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Study Says Playing an Instrument Lowers Blood Pressure & Relieves Stress

a man playing guitar next to a laptop
Music Could Be the Secret to Lower Blood Pressure10'000 Hours - Getty Images

That a great song can be a tonic for any emotional trial is no secret. Whether disappearing into a favourite album after a difficult day or queuing your power track for the gruelling final mile of your first half-marathon, music is a proven psychological prop. Go one step further, however, by pausing Spotify and dusting off the neglected Les Paul in the corner of your living room, and you could save yourself from a more literal form of heartache – the sort that isn’t often the subject of chart-toppers.

In a study published by the Netherlands Heart Journal, those who regularly sang or played instruments were noted to have better cardiovascular health than the less musically inclined. Researchers tested subjects aged 18 to 30 and found the guitarists, singers, flautists and pianists had lower blood pressure and reduced heart rates. Playing music fires up the sensory nervous system – also activated during your gym sessions – and the study authors believe that this gives it cardiovascular effects ‘resembling those of physical exercise’.

If strumming through a moving rendition of Mr Tambourine Man feels beyond your capability (or if you cringe at the mere thought), then simply singing along to a playlist in the privacy of your home has benefits, too. University of London research shows that giving your lungs a workout increases levels of blood oxygen, while exercising major upper-body muscles. We’re calling it band aid.

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