Physical development, health and well being

Physical development, health and well being

Recent concerns about health and well-being in populations have led to an increase in research exploring the impact of the arts and music. Some work has focused in particular on physical development in children, some on more general issues concerned with well-being. Research has established that using rhythmic accompaniment to support physical education programmers improves performance. Ansell and Marisa (1978) observed positive results in performance accuracy and endurance when music was rhythmically synchronized with motor performance and Painter (1966) found similar results. Bailsman (1967) found that throwing, catching, jumping and leaping improved when children participated in a programme involving rhythm, while Brown et al. (1981) also found that an integrated music and PE programmer improved pre-schooners motor performance more than movement exploration. Derri et al. (2001) investigated the effect of a 10 week music and movement programmer on the quality of locomotor performance in children of 4-6 years and found that the experimental group improved on galloping, leaping, horizontal jump and skipping. A further study showed that the programme compared favourably with free play activities (Deli et al., 2006). There is also evidence that learning to play an instrument improves fine motor skills (Schlaug et al., 2005).

There has recently been a surge of interest in the specific benefits of singing to health and well-being. Almost all of this research has been carried out with adults an exception being the work of Ashley (2002) who studied choir boys aged 10-14 singing in a major city centre. parish church. The boys showed deep appreciation of and engagement with music and exhibited many aspects of personal wellbeing including the social competence to combat a macho male culture. In a study of young people who were members of a university choir, Clift and Hancox (2001) found that 58% reported having benefited in some physical way, 84% responding positively in relation to health benefits mainly referring to lung function, breathing, improved mood, and stress reduction. Further analysis identified 6 dimensions associated with the benefits of singing – well-being and relaxation, benefits for breathing and posture, social benefits, spiritual benefits, emotional benefits, and benefits for heart and immune system (Clift and Hancox, 2001). In a review of the literature, Clift et al. (2008) considered five studies which had used the immune system marker salivary immunoglobulin as a measure of the immune system’s effectiveness. Four reported increase in this antibody associated with singing (Kreutz et al, 2004; Kuhn, 2002; Beck et al., 2000; 2006).

Reviews of the research with adult singers have concluded that there are a range of health and well-being benefits of participating in a choir. There is every reason to suppose that these benefits would also apply to children. The benefits include: physical relaxation and release of physical tension; emotional release and reduction of feelings of stress; a sense of happiness, positive mood, joy, elation, and feeling high; a sense of greater personal, emotional and physical well-being; an increased sense of arousal and energy; stimulation of cognitive capacities – attention, concentration, memory and learning; an increased sense of selfconfidence and self-esteem; a sense of therapeutic benefit in relation to long-standing psychological and social problems; a sense of exercising systems of the body through the physical exertion involved, especially the lungs; a sense of disciplining the skeletal-muscular system through the adoption of good posture; being engaged in a valued , meaningful worthwhile activity that gives a sense of purpose and motivation (Clift et al, 2008; Stacey et al., 2002).

Studies of adults have shown other physical benefits of engaging with music. Playing the piano exercises the heart as much as a brisk walk (Parr, 1985) and there are lower mortality rates in those who attend cultural events, read books or periodicals, make music, or sing in a choir (Bygren, Konlaan & Johnansson, 1996; Konlaan, Bygren and Johansson, 2000; Johansson, Konlaan and Bygren, 2001; Hyyppa and Maki, 2001). Music making has also been shown to contribute to perceived good health, quality of life, and mental well-being (Coffman and Adamek, 1999; Vanderark et al, 1983; Wise et al., 1992; Kahn, 1998).

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