The research in the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology leaves us in no doubt why fitness clubs pay big bucks to play your favourite tunes and earphones are your trusty running companion.
Hearing a song you like can make you groove in the car or run onto the club dance floor. Music makes you want to move, so it is a great motivator when exercising. Listening to music can be a distraction. Exercise participants keep going for longer making improvements in endurance at low to moderate intensities.
Music can make you smile and sing along, so not surprisingly it enhances the enjoyment of exercise. Participants’ rate of perceived exertion during exercise is reported as 10% lower with music, than without. Whilst listening to music cannot prevent you feeling fatigue when you have trained hard, there seems to be a more positive perception of that fatigue – more “woo hoo I did it!” than “thank god that’s over”.
What exactly is it that makes music have this effect. By far the most important factor is rhythm response. This is the tempo or speed of a piece of music. Did you know that the music playing in pump, aerobics, aqua, RPM and every other music-accompanied class you have attended, has been especially chosen for it’s beats per minute.
Musicality is also important and refers to the pitch related elements of the piece. Certain harmonies and melodies within a song can motivate you. It’s that uplifting chorus or crescendo that makes you know you can do a few more reps or a few more kilometres.
You will relate more to music that has cultural relevance to you. Whilst different styles of music will be more or less motivating to people from different eras and cultures, the cultural impact of music is undeniably a powerful motivation.
Any associations you make with certain songs can drive you on to a greater performance. These may be personal, such as a favourite holiday song that brings back great memories, or a song that speaks to you after a life event – I’m thinking ‘All the Single Ladies’ after a break up. The association can also be external. The Rocky theme and songs that has been used in the Olympics are linked with overcoming the odds and winning.
By Rachel Livingstone Personal Trainer & Owner of The Health Hub www.healthub.net.au
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