Ever wondered how music can help during long bouts of exercise? And why we plug our headphones in at the gym to watch MTV or listen to certain music channels?
Well apparently elite athletes have increased their endurance by 15 per cent listening to music, and many people find that having a beat to work to can help increase motivation and push through barriers.
If you’ve ever hit a psychological wall, say in a marathon or in an event that pushed you beyond your comfort zone, then it’s tricky to get past that point. For some, having a good tune to boost them past that point is just the ticket to help them plough on and finish what they started.
So what kind of music should we be listening to while we’re plugged into the treadmill at the gym? It could be anything from dance, to classical, from punk, to hip hop, but as long as it’s synchronous music – where the length of your stride is matched to a musical tempo, can have metronomic effects on the body which researchers say allow athletes to run for longer.
Music also has the ability of making you believe you’re not putting as much effort into your workout – so psychologically it feels much easier to work out while you are listening to some tunes that make you feel good.
Women are said to respond better to music while doing physical activity, but it’s certainly not just the professionals who can benefit. Anyone just doing their weekly exercise can benefit from listening to music, and it also helps to lift the mood.
So why should you be listening to music while you work out? Well, here are the top five best reasons.
DISTRACTION – so you’ve got a stitch and you’re getting a little out of breath, but it doesn’t matter because you haven’t noticed yet. You’re so busy singing along to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, that you haven’t noticed you’re starting to get tired. Music is a good distraction – by giving the brain lots of things to think about all at once, it means you won’t concern yourself as much about the amount of effort you’re putting into that workout.
INCREASED EFFORT – listening to music while exercising can actually up the amount of effort you put in to any given discipline. By working alongside a beat it gives you something to keep up with, but also you can enjoy the tune at the same time. The optimum song choice is anything with 120-140 beats per minute – anything slower or faster apparently just doesn’t have the same effect.
ZONING OUT – we love a bit of motivation, and the emotion of music can really help you get into what’s known as “the zone” where you can block out any external distractions. Using the emotion of the tune can help you to really push yourself further, and many people have a particular song that means a lot to them so helps them on that emotional level.
KEEPING PACE - if you have a strong beat to follow, it stands to reason that you’ll try and keep up with it. On some occasions it can help push you to go a little bit faster, or by maintaining a beat throughout a song it can improve your stamina – either way it’s a good thing as it pushes you beyond your usual level of working out without music. The motor area of the brain is stimulated by beat, so it makes us move more efficiently and effectively as well – meaning that you get the very best out of your workout.
UPLIFTING - we all like to feel good – and music does exactly that. Pick a playlist full of your favourite music and combine that with the feel-good factor of physical exercise, and you’ll be walking on clouds when you leave the gym! For an hour, or how ever long you are exercising for, music helps you tune into yourself and block out unwanted distractions. By focusing on yourself you gain self awareness, motivation and confidence. The power of music truly is a boosting force for good.
With all that said, you want to ensure that you have plenty of choice on your playlist. Sometimes, the repetitiveness of some songs can suddenly crush your urge to power on. You may have just heard a song too much, or you might have a particular song that you detest so much it may well stop you in your tracks – not the result you want! With a large selection, if you find a particular tune isn’t working for you, then you can just flick on to the next track and get back in the zone. Everyone is different so there is no one set playlist that is right for everyone. Just test some tunes out, and see what best inspires you.
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