Parkinson’s Vocal Classes Provide Happiness, Camaraderie

Columnist Lori DePorter explains what 'singercise' is

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by Lori DePorter |

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A new opportunity recently brought me to a different kind of Parkinson’s exercise class: “singercise.”

“Singercise” consists of singing, toe-tapping, and general fun for an hour at a time. In a previous column titled “Music Therapy Can Be Just What the Doctor Ordered,” I wrote about the benefits of music on the brain. For this column, I took a closer look at music and singing.

According to Psychology Today, research has turned to music therapy to complement traditional medical treatment plans. Music can be beneficial to both motor and nonmotor Parkinson’s symptoms. It can also ease anxiety, improve gait, and help the brain form new connections.

But what about singing? Singing helps us exercise our facial and throat muscles. Toward that end, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences offers vocal music classes and workshops to patients with many degenerative brain diseases, including Parkinson’s.

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A happy tune

What happens when you hear one of your favorite tunes? You may not realize it, but your toes might start tapping, and you might start humming or singing along. If you happen to be in a group, your voice might grow louder as you sing, while your smile widens. This can become yet another tool in your toolbox to fight the battles of Parkinson’s, which can include hypophonia, or soft speech, and facial masking.

Singing also makes us happy. Programs like the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine provide evidence of the benefits of singing for those with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. It can improve the mood and inspire creativity while boosting confidence and building community. Like fitness classes, programs like these are built-in support groups with people who share similar interests — and not just Parkinson’s disease.

The camaraderie and community in support groups are vital to our treatment plans. Making these connections in a judgment-free environment with others who are navigating some of the same challenges are just a few of the many benefits of joining a support group.

As we sang Christmas tunes to end a recent “singercise” class, I realized that while we weren’t ready for any performances, we were having fun. For me, “singercise” was a workout for both my facial muscles and my voice, but it was also something more. It was a foundation for a support group program that I hope will continue to grow with my help.

Look within your own community for a vocal program and give it a try. Or, if you are part of a support group, relieve some of the holiday stress by singing some fun holiday tunes as part of your next meeting.

It’s just like dancing — it’s not important how you sing, just that you sing.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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