Why Music Helps You Exercise Better

For many people, music is essential to a satisfying and strong workout. It's not just about elevating our mood or keeping us in rhythm though. Scientific American rounds up the latest research showing why music helps us run faster and cycle longer.

Picture: Ed Yourdon/Flickr

Music affects our body and mind in multiple ways:

Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual — often without realising it. In a 2012 review of the research, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, wrote that one could think of music as "a type of legal performance-enhancing drug".

We've previously seen that the right BPM (beats per minute) of a song can improve a workout, but why is that? Citing a 2012 study by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University in which people who cycled in time to music needed 7 per cent less oxygen than other cyclists, Scientific American explains that syncing your movements to music might help your body use energy more efficiently, like a metronome: maintaining a steady pace, reducing false steps and decreasing how much energy you expend.

The distraction explanation we've seen previously is also noted here. By distracting you, music helps you override fatigue and make it seem easier to do more.

And, of course, music can be motivational.

If you want help creating your perfect workout playlist, check out our guide on the subject or see Scientific American's article for more advice.

Let's Get Physical: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music [Scientific American]


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