"One good thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain."
Judging from the quote above, Bob Marley was part poet, part scientist. That’s because there’s truth to his head-bobbing lyrics from the song Trenchtown Rock. Research suggests that music not only helps us cope with pain — it can also benefit our physical and mental health in numerous other ways. Read on to learn how listening to tunes can ramp up your health.
1. Ease pain. Music can meaningfully reduce the perceived intensity of pain, especially in geriatric care, intensive care, or palliative medicine (an area of healthcare that focuses on preventing and relieving the suffering of patients) Trappe, HJ. Medizinische Universitätsklinik II (Schwerpunkte Kardiologie und Angiologie), Ruhr-Universität Bochum Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift, 2009 Dec;134(51-52):2601-6.
2. Motivate people to bike harder. A study of healthy male college students found that, while riding stationary bicycles, the participants worked harder while listening to fast music . Waterhouse, J., Hudson, P. and Edwards, B. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 2010 Aug;20(4):662-9. Extra bonus: They also enjoyed the music more.
3. Improve running motivation and performance. Here’s an easy way to beat your best time if you’re a runner: Listen to your favorite “pump-up” music. may help people , boost their workout motivation, and . Snyder, KL, Snaterse, M., and Donelan, JM. Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Colorado, Boulder. Journal of Applied Physiology (1985), 2012 Apr;112(8):1239-47.
4. Increase workout endurance. Listening to those top workout tracks can boost physical performance and increase endurance during a tough exercise session . Karageorghis, CI, Mouzourides, DA, Priest, DL, et al. School of Sport and Education, Brunel University, UK. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2009 Feb;31(1):18-36. This works partly through the power of distraction: When we're focusing on a favorite album, we may not notice that we just ran an extra mile . De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Crombez, G., Deforche, B., et al. Ghent University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Ghent, Belgium. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 2002 Aug;26(8):1023-9.
5. Speed up post-workout recovery. One study found that listening to music after a workout can help the body recover faster . Savitha, D., Mallikarjuna, RN, and Rao, C. Department of Physiology, Narayana Medical College, Nellore. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 2010 Jan-Mar;54(1):32-6. While slow music produced a greater relaxation effect post-exercise, it seems that any kind of music can help the physical recovery process.
6. Improve sleep quality. Listening to classical music has been shown to effectively treat insomnia in college students, making it a safe, cheap alternative to sleep-inducing meds . Harmat, L., Takacs, J., and Bodizs, R. Semmelweis University, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Budapest, Hungary. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2008 May;62(3):327-35.
7. Help people eat less. One found that playing soft music (and dimming the lights) during a meal can help people slow down while eating and ultimately consume less food in one sitting (perhaps because slowing down helps them to be more mindful of fullness cues) . Drazen, DL and Woods, SC. Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Ohio. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 2003 Nov;6(6):621-9.
8. Enhance blood vessel function. Scientists have found that the emotions patients experience while listening to music have a . Music both made study participants feel happier and resulted in increased blood flow in their blood vessels.
9. Reduce stress. Research has found that listening to music can relieve stress by triggering biochemical stress reducers (think of these physiological processes as anti-stress ninjas) . Cervellin, G. and Lippi, G. U.O. Pronto Soccorso e Medicina d’Urgenza, Dipartimento di Emergenza-Urgenza, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Parma, Italy. European Journal of Internal Medicine, 2011 Aug;22(4):371-4.
10. Induce a meditative state. Listening to slow musical beats can , creating brainwave activity similar to when a person is meditating or in a hypnotic state. Some research suggests that using rhythmic stimuli (such as music) to induce these states can have a therapeutic effect, easing symptoms of migraines, PMS, and even behavioral issues . Huang, TL and Charyton, C. Transparent Corporation, Columbus, Ohio. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2008 Sep-Oct;14(5):38-50.
11. Relieve symptoms of depression. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, music can help pick you up (much like exercise) Trappe, HJ. Medizinische Universitätsklinik II (Schwerpunkte Kardiologie und Angiologie), Ruhr-Universität Bochum Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift, 2009 Dec;134(51-52):2601-6. Research suggests the kind of music matters: Classical and meditative sounds seem to be particularly uplifting, whereas heavy metal and techno can actually make depressive symptoms worse.
12. Elevate mood. A found that music helped put people in a better mood and get in touch with their feelings . Schafer, T., Sedlmeier, P. Stadtler, C., et al. Department of Psychology, Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany. Frontiers in Psychology, 2013 Aug 13;4:511. Study participants rated “arousal and mood regulation” and “self-awareness” as the two most important benefits of listening to music.
13. Improve cognitive performance. Background music may . Angel, LA, Poizella, DJ, Elvers, GC. University of Dayton, USA. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2010 Jun;110(3 Pt 2):1059-64. One older study found that listening to music allowed test takers to complete more questions in the time allotted, and get more answers right . Cockerton T., Moore S., et al. Middlesex University, Queensway, Ensfeld, England. Perceptual & Motor Skills Journal. 1997 Dec;85(3 Pt 2):1435-8.. More recent research suggests that whether or not music improves cognitive function depends on whether the music .
14. Help people perform better in high-pressure situations. Want to sink the game-winning shot when the pressure’s on? Listen to some upbeat tunes before the big game. found that basketball players prone to performing poorly under pressure during games were significantly better during high-pressure free-throw shooting if they first listened to catchy, upbeat music and lyrics.
15. Reduce anxiety as much as a massage. One study found that music’s effect on anxiety levels is similar to the effect of getting a massage . Sherman, KJ, Ludman, EJ, Cook, AJ, et al. Group Health Research Institute, Seattle, Washington. Depression and Anxiety, 2010 May;27(5):441-50. Here’s an idea: Treat yourself to a massage and bring your favorite chilled out tunes to play during the session. Double the relaxation!
16. Relax patients before surgery. One study found that listening to music helped put cardiovascular surgery patients at ease as they awaited their operations Trappe, HJ. Medizinische Universitätsklinik II (Schwerpunkte Kardiologie und Angiologie), Ruhr-Universität Bochum Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift, 2009 Dec;134(51-52):2601-6. That’s a major benefit for the nearly people who get heart surgery each year in the U.S.
17. Ease stress after surgery. Music isn’t only helpful pre-surgery. revealed that listening to music while resting in bed after open heart surgery helped relax patients and decrease their stress levels.
18. Elevate mood while driving. Listening to music while driving can positively impact mood . Van der Zwaag, MD, Dijksterhuis, C., de Waard, D., et al. Phillips Research Laboratories, High Tech Campus, the Netherlands. Ergonomics, 2012;55(1):12-22. So when you’re feeling cranky in the car, try cranking some of your favorite tunes.
19. Help cancer patients manage stress and anxiety. Music has been found to help cancer patients communicate their feelings, manage stress, and ease physical pain and discomfort . Richardson, MM, Babiak-Vazquez, AE, Frenkel, MA. Integrative Medicine Program, the University of Texas. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, 2008 Spring;6(2):76-81. It can also reduce anxiety and . Igawa-Silva, W., Wu, S., and Harrigan, R. Stanford University. Hawaii Medical Journal, 2007 Nov;66(11):292-5.
20. Ease recovery in stroke patients. Researchers in Finland concluded that when stroke patients listened to music for two hours a day, their and they had a more positive mood compared to patients who didn’t listen to music or who listened to audio books . Sarkamo, T. and Soto, D. Cognitive Brain Research Unite, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2012 Apr;1252:266-81.
Regardless of your taste in music, it’s clear that tunes benefit our health. The best part? Now you have an excuse for blaring Beethoven while your roommate is trying to study.
Second photo: Bigstock
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