I’m a firm believer that singing is good for your health. As someone who is fascinated by the intersection of athletic training and vocal development, I think it’s good to remember that singing practice time affects far more than your vocal cords. The structures involved in singing can help you become healthier, feel more energetic, and even burn some calories. Here are three ways that belting out your favorite tunes might help you get in better shape:
1. Singing stimulates the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is located right below your Adam’s apple. (Yes, men and women both have an Adam’s apple, but a female’s is more vertically aligned in the throat, and can be harder to see.) The thyroid is the “master gland” of the body, controlling all elements of metabolic function; the faster your metabolism works, the more calories you burn. One of the most direct ways to stimulate the thyroid is through vocalization. Speaking will do some good, but the complex vibrations of singing create further stimulus for the thyroid. If you want to do a test to see how well your thyroid is working, take your temperature and pulse; ideal body temperature should be between 98–98.6 and pulse should be between 70–85 bpm. If you’re not in that range, take these measurements again right after a singing session to see if vocalizing has made your thyroid happier.
2. Correct breathing boosts your metabolism. Most of us are hyperventilating, and we don’t even know it. Try this test: Exhale through your nose until you’re comfortably out of air, and then plug your nose and close your mouth (i.e. hold your breath). Time yourself to see how long it is until you feel the first strong impulse to inhale. This test shows how tolerant you are to carbon dioxide; a good score is 30 seconds or longer. If you don’t make it that long, you are breathing too quickly and shallowly throughout your day.
How does this affect your health? Hyperventilating keeps our body in a fight-or-flight state constantly, with elevated levels of stress hormones. When we feel panicked, our body holds calories in case we need them for escape or combat. Once we learn to slow our breathing, we downshift into a “rest and digest” mode where the body feels safe enough to release the held calories, and fat can be burned for energy. For more information, see my Breathe Better video series. You may also consider purchasing a BreathSlim device. BreathSlim is a simple mechanism that uses a small amount of water to provide resistance for your lungs and diaphragm; regular use helps to correct faulty breathing habits and improve your metabolic rate. You can buy one here and get 15 percent off with the discount code BYRNE15.
3. Vibration makes you move better. Why does it feel so good to sing? A big reason is the fact that singing creates vibrations in our skeleton that are much more complex than those created by speaking. Beyond simply feeling good, vibration also alleviates pain in the body. The sense of vibration feeds through a special part of the spine (called the dorsal column) that inhibits pain responses. The less chronic aches and pains we feel, the more likely we are to enjoy movement and crave exercise. So, if you find yourself stuck on the couch and feeling pain, get up and do a little singing!
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