Does Listening to Music Improve the Quality of Your Workout?
Listening to music when you hit the gym to improve your workout isn’t exactly a new concept. But understanding how your favorite tunes enhance your exercise is a little less obvious. Research consistently finds that listening to music distracts athletes from their “bodily awareness”. And a recent study found that not just listening, but controlling and creating music in time to one’s pace had an even more profound effect on perceived effort during a workout.
Here Are 5 Very Good Reasons to Rock out During Your Next Workout
1. Improve Cadence and Avoid Injury
Runners rejoice! Music at the right tempo can help you increase your cadence and sidestep injury. A high cadence has been tied with lower rates of injury in endurance runners. Those extra small steps help reduce the force of each footfall and keep your body better aligned on impact. A study with 26 recreational runners found that when they ran to music between 130 and 200 BPM, they sped up or slowed down their footfalls in time with the music. So, shoot for music with 160 to 180 BPM to boost your cadence.
2. Push your Limits
Nothing will put the brakes on a great workout quite like fatigue. Music can help change your perception of your limits by blocking out some of your fatigue. A study with 12 male participants found that when they listened to music at different tempos while cycling, they worked harder with faster music and enjoyed the music more than slower songs. The right music can distract you from the extra effort and leave you unaware of your increased exertion. This means that you can work out harder and get a better workout overall without feeling like you are.
However, you can’t completely blow past your body’s limits. Music is much less effective at decreasing your perceived level of exertion when you’re working to your max. Studies have shown that once your heart rate climbs into the anaerobic zone, music stops being effective. Your body, and your muscles’ desire for oxygen becomes louder than your tunes. Music is no match for super high-intensity workouts.
3. You’ll Work Harder Without Noticing
Feel like your progress is stalling? Try adding some preselected songs to your next gym session. One study found that participants pedaled more ferociously while listening to music, but they didn’t find the extra effort to be more unpleasant than their slower pedaling without music.
Multiple studies have shown that music is especially influential during repetitive, endurance activities. Choosing the music you like best can enhance the performance boost and reduce your perceived exertion. In other words, listening to music can make your workout feel easier or encourage you to work harder without you feeling like you are. Researchers don’t know precisely why this is true, but many attribute it to the metronome effects a good beat can have. The right song may help you maintain a steady pace, keep your mind off the difficulty of the workout, or both.
4. Make A Hard Workout More Enjoyable
Anyone who’s ever gone to a spin class with heavy beats knows firsthand how much easier a brutal workout is with music. Good jams can help distract you from the intensity of the workout. One study with 34 participants found that listening to music is even more effective at making a workout more enjoyable than just watching a video without sound. Why? Because the more you’re able to lose yourself in the music and disconnect from the unpleasant feelings of an activity, the more pleasant it becomes.
Another study found that a good playlist can also help decrease your perceived level of exertion, or how hard you think you’re working, during low- and moderate-intensity exercise. The researchers also found music and video combined was more powerful, and that the effects of this combination increased with time. The longer the participants exercised, the more powerful the music and video was. So, don’t forget to grab your headphones before a long workout!
5. You’ll Recover Faster
Bring your heart rate back down and recover faster post-workout with some slow jams. A study with 60 participants found that slow music lowers blood pressure, slows heart rate, and quickens recovery time. Researchers also noted recovery with slow music was faster than with silence or fast music.
Another study with 12 participants found that while fast music can improve your intensity during a workout, slow music can help you return to your resting heart rate faster.
This means that listening to soothing beats can reduce cardiac stress and speed recovery so you’re ready for your next workout sooner. The right songs can also help you relieve stress. Stress delays recovery and negatively impacts performance.