Singing for COPD

A Wellington-based organisation has found a novel way to approach Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) rehabilitation – through a community choir.

Over 200,000 New Zealanders live with COPD, an umbrella term used to describe a variety of progressive respiratory diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthma. Traditionally, treatment for COPD includes smoking cessation, medication, and improved tolerance to exercise, yet many find exercising difficult due to the reduced lung capacity brought about by the condition.

Porirua Sing your Lungs Out (PSYLO) are a division of Wellington-based community choir SYLO, established in April 2016 to assist those who live with COPD and improve their lung fitness, mood, and quality of life.

The community choir was originally started as part of a research project under the leadership of respiratory physician Dr Amanda McNaughton to assess the emotional and physical impact that social singing has on those who live with COPD. The results of this research found that those involved in community singing reported substantially increased health benefits such as improvements in breathing, sputum clearance, exercise tolerance, as well as a general sense of improved well-being.

Lyn Darroch, who lives with COPD, has been a member of PSYLO for the past 18 months and finds that the choir has provided immense benefit both physically and socially.

In addition to regular group sessions, PSYLO has also performed at numerous venues over the last three years, including colleges, rest homes, museums, and community groups. PSYLO was awarded both the Supreme and Community Team of the Year Awards in the 2016 Ministry of Health Volunteer Awards.

“The DNA of our choir consists of warm community relationships,” says Claire. “In a recent feedback session, our choir members said the things they liked best about the choir was the singing, having fun, friendship, and community.”

The PSYLO choir has members of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities and includes music from all genres, including several songs in Te Reo Māori and Samoan. The choir is open to all those with respiratory disease and does not require an audition to join; all you need is a willingness to sing.

“I like being able to sing and socialise with people who accept and understand my condition,” says Lyn, “without having to apologise for coughing or my voice being somewhat unreliable.”

PSYLO meet each Friday at 10.30am at Mungavin Hall in Porirua East, Wellington. For more information, please visit PSYLO’s Facebook page: For further information and resources on COPD, please visit

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