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Physiology of singing and implications for singing for lung health

Singing is a holistic intervention with potential physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual impacts. 

As part of our systematic review of Singing for Lung Health, a group-based intervention for individuals living with Chronic Respiratory Disease, we have found that improvements in quality of life for individuals with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in particular are a possible outcome, with further high-quality trials needed.

Our work focused particularly on the physical elements within the intervention. The assumption is that we are able to alter the way in which people breathe through singing, to enable better breathing control.

Read our systematic review in full.

What are the objective physiological changes in people who participate in singing?

We focused specifically on the physiological aspect of the intervention and brought together physiological studies in breathing and singing, pathophysiology of respiratory disease and physiological data in Singing for Lung Health to determine the extent to which the physiology of breathing changes as a result of singing, and more specifically performing SLH when living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. 

The resulting state-of-the-art narrative review, now available in BMJ Open Respiratory Research, brought together colleagues from singing backgrounds (vocal coaches, music therapists and community singing group leader) with healthcare professionals within Brunel University London and Imperial College London. 

We tackled the problem of defining the physiological effects of singing in a population living with chronic respiratory disease. In order to do this, we looked at:

  • data available on how we breathe and how we sing when healthy,
  • the physiological changes that occur when living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease,
  • how existing data in singing in health could be transferable in Singing for Lung Health,
  • and what data there is Singing for Lung Health research in particular.

We were able to set out clear theoretically justified gaps in Singing for Lung Health research from data available in other singing studies. We linked these gaps with the provision of a clear research agenda for future physiological mechanistic studies and clinical effectiveness studies.

Community singing group leaders can benefit from the work by considering the specifics of the physiology of breathing when singing, and changes that happen with respiratory disease. Singing for Lung Health leaders will be able to use the study to form working collaborations and start conversations with local clinical teams by using shared language and meaning of the work. 

Watch the videos below to see how singing can improve your lung health 

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Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Adam Lewis

Related Research Group(s)

respiratory measurements (2)

Applied Respiratory Research Group - Applied respiratory research meeting the needs of respiratory-related healthcare


Smart Technology Advancements in Health and Rehabilitation - Data science/wearable technology and Rehabilitation; Haptic feedback, multi-sensory interfacing and Robotics in Health; Immersion and Engagement in Virtual Rehabilitation; TeleHealth/TeleRehab; Data: using AI and Machine learning to improve health.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 21/11/2023