How Music Powers Your Workout
If we told you, “good music boosts your workout,” you surely wouldn’t be surprised. We’ve all experienced the extra oomph that can come when a perfect song comes onto our playlist while we’re out running. The right rhythm can coordinate your steps and help you pick up the pace. It can encourage you to push yourself when you don’t want to. It’s especially effective in classes since the music provides an external cue for rhythmic coordination.
Music is such a powerful aid that athletic competitions restrict the use of personal music, just in case it creates an unfair advantage. But how does it work? And how can you get the most out of it?
One of the primary ways that music aids a workout is by providing natural pain relief. This is especially applicable when you’re listening to your own favorite jam. Hearing a beloved tune naturally releases feel-good chemicals in the body, which have a powerful ability to counter signals of pain and fatigue. Some studies have found that music can have as powerful an effect on stress and negativity as medication--and it’s side-effect free!
Keeps You Motivated
Music keeps us going for longer than we would otherwise for a few reasons. First, as mentioned above, it boosts your mood, which helps you power past the walls that would otherwise block you. Secondly, it acts as a distraction, so that your brain listens to the words and melody, rather than the body’s complaints that it’s tired. Thirdly, the act of listening to music makes the experience more enjoyable, which means that you’ll want to keep on exercising for longer.
In a study of seniors, individuals were told to work out a certain amount per week; some were told to exercise without music, others were told to play their own music, and a third group was given a playlist specifically tailored to the workout. The group with a specially-tailored mix worked out over 200 minutes more per week than the first group, showing that the simple addition of music can have potentially life-saving effects on your lifestyle.
Matching the Rhythm
One of the reason that aerobics and spin instructors love to use music is that it helps the whole room become more in sync. Did you know that this synchronizing effect can even help you be more efficient with your oxygen use? An external cue coordinating your movements means less missteps, and better consistency with your movement’s rhythm. Several studies have found that cyclists listening to music used 7% less oxygen than someone not listening to music during the same workout.
Scientists have found that at rest, our body’s natural system tends to fall into a rhythm of about 120 bpm (or two beats per second.) However, our motivation increases as we listen to faster beats, leveling out around 145 bpm. In numerous surveys, it was found that for cardio workouts, people prefer music that measures about 160 bpm.
Some Tips to Make it Work for You
Whether you’re putting together a playlist for your own workout, or helping to motivate others as an instructor, matching your song choices with the ideal paces below can make music a more effective aid.
- Cycling: 130-170 bpm
- Running 150-175 bpm
- Walking 135-140 bpm
- Swimming 140-160 bpm
Another important thing to note is that whatever the rhythm or inherent qualities of the music, people respond best to music that they like and are familiar with. So, even if someone isn’t usually a fan of jazz, they’ll get more out of it when it’s familiar to them than if it’s the first time listening. So remember to use popular songs that will be familiar to your class, and don’t be afraid to use some of your own favorite songs a few times over again.
One more thing: people are found to respond with coordination and increased motivation even more when the beat is strong and the music-listening experience is immersive. So, make sure that you have the right sound system working for you in order to help people come away with the best workout experience ever!