rights Reserved.

There are 2 main ways athletes use music to improve their performance. Synchronous music and pre task music.

Synchronous Music

Synchronous Music is where they use the beat or tempo of the music when performing repetitive movements such as long-distance running. Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebreselassie used this method in 1998 by syncing his stride to the rhythmical pop tune Scatman, and it worked as it resulted in him smashing the indoor 2000m record. We’re not suggesting if you listen to Scatman it guarantees you will be hanging a gold from your neck at the next Olympics, but by using this method in your exercise endeavours, it has been known to help extend exercise endurance.

Pre Task Music

You might notice athletes listening to music before they perform. Think of the olympic swimmers that get themselves “in the zone” before they perform that final 50m swim, the one they have trained for over 4 years to be a part of. That’s Pre Task Music. The swimmer strolls to the blocks, visualising swimming that last 50 flawlessly while listening to a purposely chosen playlist. It is thought this can influence the outcome due to the promotion of increased energy flow and a calm and decisive state of mind that compliments the physical preparation of the athlete.

Bench Press Gym

Music and food

Low level background music and ambient lighting are not only helpful to let you relax, unwind and catch up with your friends, it is known to help people to slow down when eating and thus allow them to acknowledge when they actually feel full, reducing their calorie intake. Research has also shown that the type of music played in restaurants and bars can influence our food and drink choices. Fast music by comparison can make people eat and move faster through restaurants.

One UK supermarket brand conducted in-store research to prove the efficacy of music has on our purchases. The results were conclusive, showing a 70% increase in purchases of French wine if French music was played and around the same in favour of German wines when the background music was changed to a German alternative. When asked in a subsequent survey, around 50% of people could identify that the music played in store had made them think of the country where the wine originated, but only 1 person recognised that the music had explicitly impacted their choice.

Makes you wonder how much we are subconsciously affected by the stimuli surrounding us!

Low level background music and ambient lighting can influence decisions in restaurants.

Restaurant music

Music therapy

There are thought to be around 1.6 million people per year who access music as a therapy and around 26,000 therapists in the USA alone. Music therapy has been shown to effectively heighten pain tolerance, tension and improve heart rate and blood pressure according to a study by Hoffer, Avirett, Bocharski & Da Costa, 2022. While in palliative care, post operatively and in geriatric medicine, music has been known to help with the perception of pain. Over 97 studies into pain and music have shown it can help both acute and chronic pain better than medicine alone.

Wrapping up

So there you have it, music is good for us mentally and physically, but of course this only as good as the system you use. A poor quality system could potentially have negative mental or physical effects on some people. And that’s why here at Fyne Audio, our aim is to manufacture the highest quality speakers, with the purist sound at the best possible value.

Now, if that doesn’t give you some good reasons to dust off your exercise bike and dig out your favourite 90’s jazz scatting, rap, and house beats, we do not know what will!

Happy listening.

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