Choral singing good for your health

9 July 2013, 10:00 | Updated: 9 July 2013, 10:11

We knew singing was good for you, but now a new study from Sweden has shown being in choir could be as beneficial as yoga.

Choral music is often hailed as relaxing, but now a new study has shown specific music has a direct link on singers' heartbeats. Scientists from the Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University in Sweden discovered singers' breathing and pulse rate sped up and slowed down at the same rate when performing together.

The study measured 15 singers, performing three different choral exercises: monotone humming, singing the well-known Swedish hymn Härlig är Jorden (Lovely is the Earth) as well as the chanting of a slow mantra. After measuring the participants' heartbeats, the researchers found the music's melody and structure has a direct link to the heart rate of each choir members; singing in unison has a synchronising effect.

It's not just a case of developing a bond with fellow choir members. Reseacher Björn Vickhoff explained how singing could be beneficial for lowering blood pressure and improving mental well-being.

"Songs with long phrases achieve the same effect as breathing exercises in yoga," he said. "In other words, through song we can exercise a certain control over mental states," explains Björn Vickhoff, lead author of the study."

As well as synchronising the singers' heartbeats, the scientists are now keen to see if choral music could create a shared mindset within a choir. They are now hoping to test whether choral singing could be used to strengthen working relationships in schools and colleges.