Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Power of Music During Exercise


          Music is such a powerful source of motivation during exercise.  Although we get used to listening to our favorite songs during a workout, we can never perform at the same intensity on the days we forget our MP3 player at home!  But why is that?  Why does music help us lift more weight?  Why does the uptempo music in an aerobics or spinning class help us push ourselves to the extreme limits?  And why do we sometimes feel so weak without it?  Well, significant research has investigated the psychophysical and ergogenic effects of music during exercise, and the results are pretty interesting.

          Psychophysics is the study of how physical stimuli can affect sensations or perceptions.  A variety of psychophysical studies have demonstrated how synchronous music during exercise acts as an ergogenic aid, or an external force that positively influences human performance.  Music is considered synchronous when it elicits repetitive body movements in time with the beat or tempo of a song.  The use of synchronous music can be utilized to enhance performance during exercises such as bench stepping (Hayakawa et al., 2000), cycling (Anshel & Marisi, 1978), callisthenics (Uppal & Datta, 1990), 400-m running (Simpson & Karageorghis, 2006), or circuit training (Michel & Wanner, 1973).  Even though Anshel & Marisi (1978) arbitrarily chose music from the “popular rock category” and did not consider the musical preferences of all subjects, synchronous music still induced longer endurance than asynchronous music or no music at all.

          While psychophysical studies can suggest an effect of music as stimuli during exercise, it can not identify a cause.  However, several hypotheses have been made.  Bonny (1987) suggests that the rhythm of music relates to the various rhythms of the human body, such as walking, breathing, or the beat of the heart.  Studies also suggest that synchronous music increases neuromuscular efficiency, which reduces the metabolic cost of exercise (Smoll & Schultz, 1978; Szmedra & Bacharach, 1998). 

          So, if you don’t listen to music while you exercise, give it a try!  Purchase a small MP3 player (nothing fancy is necessary) and upload your favorite songs.  If you synchronize your movements during exercise with your music, you can reduce the your perceived exertion, resulting in greater endurance and more intense workouts!

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"

References

1.   Anshel, M.H. and D.Q. Marisi, Effects of music and rhythm on physical performance. Research Quarterly, 1978. 49: p. 109-113.

2.   Bonny, H.L., Music the language of immediacy. The Arts in Psychtherapy, 1987. 14: p. 255-261.

3.   Hayakawa, Y., et al., Effects of music on mood during bench stepping exercise. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2000. 90: p. 307-314.

4.   Michel, W. and H.U. Wanner, Effect of music on sports performance. Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur Sportmedizin, 1973. 23: p. 141-159.

5.   Simpson, S.D. and C.I. Karageorghis, The effects of synchronous music on 400-m sprint performance. Sports Sci, 2006. 24: p. 1095-1102.

6.   Smoll, F.L. and R.W. Schultz, Relationships among measures of preferred tempos and motor rhythm. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1978. 8: p. 883-894.

7.   Szmedra, L. and D.W. Bacharach, Effect of music on perceived exertion, plasma lactate, norepinephrine and cardiovascular hemodynamics during treadmill running. Int J Sports Med, 1998. 19: p. 32-37.

8.   Uppal, A.K. and U. Datta, Cardiorespiratory response of junior high school girls to exercise performed with and without music. Physical Education and Sports Science, 1990. 2: p. 52-56.

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