Music Increases Exercise Output by 15%.

Ancient roman rowers - the ancestors of this more modern specimen - were among the first to use the benefits of synchronization.

Believe it or not, music and exercise didn’t first combine forces with the advent of the iPod. In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to rowers during Roman times. According to Carl Foster, Ph.D., lead researcher for a recent compilation of studies titled Exploring the Effects of Music on Exercise Intensity:

The guy is sitting there beating on his drum and he drives the basic rhythm of the rowing. Part of that is coordination—you want the rowers to row together—but part of it is that people will naturally follow a tempo. It’s just something about the way our brains work.

The principle of synching yourself to the beat of music is called entrainment or synchronization. You match your steps, strides or cycles to the dominant beat in a song or soundtrack. But does this help exercisers up their intensity? According to Foster and the various studies his team reviewed, yes!

Some even go so far as to call music a legal, performance-enhancing drug. Why? In a nutshell, music is said to have three benefits:

  1. The aforementioned entrainment or synchronization.
  2. Increase in arousal – music makes you want to move.
  3. Distracts exerciser from discomfort or fatigue.

In addition, I believe that music makes exercise more enjoyable and fun – and helps get exercisers to the gym. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that exercise is boring. Music helps make things more interesting.

Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., of London’s Brunel University School of Sport and Education, is one of the world’s leading authorities on music and exercise. According to Karageorghis’ 20+ years of research:

[Music] can reduce the perception of effort significantly and increase endurance by as much as 15 percent.

A 15% increase in output is HUGE. And for anyone looking to up the intensity of their workout, that’s great news. Of course, not all soundtracks are created equal; elevator music, for example, might not get your heart pumping. Researchers recommend the following bpm (beats-per-minute) guidelines for selecting playlists:

  1. Power walking: approx. 137–139 bpm
  2. Running: approx. 147–169 bpm
  3. Cycling: approx. 135–170 bpm

Not sure how to calculate bpm? There’s an app for that!

Do you use music to help step up your workout intensity? Let me know in the comments below!

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 100 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.

Comments

  1. you put each photo beautiful that I can not pay attention in the text! kkkkk

  2. What happens if you’re watching TV instead? Most gyms have TV’s mounted to the equipment, and a lot of at home exercisers use TV as well. Could this decrease output?

    • @ brent… if the tv is tuned to anything other than sports… particularly cnn, i find that i actly drop off in performance trying to read all the stuff on the screen..
      a good game, hockey, baseball, what-have-you.. and i can feel myself varying my intensity with the speed of the play on the screen.. baseball is good for intervals.. sort of..
      music is better though, imo.. ~ cheers..

  3. I’ve always used music at the gym to keep from boredom setting in. Dance music is what works for me – actually Pandora just added a bunch of workout stations, so I listen to their dance music one while I lift and do cardio.

  4. Yeah, I listen to electro/house/dance music during my workouts…stuff I *rarely* listen to at home. The right combination of pre-workout supplements and high energy music can keep me intensely focused on the exercises. Otherwise, I’m bored to tears.
    But, Davey, didn’t you say a few months ago that you don’t like listening to music while working out? I think you said that it prevents interaction.

  5. Your illustrations are all for cardio exercise and I agree upbeat music of whatever type appeals to you is a big help for the reasons you cite.

    I take a different view for lifting or stretching. I don’t find music helpful for those. In fact, it is a distraction. One should concentrate on the exercise, form, etc.

    As for TV, or even worse reading, while exercising, never. When I see someone, as I did just this morning, taking a book with him out of the locker room I so want to ask if he brings workout equipment the library.

  6. In addiction I would sugest this one: http://www.mixmeister.com/bpmanalyzer/bpmanalyzer.asp

    Very good for 4×4 beat tracks [Disco/Funky Music, Circuit Music, Tribal Music].

    Just be careful to do not do as I did once.. while listening to Ayumi Hamasaki – Surreal (Peter Rauhofer’s Club 69 Remix) I started to sing it… just after to see everybody were looking at me. lol.

  7. …and, btw, I use music for lifting, as well. Some songs have a great tempo for bicep curls, leg curls, bench presses, chin ups, etc.

  8. christopher says:

    its why we listen to tunes be it ipad backround-really anyway at all.

  9. It’s not a rower. As he is holding a kajak pedle

  10. Christopher says:

    Hey Davey, I got a calorie counter recently and have been using the heart monitor on it during my workouts. After I completed my 5k race (coming in at 19:11) I instantly checked my heart rate and it was only 117 and I know I was trying my hardest. I noticed low bpms in comparison to others in other workouts too. Is a low bpm good or bad? My resting is 48.

  11. My playlist has been defined as “a bit schizophrenic”. For cardio I keep a list with techno, d’n'b, rock-ska and power metal. It works wonders.

  12. Hey Davey that’s not a rower, that’s a canoeist/kayaker (depending where you are). Do you know who he is?

  13. idiotgear says:

    when i do my 4 mile run my last track is Gonna Fly Now, Rocky anthem. helps me a bunch.

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