Even the earliest music helped us move. Musical origin theories range from its aid in ritualistic dances, all the way to increasing coordination for productive activities. On the other hand, Charles Darwin believed music to be a form of sexual attraction. Other hypotheses see it as a sort of social glue, lifting spirits and creating closer-knit societies.
Any or all of these theories feel plausible. We dance to music, work to music, and bond with music. It helps us in many areas of our life – and none more so than physical activity. Listening to music while you workout really does help you perform to a higher standard, science says so. Not that you need the science to know it – most of us have, at some point, felt a deep, instinctual boost in energy from sonic forces. What is that? And where does it come from?
You know when you hear a loud noise and jump before you can even process what made the noise? That’s intuitive. It’s a reflex circuit. And music also has this effect. Studies have shown that listening to music increases electrical activity in regions of the brain involved in coordinating movements. In turn, our bodies tune into the beat and our motor systems sync to the rhythm. This is particularly helpful when working out, as music can help your body repeat movements more efficiently.
Even if you’re not exercising, music is a huge mood-lifter. Listening to music drenches your body in healthy hormones, increasing the feel-great factor with dopamine and oxytocin while lowering the pesky stress hormone, cortisol. All of this creates a more positive state of mind, providing more motivation for movement. And since exercise also gets to work on the exact same hormones, listening to music while working out is double the mood magic. P-p-p-pow!
Sometimes all you need is a little ‘Eye of the Tiger’ to put a spring in your step, and that’s because music can push away both mental and physical feelings of fatigue – perfect for days we may be low on motivation. The natural mood-enhancing hormones released by listening to music (mentioned above) also work as natural painkillers, distracting you from the discomfort of fitness fatigue.
Turning up the tempo can also help tune into maximum performances during a workout. This can differ depending on your preferences and activity, for example, a 2011 study found that a tempo between 125 and 140 bpm (beats per minute) was most effective for cycling performance, whereas a similar 2014 study found between 123 and 131 bpm was ideal for treadmill running.
The story of music is the story of humans. Music is at our core, just like movement. In fact, music is the human body and mind producing patterns in a creative way. It’s nature’s way. Find what feels good for you, and explore the world of functional fitness at EVO with a free trial.