PATIENTS with lung conditions are singing their way to better health with choir practice used as therapy to beat breathlessness.

The first session of a 12 week singing course was held on Thursday and over 20 patients attended.

The COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) choir offers patients the chance to learn breathing techniques and strengthen their respiratory muscles through singing and exercise.

COPD is the term for chronic bronchitis and emphysema. There are around 8,000 people living with COPD in Worcestershire. They all have difficulties breathing - primarily due to the narrowing of their airways.

Patients taking part in the first lesson were asked to complete some health status questionnaires about their breathing and how it affects their lives. They will complete the same questionnaires at the end of the 12 week course to find out what effect the choir practise has had on their health.

The group was led by choirmaster Hilary Davies, a natural voice coach who runs community choirs across the region and has been diagnosed with mild COPD herself. She took the group through a physical warm up and vocal exercises before starting the course, which will see the group learning traditional hymns, world music and harmonies.

Elaine Bevan-Smith, COPD team lead, said: “Choir practice has been great fun. When I first mentioned the idea to patients I was amazed how quickly we booked up. Research shows that singing can be beneficial for people with COPD. It can help relieve anxiety and depression, improve breathlessness and in some studies it has improved lung function.

“The exercises Hilary is teaching will help patients to see new ways in which they can manage their own illness, and that will help them stay healthier for longer.”

Patient Eiron Roberts, 76, was diagnosed with emphysema in 2005 and attended the first meeting of the COPD choir. He said: “My illness is incurable, but I know that exercise helps - that’s the reason I’m still alive and kicking.

“I did a 30 minute session with a professional singer once before, so I thought joining this choir would be a good idea to help my breathing. I’ll give anything a go if it means I can keep playing bowls."

The Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust COPD team are also teaming up with Warwick University to carry out further research into the impact of singing when used in combination with pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehabilitation is the most effective treatment available for COPD patients after giving up smoking.

The choir has secured funding for one 12 week course, but is looking for a sponsor to support future courses and assist with transport for patients.

Contact if you think you could help, or if you would like to join a future course.