Music offers positive health effects

Published 11:29 pm Thursday, March 28, 2013

Coming from a musical family, and playing an instrument myself, have both given me a deep appreciation and love of music.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that most everyone enjoys some type of music, but did you know music can be beneficial to your health? That’s right.
In fact the New York Academy of Sciences has conducted studies on music’s positive effects on health and immunity. And how music is processed by the brain. This growing field of using music to affect the body, is known as “music therapy,” and has been used to manage pain, calm patients and even fight depression. Music has a direct effect on brain activity.

Research has shown that music with a strong beat actually stimulates brain waves to resonate with the beat. Faster beats bring sharper concentration and more alert thinking. Music with lower tempos tends to promote more calming effects on the brain. It has been shown that those listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, performed better on cognitive tests.

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Also, it seems  music recitation enhances memory by activating neural networks in the brain in a more united and optimal fashion. I think most of us understand the strong link between music and emotions, but there’s also a strong relationship between music and language.

Humans aren’t the only ones using music in communication. Dolphins and whales make somewhat melodious sounds in an attempt to mimic and communicate with each other, and of course there are song birds. In fact, in the forests of southeastern Australia lives a bird called the Superb Lyrebird. This bird has the largest repertoire of any song bird in the world, and when displaying its mating call puts together a collage of all song birds living around it.

Another effect on the body from music is the release of endorphins. Endorphins are small protein molecules produced by the nervous system.
These molecules work with sedative receptors in the brain. Endorphins are also, responsible for the “runner’s high” you get after running, or weight lifting. In fact the word endorphin comes from the two words “endogenous” and “morphine.” So music can truly give you a legal “high.” Endorphins are also, believed to boost the immune system, reduce symptoms associated with eating disorders, and activate human NK (natural killer) cells to help fight cancers.

Music has also been found to lower blood pressure, which can also reduce risk for heart attack and stroke. Changes in the “autonomic” nervous system, such as breathing and heart rate can also be altered by music.

This creates a “relaxation response,” which can counteract damaging effects of chronic stress. My advice is explore all types of music. I personally enjoy everything from rock and roll, to classical, to country and gospel. Make music part of your life and enjoy the rewards.

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David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 26 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC-Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team and the Converse college equestrian team. He serve as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency and taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.