It’s normal to come home from a rehearsal or band practice feeling tired and wiped out – singing is hard work!
But what kind of work is it? Is it the kind of work where you should treat yourself to pizza and beer after practice?
Singing and playing music is tiring, but is that because your brain is working so hard, or are you burning calories and getting a bit of exercise too?
In this guide, we’ll answer that question along with how singing burns calories and how many calories you are burning by singing.
Does Singing Burn Calories?
Studies have shown that singing can have cardiovascular benefits. In 1986, The American Journal of Nursing compared heart and lung functions of opera singers vs. a control group of non-singers.
They found that singers had stronger chest-wall muscles and more cardiovascular capacity. Their hearts pumped better and they had a larger lung capacity than non-singers.
Then, in 2006, there was a small study of four singers researching the action of specific muscle groups used in singing. This was specifically for operatic singers who are highly trained and use proper technique.
That said, they found that the respiratory system is responsive to vocal training, even over a short period. If you are practicing singing for an hour or two every day, you will notice greater lung volume and rib cage/abdominal expansion. These are all good things for your cardiovascular system!
Singing exerts a fair bit of energy. Singing with good pitch and technique require more effort, as you need to engage your abdominal to support your voice. Power singing and belting will burn more energy than singing with a quiet voice too.
Operatic singing will burn the most calories, as it requires a lot of breath and stamina.
How Many Calories Per Hour?
If you use a calorie tracker, be warned that they may not deliver accurate calorie counts for singing. In fact, calorie trackers are notoriously inaccurate as a rule.
Singing while standing burns approximately 136 calories per hour. This will fluctuate depending on your body size, how you are singing, and how you are moving while you are singing.
Somebody weighing around 150 lbs. will burn approximately 100 calories an hour if they are singing while sitting down, but can take that up to 180 calories an hour if they are standing up and moving around.
You will always burn more calories if you are singing while standing than if you are singing while sitting down. If you throw in some dance moves or even some light movement on a stage, you are definitely going to increase that calorie count.
You can also burn more calories by holding and playing an instrument while you sing. In particular, an instrument that you can stand and move around with will help you burn calories.
Accompanying yourself on guitar while standing will burn more calories than sitting. A person can burn as many as 204 calories per hour while playing the guitar – more if they are also singing, standing, or moving around on stage.
How Does Singing Burn Calories?
Singing burns calories in a couple ways. First, engaging your core muscles (abs) to sing well and with good pitch will burn calories. Using your face muscles and vocal cords will also burn a small number of calories.
Moreover, you will burn calories from standing for long periods of time and from moving around on the stage or in the rehearsal space. Dancing is excellent exercise, when paired with singing it is a great workout.
The heavier you are already, the more calories you will burn by standing and singing. You will also burn some amount of calories by sitting and singing, but it will be less than if you were standing.
Will Singing Help You Lose Weight?
Singing should not be a part of your weight-loss regimen. There is no doubt that singing is good for both your mental and physical health, but you need a balance of other activities as well. Cardio, strength training, and stretching are all part of a healthy lifestyle.
Singing will strengthen the lungs and work the core muscles, but it won’t do much of anything for the rest of your body. It certainly won’t make your arms much stronger, unless you are singing from a heavy music book.
Can Singing Make Me Gain Weight?
In researching for this guide, I came across a 2005 study that suggested that the prolonged use of your lungs when singing can increase the hormone leptin in your body, and you brain can become resistant to it.
Leptin is made in fat cells and helps your body keep track of fat storage – a resistance to this hormone could cause extra weight gain.
I would not worry about this for a few reasons. First, there is nothing wrong with gaining weight. Eat well, develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise, and continue singing. Second, this is one small study. There are many activities that require prolonged use of the lungs.
As a singer and musician, it’s important to take care of yourself! The music industry can be hard on people, as there are pressures to look and act a certain way.
Make sure that you are eating enough, eating well, and developing a good relationship with food. Create a healthy relationship with exercise as well – staying fit will help you stay in the game for life.
Finally, some professional singers and opera singer argue that there are benefits to gaining weight as a singer. According to some professional singers, excess fat can increase the resonance around your larynx, which can make your voice sound full and large.
Basically, don’t worry about it. Your body is beautiful and helps you make wonderful music! Take care of your body, take care of the music, and your body and music will take care of you.
Does Losing Weight Affect Your Singing Voice?
A study published in 2011 looked at the effects that losing weight had on vocal function. It found that losing weight can affect your singing voice by changing the “phonation threshold pressure”. When I came across that term, obviously, I had no idea what it meant.
Basically, phonation threshold pressure is the amount of air pressure needed to create and maintain a note while singing. More pressure is required if you haven’t developed or strengthened your vocal folds.
In some cases, losing weight can be associated with a decrease in the air pressure that is required to sing. This could lead to better vocal stamina and stronger vocal folds. This has the potential to positively impact your voice and ability.
But as I mentioned before, losing too much weight will mean that your muscles are not getting nourished properly. You will be low on energy, low on stamina, and be more prone to health problems.
As a musician and a human being, it is important that you feed your body frequently and properly. Make sure you are getting enough to eat and eating well – don’t worry too much about losing weight!
Will Gaining Weight Affect Your Voice?
We covered losing weight, so we should talk about gaining weight as well. Excessive weight gain can affect your singing voice through a build-up of tissue around the larynx, neck, and chest.
Losing weight can mean that less air pressure is required to sing, so if you gain weight, you may need more air pressure to sing. This is due to the extra tissue around your vocal folds, which will require more energy to use.
Again, I mentioned earlier that many professional singers argue there are some positive effects to weight gain on the voice. Extra tissue around the larynx may make it slightly harder to sing, but it could also make your voice more pleasant.
I would not put too much stock in these ideas, as they are purely speculation and anecdotal opinions from singers. The most important thing is to be active and healthy, whatever that means to you.
If you are consistently out of breath or struggling to sing, increasing your cardiovascular abilities might help! Try running or playing a sport you enjoy, and get your lungs used to working hard.
Is Singing Physical Exercise?
I just wanted to make it clear that singing is not exactly physical exercise. When you are exercising, you will run out of breath because your lungs and heart will be working hard. That is physical exercise.
When you are running out of breath while singing, it is more often due to poor technique. You should not be pushing too hard while singing, and you should be taking regular deep breaths to keep the notes going. Running out of breath in this case is not exercise.
Of course, if you are running around and dancing while singing, that is a different story. You have got to be fit to dance like Beyoncé or Lizzo!
Singing To Burn Calories; Final Thoughts
That was a lot of information, so let’s go over the general information.
Singing absolutely does burn calories. You are using your abdominal muscles, lungs, and stamina. It can be hard work!
In general, singing while standing can burn 136 calories per hour. The more you move while singing, the more calories you’ll burn. The heavier you are, the more calories you’ll burn.
If you are playing an instrument or dancing while singing, you’ll burn even more calories. Sitting and singing will burn less calories than standing – a lot of the calories burnt will be from standing, rather than singing.
You should not worry too much about the calories burned through singing. Weight does not have much to do with your voice. The music industry can be a tough business to succeed in, so make sure you are listening to your body!
It’s most important that you are fit, healthy, and happy – whatever that means to you! Develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise, and just keep singing!