Engaging in music helps a person beat stress, anxiety and blood pressure and could improve sleep quality, mood and mental alertness. Adding to the list of benefits, researchers behind a recent large-scale study say that lifelong exposure to music could help boost an individual's memory and brain health in old age.

The findings of the study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry suggest that singing and playing a musical instrument, particularly the piano, is linked to improved memory and executive function of the brain. The researchers also found greater benefits in those who continue to play the instrument into their later life.

"Keeping the brain active during life has been associated with an increased cognitive reserve, therefore reducing the risk of cognitive impairment in older age. Previous research has identified a potential relationship between musicality and cognition," the researchers wrote.

The study was part of Protect, an online study group in the U.K. that researches how healthy brains age and why people develop dementia. For the current study, researchers examined more than a thousand adults over the age of 40 to estimate the brain health benefits of playing a musical instrument and singing in a choir.

The brain health benefits of singing could also be due to the social factors of being part of a choir or group, the researchers said.

"A number of studies have looked at the effect of music on brain health. Our Protect study has given us a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between cognitive performance and music in a large cohort of older adults. Overall, we think that being musical could be a way of harnessing the brain's agility and resilience, known as cognitive reserve," Anne Corbett, professor of dementia research at the University of Exeter, said in a news release.

"Although more research is needed to investigate this relationship, our findings indicate that promoting musical education would be a valuable part of public health initiatives to promote a protective lifestyle for brain health, as would encouraging older adults to return to music in later life. There is considerable evidence for the benefit of music group activities for individuals with dementia, and this approach could be extended as part of a healthy aging package for older adults to enable them to proactively reduce their risk and to promote brain health," Corbett added.