The Health Benefits of Music
Music in the Womb
"Music has charms that soothe the savage beast" but can it heal the beast as well? Music can help you relax, and it can help you fall asleep...you would think that just these are healthful benefits. Let's take a closer look at music and it's effects on our health and well being and see what the actual health benefits of music really are.
It seems we can hear music while we are in the womb. Research varies on the results but the consensus seems to be it can relax a fetus and playing too much music can over-stimulate the fetus. Researchers vary greatly on the outcome of using music in the womb - to a newborn. Some say it causes them to be music lovers and better sleepers, others say it prepares them for the outside world while still others say it has no effect whatsoever. What does seem to be a fact is that music soothes the mother and a calm mother means a calm baby.
Music and Toddlers
What about after a baby is born? It has been said that music increases healthy sleep patterns. I don't think we need scientists or researchers to tell us that playing a nice lullaby at bedtime often helps a baby fall asleep. If that wasn't the case why would so many companies make toys with music box mechanisms in them? Take a look at a selection of baby toys and you'll notice tons with soothing music. Even the 'mobiles' that are hung on baby cribs or cradles have a small music box in them that plays some type of lullaby. Thousands, no millions of dollars of research goes into making these toys so you would think there must be something to it. If you have children of your own you must remember winding those little music boxes to keep baby happy as he/she fell asleep!
Have you ever seen a two year old dancing and singing? Not only is he having fun, but he's exercising his brain and expanding his learning power. There are some researchers that say music makes your child smarter but that hasn't been proven. What has been proven is that it opens up the brain to develop concentration and even self-confidence. What a wonderful thing to instill in your toddler. Come on, you can sing "Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck". Researchers have found that toddlers who listen to music have better math scores in school.
My two year old grandson's favorite video
Preschoolers to Adults
As we move to preschoolers we see that they can now sing the songs, its not just us singing. They can often keep a beat too. There are so many songs for preschoolers, catered to their interests and their minds as well. What about music videos? There are tons out there. Is this all just entertainment? Again researchers say that music at this time in your child's life helps to improve reading and math scores as well as coordination. Doesn't that make for a healthier child? Learning music is constant learning...new words, new thoughts, new patterns. What could be better for a child's mind?
Okay, we see the benefits but not all are totally health related up to this point in our lives. Children enter school and music in schools is a hotly debated item right now. With the lack of funding and budget cuts so many want to cut music but there are those out there fighting to keep it. Why? For so many of the reasons we have already listed. Not only can music help reading and math, what about self esteem? It seems children involved in music have higher self esteem and more confidence. Some students find a sense of belonging in their music group that they never felt anywhere else, to others its that confidence and new friendships. Music has also been tied to language learning. It seems students involved in music programs have better language skills and find it easier to learn a new language.
What happens as adults? One biggie, and one close to my heart as I age, music has shown to slow down, if not prevent, dementia in some. I have to admit the research says those that play an instrument and are actively learning have a better long term effect. (Guess I'm out again!)
However - I'm back in again, just as in babies, music can improve the sleep habits of adults. It can increase sleep quality and duration of sleep in older adults.
Health Benefits of Music
To look closer at the health benefits of music one of the not so well known areas is music therapy. What is music therapy? The American Music Therapy Association says;
"Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program."
Music Therapy can improve mental health as well as physical health. It is often used with stroke victims as well as people with special needs. Music therapy has been used for centuries but I'm not sure when it became recognized as a medical therapy. Music Therapy for depression. Four recent studies showed results while I fifth did not. Like any other studies there are always those that corroborate and those that refute. The relaxation music can induce shows that further studies are needed and this is not an area of music therapy to be taken lightly or cast aside.
Music therapy continues in schools, in hospitals and even in some psychiatric facilities.
So, we've run the gamut from the womb to adulthood. We've looked at the benefits of music and the uses of music therapy. Does any of this point out the health benefits of music? Music lifts us up and calms us down...healthy and beneficial. It can and often does provide an outlet for the expression of feelings. We know it calms us and can relieve anxiety.
Listening to your favorite music may also be good for your cardiovascular system according to a research team at the University of Maryland Medical Center. They say that joyful music has a healthy effect on blood vessel function causing tissues in the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate or expand in order to increase blood flow.
A University of Florence study showed a drop in blood pressure (mild high blood pressure) for those that listened to soothing music thirty minutes daily for four weeks.
Playing music for recovering stroke victims, in one study, saw a 60% increase over stroke victims who did not listen to music over a two month period. It seems music stimulates our brains and that has a good effect on our bodies. There are so many reasons why music is good for us it's no wonder there are so many health benefits attached to music.
One of the best things about music is, unlike drugs, there are no side effect of music. It doesn't give you diarrhea, it doesn't increase your appetite, it doesn't upset your stomach or cause a loss of appetite, it doesn't make you dizzy, it doesn't cause hives....you know the side effects you hear on TV about this drug or that...none of that is associated with music.
Are there health benefits to music? I would say there certainly are and will continue to listen to music as much as I can!
There have been studies that show people who have bypass surgery and have soft music played in their rooms need less pain medication than patients who don't have the music in their room!
Back to babies again, some hospitals play music in rooms for premature babies and have found they have faster weight gain than those who don't listen to music.
There's a growing field of healthcare known as music therapy which uses music to heal. (Music and Your Body: How Music Affects Us and Why Music Therapy Promotes Health, How and Why Is Music A Good Tool For Health? By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com Guide Updated October 27, 2011)