“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley
Medical researchers have proven that the music legend was ahead of his time when he linked music and health. In fact, we now know that music transcends entertainment and holds great medical power-from reducing pain to boosting memory. Here are some of the most common benefits of music:
- Reduces Stress – Listening to music triggers a biochemical response in most people that reduces stress. It’s commonly used as a tool to reduce anxiety in cancer patients. Music has even been used to help relax Parkinson’s patients during surgery where they are required to stay awake because it slows the neuronal firings deep within the brain, significantly decreasing stress and trauma. However, the choice of music is important since certain songs can trigger negative emotional responses.
- Eases Pain – Slow musical beats can alter brainwave speed to create a meditative or hypnotic state. Some research suggests that using rhythmic stimuli to induce these states can have a therapeutic effect, easing symptoms of migraines, PMS and even behavioral issues.
- Soothes Babies – While lullabies have long been played around the world, they have a very special place in neonatal intensive care units where they have shown to improve heart rates and breathing. In fact, babies exposed to music often have better feeding and sleep patterns.
- Boosts Cognitive Abilities – Background music may enhance performance on cognitive tasks, and is even believed to improve the ability of test takers to answer more questions correctly. However, the music choice must be appropriate to the situation. Additionally, researchers in Hong Kong believe there’s a link between the amount of music training a child receives and their verbal memory.
- Protects the Aging Brain – As a person ages, having musical training is believed to protect mental sharpness. Researchers found that people who had the most musical training during their lives had the best mental sharpness and scored highest on brain functioning tests. And it’s never too late to begin. A study of adults ages 60 to 85 demonstrated that after six months, those who received piano lessons showed more robust gains in memory, verbal fluency, planning ability and other cognitive functions, compared to those who did not receive lessons.
- Improves Exercise Performance – Music is one of the best distractions while exercising, often boosting performance by 15 percent. Many people say their favorite music helps put them “in the zone” and maintain a certain pace. When choosing music, however, it shouldn’t be too fast. Songs that have between 120 and 140 beats per minute generally have the maximum effect for most people.
While the mental and physical benefits of music vary from person to person, research has proven its benefits. So the next time you’re thinking about making positive health changes, an effective prescription might be found in your music collection. So go ahead and turn up the tunes!