Is Music a Natural Pre-Workout?

Listening to music while exercising has turned into commonplace in today’s society. Joggers and runners can use I-Pods and other sources of portable music to listen while they are exercising. Many have claimed that music helps them exercise harder and for longer periods of time without feeling discomfort. Listening to music while exercising is a relatively new luxury which was previously handicapped due to technological hurdles, often pertaining to size and practicality. Before the year 1982, the only way to listen to music while exercising was to play it on a record player or radio, which limited the person to one room and thus limited its popularity. However, later that year the portable CD player was invented, allowing runners and joggers to take music with them wherever they went. This led to workout music and specialized exercise music companies, which claimed that their music would let you exercise longer and harder. Research was limited; anecdotal evidence varied wildly and there was very little evidence to support effects such as increased energy and reduced fatigue. British researchers from John Moores University set out to try and verify the various claims.

The researchers asked twelve fit college males to ride stationary bicycles. While they were on the bikes, they were listening to music described by the researchers as, “reflected current popular taste among the undergraduate population.” (Waterhouse 2012). Six songs were chosen, and each song differed in tempo from the other songs. The instructions for the twelve volunteers was were to ride on the bicycles at a consistent pace that they felt that they could maintain for 30 minutes without overexerting themselves. Each volunteer rode in three trials. During these trials, they were instructed to listen to the music while they were exercising at the volume they chose. While they were being monitored, their total power output, pedal count, and the overall exertion were measured. On the first ride, the songs were played at their normal tempos and were not altered in any way. During the second ride, the tempo of the songs was lowered by ten percent. Finally, in the third ride, the tempo of the songs was raised by ten percent. Throughout all the exercises, the riders were not informed of any tempo alterations and each volunteer was isolated.

Despite the lack of knowledge of the tempo alterations, the effects of the music were significant. When the scientists slowed down the tempo, the negative effects of the music became quite visible. Their mileage on the bike fell. Their pedaling speed also decreased and the majority of the volunteers reported that they disliked the music. When the tempo was raised, more mileage was covered in the same amount of time; with each pedal, more power was produced. Also, they reported that they enjoyed the music (the same music played previously – just with a tempo increase) thirty-six percent more than when the tempo was slowed down by ten percent. However, they did not report to find the workout any easier than it was before. In fact, their sense exercise difficulty actually rose about two percent, suggesting that the music didn’t make the exercise any easier than it was before raising the tempo. Instead of masking the pain of the exercise, it seemed to motivate the participants and make them perform better. Despite feeling more overall discomfort, the performance levels of the exercisers with up-tempo music were significantly higher than the ones listening to low-tempo music.

According to one of the researchers (Watterson 2010), “The interplay of exercise and music is fascinating and not fully understood”. It is quite clear that people do respond to music while exercising, whether it be positively or negatively. People have come extremely accustomed to listening to music while exercising, whether it be on their I-Phones or through speakers in the gym. In fact, so many people depend on music to help them exercise that when the USA Track and Field banned the use of portable music players many refused to participate in the games.

In conclusion of the experiment conducted by the scientists, music does not mask any discomfort of exercising and actually made the participants more self-aware of any discomfort. What the high-tempo music did do was allow people to push forward and gave them motivation while exercising to increase their effort. This motivated them to perform at a higher level. Low-tempo music actually decreased overall performance, causing slower pedaling, less overall mileage, and more dissatisfaction with the music. This evidence backs up many exercisers’ claims that upbeat music helps them perform at higher levels and helps exercisers be more productive at the gym.

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About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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One Response to Is Music a Natural Pre-Workout?

  1. lee says:

    Whether it is or not, I still love listening to music to set up my mood pre-workout and during workout.
    It really plays a significant role in motivating and setting up the right mood of a person to perform better during workouts.

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