HealthSingapore

Trouble breathing? Try singing!

PHOTO: Singing helps people's breathing at a Singapore health programme. (via CNA YouTube)

If your doctor told you to sing your health problems away, you’d probably think they are a quack. But a group of people in Singapore are singing their way to better breathing and lung health under a programme called Tune UP. The weekly singing sessions, which are facilitated by Yishun Health, are free and open to anyone who suffers from breathlessness.

The one-hour sessions began a year ago and have helped around 50 patients in their 50s, 60s and 70s. The program may seem dubious, but there is a science behind it. Singing creates better breathing patterns and posture while exercising one’s lungs.

Senior physiotherapist at Yishun Health Rachel Koh said that breathlessness tends to cause disordered breathing patterns, and the programme strives to reverse that.

“Sometimes the songs that they choose might be a mix of long and short phrases for a long period. This will help to encourage them to take deeper breaths, as well as longer exhalations.”

The singing sessions are held in three purpose-built spaces called “wellness kampungs” in Yishun and include body exercises and vocal warm-ups before beginning to sing. The singing instructor with the Tune UP programme says this allows the singing therapy participants to be aware of their breath and their posture, while also having fun.

Learning to regulate breathing from singing doesn’t just help if you are feeling breathless. Being able to better control their breathing can also help with anxiety, which can be a side effect of breathlessness. And more generally, singing in a group benefits people’s psychological and social well-being.

The concept behind singing to improve breathing stems from a programme in the United Kingdom by the British Lung Foundation. In that programme, over 100 people were studying while taking part.

After 12 weeks of singing, there were significant improvements in how their conditions affected daily living. There were 20% fewer hospital admissions and 40% fewer doctor visits in general.

Yishun Health aims to open up the benefits of singing to a wider patient base. They are currently offering the classes to anyone whose daily life is affected by breathlessness. They are seeking partners to expand the scope and reach of the programme.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.