How Music Positively Impacts the Heart

Music can improve heart health and circulation.

Music is a very special medium because it is the only stimulus on earth that can simultaneously stimulate various areas of our brains for a variety of effects. Music has been known to be a good resource  in treating mental health symptoms, as it can be a mood and confidence booster. Music can also act as a brain relaxer and stress reliever. But did you know that music can also have positive impacts on your physical health? This is because music alters our brain chemistry, and these alterations can provide observable changes in physical health. This article focuses on the benefits that can be drawn from music in heart health and circulation. 

One of music’s benefits for heart health is that it can increase one’s ability to exercise longer by engaging the brain. 

Benefits Music Provides for Heart Health

There are several observable benefits to heart health that have been seen from listening to music. A lot of these benefits have to do with the mental effects music has on the brain, and how those mental effects are carried through the body. There have been many studies performed on this topic, and some of the results and observations drawn from those studies are as follows. 

Music can Help You Exercise for Longer

Using music when you exercise makes it more fun, entertaining, and distracting. It also can be beneficial to your physical health. Music engages your brain in a number of ways and can take the focus off of exhaustion and stress that comes from cardio or intense training . Listening to music while working out has been seen to help people increase the amount of time spent working out-- increasing the health benefits that can be reaped from regular exercise. 

Regular exercise benefits the heart because exercise works our muscles, and the heart is a muscle in and of itself! Exercise improves the muscles’ ability to draw oxygen from your circulating blood. This reduces the need for the heart to overwork itself and pump more blood to the muscles, reducing heart rate and keeping everything moving effectively. Exercise also lowers blood pressure. This is important because high blood pressure is a common indicator of heart disease. Popping in some good tunes can keep you on the treadmill or bike for longer, and help you feel less exhausted and depleted when you’re done. 

Music can Improve Blood Vessel Function

Music is a popular tool to use for relaxation. The relaxation benefits that can be reaped from listening to music extend past destressing your mind. When you listen to music, your arteries relax. Relaxed and well maintained arteries are essential for good circulation. Relaxing your arteries helps to reduce the buildup of blockages that can restrict blood flow and circulation, leading to heart disease or a heart attack. Listening to music or doing a short meditation every day can help keep your arteries healthy. Remember that regular exercise is the best way to maintain artery health! 

Music can Return Heart Rate to Baseline After Exercise

Listening to music during and after exercise can help keep your heart rate more level and consistent. This happens because sound processing starts in our brainstem, which is also what controls our heart rate and respiratory rate. This connection helps explain how listening to music lowers heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Getting your heart rate back to baseline level after exercise is important because it minimizes the amount of time your heart rate is elevated and overworked. 

Music has been seen to provide many benefits for stroke survivors. Image courtesy of shironosov/Getty Images.


Music and Stroke Survivors

Music therapy can help stroke survivors in many ways. Music can help people who have suffered a stroke recover their ability to speak and move. This is because music has such impactful and widespread effects on the brain. These effects create a process known as entrainment.

Entrainment is defined as “the simultaneous activation of neurons from different parts of the brain.” For example, hearing a steady beat or rhythm does not just activate your auditory system, but it also activates and engages your motor system. 

After surviving certain types of strokes, people might not be able to  move the muscles in their tongue or lips. Therefore, they are unable to speak clearly. By asking these individuals  to sing a familiar song using simple syllables instead of words, you are helping entrain their motor or muscle-activating nerves, which in turn can help them recover their speech. 

The technique works for all types of movement. Another technique that can help stroke survivors is having them practice walking to music. This method helps them to steady their gait and improves their speed, symmetry, and the length of each step they’re able to take. 


Without providing concrete proof, the studies and resources described above show that music likely helps the heart and circulation as well as the brain and mind. Music does this by slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and reducing levels of stress hormones. Some scientists have also studied arterial function and blood flow in volunteers before, during, and after they listened to various types of music, watched humorous videos, or listened to relaxation tapes. 

The results from those scientists’ study found music to be the best resource for increasing blood flow and arterial health. Joyful music produced a 26% increase in blood flow, a benefit similar to aerobic exercise or statin therapy and well ahead of the humorous videos (19% increase) and relaxation tapes (11%). It’s important to be aware that the power of music can work both ways. Music that triggered anxiety in the listeners produced a 6% decrease in blood flow. The benefits of music are different for everyone depending on music preference and the type of music selected to listen to. 

No matter what, music is a great resource, especially to add to your exercise routines or to turn to when feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or upset. 

Edited by Cara Jernigan on February 28, 2021.

Macie Gelb
Macie Gelb is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA.
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