Elizabeth Kovar by Elizabeth Kovar
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Have you ever noticed how music motivates and inspires you to work out? Do you get excited when your favorite song plays during your group exercise class? Do you find that yoga music promotes relaxation? These are just a few of the ways that music affects exercise and your motivation to move. 

A growing body of research suggests that music directly affects exercise motivation. Here are four ways music affects movement. 

1. Music reduces feelings of fatigue.

Research indicates that music keeps us from focusing on the physical sensations of fatigue, particularly during lower-intensity exercise. Distraction from fatigue varies from person to person, as everyone’s personal fitness level plays a role, but music can help you push yourself harder during your workouts.

2. Music increases mental arousal.

“Altering the mind’s arousal state with music will result in an increased exercise performance, as if the music is ‘psyching’ one up to perform exercise better,” wrote researchers Karageorghis and Terry in their review of the psychophysical effects of music in sport and exercise (1997). Additional research has known that there are direct connections between auditory neurons to motor neurons. In other words, regardless of what you hear, your brain and body will react.

3. Music improves motor coordination.

Exercising to music can help motor and movement coordination, such as moving to the beat of the music during a group fitness class. When the body is in sync with music, people often experience a boost in self-confidence, which creates a positive association with exercise.

4. Music increases relaxation.

“Some of the byproduct molecules of high level exercise, such as acidosis and elevated hormones (which contribute to fatigue), may somehow be dampened by music, thus enhancing performance,” wrote researchers Szmedra and Bacharach, who examined the effects of classical music on cycling to exhaustion (1998).

What to Know About Music and Exercise

Speed and tempo are the two most important factors that affect exercise intensity. It is ideal to start your warm-up with a slower song (120 to 126 bpm) and gradually increase the speed according to the type of exercise you will be doing. For weight lifting and general cardio, choose music that is between 128 to 135pm. For relaxation, choose music that is less than 100 bpm.

Motivation vs. Pain

There is a difference between fatigue and pain. Although music can be distracting, it is important to listen to your body. Sharp, stabbing, shooting or “hitting the wall” exhaustion is not ideal and you should monitor exercise accordingly. If pain persists, contact your medical professional.  

Overall, when you are inspired you are more likely to exercise and maintain motivation. From aiding performance to pushing your workout intensity just a little bit further, music greatly influences movement. So, what’s on your workout playlist?

References

Karageorghis, C.I. and Terry, P.C. (1997). The psychophysical effects of music in sport and exercise: A review. Journal of Sport Behavior, 20, 1, 54-68.

Kravitz, L. (2007). The effects of music on exercise. IDEA Fitness Journal, 4, 8.

Szabo, A., Small A. and Leigh, M. (1999). The effects of slow- and fast-rhythm classical music on progressive cycling to voluntary physical exhaustion. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 39, 3, 220-225.

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