Singing for Lung Health

Singing for Lung Health is a group based arts in health intervention with the goal of improving the quality of life of people with a chronic lung condition, as well as providing tools for the self-management of breathlessness.

Over 1.2 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with the obstructive lung condition COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and many more remain undiagnosed.

Singing for Lung Health (SLH) is best described as:

a new but rapidly expanding approach where people with lung disease take part in a group activity that can improve breathing control and posture, without directly focusing on their respiratory limitations...

Participants report that singing helps them to manage their breathlessness, improving quality of life, mood, activities of daily living and participation in meaningful social and physical activity.

Lewis et al (2017)Singing for Lung Health: a qualitative assessment of a British Lung Foundation programme for group leaders, BMJ Open Respiratory Research

The benefits of Singing for Lung Health include:

  • Improves breathing control and distracts from breathlessness
  • Improves social participation reducing feelings of isolation
  • Provides tools for self-management of posture, breath and anxiety
  • Has high uptake and retention
  • Provides ‘change by stealth’ within an enjoyable musical activity
  • Reduces healthcare utilization and has a low cost delivery
  • Is a high value intervention
Watch the Cambridge Singing for Breathing video to find out more about groups.

“Hadn’t felt like going out before course due to breathing problems... now feel I can overcome anything”

Singing for Lung Health Participant

“I think I can say that one of the joys I get from it is to see the people who come together, a somewhat unknown group of people, begin to gel, begin to see how they are all benefitting”

Singing for Lung Health Participant

“The group taught me how and when to breathe”

Singing for Lung Health Participant

A core set of learning aims for participants

The Singing for Lung Health programme for those who are breathless includes a core set of learning aims for participants:

  • Develop awareness of postural and breathing patterns
  • Learn how to change habits through learning new exercises (postural, breathing, vocal)
  • Extend the outbreath through sung phrases (in both obstructive and restrictive conditions), maintaining good subglottic pressure for optimal vocal functioning
  • Improve respiratory strength and muscle co-ordination
  • Return to an optimal breath pattern using primary not secondary respiratory musculature
  • Reduce unnecessary ‘top up’ breaths
  • Build physical stamina
  • Ensure vocal production relational and supported through the whole body
  • Build vocal stamina ensuring safe and efficient phonation
  • Have fun in music

These aims are achieved through physical, breathing and vocal warm ups delivered creatively and musically. Rhythm and pitch games, appropriate song repertoire and relaxation are fundamental components to the experience.

A brief history

Singing for Lung Health began with two groups in 2007.  Since then Singing for Breathing Groups have been set up across the UK.

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