The Health Benefits of Playing a Musical Instrument

Alternatively: this is your sign to pick up that instrument you’ve been telling yourself you’d try out or get back into


I will forever stand by my opinion that playing a musical instrument is the ultimate workout. Don’t get me wrong, there is no replacement for exercising regularly and eating well, but playing instruments in a group setting or individually has benefits not only for physical health, but also mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. I grew up surrounded by music, and by engaging in musical activities with other people I was able to work on teamwork skills, develop soft skills that benefit me to this day, and truly understand what it means to be passionate about something. 

I’ve picked up so many different instruments throughout my life, from the piano and guitar at the encouragement of my parents, a clarinet in concert band, to a kalimba I bought off of Amazon because I thought it was cool. But because of the hustle and bustle of university life I found myself drifting farther and farther from my love for creating music. It wasn’t until one fateful day I found myself so moved by an anime’s soundtrack that I absolutely had to start practicing the piano again. I can confidently say, for one reason or another, my life has seen improvements ever since. So if you’ve been meaning to pick up playing your instrument again or have been wanting to start, this is your sign! 

The Physical Benefits

piano GIF by The Voice

The physical benefits may not be the first thing to come into your mind when you’re considering picking up an instrument, but I can definitely say that my body benefitted both internally and externally. If I wasn't doing breathing exercises as preparation for playing a wind instrument, I was lugging around instruments and equipment that were sometimes as big as me! 

Don’t let anyone make you believe that just because you’re (usually) sitting down when playing your instrument that you aren’t physically engaged. Playing an instrument will strengthen your fingers, arms, shoulders, and even your back and abs as you maintain a good posture while you play. Why do crunches and planks when you can play a wind instrument and do breathing exercises instead? I swear it’s just as good as an ab workout, if not better!

Alongside practices such as deep breathing that strengthen your respiratory muscles, playing an instrument can also have other health benefits because it acts as a therapeutic activity for the player. Music is recognized as an effective form of emotional release because when you are playing and making music, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreases and so does your blood pressure and heart rate. 

Beyond health benefits, you are also improving your coordination and multisensory skills when you’re playing an instrument as multiple parts of your body and brain work together to create music. I remember always feeling incredibly hungry after band practices and performances in high school, and one day my music teacher explained it's because it really is like working out so many different parts of our body and brain. Not sure how much science there is to back that one up, but I can definitely say from experience that I was always ravenous after performances. (It was also always a good excuse to get McDonalds). 

The Mental and Emotional Benefits

Dog Playing GIF

I can’t discuss the benefits of playing an instrument without touching on the undeniable benefits it has on your mental and emotional health. Just as playing an instrument works out your body, it also works out much of your brain as it can help improve your memory and mental performance. Musical training can strengthen your brain’s executive function which takes care of tasks such as processing and retaining information, making decisions, and problem solving. Similarly, one aspect of my life that I noticed suffered when I stopped practicing regularly was my concentration on tasks not limited to practicing music. Focus is an integral part of practicing music as it requires the concentration of so many different parts of the brain so by honing your concentration from playing instruments, you’ll be able to apply this resolve to other aspects of your life as well.

Not only does playing an instrument positively affect your cognition, as I mentioned earlier its therapeutic nature provides many emotional benefits too. As a self-proclaimed band kid at heart, the best years of my life were spent with the friends I was lucky enough to make in the band and so understandably playing music allows you to meet new people and forge friendships that can last for a lifetime. And you don’t need to be in a band to meet people through music, there are many ways to connect with other musicians thanks to social media.

Lastly, playing instruments can leave you with a strong feeling of achievement as you put more time and effort into mastering your instrument; this sense of accomplishment and confidence will trickle into other areas of your life as well. So why not try it out!