Music for Life – 10 Ways Music Benefits Physical Health
Updated: May 15, 2019
Music is recognized as a life-affirming activity around the world. Historically, priests, shamans, and medicine men and women used music, especially the voice and drumming, as a way to treat and heal physical, mental, and spiritual illness. The fields of Music Therapy and Sound Healing have grown exponentially in recent years as current psychological and medical research shows how music positively affects our physical and intellectual wellness, as well as our emotional and mental health.
Studying music as a child reaps rewards for students throughout their lives. Music education has repeatedly been proven to be a crucial part of a well-rounded education. Students who study music perform better in ALL areas. Music is a mentally “global” activity. It is the only activity than stimulates the whole brain. Music works the mathematical, lingual, physical, emotional, and spatial parts of our brain. Watch this wonderful video from TED to see how this works.
“A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning.”
– Mary Luehrisen, Executive Director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM)
Those benefits don’t cease when a student leaves school. A recent study conducted at the University of Kansas Medical Center recruited 70 healthy older adults between the ages of 60 and 83, who were grouped based on their levels of previous musical experience, none, low (1-9 years of musical experiences,) and high (those with 10 or more years of previous musical experience.) The researchers measured the non-verbal memory, naming, and executive processes in all the participants. These brain functions are all known to deteriorate with aging. The musicians scored better on cognitive tests than those who had no previous musical training with the highly experienced musicians performing the best.
"Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging. Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older."
– Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, Head Researcher, University of Kansas Medical Center Study
While beginning an instrument at an elementary school age and singing at a middle school age is ideal, it is never too late to benefit from learning and practicing music. Suzanne Hanser, chair of the music therapy department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston points out, “Music making is linked to a number of health benefits for older adults.”
It may seem daunting to start something new as an adult. However, adults tend to progress more quickly than children due to their greater understanding of the abstract concepts behind music making. Sometimes adults will become frustrated and judge their progress more harshly than younger beginners. It is important to remember that learning music is like training for a marathon, and it is a process. The enjoyment that music brings is the most important part of the process at any age.
In this new blog series, we will explore the lasting benefits of music for student all-ages. As research shows how important the mind-body connection is two our overall wellness, a lot of the benefits of music are mutually beneficial to our emotional wellness, intellectual development, and physical health. For our first post, we will learn some of the physical benefits of a regular music practice.
Physical Benefits of Music