Music: the New Performance Enhancer

Headphones = Workout Gear?

If you’re like us, you have a checklist of stuff you need to have in your gym bag (or pockets, or dixie cups or whatever it is you use to tote your gym essentials).

Maybe you’re the organized type that has your stuff pulled together the night before. Or, maybe (more like us) you’re tossing things in as you’re on your way to run those three (ten) errands before you get to the gym at prime time.

If one of your essential-ist items for your workout is your headphones, it turns out you’re not just an audiophile…. you might actually be logging in a better workout.

Ready for ANYTHING.

If you’ve ever considered canceling your workout because you didn’t have your headphones, you’re definitely not alone. Over the last decade or so, music and its effects on the brain and physical performance have become hot topics, and a cumulative overview of 62 studies released in 2012 found it can increase physical capacity, improve energy efficiency, and influence mood. And, of those studies, there was clear evidence that music can improve endurance. 

New and improved technology makes music more portable than ever before.

“[Music is] a type of legal, performance-enhancing drug.”

Costas Karageorghis Brunel University in London

The relationship of music and its effects on the brain and body is not a new concept — music has played a vital role in motivating and guiding everything from your niece’s dance recitals to your favorite sports team, and as far back as humans have been waging battles. In fact, there were nearly 54,000 military musicians during the Civil War, whose efforts helped provide organization and timing — like wake up and lights out — as well as morale-boosting during marches and even heading into battle. The fact that you have a favorite workout playlist or hype music that pushes you to those extra reps is not accidental.

“Research on the interplay of music and exercise dates to at least 1911, when American investigator Leonard Ayres found that cyclists pedaled faster while a band was playing than when it was silent,” writes Ferris Jabr for Scientific American. And, upon reviewing the dozens of studies on the subject, a few clear concepts emerge. 

Music Alters Your Performance

It’s one thing to be annoyed by the lack of music during your workout (technology fails, amirite?), but it’s not just a #firstworldproblem. Science has revealed that the body responds differently when your movement is accompanied by music. 

Music Improves Output

In this study conducted with young medical students, it was found that music had a stimulative effect, and that music enhanced work output. And, not only that, music also effected the exercisers’ rate of perceived exertion (RPE), or how hard they thought they were working. This lead to an increased duration of the workout. The bonus? Participants reported a greater sense of satisfaction or enjoyment throughout.

Music can be both motivating and distracting.

Music Can be a Useful Distraction

Music can provide a welcome diversion from the intensity of your workout, which can benefit you in two ways. First, by distracting your brain from the exertion at hand, you may not be as aware (read: worn down by) of the effort you’re putting in. And given the multifaceted impact of music — through lyrics, arrangement, or tempo — this can allow you to work harder than you would without music, and for a longer duration. 

Music Can Improve Your Effort

Who doesn’t have a go-to pre-workout playlist (let’s just say this study relied heavily on the theme from “Rocky.”) It turns out that “pre-task music” (aka hype music) can be used to heighten exercisers’ activation for an impending bout of exercise. In addition, as it pertains to pre-game jitters, music was found to have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties.

Music Can Increase Your Efficiency

As any group fitness afcianado can attest, moving “synchronously” is not always just a matter of preference — it can actually help improve your body’s efficiency. It was found that moving in time to a beat required 7% less oxygen than participants that did not move synchronously. “Music, it seems,” explains Jabr. “Can function as a metronome, helping someone maintain a steady pace, reducing false steps and decreasing energy expenditure.” 

Music Can Improve Your Recovery

By successfully creating a distraction, and adding in elements of motivation — through compelling lyrics, or tempo, or any of the myriad reasons music moves us — music can power us through challenges, and make us feel better about them when we’re done. Music during your cool down has been shown to have an ergogenic effect, and can help reduce feelings of exhaustion and speed your recovery time.

Music can push you through those extra reps.

The Takeaway

Music isn’t just a preference for your workout, it can actually create an improved workout experience. We love having music in our clubs, and strive to provide excellent ambient motivation through our whole-club sound system, and individual studio systems. We are proud to partner with Towne TV to help deliver an unmatched audio experience.

Did You Know? You can queue up songs in-club during your visit by using Rockbot, our in-club entertainment app. You can set up your favorite tunes to get you hyped for whatever workout you have ahead.

Forgot your headphones? We have a selection of headphones available for sale at the SHOP. 

Haven’t Tried Working Out Synchronously? Give a group fitness class a try — your first session is free.

See you in the clubs!