New Castle News

June 27, 2013

Go ahead, sing. Studies show it can improve your health

Lori Brothers
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE —

One of the benefits I gained by following a regular yoga practice is that I have become a better singer.

However, because I teach evening classes I’m sad to say, my schedule limits my ability to join a choir. This is unfortunate.

I admit that there may be critics who could argue my claim of enhanced song, but I don’t see anyone covering their ears.

The regular stretching from yoga improves the flexibility of my shoulders, and front and back of my neck. The regular breathing practice maintains the strength of my diaphragm. Singing a song is like doing several big, long exhales. So the better your lung capacity, the better your crooning will be.

The interesting thing is that studies have shown that singing actually can alleviate stress, decrease your blood pressure and lower your heart rate. So go ahead, keep singing in the shower.

In one study, over a three-year period, a group of singers, ages 55 and over, were followed and examined to see how singing affected their health.

The Seniors Singing Chorale, at the Levine School of Music in Washington D.C., showed “significant health improvements compared to those in the control groups,” according to the study.

In the three years, there were 30 fewer doctor visits, fewer eyesight problems, less depression and less need for medication.

Participants reported feeling better both in daily life and while singing, and noticed that their voice quality was improved. They also noticed they could breathe easier and had better posture.

Another finding is that using your diaphragm to sing is a good way to promote a healthy lymphatic system, which in turn promotes a healthy immune system.

The lymph system keeps toxins moving along. So don’t be shy, belt out those show tunes — “When the red, red robin goes bob, bob, bobbin’ along” might actually keep the red blood cells prevalent, and the white blood cells ready for strong defense.

By the way, if you are shy, singing will actually bring you out of your shell. Singing can be a confidence booster and is a great release. So if you’re stressing, or feeling a little down, you may want to sing the blues. There’s a good chance that’s why the blues style of music was created — it just helps you feel better to sing.

Singing develops a different intonation in your voice and puts extra emphasis, such as in crescendo, which can affect your mood differently than when you are talking. You may actually be stirring up the “feel good” hormones just by singing along with the radio.

Singing also is being applied as therapy for people who have been traumatized. Great physical or psychological pain can be relieved by blocking a lot of the neural pathways that pain travels through, through singing, according to Dr. Patricia Preston-Roberts, a board-certified music therapist in New York City.

It is a scientific fact that a different area of the brain is used for singing than for speaking. Research is now studying the “feel good” affect of singing for people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or memory problems.

Initial results indicate that singing does have beneficial effects on cognitive powers, emotions and physical abilities for this population as well.

(Lori Brothers is the director of The Dean Ornish Program For Reversing Heart Disease at Jameson Hospital, www.jamesonhealth. org/ornish).

Honey Mustard Veggie Sandwich

Serve with baked chips if desired.  (Serves 2)

4 slices rye or whole wheat bread

8 slices cucumbers

4 thick slices large ripe tomato

2 thin slices red onion

1/2 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Alfalfa sprout (optional)

4 teaspoons honey mustard

2 leaves green leaf lettuce

 

Lightly toast bread.

Toss avocado slices with a tiny bit of lemon juice to keep from turning brown.

Spread some of the honey mustard on the bread. Place lettuce on bread, followed by tomato slices, cucumbers, red onion, and avocado slices.

Drizzle remaining honey mustard over the vegetables.

Top with sprouts and close up sandwich, securing with a toothpick.

Note: To make your own honey mustard, combine honey and prepared yellow mustard together to taste.