Some things are better as a pair. For example, peanut butter and jelly, hot cocoa and marshmallows, and exercise and music! If you frequent the gym, you may have realized that many people wear headphones throughout their workout sessions. Have you ever wondered why this is the case? Is it to avoid being distracted by other people or to enjoy their favorite tunes? Let us find out as we explore the relationship between music and exercise.
Music And Exercise Facts
Music plays a significant role in our lives, even without noticing. Whether we are exercising, doing chores, or chilling on the sofa, the fact is that music may help us in many ways. Of course, relaxation is the number one benefit most people reap from listening to music.
Relaxation is a benefit you get from listening to music regardless of the task you are performing. But more recently people have been carrying their headphones to the gym after discovering the benefits of listening to music when exercising. Some of these include:
Some days workouts are so hard, and at such times, you feel like giving up mid-way. But research shows listening to music acts as a distraction and helps you fight such sensations (5). When this happens, your rate of perceived exertion (RPE), which refers to how hard you feel you are working, reduces by up to 10% (5). As a result, you feel more psyched to keep up with your workout until the end.
Making Workouts Easier
Music, unsurprisingly, makes exercise seem easier and more enjoyable. According to WebMD, this happens because it helps you feel more positive during the workout and improves physiological efficiency (3). Do not be surprised to find yourself managing well what you initially thought was a grueling or arduous set.
Helping You Attain More Synchronized Movements
A lot can throw you off the correct form when exercising. To prevent this, The Guardian recommends listening to music as it helps synchronize movements to the tempo of the music being played (5). If you are performing a routine with fast movements, choose a song with a faster tempo that matches the pace of the movements.
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Makes Running Easier
Running can be hard for anyone, but it is especially challenging for beginners. Each mile may feel like torture because it is monotonous, works your entire body muscles, makes your heart work harder, and is not glamorous.
Because of this, you may find some people giving up after running for only a few miles. But evidence suggests that you can change this by listening to music. According to The Guardian, listening to music boosts your motivation and performance by 10% and helps you run faster (2).
Endurance is your body’s ability to keep up with a routine for an extended period. Listening to music helps improve performance in endurance and resistance models of exercise in several ways.
A 2021 music and exercise study discovered that music reduces or delays fatigue perceptions that affect cardiovascular endurance and increase work capacity (4). Secondly, music was shown to reduce exertion through distraction and dissociation and increase arousal and neural activity, which are accompanied by better exercise performance (4).
Enhances Mental Health
For a good reason, music is considered a cure for the soul. Like exercise, it triggers the release of feel-good hormones that enhance your emotional well-being. The effect of combining music and exercise can do so much good to your mental health.
How To Choose The Right Music To Match Your Routine
Now, we have favorite songs in different genres. But no matter how much we love them, some are not ideal for listening to when exercising. Knowing this, is there such a thing as a magic formula for a good exercise song?
Well, unsurprisingly, there are a few factors you need to consider during your music selection. Contrary to what you might think, music selection is not as simple as queuing up a few high-energy songs. Instead, it involves the analysis of the following factors:
The Type Of Song
The tune fitness experts recommend during exercise must be lively and uplifting (5). Of course, the idea is to choose a track that will enhance your good spirits and make you momentarily forget about the soreness or fatigue from exercising.
The Guardian also reveals that lively and uplifting music stimulates the part of the brain linked to locomotion, better known as the motor cortex (5). When you listen to music, you more or less activate the motor cortex to get the work done.
To understand the effect of the music tempo during exercise, the New York Times interviewed an associate professor of sport psychology at Brunel University in England. He had studied music’s effects on physical performance for 20 years (1).
First, the expert revealed that the song’s tempo is important because it determines your pace and how you synchronize movements to the music. He stated that the song’s tempo should be between 120 and 140 beats per minute, or BPM (1).
The tempo of the music of a power walker going 4.5 miles per hour should be between 137 and 139. Alternatively, the BPM of a runner should be between 147 and 160 (1). But that of a stroll walker going roughly at three to five kilometers an hour has a remixed track count of 115 to 118 BPM (1).
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The other element you must analyze when creating a workout playlist is the rhythm of each song. The New York Times advises you to do away with any song with abrupt changes in time signature, such as hard-core punk and free-form jazz (1). Remember that rhythm regulates the brain and prevents cognitive decline. Choose a song with a rhythm that also supports your movements.
Type Of Exercise
You must also create a playlist with attention to the type of exercise you are performing. That is because the music you listen to when performing cardio might hit differently when performing a strength training program.
For example, according to the New York Times, strength training activities are better paired with heavy metal music (1). The theory is that the loud, aggressive music elevates people with strength training, particularly in between sets (1).
Music’s emotional or inspirational element is particularly important in boosting your motivation. But, of course, you need motivation from every corner after performing a grueling set. According to the New York Times, L.L. Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out does not affect you when you are out of breath from a grueling set (1).
Instead, a song with an inspirational theme such as Gonna Fly Now can evoke a state of optimism and excitement to get everything done (1). Pay attention to the lyrics as much as you focus on the tempo and rhythm.
Pro Tips About Applying Music In Exercise And Sport
There is no question that music and workout are an excellent pair. But there are some potential downsides to always putting on your headphones when exercising, which is why you must take heed of the following:
Safety is paramount, especially when performing outdoor activities such as running. Therefore, despite enjoying your playlist, you must also be keen and listen to other cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles to minimize accident risk.
You do not have to listen to your playlist at full volume for it to inspire or boost your motivation. However, remember that loud music can damage your hearing, so you must regulate the volume.
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How To Keep Your Workout Playlist Fresh
With time, you may find that your initial playlist becomes monotonous, and you are outgrowing it. It is natural and a clear indication that you need to update it. But updating your playlist to keep the music fresh is a never-ending struggle.
Once again, you must look for catchy and inspirational songs that resonate with you and your exercise program. Not to mention that you have to look for something you enjoy or from your favorite artists. Doing this is time-consuming.
Instead of doing all these, experts suggest using a remixed version of songs that fit the tempo you are looking for (1). You might have noticed that such remixes have become very common in the gym, indicating how suited they are to workouts.
You can create a playlist from these remixes or consider using one you find online. But it would help if you went through it beforehand to validate that it aligns with your exercise routine and matches your movements.
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The Bottom Line
Music and exercise are a perfect pair, like peanut butter and jelly. Evidence shows that listening to music can boost your motivation, increase endurance, enhance mental health, reduce fatigue and make some exercises like running easier.
But you do not just choose any song. It would help if you considered its tempo, rhythm, genre, and lyrics. Remember to stay safe when exercising when listening to music by reducing the volume and being attentive to your surroundings.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Choosing the best music for exercise (2008, nytimes.com)
- Does music help you to run faster? (2012, theguardian.com)
- Music Does Give Your Workout a Boost (2020, webmd.com)
- The Influence of Music Preference on Exercise Responses and Performance: A Review (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Tune in, work out (2008, theguardian.com)