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5 best ways music helps in Fitness

Music has an overhand reach across all spheres. It helps in relieving stress, puts one right in the party zone and helps one vent emotions too, be it listening, playing or creating music. Music has an undeniable connection to fitness as well. Not many can claim to knock out a workout or two without listening to their favourite beat pumping song. This is not only a psychological or a general phenomenon but the concept of the association of music and fitness has been scientifically ramified as well with researchers bringing out information on the interconnection of the two and how music actually affects fitness and our approach to it. Movement and music are deeply related and even if a person is sitting in one position listening to music, the sound vibrations increases electrical activity in those regions of the brain which are important for synchronizing movements and hence music and fitness are deeply entrenched.

Research by Carl Foster, Ph.D., director of the Human Performance Laboratory and research director of the Clinical Exercise Physiology program at the University of Wisconsin shows that as far back as in the B.C. era, rowers working on Roman Galleys, used music for their work. Drummers would play a certain beat which would keep the rowers rowing with a basic rhythm in coordination and following a common tempo. Research dating back to as far as 1911, shows that cyclists pedaled faster when a band was playing than when it was not. This correlation between music and fitness has been around for more than a hundred years and a huge amount of research has been conducted in this field and even today scientists are working on theories surrounding this phenomenon of music affecting people’s performances during any sort of physical activity. Research by Szabo, Small and Leigh in 1999, has also revealed that music not only facilitates exercise performance, but also reduces fatigue, promotes relaxation and increases motor co-ordination as well.

Some psychologists suggest that the most effective form of music which will work in enhancing fitness should have rhythms at a frequency of two hertz i.e. 120 beats per minute (bpm) or 2 beats per second. This is the most natural form of rhythm to which people have been seen to respond to. Though 120bpm is said to be the most prevalent pulse, activities such as running on a treadmill or while performing other such exercises, people prefer music with rhythm of around 160bpm and sometimes even 180bpm for those who prefer an even faster tempo. Researchers are of the view that though each person favours a different tempo, a maximum tempo of 145bpm has an effect on perceived performance enhancement. A higher tempo does not really have an additional positive effect on fitness.

Not only does different types of music help, even the level of volume has an effect on performance as a higher volume is said to increase the body’s endurance even further, as does particular genres of music.


One of the foremost points of importance in this theory is that listening to music while exercising is said to increase endurance or stamina by up to 15%, according to a research conducted by Brunel University. It is a common phenomenon to listening to music while working out and this research bases this on scientific research. Having said this, a research conducted by Dr. Costas Karageorghis, deduces that not every kind of music is conducive to increasing endurance and only some genres work this way. According to his research, the tracks which help in doing so have to be of a certain tempo, preferably between 120 and 140 beats per minute. Music has always been a powerful medium and with multiple effects on the human psychology, it is not surprise that music also affect fitness of a person when played while working out.

Diversion from Exertion

It is a well-known fact that any form of fitness workout be it running, cycling, working out at a gym, swimming or any other form of physical exercise causes exertion to the body. After a certain point of exercise, fatigue starts creeping in and might affect performance. Music helps in dissociation or diversion from this exertion as it draws away attention from pain and fatigue during a work-out. The research at Brunel University in the UK reveals that the effort made during the work out can be perceived to be less by 12% if music is played during fitness activities. It also increases the efficiency of the activity. Music leads to bursts of intensity which increases the capacity for working out and also gives a boost to strength and productivity. This is because listening to music, stimulates one’s brain and hence attention is diverted from the exertion on the body with focus on the rhythm of the music. This also leads to increasing the time of the work out as exertion is perceived to be lesser than when music is not played.

Metabolic Efficiency

Listening to music while working out is also said to increase metabolic efficiency. A study conducted in 2012 demonstrated that cyclists who pedaled as the same tempo of the music being played required 7% less oxygen than the cyclists who didn’t. Music helps in achieving a degree of efficiency which requires less energy i.e. metabolic efficiency increases.

Athletic Performance

In 2007, the the USA Track & Field, the national governing body for distance racing banned audio players during races as they found it to give a competitive edge to the athletes’ performance if they listened to music while running. This was protested by many runners resulting in the upliftment of the ban with some basic rules into play. This goes on to show how listening to music can affect an athlete’s performance. In a 2012 research at Brunel University, Costas Karageorghi, one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, stated that music has so many positive effects during a physical exercise that it may be considered “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug”.

Increases concentration

Music alters a person’s mental state of awareness during any activity and acts as an internal motivator. It puts the brain on auto pilot without a lot of conscious effort. Music is said to remove all external distractions and helps one concentrate better during the fitness exercise. Athletes are said to list music as one of the reasons of their great performance and cannot function their workouts without music in the background. Not only do songs play a role, any sort of music works as a motivator be it instrumental, audio books or even podcasts.

Music helps in making a workout or exercising a more enjoyable experience rather than just a physical exercise or chore. One can safely say that amongst the many psychological and physiological benefits of music in our lives, music can play a crucial role in enhancing fitness levels and aiding exercise to yield better results.

Read this article in our May 2017 issue:


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