Why Music Helps Us Exercise

Posted by Andrew on 6/21/2019 to Physical Health
Why Music Helps Us Exercise

New research explains the power of music

Do you like listening to music while working out? Maybe it’s to keep your mind off the daily grind or just something to help pass the time on the treadmill.

As it turns out, music actually helps you work out.

A new study has concluded that all people—whether they’re normally active or inactive—can benefit from listening to music while they exercise.

And what’s more: the kind of music you listen to can make a difference. Researchers found that more upbeat music is best for high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, which are brief, repeated intense exercises. In essence, upbeat music makes a rigorous workout seem less tough, allowing you to work out more efficiently without feeling as fatigued.

“Music is typically used as a dissociative strategy. This means that it can draw your attention away from the body’s physiological responses to exercise such as increased heart rate or sore muscles,” said Matthew Stork, who conducted the study.

“But with high-intensity exercise, it seems that music is most effective when it has a fast tempo and is highly motivational.”

Participants in the music study reported greater enjoyment of high-intensity training. They also exhibited elevated heart rates and peak power in the session with music compared to listening to a podcast or nothing at all.

Stork’s research indicates that for people who are deemed inactive, music can not only help them work harder physically but it can also help them enjoy it more. And because motivational music has the power to enhance people’s workouts, it may ultimately give people an extra boost to try and workout again in the future.

So what genres of music are best for working out? Pretty much whatever you like, as long as it gets your body moving. Some popular choices for workout music include hip-hop, dance, heavy metal, or sports anthems (Queen’s “We Will Rock You” comes to mind).

No matter if you’re into Beyoncé, Metallica, or Bruce Springsteen, here are some basic ways music helps us while we exercise:

  • It’s a (healthy) distraction
  • It’s simple: your body is working hard so you take your mind off that by listening to music. This is the good kind of distraction, helping you finish your workout without repeated stops.

  • It raises your effort level
  • Music can motivate you to run faster, jump higher, or do whatever activity to the best of your ability. It helps to listen to music with faster tempos, or a song that just “drives” you.

  • It helps keep a steady pace
  • Exercises that are self-paced, like running or lifting, can get a boost with a song’s rhythm. The music’s rhythm stimulates your brain, making it easier to keep a steady pace while working out. Creating music while exercising can work in this way too.

  • It makes you feel better
  • Your music literally has the ability to “make you move.” Listening to music you like provokes the brain to get excited and induce movement in your body. So let your music help you!


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