Kate Cracknell explains how music fitness makes you train better and relax more deeply.
Music has the power both to improve our results in the gym, and to help us combat anxiety and nerves.
The power of music on our mood is indisputable: just think about how quickly an upbeat song can lift your spirits and fill you with energy, even in your most tired moments; or conversely, how calm and relaxed you can feel just by listening to a gentle, soothing piece of music.
What you might not know is quite how much research has been done into precisely this topic, investigating music’s influence not only on our mind and our mood, but also our physical response to the sounds we hear.
Music fitness to improve training
Let’s start with performance, as numerous studies have highlighted the positive physiological impact of music in this respect – its ability to enhance your training results and encourage you to stick with your workout routine.
As long ago as 2005, a UK university professor called Dr. Costas Karageorghis led a study which established the ability of music to increase sporting performance by up to 20%. Specifically, the study found that listening to songs of the right tempo and content could act as a stimulant prior to exercise, as well as diverting the mind from sensations of fatigue during training.
Now a leading global figure in this field of science, Karageorghis has also found that music fitness can reduce our perception of effort by as much as 10% – and even during very hard exercise, when the perception of effort is unavoidable, music has the power to make you feel more positive, right up to the point of exhaustion.
Little wonder, then, that elite athletes have harnessed this to enhance their performance: world record marathon runner Paula Radcliffe was known to listen to Stronger by Kanye West before her races.
Choosing the right music tempo
Unsurprisingly, Karageorghis’ team found the relationship between heart rate and tempo to be key: fast tempos for high intensity exercise; slower music for recovery and stretching.
And he isn’t the only one to latch on to this: did you know that Haile Gebrselassie, one of the greatest long distance runners in history, synched his stride to the song Scatman when breaking the 10,000-metre world record?
But this doesn’t only work for elite athletes. It applies to everyday exercisers and gym-goers too: we can all benefit from the instant pick-me-up effect of music when working out.