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Music Improves Your Exercise!

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Many exercisers of all types consider their music to be an important part of their ability to get the most from their workouts. But it’s not all in their heads.

Certainly music can distract people from the boredom or pain of exercise, acting almost as a drug, or at least a metronome. Studies have shown that people exercise performance really is better while listening to music. See, for example, the 2012 review of this research by Brunel University in England.

According to this study, published in the Journal of Research , the kinds of music most often listened to by the college student subjects were hip hop, followed closely by rock and then pop. The most common kinds of workouts chosen for these music-aided routines were free weights, treadmill, and weight machines.

As far back as 1911 a study showed that bicycle riders pedaled faster when they heard music. Studies since then have suggested that the speed of the music is key. That is, exercisers tend to time their movements to the music. That makes music with a strong beat the most enticing. Past associations with a given piece of music can be even more compelling.

According to the magazine Muscle and Fitness, some of the most popular rock music for exercise are Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, and Metallica. People running on treadmills seem to prefer a somewhat faster beat then those doing other kinds of exercise, but speeds beyond a certain limit don’t seem to help. There are actually apps that help users choose their optimal exercise beats.

Perhaps even more interesting are the implications of another 2012 study led by C. J. Bacon of Sheffield Hallam University in England. This study found that subjects who cycled in time to music used seven per cent less oxygen as those do did not listen to music. The keeping of a steady pace may make movements more efficient.

With such considerations in mind, the national governing body for distance racing actually banned runners from carrying portable music players in competition in 2007. They said this was "to ensure safety and to prevent runners from having a competitive edge." After objections from runners, the rule was amended to apply only to the most competitive ranks.

Music can clearly inspire, but it may really increase strength or endurance, as well. Music is often an avenue to emotions, but, less obviously, it can also be an avenue to movement. People dance to music. It certainly does seem that our bodies’ movements to music can almost involuntary, like foot tapping.

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