Author of ‘Inside Sport Psychology’ Dr. Costas Karageorphis conducted thorough research on the link between music and exercise. His findings proved that subjects who cycled in time with music needed 7% less oxygen to cycle at the same level compared to when music just plays in the background. These findings show how music has the potential to increase your energy efficiency when performing physical activities like cycling. This advantage allows people to continue cycling for more extended periods, increasing their endurance. This goes to show how synchronizing your workouts to music works well with endurance sports that involve repetitive movements.
Texas Tech University cardiologist Dr. Waseem Shami did a study looking into how music makes strenuous workouts seem more manageable. Participants who listened to music while doing a cardiac stress test were able to continue for a minute longer than counterparts who didn’t listen to music. While energy efficiency is one factor why people can push themselves more when listening to music, physical drive is another. People naturally want to move when listening to music. Dr. Shami goes on to say, “this study provides some evidence that music may help serve as an extra tool to help motivate someone to exercise more—which is critical to heart health.” Motivation is essential in cardiovascular sports, like cycling and running, where the mental game is a significant factor.
We all know that listening to good music can improve our mood. Imogen Clark did a review looking at how music modulates physical activity, claiming that listening to music activates our brain by “eliciting two types of responses: a physical response and a mood-based response.” These responses happen simultaneously and influence your behavior during exercise in a way that improves participation. Moreover, psychologists have identified connections between physical performance and mental wellbeing. A post by the American Psychological Association cites how the effect of exercise is beneficial both in the short-term and long-term. Working out can offer instant gratification with its mood-boosting effects. And studies have shown that exercise can help alleviate long-term depression and stress. In short, music enables you to perform better physically, which can reap both short- and long-term benefits for your mental wellbeing.
Cycling instructors and run coaches study their playlists because they understand that this affects how well their class participants can keep with the pace and rhythm during a workout. This works similarly to how drummers help dragon boat rowers move in unison without skipping a beat. Huff Post discusses how the rhythm of workout music stimulates the motor area of the brain in determining when to move. Thus, music gives you cues that help you keep a steady pace while exercising. Furthermore, moving in-sync with the tempo ensures that your movements don’t fluctuate throughout a sweat session as well, and gives you a continual burn. According to Dr. Karageorphis, “People prefer music in the tempo range of 120 to 145 BPM [beats-per-minute] for nearly all forms of exercise. This range appears to represent the optimal level of stimulation for exercise.”