Having difficulties working out? Add some fast music to it, researchers say

Sticking to a workout routine is never easy. Music, a new study concludes, can be an important ally.

Everyone has their own workout routine. Some just do it in isolation, others prefer being in a crowded room where everyone is doing their thing. Some like it loud, some prefer the quiet. For many people, music has become an integral part of working out.

It’s not hard to understand why. As the body is being pushed, the mind can easily wander off. Music can keep the mind entertained and distracted from the hard work the body is doing. That’s why you hear loud music in most gyms, and why you often see people jogging with headphones.

Previous studies have also documented that music can help distract from the fatigue and discomfort caused by exercise. However, different people see music in different ways — some like intense beats, others would prefer a soothing tune. How we perceive music is also influenced by culture, as well as personal preference. Everyone has their own preferred genres, and it’s not exactly clear what type of music (if any) works best during exercise.

A new study wanted to assess how beneficial music can be in high intensity and endurance exercise. The study analyzed the effect of the tempo of a piece of music on female volunteers who were either walking on a treadmill (endurance exercise) or using a leg press (high-intensity exercise).

The volunteers carried out two workout sessions, completing the exercise either in silence or while listening to pop music at different tempos. The researchers monitored several physical parameters of the volunteers, as well as their opinions about how hard the exercise was.

“We found that listening to high-tempo music while exercising resulted in the highest heart rate and lowest perceived exertion compared with not listening to music,” explained Professor Luca P. Ardigò of the University of Verona in Italy. “This means that the exercise seemed like less effort, but it was more beneficial in terms of enhancing physical fitness.”

The effects were strongest in participants listening to high-tempo music (170 – 190 bpm) while doing endurance exercises, suggesting that people performing endurance activities such as walking or running may reap the largest benefits from listening to intense music.

However, the study also features significant limitations. There were only 19 participants, not nearly enough to establish statistical relevance. In addition, all participants were young women (under 30), doing a specific type of exercise.

Nevertheless, it’s a good indication that at least in some scenarios, music might be an important aid when exercising.

In future research, the team will also investigate the effects of different types of music genres, melodies, or lyrics. Music is complex and multifaceted, and it’s not clear how all these different elements contribute to the experience that helps you when exercising.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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