Tall and rail-thin as a kid, I couldn’t possibly intimidate anyone with my physique, nor was I interested in doing so. Yet the first time I watched Sylvester Stallone slam his fists into hanging cattle carcasses, grunt through a bunch of one-armed pushups, and barrel up the stairs of a certain Philadelphia museum to the tune of a very motivating song - yea, you know the one - I was instantly inspired. I wanted to get big, strong, and more important, get even with all those who ever tried to stuff me into a locker. I took to the weights with unbridled enthusiasm, determined to transform my puny arms into massive guns capable of delivering some serious damage.
For me, it was Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” that fueled my training fire. For others it’s everything from Metallica’s “One” to Beethoven’s 5th. According to scientists, professors, and anyone who’s ever stepped foot in a gym, listening to music during exercise can offer a variety of benefits—not just on treadmills and in aerobics classes, but in the weight room as well.
Walk into any gym today and you’ll find most people plugged into their iPods, iPhones, or MP3 players, or at the mercy of the piped-in satellite station. No matter what the source, one thing is clear: Music has the amazing ability to boost your overall mental and physical performance. Few things work better to get your motor revved while training.
Numerous studies and experiments have found that music not only increases a person’s motivation during a workout, but also helps to enhance his strength, endurance, and motor coordination. On days where you’re just not feeling it, the right tunes can help carry you to the finish line with their ability to distract you from fatigue while simultaneously charging your heart and other muscles.
The interactions between body, mind, and music are complex. It’s not the music alone that invigorates you during exercise, but the way your body responds to the beat. Before your mind even gets in on the action, your breathing and heart rate increase to move more oxygen to working muscles. These biochemical reactions then merge with the music to inspire you to pick up the pace. While there is still much to understand about the brain mechanics involved when listening to music, most experts in the field are convinced of music’s ability to make exercise easier and more enjoyable.