Whoever is part of a choir will probably know this already: singing together can be a positive experience, not only from a psychological point of view, but also from a physical one. But does this feeling of well-being also have a scientific basis?
This was the question posited by Swedish researchers at the University of Gothenburg, who studied and analysed the heart rates of choir members in the city. The scientists feel they now have the answer for sure: singing in a choir has beneficial effects on our body.
The research published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, demonstrates that music has a calming effect on the heart, and that these effects increase when one sings in unison with other people. For the study, the researchers placed electrodes in a singer’s ear, and linked these to a heart rate monitor. As soon as the choir started to sing, the heartbeat of the individual singers slowed down. It is a consequence of a particular type of breathing, used when singing is controlled and slow. Singing, especially in a choir it turns out, is a kind of ’guided breathing’, one which also modifies cardiovascular function.
The musicologist Vickhoff Bjorn, who led the project, states that the heart slows down its speed during the exhalation phase. But what has most struck the researchers is that in just a short space of time the heart rates of singers synchronize with each other. During the first few bars of a song, the lines displayed on the heart rate monitors recorded many different signals , but then quickly began to record a series of uniform peaks: a sort of common rhythm that follows the rhythm of the music.
It is almost as if the singers were looking to produce a common synchronisation of their voices, on that would also be reflected within the body and ultimately in the heart.
According to Swedish researchers, the choir (now that its benefits have been scientifically proven) can even be used as part of certain rehabilitation therapies as well as a support for the reduction of certain types of pain and anxiety.