Music had always affected how we feel. It heightens up our emotions, elevates our moods, and help us cope with life overall. During exercise, most of us rely on good music to keep our spirits up. Most individuals stated that it helps energize them and make them in the mood for some heavy lifting.
Some of you may even have a go-to playlist of songs to make you feel good. Imagine joining a fitness class without any music around — wouldn’t that drive you crazy?
We know that exercise in itself can be unbearable sometimes, and music helps us endure it all. But have you ever really wondered what music means to you during these moments? And why, out of everything in the background, music creates such a huge impact during exercise? We delved through different studies to learn more about the psychological effects of music on exercise. We also tapped into what music does to our brains and body. Here’s what we found out.
Music helps us endure
Music has proven to help people endure the length of time or the difficulty of an activity. It helps us bring ourselves to the right mindset to achieve our desired results. Tempo, lyrics, and the beat all has its own impact on our performance. These enhance our motivations and distracts us from further discomfort.
You can definitely see this play out through anecdotes from different people. One of the most common is for marathon runners, who are enduring a lot of pain and are already losing their pace through the race. As they reach the last few kilometers, their favorite music plays and with all their might and the remaining energy from their body, they make it to the finish line. This is also true for other endurance activities. Music is said to be instrumental in picking up their confidence and energy to reach their goal.
Music stimulates us
Dr. Len Kravitz, from the University of New Mexico, created a paper entitled The Effects of Music on Exercise. Its results show that there is a change in a person’s physical strength when the music changes. There is an increase in muscle tension when listening to ‘stimulating’ music.
However, a slight decrease is evident when ‘sedating’ music is played. While there is no exact genre indicated in the study, this only confirms that music can stimulate parts of our brain and this is translated to how we react while we workout.
In practical terms, this would mean that a good pump up song would be a great idea for strength training, while soothing music would be best during cool down and relaxation. This is also the rationale behind having upbeat music on most gyms. This helps people feel like they are extra powerful, placing them in the right mindset to hit personal records and get through their difficult regimen. On the other hand, exercises that focus on stretching such as yoga and pilates play soft music in their backgrounds, letting the muscles release tension and making it easier for one to be more flexible.
Music puts us into a beat (literally)
Another interesting aspect of the study is looking into the effects of music on gait disorders. Gait disorders are a variety of pathological issues that can be attributed to neurological or skeletal conditions. This affects the body’s coordination.
Based on research cited by Kravitz, music has seen to create a favorable influence in helping patients to coordinate their walking and body’s equilibrium. Through music, they can anticipate a certain beat and follow it through movements. This helps them find a rhythm that would work for them to create a smoother, more coordinated walking pattern.
In terms of regular workouts, having a beat is definitely helpful when it comes to doing reps or running. For instance, in long distance running, having the right pace would help you last longer and keep yourself in good condition throughout the whole exercise. Doing reps, on the other hand, feels a lot easier when you have a rhythm with your body; and the best way to get that coordination is through following a certain beat.
Music taps our memories
According to Costas Karageorghis, from Brunei University in London, music acts as a highway to our long term memories, which helps us remember moments where we were our best. Through this association, we tend to be more motivated and our brains are stimulated to go through workouts and sports. We usually associate memories through music and channeling that aspect while doing different activities would help us trigger those hidden strengths within us.
For instance, if you once finished a marathon with “Eye of the Tiger” playing, and you are finding it hard to motivate yourself as you presently go through your routine, you can easily whip that song out and tap that energy and motivation from the past to make it through your current situation. This also gives you the necessary push to continue working despite your negative feelings.
Music helps us tune out
Based on a multitude of studies, music does enhance one’s performance during a workout as it helps people focus better and tune out other negative feelings. It reduces anger and tension, as well as the perceived exertion, tricking you into feeling like your workout is easier, even if it isn’t.
Karageorghis also shared his technique called “auditory imagery”. Through this technique, elite athletes who compete can recall a certain song to help them tune out pain and fatigue. Since music is banned in competitions, being able to imagine tunes while doing rigorous activities actually provide strong mental support for athletes to continue pushing through despite it all.
Music is deeply personal
Through music, you don’t only tap your glorious memories, but you also feel a certain connection through it. Having that connection helps you bring out a better performance every time as it helps you tap into those motivations and positive reinforcements from within.
As studies and a multitude of anecdotes share, music truly affects us whenever we do certain activities. We each have our own tastes when it comes to knowing which songs “stimulate” us. One thing is for sure, it gives us a positive effect to keep on going. Time to create that playlist to help you get through your next workout, we suppose?
- Harmon, N., & Kravitz, L., PhD. (n.d.). The Effects of Music on Exercise. Retrieved from https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article folder/musictwo.html
- Stanford Medicine. (n.d.). Gait Abnormalities. Retrieved from https://stanfordmedicine25.stanford.edu/the25/gait.html
- Schramayr, E. (2018, January 16). Music has a noted effect on exercise. Retrieved from https://www.thespec.com/living-story/8076402-music-has-a-noted-effect-on-exercise/
- Music and Exercise: What Current Research Tells Us. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-music-moves-us/201301/music-and-exercise-what-current-research-tells-us
- Karageorghis, C., Bruce, A., Pottratz, S., Stevens, R., Bigliassi, M., & Hamer, M. (2018, April 01). Psychological and Psychophysiological Effects of Recuperative Music Postexercise. Retrieved from https://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=00005768-201804000-00013