It reduces stress in both the short and long term.
For a new study, five women (who typically commute by car only once or twice per week) drove on congested city streets in two conditions: once in silence and once while listening to instrumental songs. Their HRVs were lower during the latter scenario, a sign that non-lyrical music can reduce driving-induced stress.
The results likely apply to men as well. While the benefits may hold true for people who drive every day, they're probably strongest for those who do so occasionally, like for weekend trips out of the city.
Non-lyrical tracks calm the brain without distracting you from the task at hand, explains study author Vitor Engrácia Valenti, Ph.D., professor at the Center for Autonomic Nervous System Studies at San Paulo State University in Brazil.
He expects you'll get fewer benefits from lyrical songs or from podcasts and audiobooks. The former are more likely to trigger an emotional response while the latter require cognitive effort to follow along.
The bottom line:
Create a playlist with classical music or non-lyrical versions of your favorite songs and cue it up anytime you're driving. (The study participants listened to instrumental riffs on popular tracks by Adele and other contemporary artists.) Choose those with no more than 60 beats per minute, Valenti says, the fastest tempo analyzed in the study.