How Music Can Pump Up Your Workout
Science says it does, kay?
You know the feeling - you’re barely half way through an intense, all out, high intensity group session, and you’re losing steam. Another ten burpees? You’re going to collapse. Just then - your favourite track comes on. Before you know it, you’ve nailed those seemingly impossible ten burpees in record time, whilst rapping “little bit of humble, little bit of cautious” along with Macklemore.
Anyone who works out knows the importance of music in giving us that added motivation. Well, now science is backing us up - with a new study of how listening to up-beat music can encourage us to push ourselves harder. The study usefully notes that podcasts, or other types of distractions, may not work as well.
Even more usefully - the study focuses on a subset of people who workout, beginners. Seasoned fitness enthusiasts probably enjoy the sweat as much as they do the music, but we can all remember when we first started working out -- when it was more of something we had to do, as opposed to something we wanted to do. Well, it turns out, music can make all the difference.
The study - called Let’s Go: Psychological, psychophysical, and physiological effects of music during sprint interval exercise - was published last month in the journal Psychology of Sport & Exercise.
It tested respondents’ reaction to music during high intensity training - particularly sprint intensity training (SIT). “While sprint interval training (SIT) is time-efficient and can elicit meaningful health benefits among adults who are insufficiently active, one major drawback is that people can find it to be unpleasant. Consequently, researchers have begun to investigate the use of music to enhance people’s pleasure during SIT,” the study notes.
12 women and 12 men - all beginners, with “insufficient” activity levels - were tested under different conditions: motivational music, podcasts control, no-audio control. And the results spoke for themselves. When listening to music while exercising, the volunteers pushed themselves harder, and enjoyed their workout more. Podcasts didn’t have the same effect - so while they may be an engaging listen on the treadmill, blaring you favourite spotify playlist is going to get you better results.
The volunteers did not know that music was a factor in this experiment - they were told the study would track their emotional and physiological responses to high intensity interval training. The workout involved sprinting on a stationary bike, in a HIIT format of three 20 second spurts of all out exertion.
Before the experiment, the researcher casually asked the music group whether they’d mind if he turned on the speakers. They could choose pop music, rock or hip-hop. Calvin Haris and Macklemore were part of the music selection - and whether you’re a fan or not, you know that kind of music can be very motivating.
The experiment was done three times - and every time, the respondents said they were glad it was over. Typical newbie response to working out - you’re exhausted, it’s unpleasurable, and you’re glad it’s done. BUT - not only did volunteers report having enjoyed the workout most with Calvin Haris blaring from the speakers, they also pushed themselves harder - unknowingly. Their heart rates and power outputs were significantly higher during the session with songs than without, even though their subjective rating of the difficulty of the exercise remained constant.
In scientific terms, the study concluded, “the application of music during SIT has the potential to enhance feelings of pleasure, improve enjoyment, and elevate performance of SIT for adults who are insufficiently active, which may ultimately lead to better adherence to this type of exercise.”