Music is a blissful thing, isn’t it? It picks us up when we’re feeling down, adds excitement to our favorite movie scenes, helps us in our bedroom activities…and it turns out music can actually make us better athletes, too.
Some professional runners are already aware of this—race organizers have been banning iPods and other musical devices for years in an effort to assuage what many believe to be a competitive edge. That’s right, music is so great at increasing a person’s athletic abilities that it’s been banned so people rocking out on a run won’t ‘unfairly’ win.
Costas Karageorghis, an expert on the psychology of exercise music at Brunel University, once claimed that music is a “type of legal performance-enhancing drug.” You don’t even need a bowl to get high with this one, just a good pair of bluetooth headphones.
The More Beats the Better
Researchers at the John Moores University discovered that increasing the tempo of music during a cycling session can boost a person’s power output by 3.5%. It turns out “Eye of the Tiger” really is an effective performance enhancer, after all. On the other hand, when they slowed down the tempo performance actually decreased. If you’ve been spending time on the treadmill rocking out to the “My Heart Will Go On” there’s probably a reason you still haven’t lost that extra weight from last Christmas even though it’s well into September.
Another study at Lincoln University in England found that any music might be better than no music at all. Researchers there established that subjects performing endurance tests while listening to their preferred motivational music outperformed those simply listening to white noise.
Meanwhile, more recent studies seem to indicate that, while some apps and trainers suggest choosing songs with average beats per minute between 160 and 180, the true ceiling for performance enhancement rests somewhere around 145 bpm.
Synchronize Your Grooves
The key is allowing your body to flow naturally with the beat of the song. When you synchronize, your body is able to use energy more efficiently than when it’s trying to work against the beat. A study conduced in 2012 found that cyclists who pedaled in sync with the tempo of a song used 7 percent less oxygen than those who didn’t synchronize with background music.
It’s also helpful to listen to your favorite songs when you’re performing routine or boring tasks. Music increases electrical activity in the brain in areas that control movement so we’ll move in time with the beat and at a faster pace. The music increases our movement, which also helps to increase our mood. You know they say time flies when you’re having fun, which is why you might find that performing chores or running long distances while rocking out to Kanye seems to go by faster than when you have no music at all.
So, you see, music is essential to performing your best and it’s important that you find an excellent conduit through which to listen to it.
Now Get Yourself In the Groove
If you need a little inspiration on what songs might help you push through that plateau in your training sesh, here are a few tracks proven to help increase power. There’s no Taylor Swift or Imagine Dragons on there, but we won’t judge too hard if you want to sneak them into your playlist. The Biebs is unacceptable, though.
If you need help finding the proper phones for the job, might we recommend these bad boys? They’re wireless (which means no tangling), sweat resistant, and they fit so snuggly inside your ear you can blast your music to decibels incredibly loud and no one will notice while you try to “Shake it Off.” They also look pretty kickass. Plus, the sound quality is pretty hard to beat. That music will probably boost your skills a lot better if it’s loud and clear. Just sayin’…