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Of Music and Muscles

By Staff

In the book “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” celebrated neurologist and author Oliver Sacks discusses the powerful relationship between music and motion, quoting luminaries from our era and the distant past. Way back in 1628, famed scientist William Harvey described movement as, “the silent music of the body.” Which all begs the question, is there a link between music and motion and more directly, can listening to music improve performance when it comes to motion in the form of exercise?

Feel the beat

The answer is a resounding yes. The evidence is clear - if you want to enjoy workouts more and increase your chances of sticking with the program, add music into your routine. This is true whether Mozart during a mellow peddle on a stationary bike is your thing, or if hard-core dance tracks while you jump around shadowboxing are more your speed.

Just a couple of years back, a study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, reinforced this concept again. This study, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, looked at how music improves the attitudes of the participants when faced with intense physical activity - interval training in this case. The results showed that participants who listened to a playlist of their favourite songs during grueling exercise were more positive about the activity and more apt to continue.

What’s going on?

Experts like Sacks have tallied many fascinating effects music has on the human brain. This science is at the heart of the growing area of music therapy, where music is used to benefit people with a wide variety of conditions ranging from epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and autism, to name a few. 

When it comes to physical fitness and athletic therapy music can help us “dissociate from fatigue,” allowing us to exercise harder and longer. Listening to music during a warm up can also increase our “adrenergic modulation,” which is a fancy way of describing enhanced arousal, attention and focus due to our body’s increased production of norepinephrine.

Great thinkers throughout the ages have consistently reminded us that in a way, music is in our blood. Nineteenth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche might even have made a good athletic therapist, for he once said, “We listen to music with our muscles.”

The science continues to tell us that if we want to tune up our workouts, we need to turn up the volume.