It's more than just emotionally satisfying
People who workout to the beat say they do it because they enjoy it more.
I don't do it because music distracts me from being fully body-aware. If you are like me, research says that we might be missing out.
So what's the deal with music and workouts - are the majority who listen the smart ones, and crushing their results thanks to their earbuds?
While ubering to a client today, the driver and I chatted about running. It turns out he's been a runner for 20 years.
We compared times and a bit of technique, but it was when he said that he has just started running to music that I winced.
Really, why? I asked.
It takes my mind off all the aches and pains - I really enjoy it - is what he answered.
That surprised me. "I like to be aware of all my aches and pains so that I can nurture them along as I run", I put to him.
This was he response: "I was the same, but with music, I can run longer and enjoy it more by not worrying about pains and the tiredness".
I'm wasn't convinced, but it got me thinking.
Could that possibly be the best thing to do? But how do you know what's going on with your feet, your ankles, the twitches in your achilles tendon etc?
Research says music helps
I quickly found out that research says my Uber driver was right.
A survey by Runners World found that the majority of runners who listen while they run jam to their favourite playlist. That's what my Uber driver told me that he did - he has his 80's playlist loaded up.
Research from The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that listening to music before a training run or 5Km helped you fire up and be better prepared for what's ahead. Still, that's not listening during running.
The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness reported that non-trained participants lasted longer at an endurance task, and felt better afterwards (state-anxiety reduction) if they listened to music. However, the music made no difference to trained participants.
The effects mentioned by my Uber driver seem to have verification in research.
Runners ran a more consistent pace and considered they used less effort when they ran with music, according to a recent study by PLOS One.
Similarly, a study conducted at Keele University in England found that playing your favourite tunes while you are running reduces exertion levels and increases your sense of "being in the zone".
And if you play the right music there is another bonus - better recovery: The right music can actually help you recover from a hard workout.
Can music help balance and gait?
But what grabbed my attention was a comprehensive meta-study by exercise scientist Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico. There were some mixed findings, but as a runner one caught my eye.
The beat only moderately affects your heartbeat
The idea that your heart rate will follow the beat and kick you along more easily was disputed as it was found that the heartbeat only moderately followed the beat of the music.
However, music was found to have a motivating emotional effect. Kravitz recommended music as a "warm-up" to exercise.
Your balance and gait is helped
Interestingly, Kravitz reported that music has a definite positive effect on favourably affects coordinated walking and proprioceptive control and "improves gait regularity" in people with gait disorders.
This effect may be the one which helps runners!!
Music induces feelings of satisfaction and masks discomfort
Finally, the meta-study concluded that subjects felt that their performance was better with the addition of music, that it provided more motivation and that
"Music may evoke pleasant associations while masking unpleasant stimuli (such as rapid breathing associated with exertion). It may also serve as a distraction to some internal feelings, possibly associated with discomfort."
Nothing to lose, but the beat
I'm left with the overwhelming thought that music and exercise might be worth a shot if you are a purist like me who considered - up to now - running with something in your ears sacrilege.
The finding about improving your gait may be another reason that runners find music helps their flow and rhythm. That's the finding that caught my eye.
How about you?
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter