We are often reminded of the need for regular trips to the gym to maintain a healthy lifestyle but it is worth considering some of the less obvious activities which can make a positive contribution towards our mental and physical wellbeing.
Singing is one such hobby which is growing in popularity and boasts a range of health benefits – as well as being seriously good fun.
Over the years, scientists have found that crooning has a number of health benefits. Swedish researchers showed that regular singing can train our lungs to breathe better; similarly, a study at Cardiff University in 2012 found that lung cancer patients who sang in a choir had a greater expiratory capacity than those who didn’t.
Singing has also been shown to boost our immune system, reduce stress levels and, according to a report published in the Journal of Music Therapy in 2004, help patients cope with chronic pain.
Choral singing has also been used as music therapy in hospitals, care homes and hospices for decades. Parkinson’s UK which supports people living with Parkinson’s Disease and their families run a number of choirs across the country. Studies have shown that singing, along with other social and creative activities, can improve quality of life for people with Parkinson's.
These health benefits, along with the popularity of TV choir maestro Gareth Malone, have led to an increase in choir participation in the UK.
There are now more than 3,500 choir groups listed on the British Choirs on the Net website. In fact, the biggest choir group in the UK – Rock Choir – has over 16,000 members meeting weekly across 250 communities nationwide.
Surrey Rock Choir leader Tom George says singing helps to take his members’ minds off physical and mental illnesses:
“We receive many emails from members telling us how Rock Choir has helped them. People recovering from depression, arthritis, surgery, dealing with the effects of cancer and many other ailments find it a real tonic and have even suggested it should be prescribed on the NHS.”
So if you fancy improving your health by trying out a different hobby – maybe try brushing up on your arias.
The information in these pages is intended as general advice only. If you or your family members require medical advice or have any medical concerns, please contact your GP.