Like so many romantics before them, scientists now assert that music strengthens the heart. New research presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual congress in Amsterdam indicates that your favorite tunes may boost heart health and accelerate recovery times following cardiovascular disease. The study showed that as little as 30 minutes of listening corresponded with a 19 percent increase in cardiac function and exercise capacity.
Although the mechanism of action remains obscure, the study authors believe the recorded health benefits originate in hormonal changes. Music enjoys a well-documented influence on our emotional life, and exposure often induces the release of key chemicals within our brain. These hormones may subsequently promote cardiovascular health.
"When we listen to music we like then endorphins are released from the brain and this improves our vascular health,” said lead investigator Delijanin Ilic, speaking to The Telegraph.
For the study, Ilic and her colleagues enrolled cardiac disease patients in an experiment, in which subjects exercised, listened to music, or did both for a period of three weeks. At the end of the trial, the researchers found that the combination group had increased their exercise capacity and cardiac health by 39 percent –– 10 percentage points more than the group that only exercised. What’s more, the group that only listened to music showed comparable improvement of 19 percent.
“The combination of music and exercise training led to the most improvement in [heart] function. Improvements in [heart] function were associated with significant improvements in exercise capacity,” Ilic told the Daily Mail. “Listening to favorite music alone and in addition to regular exercise training improves [heart] function and therefore may be an adjunct method in the rehabilitation of patients with CAD [coronary artery disease].”
The researchers added that while the benefits appear to be independent of genre, harmonious arrangements like opera or classical music are likely to yield better results than heavy metal. Similarly, instrumental tracks may isolate the positive effect by precluding verbal influence. That said, your own brain is the ultimate judge, as the hormonal release is largely subjective.
“There is no 'ideal' music for everybody,” Ilic explained. “Patients should choose music which increases positive emotions and makes them happy or relaxed."