Have you ever wondered why guitarists seem so laid back and loose on stage? Some shredders even appear to be immortal, like the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards. Maybe they just have access to really good doctors, but here’s another potential explanation: The axe might be as powerful as anything inside the medicine cabinet. Strapping on a Fender could boost your brainpower, sex life, six-pack, and more:
1. Feel Serious Pleasure
Simply plugging in your guitar, playing it, and listening to the music you’re creating can make you feel good—orgasmically so. According to a neuroscientific study from McGill University, hearing music triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, the same chemical that’s released during sex.
2. Wave Away Stress
Whether it’s your boss or bills that give you anguish, grabbing your guitar can help zap stress. A dual study from the Mind-Body Wellness Center and Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems found that stress can be reduced on a genomic level by playing an instrument. Rocking out actually reverses your body’s response system to pressure.
3. Send Pain Packing
Forget popping pills: If you live with chronic pain, reach for a pick. According to a study from the University of Utah’s Pain Research Center, listening to music—and in this case, your own sweet licks—can take your mind off, and thereby reduce, pain.
4. Sharpen Your Mind
Did Einstein secretly shred? A new Scottish study says if you play the guitar—or any musical instrument, for that matter—you’re more likely to have sharper brain function, which can help guard against mental decline in the future. Open a songbook and study up.
Watch This TED-Ed Video on How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain
5. Toughen Your Ticker
Rockers have killer chops—and cardiovascular systems: Researchers from the Netherlands found that patients who practiced music for more than 100 minutes a day showed a significant drop in blood pressure and a lower heart rate than those who didn’t. Three of the test subjects? Guitarists.
6. Seduce Total Strangers
Can’t wail yet? Don’t worry. Just carrying a guitar case can seriously boost the odds of someone wanting you—even if they’re total strangers, finds recent research in Psychology of Music. How come? Studies show women associate musical ability with intelligence, commitment, hard work, and physical prowess—and ladies associate all those qualities with your ability to earn money, the researchers say. [We assume the same is true for our female ax slingers.—Ed.]
7. Score More
More proof you don’t need actual skills to score: Israeli researchers recently sent friendship requests from a good-looking guy to 100 attractive, single women. In half the requests, the guy was holding a guitar. In the other half, he wasn’t. Only 5 of 50 women accepted a friendship request from the guitar-less guy, while the man with the axe scored 14 attractive new “friends,” according to the study. [Again, we assume it works for women guitarists as well.—Ed.]
8. Strike It Rich
You might not make it in the music biz, but your guitar could still help you earn the big bucks: Researchers from Michigan State University found that musicians who picked up an instrument at an early age and continued nurturing their craft throughout adulthood had a better chance of launching successful invention—logging patents, building businesses, and publishing pieces.
9. Build More Brainpower
Stuck at work without your six-string? You’re still giving your brain a workout: According to a Cambridge University study, musicians continue being creative even when they’re not playing their instruments. Researchers found that performers visualize music in terms of its shape, and then process that as a form of practice. Most don’t see it as such, but it’s a highly creative way of learning.
10. Record Yourself, Reward Yourself
Oftentimes, guitarists will record their sessions or demo songs; that way, they can go back and practice them. But bring your recordings to the gym and you might see a physical benefit: Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences found that music doesn’t just make for solid background noise while working out—it actually made exercising less exhausting for study participants.
Original story by Will Levith at menshealth.com