Playing a musical instrument can be fun, but for people with lung problems it can also offer a health benefit. One man convinced his doctor to make his favorite pastime a form of therapy.
Music has always been a huge part of Larry Rawdon's life.
"I think it transports people to a different, a better place," Rawdon said.
A professional cellist for 30 years, he recently took up the harmonica.
"I love playing the harmonica. It's a great outlet," Larry said.
It became much more. After surviving two lung transplants, he noticed that his passion could also be a form of therapy.
"My scores were always substantially elevated after playing the harmonica," Larry said.
Larry shared his observation with his doctor.
"I knew I could not just ignore what he was saying because this guy knows what he's talking about," said Dr. Cesar Keller, Professor of Medicine Medical Director, Lung Transplant Program, Mayo Clinic Florida.
Dr. Keller says playing the harmonica can strengthen a patient's diaphragm, but unlike standard rehab exercises, it's fun, so patients are more likely to stick with it.
"If you can keep your respiratory muscles and your diaphragm as strong as possible, the disease will be better," Dr. Keller said.
Dr. Keller says the harmonica isn't a replacement for standard pulmonary therapy, but adding the instrument to the mix could be beneficial.
Larry couldn't agree more.
"I really do think music is oxygen for the soul," Larry said.
Dr. Keller says like more rehab programs, harmonica breathing exercises should be done three-to-five times a week.
Playing the harmonica may also benefit people with other respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.