The relationship between music and physical exertion may be more complex than you would think.
Sure, most of us enjoy listening to music while working out. Perhaps we think it motivates us or gives us that extra boost to keep going. Exercising even seems to be easier while listening to music. Are these just ideas inside our minds or is there something more scientific to it?
Dr. Costas Karageorghis has an international reputation for his research into the psychological, psychophysical and ergogenic effects of music. He determined that there are four factors that contribute to a song’s motivational qualities: rhythm response, musicality, cultural impact and association.
Rhythm response and musicality are recognized as internal factors relating to musical structure whereas cultural impact and association are external factors reflecting how the music is interpreted.
Rhythm response is associated with a song’s beats per minute (BPM) and how it accords with the heartbeat of the listener. Components of a song such as melody and harmony contribute to its musicality.
Emotions drive endurance; so consider the memories and associations that different songs evoke. This mesh of interpretations provides a catalyst into the zone where an athlete experiences complete absorption through focus, involvement and enjoyment of what they are doing.
For decades, science has known that there are direct connections from auditory neurons to motor neurons. Any song can be broken down into beats per minute, or its tempo. According to Ask the Trainer, songs with a higher BPM (around 160-180) are best for high-intensity cardio such as running, while mid-level BPM (120-140) is great for jogging or dance fitness, while slightly lower BPM (around 100) for strength training. Karageorghis discovered the sweet spot, in terms of tempo, to be between 120 and 140 beats per minute.
Choosing songs that sync BPM with an exercise pace not only increases efficiency but also can alter an athlete’s perception of their own efforts. When working out to a personal playlist, athletes have found that they feel more accomplished than if they workout to music selected for them.
While for many athletes listening to music is essential for peak performance, WebMD notes that elite athletes, or those working out at a very intense level, are already so into it that music may not provide that much of an edge for them.
“The interplay of exercise and music is fascinating and not fully understood, perhaps in part because, as a science, it edges into multiple disciplines, from physiology to biomechanics to neurology.” – The New York Times
Now that you have a better understanding about the relationship between music and exercise, you may be more inspired to create a workout playlist geared towards driving the results you want to see from your fitness routine.
Without music, life would be a mistake” – Friedrich Nietzsche