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Music As Your Exercise Partner

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Get in The Groove

It is often really hard to get into the swing of exercising – especially if you have taken an extended break from it. That’s where music comes in as your faithful exercise buddy, helping you get in the groove.

It’s no news that music has an effect on our state of mind. It is similarly well known that it has a positive effect on exercise. In the UK, research has been done since the late 1990’s to uncover the relationship between physical exercise and music.

One of the leading music and sports researchers in the world, sports psychologist Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, has demonstrated in studies that you may increase your performance by up to 15% if you listen to music during exercise. The increase is even greater if you do high-intensity workouts like cycling or running. But how does music accomplish this?

The Effects of Music

Music can make us cry or laugh. Music is a stimulus with a strong impact on our psyche and our body. For example, we can hardly sit still when we hear the great beats from a favorite track come through the speakers. Your feet keep the beat, and you feel like moving your entire body along with the sounds.

Music impacts our heart rate and our motor system. It gets us up in gear when fast rhythms stream from the speakers, and it soothes us to sleep when calming and gentle sounds float around us late at night.

Three types of impact are of interest for your warmup, your exercise session, and your cooldown.

MOOD: Music sets the mood. It can put you in a good mood and kick up your energy to make you want to exercise.

DISTRACTION: Your attention is diverted from fatigue and pain. That lets you increase the intensity of exercise and your performance.

PERFORMANCE: Music encourages movement. The rhythms are reflected in the body’s movements, and your performance and endurance go up a notch.

The Pain Threshold Moves Up

The British studies show that during high-intensity exercise such as running and cycling, your performance is significantly enhanced when you listen to music during a training session. When you’re working out at the optimal rhythm, you actually consume less energy because the music works on your motor system and reduces your consumption of oxygen so that your endurance increases.

Conversely, this means that you need to pay attention to the beat. Music moves your pain threshold because it diverts attention from the body. That’s good and bad – good for your performance and less good if you exceed your pain threshold. You need to know your body and to know how to listen to its signals – even though you’re paying attention to the music.

Mood and Tempo

The right playlist helps you feel energized during your exercise. If you exercise alone, it is a special advantage to use music to induce the right mood. As music is a subjective experience, there is no recipe for the perfect playlist. It depends entirely on you, your musical taste, and your level of fitness.

Choose music that speaks to your feelings and at the same time fits your pace and fitness level. It shouldn’t be too slow or too fast. Your body will automatically attempt to match its rhythm, and that is why it is important to identify music whose beat is matched to the type of exercise you do and the fitness level at which you exercise. Be realistic in choosing the tracks you want to listen to. An ideal pace will naturally vary between individuals and will reflect the type of exercise; typically, it would fall between 125 and 140 beats per minute.


Here’s how to find the correct beat for your exercise music.
Use this formula to find your per-minute pace for warm-up, exercise, and cool-down:

Number of movements you make in a minute x 2 = beats per minute.
This value may be divided by two or multiplied.

In short, music may increase your endurance, reduce the sensation of effort and help you exercise for longer than you would otherwise have done. But do remember – no matter how much you exercise and how fit you are – get to know your body and listen carefully to the signals it is sending you. With or without music.

This is also available in: Dansk

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