Cardiovascular Exercise (Cardio) is an effective way to get fit and improve body composition. However, those that actually ‘enjoy’ their Cardio as an activity are few and far between. In general terms the more vigorous the Cardio the more stress it will put upon the body and, consequently the body will respond by increasing blood flow, oxygen consumption and fat loss accordingly. Therefore, any tools that can make Cardio more enjoyable (or bearable!) and improve the intensity and results should be explored by any and all engaged in physical activity. This is where music as a distraction and performance enhancer comes into the equation and – as a cursory look at any cardio section in a gym will demonstrate – why music is a staple of most gym sessions. However, this article explores this a little deeper and suggests that the choice of music can have an impact on exercise performance and results.

How does Music Help During Exercise?

Research suggests that the correct type of music elicits a significant effect on sports-related performance. Furthermore, listening to the correct type of music at appropriate times can significantly influence preparation and performance in a number of ways. Notably, for those looking for a tool to aid Cardio sessions the benefits of music include attainment of a ‘flow’ state. Flow refers to the ‘mental state’ that is achieved when a person becomes fully immersed in an activity and has single minded energised focus.

Music and Cardio: Go with the Flow

Cardio elicits a response within the body that is very easily understood as tiredness and, for some, a reason to stop exercising. However, research demonstrates that music diverts the mind from these sensations thus enabling us to potentially exercise to a greater intensity and/or for longer periods of time. Music can also promote a positive mental state and a reduction in potentially exercise ending negativity. Encouragingly, research has demonstrated that the use of appropriate music can reduce perceived exertion during treadmill running by as much as 10%.

Choosing Effective Music for Motivation

Clearly, music as an exercise accompaniment is widely used. However, for many the choice of music is often limited to general personal preference or what is on offer at the local gym. To attain maximal results from music in relation to exercise improving effectiveness research suggests that we need to be a little more circumspect in our choices. Simply put – the right music makes us workout harder for longer – so what is the right music?

This is a rather complex question, however to summarise the current body of research the expected exercise intensity should correlate with the beats per minute of the music. The higher the intensity – the higher the number of beats per minute. For example if you are engaged in interval training it would be a good idea to alternate between mid-tempo tracks and faster music to correlate to the demands of the workout.

Exercise and Music: Summary

  • Music improves Performance and can make Cardio more Effective.
  • Choose you Workout Tracks Carefully to Improve Performance.
  • Match the intensity of your Workout with the Tempo of your Music.
  • Take control over what you are listening to when working out by creating your own playlists.

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