How Music Helps You Exercise
Maybe Ed Sheeran gets your heart in shape or Bruce Springsteen reminds you that you were born to run! Most fitness enthusiasts know that good music inspires their workouts and helps them to get the most out of it. Imagine an hour long spin class in silence or a Zumba class without Latin tunes. Decades of research stand behind the fact that music enhances athletic performance, but you already knew that.
Research Shows Music Benefits Exercise
More than ten years of research by Dr. Costas Karageorghis at Brunel University in London asserts that working out with music can improve fitness. According to his research, music improves fitness by reducing the perception of one's exertion, increasing endurance, and enhancing beneficial exercise effects.
In a comprehensive review of research conducted by various parties, Karageorghis found evidence for practical applications of using music with exercise. He found evidence that music heard before beginning an exercise can heighten arousal at both a physiological as well as a physiological level. During exercise, music can delay fatigue and decrease the perception of exertion at low to moderate exercise levels.
As exercisers push to higher levels of intensity, however, meeting and passing their anaerobic threshold (the intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood stream), music does not seem to provide this same benefit. It does however, provide general good feelings about the workout experience. It cannot alter what someone feels while he or she is working out at a higher intensity, but music can still have an impact on how one feels about the workout.
Fitness instructors, like myself, can tell you practically how important music is to motivating the class and creating a positive atmosphere. It is important for fitness instructors to carefully select music for their classes. Karageorghis found in his review that when music is selected according to its motivational qualities, exercise participants feel a positive mood and effect across all levels of exercise intensity. The closer the music matches the participants musical preferences and task at hand, the more pronounced this effect becomes.
Music and Exercise Through History
As far back as Roman times, music has motivated physical performance and stamina. Take the rowers of the Roman Galleys that used music to improve their rowing abilities according to Carl Foster, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, Exercise and Health Program. 1
“The guy is sitting there beating on his drum and he drives the basic rhythm of the rowing. Part of that is coordination—you want the rowers to row together—but part of it is that people will naturally follow a tempo. It’s just something about the way our brains work.”— Carl Foster, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
Early in U.S. history, physical fitness was unpopular in the states despite strong endorsements from Benjamin Franklin and President Thomas Jefferson. Gradually, the idea gained merit and in the 19th century American educator Catherine Beecher introduced the first aerobics-like workout directed at women, mixing calisthenics with music.
In more recent history, examples of how music has enhanced fitness programs can be seen from Richard Simmons to the 80's fitness craze lead by Jane Fonda to the highly successful Jazzercise program and most recently, Zumba!
Born to Run
A unique 10K race in London each year, puts the research on music and exercise to the test. The event, called "Run To The Beat" pairs runners with electric music from top DJ's to today's hot hit makers. Past musical acts have included Juicy J, Calvin Harris, and DJ Fresh. The musicians and DJs are on stages scattered along the racecourse and playlists can be downloaded for the race.
In fact, many competitive and fun races across the U.S. and other countries have incorporated music into their event. Take the Rock 'n Roll marathon and half marathon that is hosted now in cities all over the U.S. Typically bands are dotted along the course to entertain and motivate the runners. Interactive running course maps that can be previewed before a race show the locations of music stages. The video posted is a promotional clip from the 2014 Rock 'n Roll Marathon in Las Vegas. Notice how the bands are highlighted.
Great Music for Spin Class
As a certified Spin instructor, music is one of the most important elements of my indoor cycling classes. I can attest that it has a motivating effect on the exercisers in my class as well as myself, while teaching. I use the beat of the music to pace a climb or the chorus to burst into a run. Music also sets the mood for a ride and certainly makes the clock "tick" faster during that house.
Here is a list of my favorite songs to use for different cycling moves. Are there any that you especially enjoy in your indoor cycling classes or any exercise you do? If so, please share in the comments below.
Castle on the Hill - Ed Sheeran
September (cover) - Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick
Anna Sun - Walk The Moon
Every Teardrop is a Waterfall - Coldplay
Castle on the Hill - Ed Sheeran
Titanium 500 (mashup) - DJ Schmolli
Beautiful Day - U2
Free Ride - Edgar Winter
Fast Flat Roads
Now We Are Free - Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard
Mrs. Robinson (cover) - The Lemonheads
Everlong - Foo Fighters
Sandstorm - Darude
Black Dog - Led Zeppelin
American Idiot (cover) - 5 Seconds of Summer
Flat Road Jumps
My Sharona - The Knack
Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
How Far We've Come - Matchbox 20
Happy - Pharrell Williams
Lose Yourself - Eminem
Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day
Creep - Radiohead
My Sacrifice - Creed
Sister Christian - Night Ranger
Baba O'Reilly - The Who
Closer - The Chainsmokers
Africa - Toto or Weezer
Yeah! - Usher Feat. Lil John and Ludacris
We Will Rock You - Queen
Dark Horse - Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J
My Hero - Foo Fighters
All of the Above
(Songs that incorporate multiple skills in a single tune.)
I'd Do Anything For Love - Meat Loaf
Fool In The Rain - Led Zeppelin
Come Sail Away - Styx
Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
Welcome to the Black Parade - My Chemical Romance
Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sunday Morning - Maroon 5
Brand New Day - Sting
If I Had A Million Dollars - Barenaked Ladies
Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles
Purple Rain - Prince
Think Outloud - Ed Sheeran
You're The One That I Want (cover) - Alex and Sierra
How important is music to your workouts?
1 Foster, Carl, Ph.D., John Pocari, Ph.D., and Mark Anders. "ACE-sponsored Research: Exploring the Effects of Music on Exercise Intensity." ACE Fitness. The American Council on Exercise, Sept. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/805/>.
"Music to Make the Heart Beat Faster." Music to Make the Heart Beat Faster. Brunel University London, 9 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <http://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/ref-2014/case-studies/music-to-make-the-heart-beat-faster>.
Karageorghis, Costas I., and David-Lee Priest. "Music in the Exercise Domain: A Review and Synthesis (Part II)." International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Taylor & Francis, 7 Dec. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3339577/>.
"Jog To The Beat: Music Increases Exercise Endurance By 15%." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 Oct. 2008. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081001093753.htm>.
"Event - Run to the Beat." Event - Run to the Beat. International Management Group (UK) Limited, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <http://www.runtothebeat.co.uk/Event>.
Dalleck, Lance, Ph.D., and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. "The History of Fitness." Www.ideafit.com. IDEA Health & Fitness Association, 1 Jan. 2002. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-history-of-fitness>.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.