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From The Cooper Institute and Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas

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Woman listening to music on headphones
Written by July 9, 2012

Darcy Silvi, BS

Intern
The Cooper Institute

Tags
harder workout
music
workout blues
workout music
workout routine
Singing the Workout Blues?

Is your workout starting to sing the blues?  It’s not uncommon to start feeling redundancy in your exercise regimen; cycling, running, walking, you name it.  Especially for those of us looking to shed a few, or a lot, of pounds (and really, who isn’t?) this isn’t unexpected.  Working towards the 60 minutes per day, five days per week, or 300 total minutes recommendation to achieve the infamous weight loss goal can sometimes feel a lot longer.

When looking to get more results out of your workout, most agree that adding more to our already growing to-do lists may elicit a stress response.  Time is valuable and definitely one of the biggest obstacles when planning exercise.  But who says it has to stay that way?

Adding a little change-up to the routine can bring about some great benefits in more ways than one.  If you think I’m going to recommend interval training, circuit training, plyometrics etc., think again.  I am talking about one simple change that requires no extra effort.  Maybe that sounds too good to be true, right?  Wrong.  In fact, this one tweak to the regimen and you may find yourself regaining spring to your step.  With this simple, time-efficient and enjoyable (yes, enjoyable!) step, you can be on your way to a healthier you.

Drum roll please…Music. Research has shown that adding music to a routine not only increases the amount of exercise and power output, but the body also amps up its own internal sound system by increasing heart rate.  All these benefits occur without increasing the length of the workout.3  This means that in the same amount of time that we’re used to exercising, our body works harder which can lead to more weight loss and improved aerobic fitness.

What kind of music generates these physical and physiological responses?  It turns out that all music promotes an overall increase in physical activity (i.e. distance, work done, pedal revolutions) as well as physiological responses (i.e. number of heart beats) compared to no music at all.  The ones that have the biggest effect though are high-tempo songs such as rock, hip-hop and pop.3 During moderate exercise, the ratings of perceived exertion from those who listened to music were significantly lower than those who did not.  Music distracts us from the fact that that our body is working harder.2  Ok, so maybe listening to the blues during a workout isn’t that bad after all. But wait, there’s more!

There are noticeable motivational gains by adding music, especially if the music is your preferred style.1  So go ahead and indulge in some guilty pleasure music on your iPod to not only lift your spirits, but also your workout intensity. Take creative liberties to come up with different playlists to add more variety and keep things fresh.  No matter what the choice, music makes the activity more enjoyable, which could lead to more frequent bouts of exercise to help you reach a goal of 300 minutes per week.  So lace up those shoes, turn up the tunes and get moving.

Next time you’re on Facebook, share your favorite workout artist, songs or playlist that you use to boost your workouts.

  1. Nakamura, P.M., Pereira, G., Papini, C.B., Nakamura, F.Y. (2010) Effects of preferred and nonpreferred music on continuous cycling exercise performance.  Perceptual and Motor Skills, 110(1) 257-264.
  2. Potteiger, Jeffrey A., Schroeder, Jan M., Goff, Kristin L. (2000) Influence of music on ratings of perceived exertion during 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise.  Perceptual and Motor Skills, 91: 848-854.
  3. Waterhouse, J., Hudson, P., Edwards, B. (2010) Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance.  Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 20: 662-669.

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