Music: The Movement Motivator
Music has an unrivaled ability to get our feet moving. Whether it’s in the club or in the kitchen, it can be difficult to stand still when we hear the catchy rhythms of a song we like. It’s why music and dance have co-existed in every prominent culture since the dawn of man—music and motion seem to fit together so well in our minds that many of us can’t have one without the other.
Research has shown that this concept can also extend to exercise. If you’re a patient of weight surgery in the North Miami area, pumping up the jams could be the perfect way to keep you motivated to exercise your way to your weight loss goals.
Studying Up-Tempo Training
In a 2010 study at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences in the UK, researchers had 12 healthy male college students ride stationary bikes while listening to music that they deemed popular among the undergrad population. Each had a different tempo, which is the rhythmic speed of a piece of music. The participants rode at a comfortable pace for 30 minutes, then rode in three additional trials while listening to headphones at whatever volume they preferred. For every participant, researchers monitored heart rate, cadence of pedaling, how much participants enjoyed the music, output of power and the riders’ feelings of how hard they were exerting themselves.
Each of the three trials played the selected music at different tempos. In the first trial, the songs were played at normal speed, while in the two consecutive trials they were played 10 percent faster and 10 percent slower. The riders were not told about the changes to the music, but their responses to each tempo were significantly different. When the songs were played slower, their riding slowed, their heart rates fell and they reported less enjoyment of the music. At the faster tempo, they covered more miles in the same amount of time, had heightened heart rates, produced more power with each pedal stroke and reported enjoying the music about 36 percent more.
They also perceived that they were working about 2.4 percent harder during the up-tempo trial, showing that the faster music didn’t have any effect on hiding the discomfort of exercise. Instead, the faster music seemed to help them accept and prefer their higher levels of exertion, pushing them to perform better.
Music is a Full-Body Phenomenon
The intersection of music and exercise is complex and not fully understood by scientists, but this is one of many studies that show music’s intriguing performance-enhancing effects. Music impacts us both physiologically and psychologically, affecting both our intangible sense of motivation and tangible levels of performance.
This deep intertwining of music’s impact on our body and mind makes it difficult to dissect just what it is about music that makes us want to work harder. Though scientists are still hard at work researching the exactly why it affects us so, music clearly has a direct impact. It can change the speed at which our hearts beat and impact how much we want to exercise. It can distract our minds or focus them. It can make us do better or worse.
So before you scoff at a jazzercise class or roll your eyes at the dozens of people at your gym who seem inseparably glued to their iPod headphones, think about what you read in this article. If you’ve never tried exercising with music before, make a playlist of some of your favorite high-energy, up-tempo songs and give it a shot next time you work out. You may be surprised by the results.