It began in the 70’s… Or was it before the dawn of aerobics and rather with the first beats of the ancestral drum? Music, or rather; rhythm, has been a part of the collective human heartbeat since the dawning of human awareness. Recent studies by various psychologists and scientists suggest that music has a profound effect on exercise. This can be anything from the driving force that gets you up and at it to transcending limitations and pushing beyond what was first conceived as your limits.

There are many fitness instructors, including some yoga teachers, who agree that the extra addition of music to an exercise routine assists as an ergogenic aid. Then there are the runners who similarly suggest that there is a noticeable difference between runs done with the magic aid of music and runs done without it (or even with an inappropriate choice of music). While there has been some studies that agree, research on this very topic has proved inconclusive and it appears that each is to their own and it is based on personal preference whether or not music assists with the stimulation and continuation of a workout.

Does this connection stem from a rhythmic bioengineering or does it delve deeper in the subconscious?

According to sports psychologist Costa Karageorgist, the key to harnessing the magic of music and optimum performance lies in the proverbial haystack of choosing the ‘right’ kind of beat. Karageorgist has discovered that there are no less than four contributing factors when it comes to the motivational response generated by a song.

  1. Rhythm response
  2. Musicality
  3. Cultural impact
  4. Association

Rhythm response and musicality are based on what Karageorgist calls “internal factors,” stemming from the song’s own structure. The cultural impact and association are “external factors” which relate to how you interpret the song. One of the most obvious factors of a song is the beats per minute (bpm), the rhythm response, and the motivating force of the song depends on how well it connects with the cadence of a runner and/or any exerciser. The faster the beat, the more motivated the runner is to pick up pace and run with the rhythm. The musicality of a song is dependent on its melody and harmony while the external factors are largely dependent on your own associations, conditioning, background and preferences.

It goes to show that each person really does have their own favorite beat to move to and while the jury is still out on the science behind the effect music has on your workout routine, why not enjoy it for the sole reason that it makes you feel groovy while you are moving?

And for the analytical sides of ourselves, a recent study showed that cyclists who cycled in sync with music needed at least seven percent less oxygen compared to when they exerted the same amount of effort without any music. On another note, music playing can often fade out the background noise of any demotivating and overly-critically self-talk.

Often times we are all too aware of the amount of effort being exerted and this leads up to a premature end to the workout. With music playing, it is easier to go just that little bit further. When it comes to matching your bpm with the right kind of tempo, it can get tricky. Luckily, there are various nifty software for that, like Tangerine, which (very cleverly) uses your iTunes library to create an optimum playlist based on your personal bpm (which you have to record). This way, the Tangerine plug-in creates a playlist that corresponds with your warm up, intense work out and your warm down.

There are, however, some songs that have the workout/motivational tempo down pat no matter your personal cadence and most of the time it is best to select a few and see how the songs make you feel while you are working out. Does a song make you feel pumped? Add it to your all-time workout playlist. Does a song make you wish you were nearing the finish? Ditch it! Remember that the most powerful motivating force is enjoying the present moment – so don’t force it and find the songs that feel like it’s your inner-guru tuning you in.

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