Music and your lungs

Making music and taking part in singing can be a fun and rewarding activity. Find out how singing and playing musical instruments can help your lungs when you have a lung condition.

Singing to help your lungs

There is evidence that singing as part of a group is good for your general health. There is also growing evidence to suggest group singing is especially good for people living with a long-term lung condition.  

Most of the research into singing for lung health is from people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, people living with other lung conditions such as asthma and pulmonary fibrosis have told us that they benefit from singing for lung health sessions.

How can singing help my lung condition?

Singing can:

  • help you to manage your symptoms better 
  • help you feel more in control of your breathing 
  • reduce your feeling of being short of breath 
  • improve your health-related quality of life 
  • help to strengthen your breathing muscles 
  • increase the strength of your voice.

“I'm enjoying the support groups so much and I’m getting lots out of them. The relaxation, breathing exercises, and singing with Helen have really helped. I use the box breathing to help me get to sleep." – Asthma + Lung UK singing group participant

How can singing help my wellbeing?

As well as helping your lung health, joining a singing group can also:

  • help you feel more positive 
  • help you build confidence 
  • help you to feel less isolated 
  • teach you a new skill.

Learning to breathe slowly and deeply

Singing is similar to the breathing techniques used for managing breathlessness and airway clearance.

In some lung conditions, like COPD, your airways are narrowed or obstructed. This can make it difficult to empty air out of your lungs. If you don’t empty your lungs of air effectively, you’ll be using the top of your chest instead of your whole lungs to breathe. This uses muscles in your neck and shoulders which can get tired quickly.  

Singing long notes helps you to fully empty your lungs. This helps you to use muscles in your neck and shoulders less when you take your next breath in. This saves energy and makes breathing more comfortable.

Playing a musical instrument to help your lungs

Playing any musical instrument that uses your breath, such as a flute or harmonica, can help you:

  • control your breathing  
  • improve the strength of your breathing muscles 
  • improve your mental wellbeing.

Some studies also suggest that music therapy alongside pulmonary rehabilitation can improve your symptoms, mental wellbeing, and quality of life.

Remember to keep your musical instrument clean of saliva, dust, and grime that can build up inside it. This is to lower your chance of spreading infections. If colds and viruses are going around, it’s even more important to keep your instruments clean.

“Playing the harmonica has made a great difference to my ability to breathe more easily. I have attended 5 sessions and after three was already noticing a difference. After 4 sessions I was walking my normal 45 minute walk in 30 mins! As my dog seemed a bit miffed he was out for so short a time and, having had my 5th session on the harmonica, on Sunday I walked the furthest I have walked in three years - bearing in mind these are woodland walks which were originally deer trails so I didn't do any more exercise for the rest of the day!” – Chris, who lives with COPD.

Join a music support group

Lots of people are already benefiting from our support groups, including our singing and music groups. You don’t have to have any experience to join the groups. They’re beneficial for people with any lung condition, and include:

  • Motivational Mondays singing for lung health sessions. The sessions include relaxation, breathing exercises, and singing. 
  • Harmonica for lung health is a chance to learn how to play folk, country and blues music with a harmonica. You’ll also learn new breathing techniques to help strengthen your breathing muscles.

Get support

Call or WhatsApp our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

Did you find this information useful?

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 0300 222 5800 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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