A group of people with respiratory problems gets together on a weekly basis in a London hospital to sing songs and perform vocal exercises. Combining their love for singing with a desire to better cope with lung disease, these songs and exercises help patients associate their breathing with positive feelings. It’s more fun than a standard physiotherapy technique and it works.

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) have damaged lungs that only allow them to breathe a certain amount of air in and out. This makes some people start breathing very rapidly, which only makes the problem worse. People with COPD should be breathing deeply and synchronize their breathing with their other activities like walking up stairs. Through singing, they learn better posture and breathing techniques at a manageable speed.

It’s not meant to appeal to everyone, but singing therapy helps boost the morale of patients who decide to give it a try. Singing therapy doesn’t show any change on the lung function test, but this is to be expected, since the disease is still there. The therapy just gives patients a better way to cope with it. They’re not going to be opera singers, but members of the singing group have reported feeling better after the musical therapy sessions.

Take the testimony of patient John Cameron Turner, age 77. He was diagnosed with severe emphysema in 2002, and has not found a medicine that has helped him. Yet, since coming to the singing therapy sessions, he has been able to do more activities than before. He is able to breathe better, so he doesn’t have to stop frequently on his half-mile walk home from the subway. He can also enjoy gardening. He’s also pleased with the social aspect of the group sessions and says the songs are “great fun.”


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