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Do you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)? If so, your doctor has likely prescribed medication or pulmonary rehabilitation to help you control the condition and improve your quality of life. But has your physician ever suggested singing?

A recent study published in the journal BMC Pulmonary Medicine investigated how singing might affect the health and lives of people with COPD. All participants in the small study had COPD. Some attended an hour-long singing lesson twice a week for eight weeks and were also encouraged to practice songs at home daily. Their results were compared with those of a control group in which participants attended a film class. Both groups benefited from the social interaction of group involvement. But some unique benefits were found in those who sang their way through the study.

Participants in the singing group reported physical improvements from regular singing. Specifically, they said they were more aware of their breathing and better able to control it.

Learning to Breathe

Singing requires breath control, which is important for people with COPD, because it helps combat shortness of breath. When we sing, we are actually performing breathing exercises. Singing also requires proper posture, which promotes deep breathing.

“When we make sound through singing or humming, we are able to extend our breath much longer. This expands the lungs and helps strengthen the diaphragm,” explains Barbara Reuer, Ph.D., MT-BC, executive director of the not-for-profit organization Resounding Joy. “Music motivates us to use our voice. It’s also a natural way we can soothe ourselves and find peace.”

Boosting Relaxation, Mood

People with chronic lung diseases like COPD are more prone to depression and anxiety. Plus, feeling stressed can make breathlessness much worse. As a result, finding ways to reduce stress and anxiety can make us feel better, both emotionally and physically. 

Study participants who engaged in regular singing classes reported improved moods and general well-being.

 “Singing often slows down breathing, which can help people relax,” says Reuer. “In addition, even just listening to music can have a powerful, positive effect on our well-being. Music uplifts and increases endorphins—it changes our whole energy.”

Singing Through Therapy

Experts do not suggest that singing should take the place of other therapies for COPD. Rather, singing can act as an adjunct therapy— something you do in addition to your regular care plan.  There is no risk to tuning in to your inner vocalist. And while additional studies are necessary to say for sure, there might just be a physical and emotional reward.

Key Takeaways

  • People with chronic lung diseases like COPD are more prone to depression and anxiety. Plus, feeling stressed can make breathlessness much worse. Finding ways to reduce stress and anxiety can make people feel better, both emotionally and physically.

  • A recent study published in the journal BMC Pulmonary Medicine investigated how singing might affect the health and lives of people with COPD.

  • Study participants who engaged in regular singing classes reported improved moods and general well-being.

Medical Reviewer: Williams, Robert, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug. 26, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2013 Healthgrades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Reference: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration section on Better Medicine