If hitting a traffic jam in peak hour makes you want to set fire to the rain (or anything in arm's reach) try pumping Adele's tunes. A small study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine has found listening to instrumental music while driving can help reduce stress on the heart.
The cross-sectional randomised controlled pilot study was conducted on five women (so, grain of salt firmly taken) driving over two days.One day they drove for 20 minutes at rush hour listening to instrumental versions of Hello and Someone Like You by Adele, Exile by Enya, Christian musician Chris Tomlin's instrumental of Amazing Grace, and a meditation tune called Electra by Airstream. On the other day they drove in silence.
The women's level of cardiac stress was measured in heart rate variability via a monitor attached to the participant's chest. Heart rate variability is defined as the fluctuations in the intervals between consecutive heart beats and it's influenced by different components of your nervous system. When your sympathetic nervous system or "fight or flight" response kicks into gear, your heart beats faster. When your parasympathetic nervous system or "rest and digest" mode is active, you're more relaxed and your heart beat is slower.
In a stressful situation (say some moron cuts you off and has the audacity to not wave) your body is flooded with chemicals that can trigger your sympathetic nervous system. Chronic stress has been linked to a range of issues including a serious impact on cardiovascular health.
The study's findings showed that participants who drove with music had higher level of parasympathetic nervous system activity and a reduction in sympathetic nervous system activity.
"Listening to music attenuated the moderate stress overload the volunteers experienced as they drove," principal investigator Vitor Engrácia Valenti said.
The researchers say that that turning on relaxing tunes could be a preventative measure to regulate your stress response and help your heart health.