Some of us love the gym. Others…not so much.
If you are in the second group, you might be interested in a new study that reveals a way to make workouts more tolerable.
Researchers at Brunel University London gave brain scans to people while they exercised.
The participants walked or ran on an outdoor track at the pace of their choice. Scientists divided them into three groups.
One group walked while using headphones to listen to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Another group listened to a podcast of a TED talk. The third group didn’t listen to anything.
The participants’ brainwaves were measured while they exercised. The scientists also assessed differences among the groups in alertness and fatigue.
Researchers found that music listeners had 28% more brain activity indicating pleasure compared to subjects who didn’t listen to anything. And music listeners’ brains had 13% more pleasure-linked brain waves than those who listened to a podcast.
Researcher Marcelo Bigliassi led the study. “We showed that music has the potential to increase beta waves and elicit a more positive emotional state,” he concluded. “This can be capitalized upon during other forms of exercise and render a given activity more pleasurable.”
In other words… If you hate hitting the gym, music can help.
3 Ways to Get the Most From Music
Here are ways to incorporate music into your workout routine to maximize your enjoyment and performance.
- Match the music to your own rhythm. Earlier research has found that matching music to your workout pace has a profound effect. It can make you think you’re not working as hard as you actually are. Scientists have found that music can increase athletic performance by up to 15%.
Upbeat, fast-paced tunes between 120 and 140 beats per minute (bpm) have the most performance benefit.1 You can use an app like BPM Detector to check bpm of songs in your music library.
- Make it happy. The study used positive, “happy” music to increase exercise enjoyment. So stay away from soulful ballads and the blues. Instead, go for upbeat tunes that put a smile on your face.2
- Get the right gear. If your headphones or earbuds keep falling off your head, the music isn’t going to help much.3 Here are a few ways to get the most benefit from your headphones:
- Go wireless. A good pair of Bluetooth headphones can be less distracting than traditional ones because you don’t have wires getting in your way.
SENSO Bluetooth Headphones get great reviews. They cost about $30, have an eight-hour battery life, and are waterproof. But you may sacrifice some sound quality with certain wireless headphones.
- Choose high-fidelity. If you’re willing to deal with wires, you’ll usually get better sound. Among the best-rated wire headphones are the Sennheiser OCX 686G. They’re sweat and water resistant. And they offer controls and a microphone to allow you to take phone calls and pause your music at the push of a button.
One more thing… If you exercise near traffic, it’s best to do so without headphones.
A 2011 study at the University of Maryland found that runners and other pedestrians who wear headphones are at a far higher risk of getting hit by a vehicle.4 Listening to music means you can’t hear car horns and other warnings that may prevent an accident.