Two Fit: Sing your heart out for better health

  • Fitness
  • Friday, 30 Mar 2018

Remember him? William Hung had guts to sing off-key but he probably derived a lot of health benefits from singing. -- AP

When Pharrell Williams launched into song with, “It might seem crazy what I’m ‘bout to say, sunshine, she’s here, you can take a break...”, he was one happy man.

His Happy tune was so infectious that it led to thousands of people uploading on YouTube their version of happiness while miming the song.

Whether you’re singing in the bathroom, karaoke lounge or with your pub mates in drunken harmony (bet you’re doing this, dearest editor), in tune or off pitch, in darkness or in sunlight, singing offers plenty of health benefits.

You don’t need a good voice or musical talent (think William Hung with his interesting rendition of Ricky Martin’s She Bangs in American Idol more than a decade ago).

Singing familiar songs in a group can have a remarkably therapeutic effect on the way you feel – it’s an instant mood booster.

For people with mild or moderate mental problems, the value of singing is undisputed as it soothes the nerves and elevates the spirit.

We’re not talking about humming or singing lullabies to your child. This is singing a little louder so that you’re forced to inhale deeper to give the lungs a bit of a workout.

Since singing requires one to follow specific breathing patterns, it’s similar to yoga. As you need to take slower, bigger breaths, your heart rate typically begins to slow down.

Both yoga and singing are thought to help improve what’s known as heart rate variability, or the amount of variation in the time intervals between heartbeats.

It’s one of the most important measures of the efficiency and performance of your cardiovascular health.

Singing, mental health, heart health, posture, group singing,
When you are singing, standing up straight is an important part of the correct technique to project the voice; it also contributes to good posture. Photo: Filepic

Singing can also improve your self-esteem and confidence, reduce stress and lighten your mood.

Other benefits include improved breathing, better memory, feeling more alert and generally being more positive.

“When you sing, musical vibrations move through you, altering your physical and emotional landscape.

"Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all.

"It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and comes back as something even more thrilling: harmony,” says Stacy Horn, the founder of the social network Echo and the author of Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others.

In a 2016 study published in ecancermedicalscience, the open access cancer journal founded by the European Institute of Oncology, researchers tested saliva samples from a group of cancer patients and found higher levels of certain immune system molecules called cytokines after an hour of choir singing, plus lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

While the study authors say more research is needed to determine what kind of lasting effects regular singing could have on patients’ health, the study indicates singing could actually change the immune system.

Also, people tend not to slouch when they sing, so it can improve your posture.

When you are singing, standing up straight is an important part of the correct technique to project the voice. Thus, after a period of time, good posture will become a habit and you end up walking tall all the time.

Besides, with this posture, your chest cavity will expand while your back and shoulders will align naturally, contributing to your confident look.

But don’t just stick to sappy love songs, try some upbeat tunes, because singing can make you happy.

Remember him? William Hung had guts to sing off-key but he probably derived a lot of health benefits from singing. — AP
'American Idol' wannabe William Hung had guts to sing off-key but he probably derived a lot of health benefits from singing. Photo: AP

When we’re feeling down, the tendency is to gravitate towards slower, emotional, sad numbers. We never want to listen to groovy numbers at this time.

Suddenly, the lyrics take on a new meaning and we wallow in misery. Then we feel more depressed afterwards.

Some people actually like dwelling on this!

Why not resist temptation and put on an upbeat number when you’re feeling the blues?

I regularly attend Zumba classes with a popular instructor, who’s quite a character. The good-looking dude moves and teaches incredibly well, but his singing – well, it needs some work.

At the end of class, the cool down song played depends on his mood.

If he has suffered a break-up, it’s always a heartbreak song such as Britney Spears Everytime (for months!); if he is brimming with positivity, then it could be Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World; if he quarrelled with his partner, then it’s usually Time After Time.

Nowadays, it’s This Is Me from The Greatest Showman.

Yes, in short, the final song reflects what he is feeling, and we all “share” his emotions and start singing together.

Never mind that we make up an unsynchronised choir of sweaty bodies, but inevitably, everyone walks out from the studio on a high. Our moods are lifted.

As one student joked last week, “Hey, all your singing and not hitting the right pitch is giving me sudden leg cramps at night!

“I thought exercise was supposed to make me healthier, but don’t tell me I need to see a doctor for this problem?”

His answer, “It’s my class. I’ll sing what I want and how I want!”

And he continued singing, failing to hit the high notes every time. Endearingly, nevertheless.

Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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