Erica and Tina Campbell, also known as musical duo Mary Mary, have been singing their hearts out for years. The Grammy Award-winning duo share a deep passion for singing gospel—but what they may not realize is that medical research has uncovered various health benefits for belting out a tune. And there’s even better news for those of us who like to perform a concert in the shower—these perks have a greater impact on amateur singers.
“That’s because professional singers are seeking perfection, unlike those who are singing for fun,” says Dr. Michael F. Roizen, M.D., Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic.
Below are five proven ways on how singing can supercharge your health.
Singing boosts the immune system.
Looking to fight a winter cold? Take some Vitamin C and join your friends for a night of karaoke! Scientists from the University of Frankfurt in Germany tested the blood levels of choir members before and after their one-hour rehearsal. And they discovered that the singer’s blood levels showed an increase in both immunoglobin A (which are proteins in the immune system that serve as antibodies) and hydrocortisone (otherwise known as an anti-stress hormone).
Singing improves heart health.
Who needs the stair master? Professor Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, has studied the physical and psychological benefits of singing for over 30 years. As quoted by the Heart Research UK (formerly known as the National Heart Research Fund), Welch believes that singing “is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting.”
Singing lowers blood pressure.
The next time your nerves get the best of you, just start singing a duet with your favorite pop star! Dr. Roizen referred to a study that was published last year in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research. Doctors reported that singing reduced the blood pressure of a patient who had experienced preoperative hypertension prior to having total knee replacement surgery. Just minutes before going under the knife, the patient had a blood pressure reading of 240/120 mm Hg—but after singing two of her favorite religious songs, her blood pressure had lowered to 180/90 mm Hg. And after 20 minutes of continuous signing, her blood pressure remained steady for several hours.
Singing reduces stress.
A two-year study conducted at Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom studied two groups of people, ages 60 and older, over the course of three months. The professors controlling the study instructed only one group to sing in weekly sessions. The results: singers received “significantly reduced anxiety and depression scores” on their mental health survey compared to the non-singers.
Singing makes you happier.
If you find yourself smiling while singing along with Lady Gaga or Carrie Underwood, you’re not alone. Six professors in England surveyed over 600 choral singers and their were published in the Journal of Applied Arts and Health. When the choir members were asked how singing made them feel, their common response—which ranked at 76%—was “helps makes me a happier person.”
“We do know that signing changes the way your brain functions by releasing certain hormones,” explains Dr. Roizen, who admits to singing along with The Jersey Boys while driving alone in his car. “It provides a feel-good effect similar to having feelings of gratitude or saying ‘thank you.'”