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Pump Up The Jams (And Your Workout!)

Looking for another way to boost your current exercise regime? Bust out your favorite music player (and if you don't have one, get one!) and watch your sessions improve dramatically. 

2013 Update & Editor's Note: This post was written by Assistant editor Dan Gaz who serves in a clinical research role at the esteemed Mayo Clinic. He has both a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Kinesiology from Indiana University.

According to a study by Nicole Harmon and Dr. Len Kravitz, simply adding music to both cardiovascular and strength-related exercises may improve bouts fourfold:

  1. A reduction in the feeling of fatigue
  2. An increased "psyching up" in order to perform better
  3. An improvement in motor skills
  4. A more relaxed feeling during exercise  

So what exactly happens when you add music as a training partner?  In one study, classical music had a significant impact on blood lactate levels, as well as heart rate, blood pressure and perceived exertion.  This particular study suggested that music acted as a pleasant interference during the sometimes-unpleasant experience we like to call exercise. Costas Karageorghis, deputy head of research at the School of Sport and Education at London's Brunel University says teh "sweet spot" is 125 to 140 beats per minute.

Other studies indicate that the actual tempo of the music is a determining factor on the effects it has.  When tested with slow and fast-rhythm classical music, 24 subjects completed a higher workload during a progressive cycling exercise through a slow to fast tempo involvement.  If you're looking for gains, then the research shows that it's okay to start off with some Enya, as long as you finish with some Foo Fighters.

This idea of music and exercise isn't just for the endurance athletes.  In a study using 50 college subjects, energetic music (at higher than 130 beats per minute) yielded higher grip strength scores, when compared to relaxing music and no music at all.  It's no wonder the more muscle-bound folks in the gym are always listening to speed metal-they already know the benefit of vigorous music!

For those with some motor behavior difficulties, adding some auditory stimuli may enhance some of the processes that might not be working 100%.  The authors suggest that tying music to the physical response might be beneficial during rehabilitation for those with movement disorders.  Simply applying a rhythmic component to exercise sessions might aid in the skill acquisition process.

If you don't already work out with music, it might be worth trying.  We all know how tough it is to exercise when the body isn't feeling up to it, but adding tunes to your session might just be the kick you need in order to make it through another day of fitness.  It definitely beats the droning sound of the treadmill or stationary bicycle when the weather turns for the winter!

To read the entire study, visit Dr. Kravitz's website. To read more training tips from the Athletic-Minded Traveler Team click here.

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2013 Update: A 2102 study in

2013 Update: A 2102 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that cyclists who synchronized their movements (cadence) to music reduced oxygen intake by as much as 7%. Other studies show exercising to the tempo of the music boosted endurance.

Dr. Karageorghis (mentioned in the blog post), also evaluated music's effect on swimmers and found that those using music achieved a 3 second improvement in performance -- which in % terms was 2%. Motivation was also improved.

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