If you've ever spent an afternoon belting out your favorite tunes, you may have wondered: How many calories does singing burn? You don't even have to love hitting those sweet high notes and mellow lows to be curious about this one – even a little singing can make you feel like you've had a bit of a workout.
So how many calories have you sacrificed to the gods of metabolism at karaoke, in the shower, or during your morning commute? There's no universal answer for everyone, but there are plenty of clues that can help unravel the mystery.
Can Singing Burn Calories?
The first question to answer is whether singing burns calories at all. And while the answer might seem obvious – everything we do burns some amount of calories – the reality is a bit more nuanced.
Fortunately, there are studies that can help us figure it out. Multiple experimenters have assessed how animal metabolisms change when they're vocalizing, and one examination of dolphins found that their metabolic rates were 1.2 to 1.5 times higher when they were making noise than when they were at rest.
Dolphins weren't the only species that might burn calories by vocalizing – other research found similar results in different kinds of birds and insects like katydids.
So the verdict on whether vocalization burns calories seems clear – the extra effort it takes to make noise costs you. The real question is how much humans spend in the process.
How Many Calories Does Singing Burn in Humans?
The answer here isn't cut and dry. For instance, the number of calories singing burns depends on how you sing. A rock star who gives a really energetic singing performance where they're prancing around on stage would probably expend way more energy than you'd release while humming along to something on the radio.
How does singing burn calories?
Singing helps increase your metabolism. Engaging your ab muscles increases your metabolism by increasing calorie consumption. Using your facial muscles can also reduce the amount of fat you burn – to say nothing of cutting a rug.
The Dynamics of Singing to Burn Calories
Similarly, the amount of calories you burn by singing depends on what else you're doing. For instance, a 150-pound person might burn around 100 calories per hour if they're sitting down, but if they stand, that number could jump to 140 per hour.
There's also the way body size – and composition – affect your metabolic weight. Larger people typically burn more calories doing the same things as smaller individuals simply because they need more energy to perform the same basic functions – like moving their bodies, breathing, processing nutrients, and pumping blood.
The same is true of people who have more muscle tissue. Muscle mass is the main determiner of your basal (at-rest) metabolic rate, and muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, which is why people who want to boost their metabolism often try to gain muscle.
Can You Lose Weight By Singing?
According to the New York Times, singing can be good for your heart health, but it's not quite an effective weight loss strategy. Although you might release a lot of stress, which isn't a bad thing, you're probably better off with an actual weight loss plan.
Does losing weight change your singing voice?
This doesn't mean that your weight and your singing ability are completely unrelated, however. Phonation threshold pressure (PTP) is the pressure required to make sounds during singing. For instance, you need to put pressure on the vocal folds to get them to vibrate and make sounds.
One study looked at the relationships between body weight, PTP, voice quality, and other factors to see how obesity and weight loss might impact people's singing ability. It showed that increased BMIs were associated with more tissue in the airway, neck, and chest wall, which can influence the sound and quality of your voice.
Losing weight – and some of this increased tissue – reduces the pressure required for singing. In other words, if you're looking to sing with less effort, then working with a weight loss nutritionist may put you on the road to enhancing your vocal strength without requiring as much PTP.
Can Singing Burn Face Fat?
Unfortunately, singing doesn't burn that many calories, and even though it may seem like your face would be a prime area to start losing fatty tissue, things don't work that way.
Singing isn't like lifting weights or doing yoga – Any (minor) weight-loss benefits you gain are likely to be distributed across your body, not just one target area. It's important to remember that being vocal isn't just about working the vocal cords – A lot of the effort comes from your abdominal muscles.
Does Singing Have Other Health Benefits?
Of course, losing weight isn't the only way to get healthier, and singing does offer some other advantages. For instance, one study found that vocal training can increase lung volume and muscle activity. Other research has implicated vocal exercise in positive outcomes like:
- Raising your threshold to pain by releasing endorphins,
- Stimulating your immune response to battle illnesses and infections,
- Enhancing memory in individuals suffering from cognitive challenges, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease, and
- Boosting your mood and mental health.
Singing might not be what makes your ultimate weight loss goals a reality, but it feels good and does provide some calorie-burning benefits. As with any type of health concern, there's no one solution to weight management – being vocal is just a helpful way to stay more active.
Want to learn more about how your lifestyle choices impact your weight – and how your weight might affect your musical lifestyle? Talk to a nutritionist to get educated!