The beat goes on

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You are almost finished with your three-mile run. Your body is fatigued, and you want to quit when suddenly Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” plays, and you somehow find the strength to finish.

On a regular basis, particular songs give people performing cardiovascular tasks the motivation to finish them. According to Dr. Len Kravitz, researcher and program coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico, four conclusions are drawn based on experiments dealing with how music affects exercise performance:

First, music prolongs feelings of fatigue during exercise, which allows a person to exercise for longer periods of time.

In a recent study, 12 male and 12 female participants endured cardiovascular exercise while listening to fast, slow, slow-to-fast and fast-to-slow music. Researchers found that, compared to slow and fast-to-slow music, partici- pants who listened to fast and slow-to- fast music finished longer workouts.

According to investigators, music temporarily distracts the body from cues of exhaustion. Another study measured the average speed, power and heart rate of average 25-year-old males.

Timed trials were conducted on a cycle ergometer. For each male participant, two tests were given: one while listening to dance music measuring at 142 beats per minute, and the other with no music. Results showed that average speed, power and heart rate were higher than with no accompanying music.

Participants also perceived higher exertion, which indicates they were fully aware of how hard they were working and not simply distracted by the music.

Second, music produces relaxation, which helps push through uncomfortable feelings during an exercise routine.

To test this theory, 10 healthy, well- trained males completed two 15-minute treadmill trials. Participants listened to classical music in one trial while the

other had no music. Because plasma lactate and norepinephrine accompany exercise stress, these components were measured along with heart rate, blood pressure and perceived exertion.

Results showed a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and plasma lactate levels when listening to music. Levels of norepinephrine were lower as well. These results suggest music has the ability to interfere with unpleasant stimuli associated with exercise.

Third, the rhythm of music also has the ability to improve motor coordination.

The consistent beat of a song improves activities such as running, brisk walking, cycling or stair climbing. Although the body feels fatigued, the rhythm and beat generate an automated response to match the tempo.

A 2010 study conducted by MedlinePlus focused on music’s effect on group exercises in correlation to motor coordination. The study included a six-month observation of a class of senior citizens.

Music was found to significantly reduce the number of falls and other injury-prone incidences in the class. The steady rhythm of the music helped them obtain better motor coordination and balance.

Last, music boosts spirits. Peppy, exciting and upbeat music gives the necessary energy and motivation to continue once the body begins to feel fatigued.

Meaningful music gives an emotional connection and the drive to endure. Reciprocally, despised music worsens each workout experience.

The type of music can vary from person to person. In general, however, fast-paced music makes cardiovascular exercises more successful while slower, gentler music is more appropriate for yoga or pilates. Setting the tone for your exercise routine plays a large role in your success.

Choosing to exercise with upbeat music you know and like ensures a better workout. When you hear your favorite song in the midst of fatigue, there is a great chance you will endure and complete your routine.

Music is a very powerful thing. Taking advantage of MP3 players and iPods is a great way to increase endurance, reduce exercise-induced stress and promote overall exercise satisfaction.

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