You know that when “Shape of You” hits your iPod it gives you extra oomph to get up that tough hill when you’re running. Now, it turns out, research can explain why music and exercise make such a good team. The data is being taken so seriously that distance racing governing bodies in the USA have banned athletes from using portable music players. Here’s what we know: a pumping tune distracts your brain from the other things on your mind (pain and exhaustion!), boosts your mood and endurance and may even boost your metabolism!
So, what’s behind that “natural” high? There are two factors – tempo (speed) and rhythm response, which is the degree to which a song triggers your body’s desire to move. The magic number is 120 bpm – the rate at which people show the most inclination to move. But on a treadmill, this speeds up to 160 bpm. People looking for athletic speed favour this higher rate. App developers have even responded to this need. Songza helps people match their music to their running pace by suggesting which song will help you achieve your fastest rate, for example.
It’s this impulse to move in exact time with the music that scientists say may help the body use energy more efficiently. The reason? The rhythmic movements mean your body adjusts to movement more easily – there are less external factors for it to consider. It reduces energy output and enables you to minimise your steps.
Recent studies suggest that - even if someone is sitting perfectly still - listening to enjoyable music also increases electrical activity in various regions of the brain. But there is another explanation for why music boosts endurance. We identify with certain lyrics and they can trigger emotions in us. The connection acts as a personal motivator. It also transports us to another place putting your brain in another mode. You know that feeling when your brain’s gone on autopilot and you drive home in what feels like a few minutes without remembering how you got there? Same thing.
The other thing to consider is not the sound that headphones deliver to your ears, but what they keep out. Studies conducted in running clubs have shown that music prevents joggers from hearing heavy breathing or pounding footsteps of themselves or those around them which can be demotivating. So, investing in a good pair of headphones will give you a double whammy of a boost!
At Bodytec® studios we carefully create playlists according to our clients’ tastes, so no studio playlist is the same, and if you have a particular preference we’ll play your tunes and then see if it peaks your performance!