Skip to main content

You are here

Singing for lung health

How can singing improve my wellbeing?

There’s increasing evidence that singing regularly as part of a group is good for your general health and wellbeing. On this page we explain how singing can help improve your control over your breathing, symptoms and general wellbeing.

Over the last 10 years, researchers have looked at how your body and mind respond to music and have explored ways of using music to help care for health. There’s increasing evidence that singing regularly as part of a group is good for your general health and wellbeing. A growing body of research suggests that group singing is especially good for people living with a long-term lung condition.

On this page:

Singing can:

  • improve health-related quality of life
  • be a fun group activity to reduce social isolation and loneliness and an opportunity to learn new skills and songs
  • help to improve posture
  • increase the strength of your voice

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who join singing groups say singing regularly:

  • reduces their feelings of being short of breath
  • helps them to feel more in control of their breathing
  • helps them to manage their symptoms better

Across the UK there are now over 100 singing for lung health groups for people with lung conditions. The singing leaders who run these groups have been trained to run singing sessions that are designed to help manage your feelings of breathlessness. Other non-specialist singing groups may also be enjoyable and useful, but may not provide the full range of techniques to help you manage your lung condition better. It’s important your singing leader understands your lung condition so they can give activities that are safe for you to take part in.

Most of the research that’s been done so far has been with people living with COPD. But people living with other lung conditions such as asthma and pulmonary fibrosis may also benefit from joining a singing group.

Singing for lung health group leaders aren’t necessarily health care professionals. They have all received quality assured training. However, should you have a chest infection or have other concerns about your voice or health it is always best to discuss these with your GP.

You don’t need to be good at singing to join a singing group! Search for a group near you or call our helpline on 0300 222 5800

Why does singing help my breathing?

Many people with lung conditions say that singing helps them to feel less short of breath and more in control of their breathing. There are 3 main ways that singing can help:

  • teaching you to breathe more slowly and deeply
  • improving the sense of control over your breathing, reducing anxiety and potential feelings of panic
  • improving your posture to help you breathe more efficiently

When we sing, we focus on the song’s words and melody. When you’re lost in the music, you don’t consciously think about your breathing.

Breathing more slowly and deeply

Singing has similarities to physiotherapy and 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 when you breathe out, and air gets trapped in your lungs.

If you don’t empty your lungs effectively, you’ll only be able to ‘top up’ your breath – using the top of your chest to breathe, instead of your whole lungs. This uses muscles in your neck and shoulders which can get tired quickly.

Singing long phrases helps you lengthen your outbreath to empty your lungs. This helps to reduce the amount that you use muscles in your neck and shoulders when you take your next breath in. This saves energy and makes breathing more comfortable.

Developing awareness of the muscles that support your breathing

Singing for lung health leaders teach techniques to help you use your abdominal muscles effectively when you sing. This can make your breathing at other times more efficient too.

How can singing help my symptoms?

Symptom How the session helps Benefits
If your voice is breathy, or you’re hoarse or your vocal muscles are weaker  Exploring the reasons for the breathy sound. This may be due to poor posture or using either too much or too little air when you sing or speak. This can tire your voice, so you’ll learn how to make a safe and stronger sound when you speak or sing Your vocal strength and stamina will get better and you’ll have more control over your speaking voice
You feel out of breath and worry about getting out of breath

Practicing songs that you enjoy singing with long phrases

Exercises that encourage you to take a relaxed breath in with a soft belly, and then a long, slow breath out as you allow the tummy to move inwards

Choosing songs that encourage you to breathe out completely then breathe in more effectively

You’ll feel more in control of your breathing 

You’ll learn techniques to breathe more efficiently

Coughing when you breathe in and out Learn techniques such as breathing in through your nose

Less coughing by avoiding triggers such as breathing in cold air through your mouth

Feeling weak and so moving around less

Completing full body warmups and stretches to energise you before you start singing

Supporting your standing and sitting posture

Rhythmic movements such as clapping, stepping and swaying

Incorporating movement with singing and strengthening optimal postures to help you breathe and sing better

Completing warm down activities at the end of the session to relax you and to make sure any movement is done safely for you

Increasing your awareness of your core strength using your whole body to sing to strengthen muscles and improving your mobility

How can singing improve your wellbeing?

As well as helping your breathing, regular singing can have other more general benefits for your health.

Singing helps you feel more positive

People say singing is uplifting and joyful. They feel positive during the singing session, and the positive mood continues afterwards. Singing can help if you feel depressed, stressed or anxious.

Once I’m here and we start singing, it just takes all the worries away.” Jill

Singing helps build your confidence

People living with a long-term lung condition say that group singing makes them think of themselves as choir members, rather than patients. Singing and being part of a group gives you confidence and a sense of achievement and can be a distraction from your lung condition. It can motivate you to try other activities.

Singing helps you feel part of a group

Regular group singing can make you feel less isolated and is a way of feeling part of a group. You can make new friends. They’ll understand your challenges because they face them too. It’s also a chance for you to share your own experiences and help others.

Singing gives you a new skill

Joining a singing group is a way of learning new skills and maybe reviving existing ones. Learning new songs can help to improve your ability to focus and concentrate and also to stimulate your memory. You may also discover a new world of music you’ve never experienced before!

Next: What happens in a singing for lung health session?>

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 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Download our singing for lung health PDF (72KB)

Last medically reviewed: September 2020. Due for review: September 2023

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.