Ever had ‘Eye of the Tiger’ on full blast as you approach that final mile or push for that final rep? Then you will have experienced music’s magical effect on workout performance first hand!
Music has become a fundamental part of exercising, especially with the advance of musical technology making devices more portable. That advancement has exploded in recent years to the point where we have the world’s music at our fingertips, ready-loaded with playlists designed to soundtrack your workout routine with up-tempo songs.
Most of us are equipped with headphones when we head down to the gym or step out for a run but why do we find music so effective in our workout routine?
There have been several studies into this exact question - we’ve compiled the key takeaways from these studies right here.
Music releases the ‘good’ chemicals in the brain
Chemical opioids are released in the brain whilst listening to music in day-to-day life, however, once physical engagement with the music is added to the mix the brain’s opioid signals are increased significantly. This leads to an enhanced flow of chemical opioids in the brain which have a similar effect to painkillers according to the New Scientist. This means the aches and pains experienced as your exercising subsides in the presence of music.
Music is a ‘distractor’
Costas Karageorghis, a sport psychologist at Brunel University London, suggested that music improves exercise performance “by either delaying or increasing work capacity”. ‘Distractors’, like chemicals, have been found to influence pain levels. When you are captivated by a particular chord progression or the flow of a rapper your body is distracted enough to numb the aching sensation felt in exercise.
The impact of tempo and BPM
Music awakens a rhythm response in us which operates at its peak in the presence of music with a fast BPM and a strong beat. When you feel that natural urge to tap your toes or dance - that’s your rhythm response kicking into life. This rhythm response locks the movements we make in exercise into a tight tempo like a metronome which helps us retain pace and coordination in whatever workout we may be doing.
In a study published in the Journal Sports Medicine-Open, researchers found that patients with music tailored specifically to the average tempo of exercise outperformed those exercising without music.
There are certain workouts where music plays an integral part such as Zumba which uses the speedy, euphoric rhythms of Latin music to help participants to work up a sweat. Unlock some wider sources of motivation in our 7 secrets of gym motivation article!
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