If you’re looking for a quick-fix that will ease anxiety, boost immunity and even shed excess weight, you may be surprised to learn that there’s one thing that can do it all in just 15 minutes a day — music! It’s been shown to decrease blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate all via its ability to reduce cortisol and raise our natural pain-fighting compounds known as endorphins. For more info, here are just a handful of music’s many proven benefits.
1. Music can ease anxiety levels
When your heart is racing and you can’t seem to slow things down, a flip of the switch on your MP3 player may make all the difference according to a 2011 Drexel University study. Researchers gathered data from 1,891 cancer patients who took part in 13 trials that used music therapists and 17 trials that used pre-recorded music. Compared to standard treatments, music was associated with a considerable reduction in anxiety, along with benefits in mood, pain, heart and respiratory rates, and blood pressure. Obviously the music of choice makes a difference, since heavy metal tunes won’t cut your anxiety quite like classical or spa-like music, but it’s worth trying a few options out the next time you are on iTunes.
Bottom line: If your ideal heart rate is 60-75 beats per minute, you’ll want to choose a tune that mimics that tempo. It’s not too different from putting on a lullaby to soothe a crying baby.
2. Music helps support blood vessel function
Music has shown numerous benefits for heart health in patients with heart disease or those battling high blood pressure and related risk factors. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that the emotions aroused by joyful music have a healthy effect on blood vessel function. On the opposite side of the spectrum, when study volunteers listened to music they perceived as stressful, their blood vessels narrowed, producing a potentially unhealthy response that reduces blood flow. This is certainly good news if you have a liking for pop music!
3. Use music to boost your immunity
A Michigan State University team showed that even 15 minutes of exposure to music increases interleukin-1 levels — a compound that heightens our immunity.
Meanwhile, scientists in Florida found that patients who listened to 20 minutes a day of classical music had a 50 percent (or more) reduction in osteoarthritic pain in just 14 days.
Classical music rhythms mimic the average resting heart — approximately 70 beats per minute — and this soothing sound actually helps slow fast-beating hearts.
4. Workout harder, and longer, with the right music
Research from Brunel University in England shows that fast-paced music enhanced runners’ aerobic endurance and drive. Music during your workouts can increase your motivation and improve your performance especially if you match the tempo to your workout. Music can make you work harder without realizing it, offering a welcome distraction from the discomfort of physical exertion and cause your workout to pass by quicker.
Bottom line: Try a yoga class that plays modern music so you can sing along, and ensure your playlist is set before going for a run/walk so you don’t have to constantly fiddle with your device.
5. Turn on music to boost your serotonin levels
Crank up your tunes just for fun or when you feel you need a stress release or mood boost. Even better – dance! It will raise endorphins and serotonin and balance-out the sympathetic nervous system by lowering cortisol and dopamine. A study published in The International Journal of Neuroscience proved that 12 weeks of dance sessions raised serotonin and lowered dopamine levels. Moving to your favorite tunes is an awesome way to beat those sugar or carb cravings and boost your motivation.
6. Music can keep your workouts consistent
Music doesn’t only make your workouts more bearable or enjoyable — a study from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that listening to music while exercising boosts weight loss results. Researchers found that even after six months the music-listening group adhered more closely to the walking program (98 percent adherent) than the non-music group (only 68 percent adherent). Moreover, participants in the music group lost an average of 16 pounds and 4 percent of their body fat, while their tune-free counterparts lost only half of that.
To capitalize the effects of music on your health try these simple tips:
1. Listen to music during your workouts. Pick up beat tempos to help you work harder and maximize your fitness results.
2. Play soothing music in your car to reduce tension, anxiety or pain. Combine chilled-out music with 15 minutes of down time at the end of your day. You will be amazed at how well this reduces cortisol levels – even in the midst of traffic.
3. Listen to music for an added mood and pain reducing boost when you go out in the morning for your daily dose of sunshine.
Leave your comments below with your favourite playlist suggestions for winding down at night or kicking it up a notch in the gym.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is available across Canada. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.