Does Playing Music Improve Your Fitness Routine?

The Role Of Music

Who among us hasn’t at least once gone out running or punching a bag to the tune of Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger”?  We’ve seen the montage so often in movies and on TV; a guy is out of shape, makes the decision to change his life and back by a few 80’s rock hits, goes on to do exactly that. But is it realistic? Can music play a part in getting to the fitness goals you have set for yourself.

A recent study seems to offer support for this theory, testing 1 male college students on stationary bikes, riding accompanied by music of varying tempos. Without fail, when the tempo of the music slowed, so did their pedaling. When it was pumped up, they did likewise.  Researchers concluded that as the music was played faster, the participants chose to accept and even prefer a greater degree of effort.

Music can have a positive effect on your exercise regimen

Music and exercise always seem to go together. Joggers wear their ipods and earphones, gyms have excellent sound systems and loud music, and any group exercise routine is accompanied at the very least by a looped drum beat. Another recent study concluded that basketball players prone to performing poorly under pressure did markedly better when exposed to upbeat music just before a game.

It is believed to be music’s dual ability to distract attention while simultaneously stimulating the heart and muscles that makes it such a powerful exercise aid. Music increases the sense of motivation during workouts, and may affect the overall performance as well.  It is believed that the body responds to the beat even before the mind joins in, and the biochemical reactions exhilarate and motivate you to move even faster. In a typical study, from 2008, cyclists who rode in time to music used 7 percent less oxygen to pedal at the same pace as when they didn’t align themselves to the songs.

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There are limits to the benefits of music, however, and in many cases they may kick in right when you need them the most. Exercising at a punishing pace is not aided by music at all, and this is largely due to the simple reality of hard work.  During moderate exercise, however, music can narrow attention, and divert the mind from sensations of fatigue.  Once you increase the speed of the workout, however, perceptions of fatigue can override the impact of the music, simply because other processes are dominated by physiological feedback.

A recent study on the effects of music on the nervous system concluded “Humans and songbirds” are the only creatures “that automatically feel the beat” of a song, she said. The human heart wants to synchronize to music, the legs want to swing, metronomically, to a beat.

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