Slow music is good for the heart

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Registered: 10-19-2005
Slow music is good for the heart
Tue, 11-08-2005 - 10:18am

Updated: 5:32 p.m. ET Oct. 7, 2005

NEW YORK - A new study shows that listening to music that has a slow or meditative tempo has a relaxing effect on people, slowing their breathing and heart rate, whereas listening to faster music with a more upbeat tempo has the opposite effect — speeding up respiration and heart rate.

The results, which appear in the journal Heart, support a growing body of research on the potential stress-reducing health benefits of music.

Other research has shown that music can alleviate stress, improve athletic performance, improve movement in neurologically impaired patients with stroke or Parkinson’s disease, and even boost milk production in cattle, Dr. Peter Sleight from the University of Oxford and colleagues note in their report.

In the current study, researchers monitored breathing rate, blood pressure and other heart and respiratory indexes, in 24 healthy young men and women, before and while listening to short excerpts of different kinds of music including slow and fast classical music of differing complexities and rap music. They also monitored the subjects during 2-minute musical intermissions.

Half of the subjects were trained musicians; the other half had no musical training.

The investigators report that listening to music initially produced varying levels of arousal — accelerated breathing, increased blood pressure and heart rate — that is directly proportional to the tempo of the music and perhaps the complexity of the rhythm.

The style of the music or an individual’s music preference seems less important than the tempo of the music.

They also found that calm is induced by slower rhythms and, interestingly, by short pauses or intermissions in the music.

Pausing the music for 2 minutes actually induces a condition of relaxation greater than that observed before subjects began listening to the music tracks, the investigators report.

These effects are most striking for people who have musical training, perhaps because they have learned to synchronize their breathing with the musical segments. “Musicians breathe faster with faster tempi, and had slower baseline breathing rates than non-musicians,” according to the investigators.

Sleight and coworkers speculate that music may give pleasure (and perhaps health benefits) as a result of a controlled alteration between arousal and relaxation.

The present study suggests, they conclude, that the appropriate selection of music — alternating fast and slower rhythms interspersed with pauses — can be used to induce relaxation and may, therefore, be beneficial in treating heart disease and stroke.

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