Do you see people wearing headphones while walking, running, or in the gym and wonder “Are they just listening to tunes or does the music somehow enhance their workout?” Well, according to research sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, music can positively affect exercise intensity.
The researchers say that there are primarily three things about music that can allow you to work harder and enjoy your workout more:
One factor is the tendency of music to increase our desire to move. You can understand this if you are someone whose feet start tapping automatically when the band starts up. In fact, there is research about babies and music that shows that humans may be born with a predisposition to move rhythmically in response to music. The researchers translate this increased desire to move as evidence that music can increase endurance. In other words, if you listen to music while working out it makes you want to move, and you may be able to work for longer periods because of that.
Another thing is that we naturally tend to synchronize our movements to sounds that have a beat. Think of band members or soldiers marching to a drumbeat or cadence. The beat of the music you choose will determine how fast you move. Using uptempo songs will cause your feet to move faster if you are walking, your legs to move faster if you are cycling, etc. , than they might if you were not listening to music. This means you might work harder while listening to music than you would without.
I read once that one of the key differences between people who are able to maintain an exercise program and those who are not is the ability to withstand discomfort. The third factor the researchers identify is the tendency of music to distract you from discomfort. Your brain focuses on the music and not on the exercise, and this allows you to enjoy exercising more.
Do make safety a priority if you choose to use headphones to listen to music while exercising; particularly outdoors. Look for headphones designed specifically for sports, which allow you to enjoy your music while remaining aware of your surroundings. Exercise with a friend or a group of friends; this makes you more visible to drivers, and more ears equals more awareness. And keep the volume low to protect your hearing.