When choir members sing together, their heartbeats become synchronized, researchers have found.
The new study included 15 members of a high school choir whose heart rates were monitored while they performed three different choral exercises: monotone humming, singing a hymn and chanting a slow mantra.
The music's melody and structure had a direct impact on the hearts of individual choir members. Singing in unison caused a synchronizing effect that led to singers' heart rates rising and falling at the same time, according to the investigators from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
The findings were published in the current online edition of the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.
"Singing regulates activity in the so-called vagus nerve, which is involved in our emotional life and our communication with others and which, for example, affects our vocal timbre. Songs with long phrases achieve the same effect as breathing exercises in yoga. In other words, through song we can exercise a certain control over mental states," study author Bjorn Vickhoff explained in a journal news release.
Many people claim that singing in a choir is good for their health and well-being, but there has been little research into it. The study authors suggested that singing creates a calm and regular breathing pattern that has a significant impact on heart rate variability which, in turn, may have a favorable effect on health.
The study is part of the researchers' efforts to learn how music affects people's bodies and health. Their goal is to find ways that music can be used for medical purposes, primarily for rehabilitation and preventive care.