How Music Drives Exercise
What would your life be like without music? A ride in the car, a dinner at a restaurant, or a workout at the gym may seem a bit drab without a soundtrack. But there’s more to music than preference. New research is exposing just how music affects our ability to move. Significant physiological changes occur when music is present in our daily lives. Specifically, new research suggests that music can, relatively speaking, improve performance during exercise.
Charles Emery, a clinical psychologist at Ohio State University, recently went beyond music’s effect on the body to explore how the brain is affected by music during exercise. After studying men and women in a cardiac rehabilitation program, he found that the participants scored twice as well on a verbal fluency test when they listened to music than they did without music. His results support scads of research about the power of music. "I've always thought that music had many benefits for people, and increasingly people use music when they exercise, so it seemed like a logical next step in terms of a research project," Emery says.
Tempo as a Motivator
Another Ohio State University study found that subjects climbed stairs faster when music had a faster tempo. The aim of the study was to show the tempo of music would cause an increase in motor activity, which it did. The suggestion is that the body synchronizes with music during physical exercise, similar to how music is used as a cue for dance.
I Heart Music
A study published in Heart found that the tempo of music correlates to changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. Researchers used different styles of music and varying tempos on musicians and non-musicians. They found that music increased breathing frequency and that the change in breathing was proportional to the tempo of the music. The results carried over to heart rate and blood pressure as well with a positive correlation to increased tempo. Once the music stopped, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing decreased below where they were before the music started, suggesting a calming or relaxing effect. Musicians showed more sensitivity to tempo changes than did non-musicians.
During exercise music can also take the edge off of the pain of exercise. A study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise showed that perceived exertion during low and moderate exercise was reduced by 10% when participants listened to music. Furthermore, the ability for music to avert attention and improve mood staved off feelings of fatigue during high intensity. The key to music’s affect was not in alleviating pain, but rather it affected how the brain processed information coming from muscles.
How does music affect your workout?