Think about the last time you went a whole day without music. Take your time. Honestly, I can’t remember ever going 24 hours without hearing some sort of beat, rhythm, or melody. It’s absurd. It’s in every elevator, bathroom, and car in the city. It’s in two white chords dangling from the ears of every other passerby on the street. You’re probably droning me out with it right now. Music is part of us – an intrinsic, head-nodding, toe-tapping, organ hammering beats from somewhere deep in us – and I can’t help but wonder: what is it doing to us? More importantly, what is it doing for us?
A lot of research has tended to focus on ties between rhythm and language, but recent studies have shown how listening to music can help make you stronger, smarter, and healthier overall. You don’t even have to suffer through your grandma’s classical records for results. Listening to “any music that is personally enjoyable” will do the trick, so Jay-Z and Wayne don’t have to take a back seat to Ludwig or Wolfgang.
Just like good foreplay, the benefits all start in the head. Researchers at Stanford found that fast-paced tracks with a strong rhythm can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in time with the beat, sharpening concentration and improving focus. Conversely, more relaxed, Marvin Gaye, baby-making sort of slow-jams tend to promote a calm, meditative state of mind. The study also found that the brainwave changes induced by music will condition your mind to shift gears more effectively on its own, so you can stay juiced up even when your iPod’s not.
These sorts of cognitive improvements domino health benefits throughout your body. A relaxed central nervous system results in slower heart rate and breathing, leading to decreased levels of stress. Lowering your blood pressure not only reduces the risk of contracting long term health problems, but can boost immunity, ease muscle tension, and improve your mood. Hospitals have even begun using music to calm surgery patients and help manage pain.
Still, some of the best things music can do for your body come from what music makes you do with your body. What’s the point of playing New Boyz if you’re not going to jerk? How are you going to hear Swag Surfin’ and not grab a board? Like Pacman Jones and state prison, music and dance belong together, and dancing is some of the best exercise your body can get. The flexibility, strength, and endurance gained from moving your own weight around the club is second to none, so go ahead, turn up the bass, and dougie your way to better health.