to the groove

match your movement with music

November 28, 2018

match your movement with music

November 28, 2018

Cueing up a playlist before you hit the gym is second nature to a lot of us, but have you ever wondered exactly why your cherished tunes give you that extra boost in your workout? Here’s the breakdown on how music changes the mind and body connection during work outs, and what makes music and exercise such a match made in heaven.

Music is composed of sound waves that enter your ear canal and cause the membranes to vibrate, which communicates a message to the nerves in your brain. The perception of music involves many different regions of your brain, but there are direct links between auditory and motor neurons.Research on the relationship between music and movement, and how it can be used to enhance workouts, has increased greatly over the past decade. On a physiological level, these little vibrations are actually quite powerful. Scientists have noted how music can:

  • Moderate heart rate
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Reduce physical and mental stress
  • Change metabolic rate
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Reduce oxygen needed to perform physically

Right, so that’s pretty groovy. But how is this happening? Let’s see…



Most of us have caught ourselves tapping along to the beat without even realizing it; this is known as the rhythm response. Your brain begins to synchronize to the sound waves without your conscious awareness. As you match your movements to the tempo of your favourite tune, you perform more efficiently with greater regularity, which results in greater endurance and better performance. Tempo plays a role in this effect: more beats per minute (bpm) will reflect in your heart rate. Simply increasing the bpm can boost your peak potential. On the other hand, slower-paced music can refine your movements, help you moderate your breathing, coordination and an overall more relaxing workout.

How to hack this: Research shows that a tempo range from about 120 to 145 bpm is the preference for most forms of exercise, as it allows for the optimal level of stimulation. Also, anything with a steady beat will do wonders for endurance work, allowing you to fall into a regular rhythm. Apps like Spotify let you pick songs that correlate to your activity and you can even sort your music based on tempo, loudness and energy.


Positive Distraction

Although we all feel great after a tough workout, during the actual session it can be really hard work. Muscles twinging in pain, heart pounding as you explore your limits and push through fatigue. The body recognizes these warning signs of exertion and asks you to slow down, but music is able to compete with this physiological feedback. Music takes your mind off the difficulty of the act.

Studies show that listening to music can increase performance by up to 15 percent. Your tunes allow you to concentrate on something else, and especially upbeat songs can push you to enjoy the workout more even as you push yourself harder than before.


Emotional Enhancement

Your favourite beats work hard, triggering positive emotions and decreasing your perception of the negative ones, and overall helping you to push it real good. By elevating your mood, your outlook and enjoyment of the physical exercise increases and your focus on exhaustion decreases. Also music can have inspiring messages or connotations, increasing your motivation to complete the workout in a blaze of glory.

Listening to pleasurable music based on your personal preferences releases dopamine in the mind. This in conjunction with other endorphins released during exercise mean a feel-good cocktail for your mind.


To wrap it up— Music is perhaps one of the most powerful ways to hack into mind and body. The brain is hardwired to react instinctively to the energy of your favourite songs, be it Rihanna’s powerful vocals or the motivational classic ‘Eye of the Tiger’.

Train harder, run better, cycle faster, perform stronger with your iPod in hand. Daft Punk would be proud.

Image by IStock/RossHelen

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