It’s something that’s quite intuitive and people generally figure out for themselves but I’ve read about another study recently that is touting the benefits of listening to music while exercising.
So what’s going on? Well there’s a few things…..
Everyone will have songs they use to relax or songs they listen to before going on a night out or songs they listen to when exercising etc. Music stirs our emotions and different types of music produce different effects. The key element responsible for the different effects is largely the tempo but volume also plays a part. Fast tempo, loud intensity music (unsurprisingly) increases excitement and the arousal of emotions, while slow tempo, quieter music (yep you guessed it) is more used for calming down and relaxing. You frequently see videos of athletes listening to music before a competition to calm their nerves or to energise themselves and this makes perfect sense.
Digging deeper throws up some interesting additional ideas though….
When exercising, there are two types of music you can listen to – music that corresponds to the rhythm and speed of the exercise you’re performing and music that doesn’t. Synchronous music i.e. music that corresponds to the tempo of the exercise, has been shown to help both professional and non-professional athletes manage their energy usage more effectively and prolong their endurance. It has been shown, for example, that individuals cycling with their movements in sync with the music they are listening to, use 7% less oxygen than when cycling listening to asynchronous music.
Similarly, synchronous music has been shown to improve the endurance of individuals running on a treadmill by 15% and help them feel more positive about exercising even when working at very high intensities. The ability of elite level athletes to work out at high intensities is talked about recently in a vlog by Jonny Thompson at Fit4Racing.
Other things that music has been shown to improve are the acquisition of motor skills such as coordination and balance and even that certain lyrics may improve technique (the song “ Push it” by Salt-n-Pepa has been shown to reduce the number of technical errors in athletes performing the shot put).
So what can we take from all this?
Musical taste is very subjective and so choosing the songs that work for you rather than looking for songs that work for others is your best bet. When doing this though, think about the level of intensity and tempo you’re wanting to work at and select appropriate music of a comparable tempo and volume.
If you’re going to take the time to practice, practice like the elite.