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What Effect Does Music Have On Exercise and Your Brain?

Written by: Samantha Higley | WVUGo Media - Sports and Active Lifestyles Writer

Your Favorite Jams Can Pump You Up In More Ways Than You Might Think

Music can often be an integral part of a killer workout. When you’re struggling to catch your breath, and your muscles are on the brink of fatigue, sometimes a song is what can give you the final push to finish your workout. Listening to music while you exercise can give you a rush of adrenaline, and leaving you feeling pumped up, proud of the work you just did. So why does music have a unique effect on our physical performance?

When used in low-level to moderate levels of exercise, numerous studies have shown that music can increase energy levels, improve mood, and delay feelings of fatigue. Music can have these effects regardless of whether it is played before or during a workout. According to a study published in Psychology Today, “When music is used before an athletic activity, it has been shown to increase arousal, facilitate relevant imagery, and improve the performance of simple tasks. When music is used during activity, it has ergogenic (work-enhancing) effects and psychological effects”. Many of the physical benefits experienced by listening to music, such as higher reps or farther distance traveled, come as a result of psychological effects. These effects include the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is known as the “feel-good” hormone. Serotonin release is often equated with music that a person finds pleasurable. Studies have shown that listening to music while exercising leads to “a 28 percent increase in enjoyment during the walking task, compared with no auditory stimuli. Enjoyment was also 13 percent higher for those who listened to music, compared with those who listened to a podcast.” (Medical News Today). These results were gathered using EEG scans of the brain, which determined that listening to music that one finds enjoyable causes an increase in beta waves in the frontal lobe. An increase in these waves can allow sharper use of the frontal lobe’s functions, such as concentration and voluntary movement.

As beneficial as music can be during exercise, there are factors that inhibit its ability to be effective. The volume and temp at which music is played can determine the physical and psychological impact that music will have. Music with a fast tempo that is played at a higher volume has been shown to increase the ergogenic effect on exercise (NCBI). In addition, music is most effective when played during periods of low to moderate intensity. During a high-intensity exercise, all focus should be placed on the task at hand, rather than the music coming from the speaker. It is also harder for the perception of fatigue to be diminished at these levels.

Music can be a great tool to harness your focus and push your body to its limits. Music can improve your mood as well, making your workout seem more enjoyable and more productive all around. So crank the tunes, safely!


Look at the discussion section of this

  • Study of effects of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate

Use for study about how music makes exercise more enjoyable

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About the Author

Sam Samantha Higley is a freshman who began writing for WVUGO in August 2019 with an emphasis on Club and Intramural Sports. She plans to earn a degree in Neuropsychology with a minor in History. Samantha is also on the Club Volleyball team at WVU.

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