Driving can be very stressful, particularly if you are stuck in heavy traffic or are an inexperienced driver, and this stress will eventually take its toll on the heart. However, researchers now confirm that there is a simple fix for this problem: listening to the right music while driving.
If we listen to relaxing music while driving, this may help relieve stress and protect the heart, a new study suggests.there is. In a study paper that features in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, the researchers report the encouraging results of a study involving inexperienced drivers, noting that listening to music while driving helps relieve the stress that affects heart health.
“We found that cardiac stress in the participants in our experiment was reduced by listening to music while they were driving,” says principal investigator Prof. Vitor Engrácia Valenti.
Music may lower cardiovascular stress
For their study, the researchers recruited five female volunteers between the ages of 18 and 23 years who were in good health, were not habitual drivers they drove no more than twice a week and had received their driver’s license 17 years before the start of the study.
“We opted to assess women who were not habitual drivers because people who drive frequently and have had a license for a long time are better adapted to stressful situations in traffic,” explains Prof. Valenti.
The researchers asked the volunteers to take part in two different experiments. On one day, the participants had to drive for 20 minutes during rush hour on a 3 kilometer route in one of the busiest parts of the city of Marília. On this day, the participants did not play any music in the car as they were driving.
On another day, the volunteers had to go through the same motions, with one exception: This time, they listened to instrumental music while driving.
In both instances, the participants drove cars that were not their own. This measure was necessary, the investigators explain, to make sure that there was no reduction in stress due to the volunteers being familiar with the cars.
“To increase the degree of traffic stress, we asked them to drive a car they did not own. Driving their own car might help,” says Prof. Valenti.
To measure the effect of stress on the heart in each experimental condition, the investigators asked the participants to wear heart rate monitors able to record heart rate variability in real time.
The activity of two key systems the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system influences heart rate variability. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for regulating the flight or flight response, which is the automatic bodily reaction to stressful, anxiety-inducing situations. Meanwhile, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for “rest and digest” processes.