So how does singing improve breathing?
The outcomes of the Singing for Breathing programme are for participants to:
- Develop awareness of their own postural patterns in rest and movement as well as when singing
- Explore which of these postural patterns are best serving the free movement of their breath and voice
- Develop awareness of their own particular breathing patterns in rest and movement, as well as when singing
- Explore new exercises to best support their breath use in song (based on the Accent method)
- Let go of old habits and learn new exercises in posture, breath and vocal control
- Develop constructive ways of producing sound and elongate the song phrases
- Find space for supported breath (belly breathing may not suit everyone – some may need more lateral expansion)
- Feed muscle memory through repetition
- Build stamina
- Sing a variety of songs together to support cohesion in collective music making
- Have fun
These are achieved through a planned programme of exercises helping participants
- learn to use the larger muscles to optimise their breathing
- become aware of their own breathing patterns
- develop an awareness of the importance of relaxing muscles for breathing
and carefully chosen songs which gradually build up the length of sung phrases to assist in deepening and sustaining breath.
You can find more information about the research into the benefits of singing for people with COPD from the Sidney de Haan Research Centre for arts and health at the Canterbury Christ Church University.
The ‘Singing for Lung Health’ (SLH) Systematic Review and Consensus Statement outlines that the benefits of singing can be considered in three broad categories: physical, psychological and social. It was written by a consensus group including respiratory physicians, physiotherapists, nurses, health psychologists and music therapists. It is based on a review of research studies on the subject.
An evaluation of the BLF singing for lung health programme published in 2018 found that participants in singing for lung heath groups reported an improvement in respiratory health-related quality of life and a reduction in health care utilisation. The study concludes that singing for lung health has potential economic and health benefits.
A resarch study into moving singing for lung health online in response to the covid-19 pandemic found that online singing sessions provided substantial health and wellbeing benefits, although participants had a clear preference for in person singing.
Recent research published in 2021 has found the cardiorespiratory effects of singing to be comparable to those of exercise, and therefore effective in managing chronic respiratory conditions.