Joining a choir can increase your vital capacity

Research recently published in the Journal of Voice conducted by Izraldy et al (2016) lends further credence to the physical benefits of singing especially within the context of a choir. This study sought to determine the differences of lung capacity between singers and non-singers.

Vital capacity can be defined as ‘the sum of inspiratory reserve volume, expiratory reserve volume and tidal volume.’ This study emphasises the need to ‘maintain an ideal vital capacity in order to improve oxygen levels which in turn ‘maintain the functions of most tissues in the human body, especially brain tissue.’ (2016:718)

This study draws on other recent sports science research that links lung function training with an increase in vital capacity. Muralikrishna et al (2014) studied a group of middle aged, obese men who underwent low intensity aerobic training. This is further substantiated by a number of other studies involving yoga, scuba divers and even badminton. In all three studies, the participants had an improved vital capacity comparative to a control group who did not engage in activities that required a respiratory work-out.

The research by Israldy et al (2016) examined two groups of students. The first group consisted of 10 university male choir singers who had been a choir member for a minimum of two years and attended a minimum of twice weekly choir rehearsals. They were also non-smokers and exhibited no respiratory problems or disease. The second control group consisted of 10 university male students who did not attend a choir. They were also non-smokers and exhibited no respiratory problems or disease. They also did not participate in other activities which engaged in vigorous respiration.

There were significant differences in the results between the two groups with the group of singers measuring a significantly higher vital capacity than the second group of non-singers. It is thought that these results can be attributed to the increased strength of the expiratory muscles. This is referred to as ‘muscle extensibility’ and ‘this causes the expiratory muscles in the singers to become elastic and not stiff’. (2016:719). There was no difference in inspiratory capacity between the two groups and this is because singing exercises the expiratory muscles more than the inspiratory muscles.

To summarise: This study confirms the health benefits gained through singing and the impact may well have broader ramifications for the ageing voice as well as those with respiratory disorders. According to respiratory researcher Hixon, we lose one percent of our vital capacity each year beyond the age of twenty and singing with a choir may well prevent such a deterioration.

Reference: Lung Vital Capacity of Choir Singers and Non-singers: A Comparative Study.Abyan Irzaldy, Sundari Indah Whiyasilhati and Bambang Purwanto. Journal of Voice, Vol.30, No.6 2016