In honor of the Air Guitar World Championship, we’re going to look at the health benefits of playing air guitar. If you’re scratching your head wondering, “What health benefits? It’s just air guitar,” then get ready to be enlightened. You might be surprised by what you learn here.
The History of Air Guitar
While there is no formal written history, the act of pretending to play the guitar most likely began as soon as guitars were invented. However, it wasn’t until the advent of electric guitars that playing the air guitar really came into popularity. As heroes of the world of rock rose to superstardom, fans everywhere imitated them playing the guitar.
Eventually, this became a “thing” that took a life of its own. Back in 1992, the movie “Wayne’s World” featured the protagonists playing the air guitar as a sign of expression — in other words, when things were awesome. All this clues us into the health benefits of the practice of air guitar playing.
Believe it or not, there are actually formal air guitar competitions, and they started to appear way back in the 1980s. Now the Air Guitar World Championships has developed into a large annual event with thousands of spectators. Participants take it very seriously, and the competition is intense.
Playing the air guitar is much more than just swinging your hands and arms around pretending to play the guitar. The activity combines elements of technical skill, showmanship, acting and dance. In order to conquer a field of competitors, you have to make your performance memorable.
Even real guitar playing involves these elements. Think about Jimi Hendrix playing behind his head and with his teeth. What about Pete Townshend of The Who with his trademark windmill arm swing? Guns N’ Roses’ Slash’s showmanship has its own singular style. Who can forget Angus Young’s kick and strut across the stage? Finally, you have artists like Newton Faulkner, who transforms his guitar into a string instrument with a drum kit built in.
Health Benefits of Artistic Expression
It’s no secret that doing something creative is tremendously fun. Still, are there real health benefits to activities like playing the air guitar? For starters, you don’t have to be a competitive air guitarist to play. You can do it in the privacy of your own home or with friends. The key is to express yourself openly and creatively. When you open up in this way, you tap into real-world health benefits.
One remarkable study looked at 35 women diagnosed with cancer in a randomized controlled trial. The research looked at intervention focusing on healing through movement and dance. Participants showed significant improvements in quality of life, arm range of motion and body image.
Stress has been linked to essentially every disease known to humans. Any kind of excess stress can cause illness or make an existing illness worse. Artistic expression helps to relieve stress significantly. Things like playing air guitar, theater, singing and dance help you to release pent-up energy and emotions in a healthy way.
According to one study published in the American Journal of Public Health, “Through the movement of mind and body in a creative way, stress and anxiety can be relieved, and other health benefits can be achieved as well.”
Preserve Brain Function
If a group of 85-year-olds got into air guitar playing, what might be the results? Well, this has not been studied yet and maybe never will. Still, the Mayo Clinic did look at 256 adults with an average age of 87.3 years and looked at their participation in an artistic activity. Those who had some form of art in their lives had less chance of suffering from cognitive decline. How great was the benefit? Participants who engaged in arts in both middle and old age were 73 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment. So, playing air guitar might even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
When you do something creative, it helps you develop new ways of thinking and problem-solving. It also helps keep your thinking clear and quick. There’s even a biological explanation for this.
In time, your brain is exposed to various toxins and trauma. This could be simply too much sugar in your diet or something more severe such as a mini stroke. The ability of the brain and neurons to rebound from injury and stress is called brain plasticity. In a manner of speaking, it’s the brain’s way of staying young.
Some researchers believe that creative activity preserves brain plasticity. In this case, the biology is reflected in real life. Those that participate in artistic expression have flexible ways of thinking, and they may have superior brain plasticity.
If you’ve ever witnessed a top-level air guitar performance, it can be quite intense. The artists may even end up exhausted. For this reason, air guitar can be very heart healthy. Basically, any activity that gets your heart rate up is good for your blood pressure, circulation, and it may lower your cholesterol. Regular exercise has also been shown to play a role in the prevention of many diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diabetes. Exercise may be the single most valuable thing you can do for your overall health.
Now, if you haven’t exercised for a while, ask your doctor before you begin any strenuous activity. If you’re too embarrassed to tell your doctor you’re going to play air guitar, just say it’s a new aerobic exercise routine. If you get the green light, give it all you got and play your heart out.
Even Better Than Running?
Many people think running is the most healthy type of exercise. However, artistic exercise such as dance or air guitar might actually be much healthier. Any kind of exercise protects your brain, but creative activity adds another element that leads to neuronal stimulation. This means you help your brain beyond just improved blood flow to your nerve cells.
Air Guitar Specifics
When you know how air guitar contests are judged, you see how involved the practice can be. Here, you get an idea of the complexity behind serious air guitar competitions. For instance, competitors are evaluated based on:
- Technical merit: How much the performance looks like real guitar playing, including a reproduction of strumming, picking, fretwork, chords, solos and technical moves
- Mimesmanship: How convincingly you can make it seem like you are actually playing a guitar
- Stage presence: Measures showmanship, how well you get the crowd involved, confidence and charisma factors
- Airness: Basically, just how awesome of an air guitarist you are
The Air Guitar World Championships have been held annually since 1996. Many countries also hold national competitions.
Air Guitar Innovations
While technology free competition is still the gold standard, there have been many technical advances in the practice of air guitar playing. For example, the Helsinki University of Technology developed software that transforms hand movements into electric guitar sounds. The technology features a pair of brightly colored gloves and infrared cameras that sense hand and finger movement.
More recently, San Francisco startup Yobble developed the “Air Guitar Move” made for iPhones. With one hand you hold your phone and, on the other hand, you have a guitar pick equipped with a motion sensor. The app is a hybrid of the video games “Guitar Hero” and “Dance Central.”
In the event that you’re looking for a new activity to improve your health, why not play some air guitar? Sure, it’s unconventional and different, but it can be a lot of fun. You can get a workout and even improve your brain health. Imagine how much you can relieve stress by jamming to your favorite rock music. The benefits to your health are clear. When we try something totally new, life changes for the better in unexpected ways. Rock on!
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Risk and protective factors for cognitive impairment in persons aged 85 years and older. (2015, May 5). Retrieved from http://n.neurology.org/content/84/18/1854
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