Sunday, March 11, 2012

Music and Exercise

For me, stimulating, upbeat music is as important to my workouts as good shoes and comfortable workout attire. I don’t leave for the gym without my MP3 player and Bluetooth stereo headset packed in my gym bag. Not only do I get the pleasure of listening to my favorite tunes but, it puts me in a better frame of mind and dramatically increases my physical performance.

I am very grumpy and less than happy about getting up at 5:50 in the morning to go to the gym before work. A morning person I am not. But once I have my music playing, I feel more awake and alive and ready to get the day going. It really helps improve my mood and put me in a much better frame of mind.

Music helps keep me focused on what I’m doing. When I’m doing my strength training sets, I’m not distracted by what’s on the TV or other peoples’ conversations. The greatest benefit from the music comes when I’m on the elliptical. Then I do turn on the TV with the volume off and the Closed Caption on. That way I have something to look at instead of staring at the amount of time lapsing on the display. When I first started out on the elliptical eight weeks ago, I couldn’t last 3 minutes at 43 MPH. I gradually increased my time each day by 15 to 60 seconds. The music really helps me keep pushing on to each day’s goal. Not only does it help me in the amount of time I can last, but helps me increase my pace. I am now up to 20 minutes and my average speed is 50 MPH, topping out at the end of my workouts at about 62 MPH. And it seems I always have perfect timing with the music, too. Just when I need that extra push to make my goal, a really great song comes on and I just go with it to the finish line.

I figured there had to be some research out there on the benefits of using music while exercising and I was right. Research from Ohio State University suggests that listening to music during a workout helps people with chronic lung disease boost their fitness level. This article was of particular interest to me because I am an asthmatic. In the study, subjects with serious lung disease who listened to music while walking covered an average of 19 miles over the course of an eight-week exercise intervention study. In comparison, the group that didn’t listen to music only walked an average of 15 total miles – 21 percent less - by the end of the study. It suggests that participants in the music group may have felt less hindered by shortness of breath.

In a British study, 12 male college students rode stationary bikes while listening to a set of six songs for 30 minutes. They each rode in three separate trials. During one of the rides, the six songs were played at their normal tempos. During the other rides, the tempo of the tracks was slowed by 10 percent or increased by 10 percent. The riders were not informed about the tempo manipulations. When the tempo slowed, so did the riders response – heart rates fell, mileage dropped, and they didn’t like the music much. When the music tempo was upped 10 percent, the riders covered more miles, produced more power with each pedal stroke and increased their pedal cadences. Their heart rates rose. They reported enjoying the music, the same music, about 36 percent more than when it was slowed. They didn’t find the workout easier. Their sense of how hard they worked actually rose 2.4 percent but it seemed to motivate them to push themselves. With the tempo faster, the riders chose to accept, even prefer, a greater degree of effort.

So, the next time you take that walk or go to the gym, don’t leave without you’re music player and headphones. The music might just make that little bit of difference you need to stay motivated and make your goals. It certainly works for me.

My resources: 

I originally posted this 9/29/11 on my other blog.

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