THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC
TALK ABOUT THE POWER OF MUSIC. Put someone in an MRI machine, pipe in Zeppelin, and watch their brain light up. “There’s stimulation from sound, the emotional response from lyrics, even memories you associate with it,” says Jessica Grahn, who runs a music and neuroscience lab at Western University in Ontario.
When it comes to working out, music can lock us into the grind and distract us from pain. A study in the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that listening to music blocks some of the messages between muscles and brain. Your head doesn’t get the “I’m tired, slow down!” alerts from biceps or lungs, and you’re less aware of fatigue.
And to state the obvious, music makes a workout more fun. “It raises moods, distracts attention, and provides a pleasurable stimulus during tough workouts,” says study author Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University London and author of Applying Music in Exercise and Sport.
That push is especially helpful when you’re going all-out, like in a cycling or indoor running class. A study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that when people did sprint interval workouts with and without music, they performed significantly better with tunes.
This neurological input can also pay off in terms of strength and conditioning. “When muscle starts to fatigue, you have to make the decision, mentally, to push or not,” says Radan Sturm, founder of Liftonic, a weights studio in New York. “Music can help you keep going.”
And that’s when the progress happens. Not to say you can’t reach your fitness goals to the sound of silence. But it’s more fun to get in the groove, and changing up your music can give a tried-and-true workout new life.
Consider the strength routine on the following pages created by Sturm. You’ve probably done these moves a million times. But by syncing them to the beat, and playing around with the tempo (how many beats you use to lift or lower the weight), you’re taxing your muscles differently. Toying with tempo, dumbbell weight, and reps makes for infinite possibilities.