Exercise and music have been coupled probably since the beginning of time. Professional and amateur sports persons use music to help them be more effective in their disciplines. In the exercise arena, almost everyone who exercises does so to some sort of music or sounds that help them get into the workout and forget about the intensity of the workout. But did you know that the effect of music on someone exercising is actually a scientific fact? There are five ways the type of music you listen to while exercising affects you and these could mean the difference between an effective workout and a difficult one.
In psychological terms, dissociation denotes an instance when a person becomes disconnected or indifferent to certain stimuli either within them or in their external environment. As you exercise, your body begins to send signals to the brain of fatigue, burn out, pain and so on. Your brain in turn responds by increasing the heart rate, dilating blood vessels and releasing adrenalin. But pretty soon, the brain switches gears and begins to tell you to slow down or quit the workout altogether. This is where dissociation comes in. Music preoccupies your mind and enables it to “ignore” the warnings of the body, helping you go faster and further.
Arousal is a state of heightened bodily and mental awareness occasioned by the release of various hormones in the body. Heightened arousal causes you to be upbeat and “pumped up” while depressed arousal makes you calm and relaxed. Depending on the sport or exercise you are engaged in, either one could work for you and music regulates this superbly. For instance, gearing up for a grueling intense workout means you need heightened arousal. Listening to invigorating and hyped up music will do this. If you are gearing for a long jog then what you probably need is to be calm and relaxed to endure the long run.
Exercise is all about getting your movement right and keeping it that way. Unfortunately, we are not robots and so when we exercise, our movements are prone to change in the course of the workout. When you are running outdoors or on a treadmill, a slight distraction will throw off your run and get you running in an inefficient manner. And because you have no way of locking in your movement, you won’t know exactly how you were running before in order to reset this “setting”. Music helps remind you of this gait or movement. Using the beats in the song, you are able to recover your movement and get back to exercising efficiently.
Motor skill enhancement
Music has been with us since we were children. Helping us learn basic movements and coordination, music has been a key pillar in helping children learn and enhance their motor skills. While exercising, music helps to enhance motor skills by creating mental and emotional associations between the music and the action. For instance, when throwing a hoop, basketball players will find more inspiration in their throws when listening to music than without. To try this yourself, try throwing a piece of paper into the trash with no music and with some music playing. The results will show you music works wonders when it comes to enhancing motor skills. This brings as to the way in which music brings all these things together; flow.
Better known as hitting the “sweet spot” or finding your mojo, flow refers to that place of perfect unison between mind and body. This state is the Holy Grail for athletes and people who exercise regularly because this is where you have optimal performance with the least strain on your mind or body. For instance, think about the last time you went out running or performed some other exercise. There was that moment you felt like your body was a well-greased machine and the workout flow was perfect. Then think of those times you just could not sustain a workout and every repetition was torture. Reaching optimal flow is easier achieved through music because your mind forms associations between certain songs and tempos and a certain rhythm of workout, creating muscle memory and familiar flow points.
These five scientifically proven factors about music and exercise when followed can help you make the most of music during your exercise workout routines.
Guest post by Scott Ryan, writing for Morris Brothers music store, a store that helps people understand the benefits of music to their health and well-being.