How Music Can Help Up Your Fitness Game
While Hunter F. Thompson was obviously speaking metaphorically when he famously suggested that "a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio," you, on the other hand, may actually be able to make your exercise routine a good deal more productive if you choose the right jams!Though exercise is not required on the 123Diet, it is more or less essential for weight maintenance and good health. Luckily, plenty of science suggests that the simple addition of music can make your workout less tiring, more effective, and a lot more fun.Music's effects could kick in even before you hit the gym; one intriguing study found that pre-task music has been found to optimize arousal and improve performance on motor tasks, while motivational music played during tasks was also shown to heighten mood, exertion, and efficiency.Plus, pedaling or running to a beat just feels plain old satisfying, and listening to a song with particularly inspirational lyrics (Eye ot the Tiger, anyone?) may get you feeling even better. Unsurprisingly, music that was rated as high-groove (in other words, music that makes you want to dance) induced more movement than lower-groove tunes.
Tempo also seems to play a big part in your musical advantage. One study of music's effects on cycling performance found that participants' heart rates fell if they were played low-tempo music, as did their enjoyment of the music and the amount of miles traveled. All these findings were reversed for athletes in the high-tempo condition.
However, the high-tempo men actually reported feeling like their workout was harder, which suggests that music may have less of an effect on how difficult a workout feels than how willing athletes are to push past the pain. Additionally, the physical effects music can bring on, including higher heart rate and faster breathing, may itself translate to increased motivation.
Of course, there are upper limits to this tempo effect; research has found that music with a tempo above 140 BPM (beats per minute) didn't help as much during moderate to intense activity as did songs with tempos ranging from 120-140 BPM. For slower-paced warm-ups and cool-downs, experts recommend sticking to 80-90 BPM instead.If you're not familiar with the BPM of your favorite tunes, there's fortunately an app for that! Fitradio, available from both Apple and Google Play, offers up pre-made workout-perfect playlists that can be sorted by BPM as well as by genre, activity, or DJ.Having agency over what music is played may also be a factor in how much it improves your performance; when specialized machines generated music corresponding to participants' workouts, they performed even better than did those given music alone!
Other research has found that cyclists who rode in time to music used less oxygen than those who didn't. However, all these musical perks tend to disappear once you get to the top of your physical limits.
A study done on experienced runners undertaking difficult workouts failed to find the increase in heart rate or distraction from fatigue that were found during more moderate activity.
This may be because these superstars' heart rates were so high already, and the physical exhaustion resulting from such hard work overtook even music's substantial powers.
Yet even these runners reported more enjoyment from their workout than did non-music-listeners! Plus, some gym junkies find that music enables them to concentrate on their workouts more deeply, though plenty of casual exercisers instead enjoy music as a distraction from their hard work.
In the end, the fact that listening to music is currently banned by USA Track and Field in all professional races acknowledges that, at least under some circumstances, music may work similarly to a performance enhancing drug.
Luckily, music comes without all the icky side effects of actual performance-enhancing drugs, and a few health benefits of its own! For instance, listening to music has been shown to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, improve your sound processing, improve your heart health, and even reduce your pain.
If you don't have much of a musical side but would still appreciate a distraction to help pass your workout time, you could try watching TV, listening to podcasts, or even reading a magazine or book if you're pedaling or jogging at a relatively slow pace.
You should also be wary of listening to music during outside workouts unless you're in a designated safe area—you don't want to be so "in the zone" that you miss the sound of an oncoming car!
There's no shame in choosing silence either; plenty of athletes find that quiet workouts help them feel more in touch with their environment, or with their own thoughts.
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