Health benefits of learning to play music

Learning to play an instrument can be an enjoyable experience. But, it's also so much more!

Studies have shown that Blue Monday – the third Monday in January – is the most gloomy day of the year. Still waiting for payday, bills mounting up and that post-Christmas malaise can get even the best of us feeling down in the dumps. So what’s the best way to combat Blue Monday? By playing the blues!

No, seriously! Here are some of the health benefits that come with learning to play music:

1) Increased lung capacity

If you're learning to play a brass or woodwind instrument, then your lung condition could improve! Playing an instrument provides exercise for the lungs, improving their capacity and strength.

You'll learn to control your breathing. Sometimes, you'll need to let all of your breath out very quickly. Other times, you'll need to take slow and sustained long breaths. All of this helps to strengthen your lungs and can be beneficial for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

2) Builds a stronger immune system

Interestingly, studies have shown that playing music can improve immune responses. This is because music stimulates the brain, and reduces the presence of stress hormones. If you're looking to avoid the common cold, maybe picking up a clarinet can help?

3) Provides physical exercise

Whatever instrument you might play, your body gets physical exercise. Whether you're strumming a guitar, playing the drums or pressing the keys of a piano, you're moving your body and engaging your muscles in ways that will strengthen your body.

Drummers, and really enthusiastic performers with any instrument, will benefit the most from cardio exercise. Playing music can get your heart racing, and might even support healthy weight management.

4) Improves your posture

Playing an instrument requires some control of your posture. Good posture, in turn, can help to reduce aches and pains. When playing any instrument, controlling your stance is key to producing great music.

Poor posture can lead to muscle pains, especially around the neck and back. As you learn to play music, you'll learn the importance of holding a straight-backed position.

5) Can lower your blood pressure

Playing music can lower your blood pressure, and reduce your heart rate. Studies have shown that slow and calming orchestral music has the most positive impact on heart health, and can even be used to reverse blood pressure problems at a pre-medication stage.

6) Trains your motor skills

Playing an instrument requires control of fine and gross motor skills. Developing motor skills is particularly beneficial during childhood.

Learning to play an instrument can help with so many other physical skills, from writing neatly to safely using kitchen utensils. In older people, maintaining those motor skills can help to reduce the risk of injury.

7) Limits your sedentary time

When people are bored and have nothing to do, they might reach for the TV remote. Then, it's easy to fall into the trap of binge-watching an entire TV series. Sitting on the sofa for hours or end is very bad for overall health. A sedentary lifestyle is harmful and may lead to long-term health issues.

If you play an instrument, you can pick it up when you've got half an hour to spare. Playing an instrument keeps your body moving, and reduces your time spent sitting still. Once you've finished playing, you're more likely to move onto something new. No more mindless channel surfing!

8) Can act as pain relief

Whilst you might not want to play a musical instrument if you're experiencing physical health issues, did you know that it can help? Focusing on playing music distracts your brain and positions your attention elsewhere. For people with chronic pain, playing music provides a much-needed break. If you're not feeling 100%, why not pick up your recorder?

9) Can improve your cognitive and mental health

We can't ignore the importance of mental health. Playing music provides a mood boost, and can help to stave off depression, anxiety and negative thoughts. It can reduce stress and improve confidence, giving a sense of purpose.

In addition, learning to play music is great for overall brain development. It can train your brain, improve your memory and help to build connections using your senses and motor movements. Studies have shown that playing an instrument maintains speedy neural responses.

As we age, our brain connections start to slow down. Conditions like Alzheimer's are a concern, and slower responses can lead to a risk of injury. Playing music can slow down this natural brain degradation, and is valuable even for older people.

Whether you're seeking to improve mental or physical health, it's clear that playing music can help. Picking up an instrument can improve your mind and body, reducing risks of illness and injury.

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