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Music as Medicine – Just a Feeling?

“Music is my medicine” – Jimi Hendrix

Music plays a key role in my life. Everything seems to be easier with the right song. Having to wait in a traffic jam, exercising, or dancing – to me, everything is easier when listening to the right music. But is it just me or is there any science-based evidence proving these feelings? I’ve already told you that sports and nutrition can have a significant impact on serious illnesses like depressions. But what about listening to melodies or songs?

Bringman and his fellow researchers have compared the effect of relaxing music to anxiolytic drugs. In their clinical trial with more than 300 patients who awaited surgery, they tested the effect of midazolam as an anxiolytic drug compared to relaxing songs. The result was: The decline of the anxiety score was significantly greater in the music group compared to the midazolam group! So, relaxing melodies decreased the level of anxiety in a pre-operative setting to a greater extent than an anxiolytic drug! Plus, there is some evidence that those with headphones playing Mozart cut stress hormones in half compared to those listening to Pearl Jam (hard rock) or techno.

Music has an anxiety-reducing effect

In China, some researchers showed that musical interventions even reduced all blood pressure levels, state anxiety levels, and heart rate. Plus, the level of blood glucose in music groups had declined compared to other groups without. Their data showed that listening to music during surgery under regional anesthesia has effects on cortisol levels and some of the physiological variables. Therefore the researcher offers to use music therapy as a complementary method in patients to reduce anxiety.

The greatest benefit of health is visible with classical melodies and meditation songs. Whereas, techno or heavy metal is not only ineffective but possibly dangerous and can lead to stress and/or life-threatening arrhythmias. The songs of many composers most effectively improve the quality of life, increases health, and probably prolong life, particularly by Bach, Mozart, or Italian composers.

Listening to self-selected and classical music produced increased feelings of relaxation as well as sitting in silence but not for the heavy metal condition. Plus, music has no harmful side effects compared to the drug. There is no post-operative hangover. There is even some evidence that listening to Mozart can reduce allergic skin responses – but further research is needed.

"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." – Bob Marley
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley

Music may impact our metabolism

There are even some studies, which tested the impact of music on resting energy expenditure. Does music impact the number of calories burned when lying in bed? It turns out that listening to music can increase our metabolism! On average by 28 calories a day – not that much but it has an impact! And, this impact can be used for improving your workout.

Several studies have shown that peak and mean power were significantly higher when listening to music during warm-up than without – before performing activities requiring powerful lower limbs’ muscle contractions. Even professional and highly trained athletes were tested with the same results: Listening to high tempo songs (>120 to 140 bpm) can have a beneficial effect on your performance. This is quite unbelievable but especially professional athletes need to perform at their best to win a competition. Even a small difference can lead to victory. For example, professional swimmers shave their whole body to be faster due to smaller water resistance – unbelievable but true.

“Without music, life would be a mistake” – Friedrich Nietzsche

So, music can have several effects on our body and mind. Classical melodies and songs for meditation can calm us down and high tempo music can improve our physical performance. And, I can confirm these research results: Listening to high tempo tunes during my workout gives me an extra boost and motivates me. Whereas, listening to low tempo melodies such as the sound of the sea rushing calms me down when doing yoga. But I also have to admit that I don’t like classical songs that much and when driving in my car, it can really upset me… Then, Beyoncé is the right decision… Let’s get the party started! 🙂

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Here is the scientific evidence and studies used for this blogpost

Aloui, A./Briki, W./Baklouti, H./Chtourou, H./Driss, T./Chaouchi, K./Souissi, N. 2015: Listening to Music during Warm-Up Counteracts the Negative Effects of Ramadan Observance on Short-Term Maximal Performance, in: PLoS One, Vol. 10, 2015, No. 8.
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0136400

Bringman, H./Giesecke, K./Thörne, A./Bringman, S. 2009: Relaxing music as pre-medication before surgery: a randomized controlled trial, in: Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica, Vol. 53, 2009, No. 6, pp. 759-764.

Chtourou, H./Chaoruachi, A./Hammouda, O./Chamari, K./Souissi, N. 2012: Listening to music affects diurnal variation in muscle power output, in: International Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 33, 2012, No. 1, pp. 43-47.

Jarraya, M./Chtourou, H./Aloui, A./Hammouda, O./Chamari, K./Chaouchi, A./Souissi, N. 2012: The Effects of Music on High-Intensity Short-Term Exercise in Well Trained Athletes, in: Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 3, 2012, No. 4, pp. 233-238.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3525819/

Labbé, E./Schmidt, N./Babin, J./Pharr, M. 2007: Coping with stress: the effectiveness of different types of music, in: Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Vol. 32, 2007, No. 3-4, pp. 163-168.

Mottahedian Tabrizi, E./Sahraei, H./Movahhedi Rad, S./Hajizadeh, E./Lak, M. 2012: The effect of music on the level of cortisol, blood glucose and physiological variables in patients undergoing spinal anesthesia, in: EXCLI Journal, eCollection 2012.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4920039/

Stork, M. J./Kwan, M. Y./Gibala, M. J./Martin Ginis, K. A. 2015: Music enhances performance and perceived enjoyment of sprint interval exercise, in: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Vol. 47, 2015, No. 5, pp. 1052-1060.
http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/2015/05000/Music_Enhances_Performance_and_Perceived_Enjoyment.21.aspx

Trappe, H. J. 2010: The effects of music on the cardiovascular system and cardiovascular health, in: Heart, Vol. 96, 2010, No. 23, pp. 1868-1871.

Yung, P. M./Chui-Kam, S./French, P./Chan, T. M. 2002: A controlled trial of music and pre-operative anxiety in Chinese men undergoing transurethral resection of the prostate, in: Journal of Advanced Nursing, Vol. 39, 2002, No. 4, pp. 352-359.

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