October 19, 2016

Music for your lungs

Emma Gainer, Program Manager – Lungs in Action, Lung Foundation Australia

The Lungs in Action group at the University of Canberra has introduced playing the harmonica as an extra exercise activity. Launched by Lungs in Action instructors Julie Cooke and Lennon Wicks, UC Harmonicats spend an hour each week playing tunes on the harmonica in an attempt to improve their lung function. It also provides an opportunity for them to engage in an activity they enjoy and keep socially connected with like-minded people living with similar conditions. The group was inspired by the Colorado Harmonicats in the USA, a group of COPD patients, which was observed by Julie last year as part of a study tour. Under the guidance of retired Canberra General Practitioner, Dr Bob Hain, the group started playing simple tunes including Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Three Blind Mice, and Mary Had A Little Lamb, but has now progressed to playing 12 Bar Blues. Dr Hain says the harmonica is perhaps the only instrument where you can create a note by breathing in as well as breathing out, which is great exercise.

Members of the group have noticed benefits since adding the harmonica class to their weekly schedule, but scientific validation of the benefits is still needed. Attempts are being made to find out whether any other groups exist in Australia and whether evidence for the effectiveness of the activity can be found internationally. In the meantime, the group will continue to give their diaphragms a workout and play harmonica for the love of it, alongside their regular Lungs in Action class at the university.

To join the Lungs in Action class in Canberra contact University of Canberra, Faculty of Health Clinic on 02 6201 5843. For the locations of other Lungs in Action classes visit www.lungsinaction.com.au or phone Lung Foundation Australia’s Information and Support Centre on 1800 654 301.