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Understanding Rhythm: How Music and Fitness are Connected

Written by: Prachi Sharma

Jun 25, 2024


What comes to your mind when you think of fitness?


Weightlifting? Running? Yoga?


What if I tell you to add music to the list?


In your wildest dreams, you wouldn't have correlated music and fitness. You may think, what has music got to do with fitness? Isn’t that just for entertainment? What connects music to fitness?


Rhythm! Rhythm connects the two, among other things.


Rhythm is a universal language that transcends cultures and connects us all. It's the steady beat of a drum, the cadence of our footsteps during a run, and the pulse of our hearts.


But did you know that this intrinsic sense of rhythm also plays a pivotal role in our fitness routines? Let’s dive into the fascinating connection between music, rhythm, and exercise, and see how they harmonize to boost both physical and mental well-being.


Rhythm and Movement: Enhance your workout with music


If you had to name three essentials people bring to the gym, what would they be?


That’s right! Water bottle, towel, and HEADPHONES!


A survey conducted in 2014 found that two out of three people cut their workout short or skipped it entirely if they forgot to bring their headphones. There is a good reason for this.


Next time when working out or running with headphones on, notice how your pace changes when a fast song comes on. This is no coincidence. Music profoundly impacts our motor functions and can significantly influence our physical performance.


Boosting Synchronization and Efficiency

Our bodies have a natural capacity to synchronize with the beat of a song. The more fast-paced and energetic the music is, the quicker your pace will be. Music activates the region of the brain that controls movement, allowing your body to do repetitive movements more efficiently.


Moreover, this synchronization boosts your heart rate, metabolism, and energy efficiency while simultaneously lowering blood pressure and physical and emotional stress. You'll also feel less tired.


Different studies have found that specific tempos result in peak performance in certain workouts. For example, a 2011 study discovered that the optimal tempo for cycling (defined by evaluating intensity via heart rate) is between 125 and 140 bpm. A similar study in 2014 looked for the optimal bpm while on the treadmill and discovered that music between 123 and 131 bpm produced the best results.


The advantages of listening to music while exercising persist even after removing your headphones. High-BPM music not only helped runners keep a steady pace and increase their endurance, but it also sped up their recovery after a run (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, 2019).

 

Enhanced Athletic Performance

Additionally, several studies have found that listening to music can improve your athletic performance, either by increasing the distance you run, the speed you travel, or the number of reps you complete.


The University of Toronto conducted research on 34 cardiac rehabilitation patients who followed specified routines of exercise. Researchers divided them into three groups: one without music, one with tailored playlists, and one with playlists designed particularly to improve tempo-pace synchronization through rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS). While the group listening to RAS music did not appear to be exerting much energy, their endurance, intensity, and duration of workouts rose when compared to the other two groups.


According to research, rhythmic auditory stimulation can enhance movement, timing, and coordination, making workouts more efficient and enjoyable. The rhythm of music can act as a metronome, helping to regulate our movements and maintain a consistent pace.

 

Rhythmic activities Enhance Coordination and Motor Skills

Engaging in rhythmic activities, such as drumming or dancing, can significantly improve our motor skills and coordination. This is particularly beneficial for activities that require precise movements and timing. For example, drumming requires the use of both hands and feet in a synchronized manner, which can translate to improved coordination in other physical activities. Studies have shown that rhythmic training can enhance sensorimotor coordination, making it easier to perform complex physical tasks. It can help a runner improve their form. Similar to drumming, running has numerous chances to consider rhythm, and occasionally realizations seem to come as a result of the act of running.

 

The Role of Music in Mindfulness and Relaxation

Music is not only beneficial for high-intensity workouts but also plays a crucial role in promoting mindfulness and relaxation. Activities like yoga and tai chi often incorporate calming music to help participants focus on their breathing and movements. The rhythm of the music can induce a meditative state, reducing stress and promoting mental clarity. According to research, music can lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, thereby enhancing overall well-being.


Interestingly, rhythmic activities like drumming share therapeutic benefits with practices such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and running. These activities stimulate bilateral brain activity, which is essential for processing traumatic memories and emotions. Engaging in rhythmic exercises helps in emotional regulation and mental clarity, making them effective tools for both physical and psychological therapy.


There are numerous strategies to alternate between right and left brain activation, including dance, yoga, and various tai chi moves. People have a natural affinity for right-left movements in various healing rituals around the world. Consider how many religious ceremonies include drumming, movement, or foot travel. We can better understand why these rituals have endured through the ages by having a better understanding of brain integration, plasticity, and resilience.


Magic of musical instruments on health



 

One cannot leave musical instruments while talking about rhythm, music and health. Musical instruments connect the three.


A Workout for Your Body

Whether you're performing on a massive stage or practicing in your living room, playing an instrument engages and strengthens various muscles. Some instruments are more physically demanding than others. For example, drumming can be a full-body workout that gets your heart rate up and your blood flowing, much like a cardio session.


Strengthening the Respiratory System

Musicians who play wind instruments, such as flutes, harmonicas, and saxophones, or those who sing, need to master deep breathing techniques and breath control. This practice can significantly enhance the strength and health of the respiratory system, leading to better lung capacity and overall respiratory health.

 

Enhanced Hearing Abilities

Musicians often develop a heightened ability to discern specific sounds within a noisy environment. This fine-tuning of auditory skills is a direct result of the detailed listening required to play music accurately.

 

Stress Relief

While stress is primarily a mental challenge, its physical repercussions can be profound. Playing an instrument can act as a powerful stress reliever, helping to mitigate these physical effects and promoting overall well-being.


Improved Motor Skills

Most musical instruments require a high degree of dexterity, flexibility, and precise movement. For instance, mastering the correct finger placements on a guitar or coordinating hands and feet to play the piano can significantly improve one's motor skills. This is particularly beneficial for children developing motor skills and individuals undergoing physical rehabilitation. It is important for runners and athletes as well.

Playing an instrument can be an excellent way to integrate physical exercise into your routine, enhancing your overall physical health while also offering a rewarding and enjoyable hobby.


Integrating Music into Your Fitness Routine

How do I integrate the two you may think? To harness the benefits of music in your fitness routine, consider the following tips:

  1. Create Playlists: Tailor your playlists to match the intensity of your workouts. Use upbeat songs for high-energy activities like running or cycling and calming tunes for yoga or stretching sessions.

  2. Focus on Rhythm: Choose music with a strong, steady beat to help regulate your movements and maintain a consistent pace.

  3. Experiment with Drumming: Incorporate drumming or rhythmic activities into your fitness routine to enhance coordination and motor skills. You can even try drumming classes or join a drum circle for a unique fitness experience.

  4. Use Music for Motivation: Play your favorite songs to boost your motivation and make your workouts more enjoyable. Music can be a powerful tool to help you stay committed to your fitness goals.



Conclusion

In conclusion, music and fitness are linked, offering numerous benefits for both body and mind. From boosting motivation and enhancing coordination and runners' form to promoting mindfulness and emotional well-being, the rhythm of music can transform your exercise routine.






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Published June 25th, 2024




[6-8 minute read]

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