Some people prefer exercising in silence while for others, music is an essential training partner. Pumping iron at the gym or scampering around the neighbourhood just seems that much easier when you’ve got your headphones plugged in. The unsurprising truth is that music does make your workout easier and studies have proven it; cyclists use less oxygen while pedalling in time with tunes, and runners perceive less effort and have 15 per cent greater endurance when matching tempo to stride.
Improves Muscular Endurance
The combination of music and mental imagery can be your secret performance drug. A Canadian study determined that lifters who played music while they pumped iron for 4 weeks completed 56 per cent more repetitions. An Israeli study found that athletes who listened to upbeat music before a workout experienced a boost in peak power output, unlike when they warmed up in silence.
One reason why music is so effective during exercise is that it distracts you from fatigue. This lowers your level of perceived effort and makes "hard" seem more like "fun," says Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., of the sports psychology department at Brunel University in the United Kingdom. Australian researchers found that distracting free-throw shooters with upbeat music allowed them to perform without negative thoughts interfering, helping them make more shots on the basketball court.
Optimise Your Playlist
Scientists say fast tempo songs – exceeding 120 beats per minute (BPM) – can improve performance by up to 20 per cent (with slower music working better during recovery periods). That pace roughly corresponds to the average person’s heart rate during a workout. Luckily, most dance music fits in that 120 to 140 BPM range. Examples of songs you can load on your MP3 player; Vertigo by U2 (140 BPM), Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap (130 BPM) and Viva La Vida by Coldplay (140 BPM). But if you want to make sure, use this simple software to check the tempo of your running tunes – simply tap the beat as it plays.
Pick A ‘Power Song’
Karageorghis says most athletes benefit from syncing their songs with their intended pace — starting with mid-tempo tunes, for instance, and then increasing the beat. If you know the music well, he says, you’ll find it easier to push yourself during the most exhilarating passages, since athletes naturally increase effort at these moments. Studies have found that participants even exercised harder when they expected music to be introduced at a later stage of the workout. You can utilise this when creating your workout or running playlist – insert a high-tempo ‘power song’ near the end of your run to give you a strong finish.