Run, Run, Run As Fast As You Can: The Powerful Relationship between Music and Exercise

Caroline Howe |Contributor | USD Radio

I recently went to a kickboxing class where I was instantly smacked with the loud techno-pop of bad cover songs.

Believe me. Nothing makes me push myself to the limits like a song that sounds as if someone accidentally sat on a keyboard while Garage Band was open. This experience reminded me all too well of the last spin class I decided to ever take. The class began with “He’s a Pirate” which is the theme song of Pirates of the Caribbean and reached its crescendo with an extremely off-key cover of “The Climb” originally sung by Miley Cyrus.

I am a relatively active person but I am certainly not the friend who lists “working out” as a hobby on Facebook. Even with my lack of affection for the class playlists just mentioned, I still found the music to be necessary for my workout.

Of course, I am not alone in my need for music but why is music significant in the realm of physical fitness?

First off, music helps you work out more efficiently. Think about walking to a slow ballad such as “I Will Always Love You” performed by Whitney Houston verse a song with a faster tempo like my favorite post-gym song, “Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake. Which one are you more likely to strut your stuff to? If you want to synchronize your movements with a song to walk faster, which song is the better option? Timberlake’s hit has a fast tempo, which will allow you to pick up a greater and steadier pace making your run, for example, more consistent and intense.

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Music streaming sources have taken notice to the relationship between exercising bodies and music. Spotify now has a feature that when activated will detect your pace and use the music you have selected to find the best song to fit your tempo. This way the music listens to you and your body, not just the other way around.

Personally, music is most effective while I run at Mission Beach or the campus turf fields because it can completely distract me from the task at hand. Sure the beach provides me with a beautiful scene to run through but nothing ruins this view quite like a 20-something sweating, trying to catch her breath, and regretting not joining a club sport. It has been found that while your body is experiencing fatigue, your brain can be completely preoccupied through music. You are then able to world out longer and maybe even harder due to this blissful ignorance.

I suspect this distraction can also occur as a result of TV and movies since I obliviously ran for the entire movie, Blue Crush, my freshman year but this is beside the point.

So now you ask, can working out to just any ole fast paced song really make my exercise that much more enjoyable? Well, not exactly. It is important to think about how the song makes you feel. Even though I love “Rock Your Body,” if you were dumped while this song was playing you may have a completely different emotional relationship with it, meaning it may not have the same effects it has on me. Personally, the song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley evokes happy memories of my brother but also provides the necessary strong beat I look for in exercise music. Dissimilarly, “Afterglow” by Wilkinson has a fantastic tempo that motivated my runs while abroad in cloudy Oxford but it no long induces happy memories and has become far less effective than it once was.

When creating your ideal workout playlist, I would suggest being open to editing the music based on the type of exercise and your daily mood. If you think a female power ballad will sufficiently motivate you to run, then listen to Mariah Carey with pride. If you are in the mood for some classic ‘90s rap while find your center at yoga, blast “Gangsta’s Paradise” and be proud.

Music is powerful enough to help us through difficult times, emotionally and physically, so utilize the cheapest and maybe even the healthiest medicine you can come by.

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