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Does Music Improve Athletic Performance? Let’s Take A Look At The Facts

10th August 2021

10th August 2021

By Beth Shelper

The relationship between music and exercise is a pretty long-standing one. However, research into how music affects exercise is a newer area of interest.

Everyone loves to listen to music when they work out, right? It’s a bit of a given. It passes the time, keeps your mind busy and workouts provide the perfect opportunity to listen to your favourite album or the newest release.

When it comes to getting yourself in the workout zone music is essential, whatever your genre of choice, whether it’s heavy metal, pop music, hip-hop, RnB or maybe musical theatre. We’re not judging. We’re just here to tell you that your favourite tracks could just be the key to unlocking an increase in your athletic performance.

 Yes… really.

Does music improve athletic performance?

It seems that way! But don’t just take our word for it. Take it from the experts.

Author of ‘Applying Music in Exercise and Sport Costas Karageorghis has spent over twenty-five years studying music. With his years of research in the field, he’s found that music actually stimulates all the major areas of the brain that are absolutely critical when it comes to your athletic performance.

The science behind the relationship between music and exercise

To investigate the relationship between music and exercise, researchers all over the world have been investigating the impact on athlete stamina, motivation, performance, and speed. In 2012, a study by the British Psychological Society (BSP) invited 64 athletes from three different sports: netball, football and running.

All of the participants were asked to reveal their favourite music genre (with RnB being a real favourite), and assessed before and after training, as well as with and without music. The BSP found that athlete’s level of exertion reduced and their sense of ‘being in the zone’ increased when compared to exercise and workouts conducted with no music at all.

Ensuring athletes were listening to their favourite music was key in boosting their mood and motivation levels. We’ve all been there, you realise that you’ve forgetting your headphones as soon as you get to the gym, and now you’re subject to the general gym-wide (and frankly outdated) playlists. That’s why we’ve included headphones in our trusty Guide To The Ultimate Gym Bag Essentials article. Thank us later.

Music activates the following areas of the brain:

  • The Parietal Lobe

The Parietal Lobe is responsible for our senses such as touch. This mean’s this area of the brain is pretty important when it comes to processing pain, determining temperature and even when sensing limb positioning – which, depending on the workout you’re taking part in, can be the difference between life and death. Especially when it comes to gymnastics…

  • The Occipital

This is the visual processing area of the brain, that computes the information we see. During exercise, this area of the brain is key in visuospatial awareness (that is, so we know where we are, such as how close we are to objects or other people) and distance.

Aside from being a vital area of the brain, this area is particularly important in distance running, so that you know how long you’ve got to go before you can stop. Phew.

  • The Temporal Lobe

The Temporal Lobe sits just behind your ears and is the second largest lobe area in the brain. As the name suggests, this lobe is responsible for the processing of auditory information (like music!). Couldn’t sing along to your favourite tunes mid-workout without it.

  • The Frontal Lobe

The Frontal Lobe is the largest lobe in the brain and is hugely important in movement and awareness. The Frontal Lobe regulates emotions when it comes to social situations such as relationships, whether these emotions are good or bad.

The 5 best songs to add to your workout playlist

We couldn’t write an article on the effects of music and exercise without sliding in a couple of playlist recommendations. When it comes to the best running songs, there are some firm and timeless favourites that we just have to get on your playlist, ready for the next gym session.

  • Brightside: The Killers
  • Stronger: Kanye West
  • Lose Yourself: Eminem
  • Eye Of The Tiger: Survivor
  • Don’t Stop Believin’: Journey

Also, by the way. The entire soundtrack to The Greatest Showman will set you up for a perfectly timed playlist for an average 5k run time. You heard it here first, musical theatre lovers.

If music isn’t your thing, podcasts are also a great shout. They may not have the same mood-boosting benefits backed by research that music does, but they definitely will pass the time, and even make you laugh – depending on the subject. Check out Fit, Healthy and Happy for some great fitness chat and advice.

Summary

So, does music improve your athletic performance? Absolutely! Crank up the tunes and get your workout on.  Get your daily dose of The Energy Booster and get moving.

References

  • British Psychological Society (BPS). "Listening to your favorite music boosts performance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily. Click here.
  • Strum, L., 2016. Can music make you a better athlete?. PBS NewsHour. Click here

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