How Music Can Boost Endurance–and Brain Power

If you’ve ever been in a spinning class with an instructor who played ABBA (or Rascal Flatts, Nickelback . . . pick your musical poison) non-stop, you know the right music can make or break your workout. Now studies find that listening to uptempo music during exercise increases endurance, and it might make you smarter, too!

Uptempo Music Increases Exercise Endurance

Science points to music’s kick-butt powers (that’s a technical term, right?) on both a psychological and physical level. That is, the brain responds to the beat and various bio-mechanisms—heart rate, breathing, muscle movement—correspond to make the body move faster, lift more weight, etc. It also distracts us from the fact that we could be watching a Real Housewives marathon rather than running one. A study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Physiology found treadmill walkers not only logged 15 per cent more miles when listening to music, but they enjoyed exercise more. Clearly, endorphins aren’t enough.

Though it seems obvious, it seems uptempo tunes are key to maximizing athletic performance. A study conducted at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences found that cyclists significantly increased their distance, cadence, heart rate and effort when they listened to higher-tempo music than when subjected to the same songs at a slower tempo. The fast-paced tracks didn’t make the workout easier, but participants were more inclined to push themselves, and they liked the music 36 per cent more.

Exercise + Music = Smartness?

Yep, listening to music while exercising might boost your IQ. A study published in the journal Heart & Lung found exercisers’ mental acuity was more than twice as high after exercising with music (in this case, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” though the researchers believe any appealing music would work). Apparently, listening to music activates the brain’s frontal lobe, which controls complex mental functions such as decision making and problem solving.

Whatever your musical fancy, if you can’t hear ambient noise when rocking out, dial down the volume, not only for the health of your ears and for your safety, but out of respect for your treadmill neighbours.

For inspiration, check out Billboard’s Hot 100 chart or these top running songs. Then try not to freak out about how much you’ve spent on iTunes (way too much, in my case).

These songs are making me move this week. If you have a favourite, please share!


Posted on November 2, 2011, in Fitness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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