Elite athletes prove their ability both in training and in competition. But researchers have found that what’s on their playlist has a huge impact on efficiency, effort, and drive.
NBC News writer Dan Peterson recently published the article “Why Music Makes Exercise Easier.” Peterson referenced the work of leading sports psychologist Costas Karageorghis who explained that the idea of “rhythm response” is directly connected to the “beats per minute (bpm) of a song and how well it matches either the cadence or the heartbeat of the runner.”
When you sync your exercise pace with a song’s bpm, your efficiency increases. To learn more, we found an ample supply of impressive research with habit-changing effects.
In his article, Peterson referenced a study that found, “Subjects who cycled in time to music found that they required 7 percent less oxygen” than other subjects who just listened to music playing in the background.
“Music can also help block out the little voice in your brain telling you its time to quit. Research shows that this dissociation effect results in a 10 percent reduction in perceived effort during treadmill running at a moderate intensity,” Peterson said.
Another study referenced in Peterson’s article discovered that “We increase or decrease our work effort and pace to match the tempo of our music.”
So, along with increased efficiency, less oxygen use, and reduced perceived effort, apparently researchers have found the ideal tempo to maximize performance.
The Sweet Spot
When it comes to pushing your workout, “Findings show there is a sweet spot, in terms of tempo, between 120 and 140 beats per minute,” explained an article published on WebMD by Robyn Abree. But keep in mind that the tempo should reflect your desired heart rate based on your level of exercise. Slower bpm between 80 and 90 bmp are great for stretching, warming up, and cooling down.
While these finding are exciting and certainly back up what many athletes already know, there is a down side to exercising exclusively to music. In 2007, USA Track and Field (the U.S. governing body for running) banned portable electronic devices just a few short weeks before the New York Marathon. That can sure cramp your running style if you’ve been building the ultimate playlist to help you through your marathon strategy.
But we also learned from Karageorghis that, “High-intensity music coupled with high-intensity exercise can cause temporary hearing loss…. During exercise, blood from the inner ear rushes toward the working muscles, making you more susceptible to hearing damage.”
Karageorghis recommends cutting your music-powered workouts to a 2:1 ratio—two workouts with music, then one without. This helps prevent hearing problems down the road—and keeps your mental clarity at peak condition.
Shape Your Workout
Peterson shared a software plug-in tool called Tangerine that can help you find the right beat for your training. “By integrating with your iTunes library, it can build a custom playlist based on the bpm range you provide, while arranging the songs in several different tempo shapes including warm-ups and warm-downs. With the right mix, your brain and feet will be in perfect harmony,” he shared.