Why You Need to Pump Up Your Workout With Music
By KIRSTEN POTENZA and CRISTINA PEERENBOOM
No matter how different we are, we all have one striking thing in common: music. Listen and you'll hear an aural confirmation of our musical obsession. Whether it's taking us on a journey during our favorite TV show or movie or setting the tone at a party or on a romantic dinner, music is everywhere.
Our human connection to music runs deeper than we initially thought -- it's far more than just something we listen to for fun and enjoyment. New research is uncovering the power of applying music to exercise. Although we often experience music as just background noise in daily life, our brains hear it and respond to it in unique ways.
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Our need for music is almost beyond our conscious control. A study conducted by M. Schwartzmiller and republished by the American Council on Exercise proved that if there's music playing during our workouts, we naturally and subconsciously follow the basic tempo with our bodies' movements. When that tempo increases, so does our exercise output, proving that when you bump up the tempo of your playlist, the intensity of your workout follows.
In fact, music was recently coined "a type of legal performance-enhancing drug" by scientist Costas Karageorghis. Through his research, Karageorghis proved that if we make the effort to sync up our movements to music, seven percent less oxygen is required to do the same exact physical task as participants who do not sync to the music.
The best part of all? Music changes our perception of how difficult our workout tasks are. Exercising with music allows for increased physical output without feeling like we're working any harder than usual, which was recently proved by Matthew Stork and published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. We feel "distracted" from the pain, exertion and repetition of exercise when listening to our favorite playlist, so we're able to work out harder for longer.
New research reveals that these music-driven physical benefits are boosted even more when participants don't just work out to the beat, but instead become responsible for the beat. This term, called "musical agency," by cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Tom Fritz, can be experienced when you can hear your body working -- or taking it a step further, when you feel your movements controlling the beat.
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You experience this when you punch a punching bag and hear the quality, precision and intensity of your strikes reflected in how they sound. A strong sense of musical agency, according to a recent study, lowers perceived physical exertion and makes strenuous physical activities less physically exhausting.
Put these simple tips into action to burn more calories, increase your endurance and push through even the most challenging workout.
1. Turn your favorite song into an interval workout. Double your pace and sprint each time you hear the chorus (the part of the song that repeats). This automatically designs a perfect three- to five-minute interval workout. And if you create a 12-song playlist, you'll have a great 30- to 50-minute interval workout in the bag.
2. Listen to your body working. Turn your body into an instrument by listening to your movements. Take note of how your feet sound on the pavement or how loud you are when you kick a punching bag. Maybe even clap your hands to make a little noise during exercises like squats or lunges.
3. Sync to the beat. Find the basic downbeat and time your movements to it. Run to the tempo of a fast-paced song, weight train to a medium-cadence jam and walk to a moderately paced tune. Make sure each step, stroke and move is timed to the downbeat to maximize your workout.
4. Turn your body into an instrument. For workouts in which you can hear your body working, burn more calories and stress by getting louder. Associating a sound with a move provides your body and brain with powerful feedback that will improve coordination, timing, precision and spatial awareness.
– Kirsten and Cristina
Readers -- Do you listen to music when you exercise? Does it help you push through a workout, or is it just background noise? Do you use songs to pace yourself during workouts? What type of music do you listen to when you're exercising? Leave a comment below and share your playlist! Want more content like this? Sign up for the LIVESTRONG.COM newsletter.
Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom are certified group-fitness instructors, musicians, life enthusiasts and founders of the group-fitness phenomenon POUND: Rockout. Workout. They are most likely cooking delicious food at this exact moment at their homes in Venice, California. They believe in creating alternative fitness and giving everyone the permission to rock.