At 95 years old, the American jazz legend Tony Bennett - known for swinging hits like "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" and "The Best Is Yet To Come" - has been charming generations of listeners and audiences for close to seven whole decades, having recently shattered a Guinness World Record by becoming the oldest person to release an album of new material.
Music can bring about intense, measurable physiological changes. At Feed.fm, we talk a lot about music’s ability to get you through the tough parts of a workout through psychological and physiological stimulation. Because we are often focused on music’s impact on exercise, we tend to gravitate to its profound impact on endurance (music increases by 15%!) and perceived exertion (music decreases by 12%!). But we know that music also has the power to decrease arousal and bring heart rate, blood pressure and even body temperature down. For this post, I’ll be exploring the ability of music to down-regulate key body measurements and how it can help heal.
“[Music] brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” — Neurologist & Musicophilia author Oliver Sacks
Anecdotal instances of music being “therapeutic” can be pointed to by most people. In one way or another, music has impacted our lives - almost everyone we know has had moments where the right song at the right time has improved a mood, helped repair a relationship, or even uncovered an insight that helped shape our personalities.
At Feed.fm, we’ve published a plethora of content on how music can affect fitness outcomes. Music makes runners feel less tired while enabling them to run faster and more intensely; music can nearly double the amount of time people spend at the gym; music can help people set world records in major Olympic events.
“Music is an important part of our physical and emotional well-being, ever since we were babies in our mother’s womb listening to her heartbeat and breathing rhythms.” -- Franz Wendtner, Clinical Psychologist, University (General) Hospital Salzburg
It’s an intuitive, increasingly acknowledged fact that music is a powerful motivational tool. Perhaps you play music in the morning to help you wake up, enlist the radio when driving to help stay focused and alert, or listen to music during your workouts. Over the past half-century, countless studies have shown the positive correlation between music and activities as diverse as exercise and shopping. Music’s ability to help us perform better and “stick it out” is a behavioral result.
What’s lesser known: music can also deliver long-term physiological results, re-wiring our brains in a process known as neuroplasticity. Neuroscientists offer the following shorthand for this re-wiring phenomenon: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Research has shown music’s ability to increase neuroplasticity, and there are many innovative, music-powered solutions to age-old medical problems that affect all of us.
Every day we come across new evidence-based reasons to integrate music into our lives. At Feed.fm we’ve spent much of this year working closely with fitness companies to help them improve workouts with music. There is a great body (pun intended!) of work that illustrates the many ways music positively impacts physical exertion, a few key points here. Much of this work is focused on athletes and healthy adults, but what about music’s impact on healing? Musical interventions can play a huge role in health care, from operation rooms to rehab centers to in-home recovery scenarios.
There is so much incredible science emerging around the positive impact of music on ailments and healing, so we decided to narrow it down to our top 5 favorites for now.1) Music is better than drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery
In over 15 studies, researchers were able to prove a drop in cortisol (stress hormone) after listening to relaxing music. One study even compared patients who listened to music directly with patients who took a Valium. Believe it or not, music wins!