There’s no doubt about it, working out to music just feels better, and there’s scientific research to back it up. Studies have shown that music can influence our emotional and physical responses, including our heart rate, respiration, and even brain activity.
In fact, a study conducted by Brunel University found music to improve the athletic performance of participants by up to 15%. If that’s not enough to persuade you to whack on your favourite playlist for your next workout, let’s dive deeper into the benefits.
Dr. Costas Karageorghis, a leader in sports psychology, has carried out extensive research into the impact music can have on an individual’s athletic performance. He found that fast-paced music with a strong beat can improve performance by increasing endurance and reducing perceived exertion.
This is because the rhythm of the music can help individuals to maintain a consistent pace, leading to better overall performance. He even noted that we can think of music as a ‘type of legal performance-enhancing drug.’
Reduced Perceived Pain and Exertion
The notable improvement in performance can be linked to the effect music has on perceived pain. According to a 2017 study by Karageorghis, music can improve athletic performance by either delaying fatigue or increasing work capacity. He reported on music leading to higher than expected levels of endurance, strength and productivity.
The University of Utah Pain Research Center has delved further into this research, evaluating the effects of music in diverting psychological responses to pain stimuli. They found music to help reduce pain by activating sensory pathways, evoking an emotional response, that competes with pain pathways. This suggests that it is the cognitive and emotional response to music that helps to reduce perceived pain, which is why we are able to work out harder and for longer when listening to a great playlist.
Ever found yourself struggling to finish a workout or lacking the motivation to start one? Well, music can help with that. Music has been shown to increase motivation and, as we know, reduce perceived exertion.
A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that listening to music during exercise increased motivation and performance compared to exercising in silence. The participants in the study reported feeling less tired and less aware of the physical demands of the exercise while listening to music.
This one goes hand in hand with increased motivation. One of Karageorghis’ studies found that listening to music led to a 28% increase in enjoyment in participants performing physical activity, contrasted against those performing without. Similar studies have found that when participants listened to music they found enjoyable, they displayed higher levels of serotonin.
Does the Type of Music Make a Difference?
Synchronizing our movements can improve our efficiency when working out. Findings from a 2012 study showed that cyclists who synchronized their movements to music required less oxygen than those who did not. Naturally, the tempo of the music will spark a rhythm response, the body’s instinct to synchronize movement to the music.
The type of music that will excite this response depends on the person, but as a general rule, the body tends to respond to fast songs with a strong beat. According to Dr. Karageorghis, the ideal tempo is between 120 and 140 beats per minute, as this tends to match the average heart rate during exercise. The ideal BPM likely depends on the type of activity you’re performing and the ability to keep in time with the music, whether that be running on a treadmill, cycling or performing aerobic steps.
So, next time you’re compiling that perfectly crafted workout playlist, consider the beat of the music, how the music makes you feel and the type of activity you’ll be performing. It could help you reach that PB.Tunes at the ready? Pound the pavement in our Running Shorts.