Music & Exercise: 5 Ways Music Enhances Your Workout

Monday, December 18, 2006 - 11:07am

By Michele Silence, MA

It seems like everyone uses an iPod, a wrist radio, or listens to the music at their local gyms. Have you ever wondered whether there’s a real benefit to hearing your favorite songs while you’re exercising? If you’re a diehard music fan, I’m sure you can list plenty of reasons why it’s an important part of your life. But there are some universal ways that music enhances exercise. Here are a few of the most common music benefits your workout.

1.   Listening to music promotes dissociation

When totally absorbed in music, your focus changes from what your body is experiencing to the external sounds you’re hearing. This situation leads you into a state in which you ignore negative feelings of fatigue and focus on the pleasurable feelings you get from following the rhythm of the music.

2.   Music acts as a performance aid

Whether you need to step things up or cool down, music can help you achieve both. Energizing, fast music can inject you with vigor. Slow, mellow music can lead to a state of deep relaxation. Depending on your goals and what you need most, you can use music to achieve it.

3.   The rhythm of the music can enhance your movement flow

If you select the ideal tempo of music for the exercises you’re doing, you can actually heighten the flow of your exercises. When strength training, chose songs with a BPM (beats per minute) of about 120 to keep your speed on track. When running, chose a higher BPM to match your cadence and keep a comfortable pace. When you’re in sync with the music, exercise seems smoother and more motivating.

4.   Choice of music is important for increasing muscle strength

If your goal is improving strength, don’t listen to relaxing music while pumping iron. Studies suggest that you’ll have bigger strength gains if you exercise in a silent atmosphere than if you exercise while listening to softer tunes. In fact, slow music can actually decrease muscular ability.

5.   Listening to music you like helps with motivation

This goes right to the core of every workout—motivation. If you hear music you like, you’re more likely to return and do it again. Listening to songs that you enjoy increases exercise adherence, thus leading to fitness gains over time.

So, whatever your reason for putting on the headphones, keep it up. If you’re outside keep an eye and ear open for oncoming obstacles. Other than that, crank up your personal favorites and sing along.