April 19, 2015

Can Music Affect Your Workout?

This guest post by entrepreneur and fitness fanatic Dai Manuel is in response to an article on running without music I had written for his blog.  Very interesting to see two opposing takes on the same subject.  Dai is Chief Operating Office and partner in Fitness Town Inc., a fitness equipment shop in the Great Frozen North, a.k.a Canada. 

The Effects of Music on Exercise

Athletes sitting on the bench with their headphones on. People on the street jogging and running with iPods in hand. Step and spin classes sweating to the pumping bass. Music and exercise go hand-in-hand. So much so, it seems like music is what keeps people moving - and there are decades of research that explain why.

Sports medicine research has revealed the amazing effect music has on the brain. Athletes use music to psych themselves up; to motivate or get fired up. What you may not realize, however, is that music actually has a physical stimulant effect on the brain. The brain reacts to energetic music like it would to any other stimulant. The opposite has also been proven true.

Listening to calming music after a workout or competition actually has a physical sedation effect on the brain. In other words, Bach isn’t the guy to turn do when you’re taking on a fast-paced workout, while Pitbull probably shouldn’t be your music of choice during a cool down. Switch them up and you’ll be good to go.

Back in 1911, a researcher conducted a test on people riding bicycles. Those who biked to music rode faster and longer. The same holds true for long distance running, weight lifting, swimming, and just about every other form of exercise.

The tempo is only a part of the equation.

The ability to surpass the feeling of discomfort and continue for a longer period of time has been proven over and over again. It is not that people don’t feel the discomfort – muscle tension, temperature increase, and fatigue – but they are able to continue on in synchronization with the music. In synchronizing steps, strokes, lifts, and rotations to music, even during more difficult segments you’ll still be motivated to stay ‘on beat’.

For example, if you were a cross country runner and were approaching a hill, you can synchronize the music to a faster, more driving beat to increase your motivation to tackle the hill. Studies have also shown that when music accompanies exercise, you require less oxygen – almost 7% less – resulting in increased endurance.

A person’s preference in musical genre seems to play no part in the outcome or effects of music. You don’t have to listen to thrash metal to do dead lifts or pop music to excel in spin class. It is all about the beats per minute (BPM).

Researchers have come upon an actual formula for finding the ideal BPM in an exercise set. During the warm-up phase, BPM should be around 90-120. For the bulk of the routine, ramp things up to 120 – 150 BPM, before slowing them down again to 90 BPM and below for the cool down.

Most people know what songs will start them up, keep them moving and bring them back to a resting state. But if you want to get more technical (and accurate) check out the app Tangerine. This clever app links to your iTunes. You enter your desired BPM and the app will find songs that fit. It will even set your warm up and cool down songs. All that’s left is for you to put on your headphones and push play.

As we can see, music truly is the ultimate motivator.

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Nik Hawks


Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!

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