We all know a couch potato who hates exercise and possibly hates you for all the energy you have to work out and play. But take that same person to a wedding and watch them move and shake for hours, never leaving the dance floor until the band packs up and leaves. What makes a typically inactive person start moving? The beat!
Moving to music didn’t start with aerobics and Jane Fonda, according to Carl Foster, Ph.D, of the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, Exercise and Health Program. “You go all the way back to rowers on the Roman Galleys. 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.”
His associate Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., from London’s Brunel University School of Sport and Education, who has selected the danceable, upbeat music at London's "Run to the Beat" half marathon race agrees: “Music is like is a legal drug for athletes. It can reduce the perception of effort significantly and increase endurance by as much as 15 percent.”
Not all research is conclusive and not all of the researchers are concentrating on the same human responses. Some studies prove out the psychological effect, while others give physiological proof. These studies all show, however, that working out with music will make you work out harder and longer.
Karageorghis has identified three primary factors that influence performance through his 20 years of studies.
1) the tendency to move in time with synchronous sounds
2) the tendency of music to increase arousal
3) the tendency for music to distract the exerciser from discomfort that might be related to exercise.
In a Live Science article from October 15, 2008 , Robin Lloyd wrote, “Science has shown that music really can kill pain, reduce stress, better your brain and basically change how you experience life.” Her information was taken from a 2003 study from the Heart Lung Journal. This study found that listening to music while exercising reduced the participant’s perception of how hard they were working out by 10 percent during low to moderate intensity activity. It profoundly influenced their mood; elevated the positive aspects, such as vigor, excitement and happiness, and reduced depression, tension, fatigue, anger and confusion. It was also shown useful to set an appropriate warm-up and cool-down pace, overcome fatigue, and control emotions while in a competition.
According to Len Kravitz, Ph.D., in his article entitled, “The Effects of Music on Exercise?” not all music offers the same physiological effect.
- Tension can be altered by choice of music. Stimulating music will increase muscle tension while sedative music will decrease muscle tension (Sears, 1957).
- College-aged males and females walked farther and with less effort with music compared to no music (Beckett, 1990).
- Schwartz, Fernhall and Plowman (1990) showed there was no physiological variable measured on college men and women from music on sub maximal bicycle performance, although all participants felt they performed better with the music.
- Copeland and Franks (1991), investigated sub maximal intensity walking/jogging on a treadmill which showed that subjects had longer times to exhaustion when listening to slow, soft music as compared to loud fast music.
So what beat works best? There are guidelines you can follow (see link below to NY Times article), but for the most part, it is age, gender, personal taste, and believe it or not, geographical area that dictate what stimulates your brain and your muscles. The best choice to get the blood flowing in this blogger’s body? Hint: I have gotten three speeding tickets in my life. Each time, the Eagles were on the radio playing “Life in the Fast Lane.” Does it to me every time.