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Exercising to Music

If you like to exercise to your favourite tunes then you will be pleased to know that it can actually enhance your workout.

Research has been carried out and it has been confirmed that exercising with music can increase your performance by up to 15%.

Whilst most athletes and gym goers like to stick their headphones on in every workout, this is the first time research has been carried out to prove its effectiveness.

For the last 20 years, Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist at Britain’s Brunel University, has been setting the research pace for understanding our need to smash out a workout to the tunes.

In addition to his lab research, Karageorghis has helped run a half marathon in London that tries to find the perfect music mix of live bands based on his research of human reaction to rhythm.

According to Kargeorghis, there are four factors that contribute to a song's motivational qualities: rhythm response, musicality, cultural impact and association.

The first two are known as "internal" factors as they relate to the music's structure while the second two are "external" factors that reflect how we interpret the music. Rhythm response is tied to the beats per minute (bpm) of the song and how well it matches either the cadence or the heartbeat of the runner. A song's structure such as its melody and harmony contribute to its musicality. The external factors consider our musical background and the preferences we have for a certain genre of music and what we have learned to associate with certain songs and artists.

Picking the right music can have several benefits.

Syncing beats per minute with an exercise pace increases your efficiency. In a recent study, subjects who cycled in time to music found that they required 7 percent less oxygen to do the same work when compared to music playing in the background. Music can also help block out the little voice in your brain telling you it’s time to quit. Research shows that this dissociation effect results in a 10 percent reduction in perceived effort during treadmill running at a moderate intensity.

In the current study, published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 30 subjects synchronised their pace to the tempo of the music which was 125 bpm. Before the experiment, a pool of music was rated using a questionnaire tool (the Brunel Music Rating Inventory) which then selected the most motivational pieces for the treadmill test. The subjects were given a choice of either pop or rock music.

With my own training, especially my long distance runs, I feel the need to have some tunes pumping into my ears to keep me focused and keep boredom at bay. In all my classes I have dance tunes, or 60s music in my seniors class, to keep everyone motivated and to keep the class members minds off the burn!!

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