Singing: the new panacea

It’s the simple things in life that count, as the saying goes, and what could be simpler than opening your mouth to sing? And yet it seems we have been forgetting how. As part of its quest to make the British happy and wholesome, their government is spending £40m to get every primary-school pupil singing regularly. Just why it should take so much money to achieve something every teacher did as a matter of course a couple of generations ago is not clear. However, the funding seems to have had the desired effect. Choirs have become so fashionable that the BBC runs a contest called Last Choir Standing on Saturday night television. And this month a project called Sing The Nation organised a programme of group singing events around the country that culminated in a nationwide singalong on August 24 to mark the Olympic handover from Beijing to London.

Now health experts -- among them, heart researchers -- have jumped on the bandwagon and are extolling the benefits of singing. One university institution is trying to get the National Health Service to provide “singing on prescription”. The professor in charge says research done involving international choirs and over 12,000 people identified a number of benefits “including specific examples of people who say it helped them recover from strokes or heart attacks”.

Here is what the health boffins say about singing: it exercises major muscle groups in the upper body; it is an aerobic activity that improves the efficiency of your cardiovascular system and encourages you to take more oxygen into your body, leading to increased alertness. Other benefits are stress reduction, longevity and better overall health; better motor control and co-ordination, and better brain function.

Above all, there is the feel-good factor. Just enjoying yourself by warbling in the bathroom or (better, no doubt) singing in harmony with a choir, can save the health system lots of money. Says a professor of music education from London University: “There is currently a lot of interest in … how music in various forms can support a sense of being part of society and increase your self-esteem. A great deal of research is being done into music and medicine and how music can ameliorate pain.” So, whether its karaoke night or the church choir, go to it and lift your spirits. ~ Guardian (UK), August 26



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