Since ancient times, the connection between music and sport has been investigated and experimented with. The Ancient Greeks used the term “mousiké” in order to express a form of art composed of movement, sound and verbal expressions. In the past, during some popular celebrations in the South of Italy, citizens performed sport activities such as running with carts or dancing with swords, and music played a fundamental role in order to provide a framework in which the sport was executed. Sport activity often includes fatigue and pain and the role of music in this case was to distract the mind from the pain caused by the sport activity. However, the role of music is not only distracting. There are five more benefits of listening to music while exercising.
Let us start with the first benefit of music while doing sport: dissociation. Music can move the focus of our attention from the fatigue caused by workouts to the pleasure derived from listening to music. This is caused by music’s ability to trigger positive emotions and to decrease the perception of negative emotions such as depression, anger and tension. However, keep in mind that this is true only for workouts with low and medium intensity. In case of workouts that requires a high intensity of fatigue, the pain often exceeds the benefits of music.
The second benefit of music regards the activation of emotions. This second benefit is very much connected to the first benefit of dissociation. Music helps regulate the activation of certain emotions instead of others. Here, the music’s tempo has a central role. A fast tempo and loud intensity increase the excitement and the arousal of emotions, while slower tempo is more used for calming down and relaxing. That’s why lot of athletes listen to music before of a training or a competition in order to calm down their nerves or to energize themselves.
There are two types of music you can listen to while exercising. First, there’s asynchronous music, where there’s no correspondence between the rhythm of the music and the exercises you’re performing. The other is synchronous music, where the rhythm of the music matches with the speed and movement of the activity. Research indicates that synchronous music is more suitable for exercising than asynchronous music. Indeed, synchronizing the music with the movement of the sport activity results in better performance and better output.
Synchronous music is particularly beneficial for helping athletes to better manage their energy use during the performance and extending the physical resistance of both professional and non-professional individuals. This is particularly true for cardio exercises such as running, cycling, rowing and skiing.For example, researchers found out that when you cycle and your movements are in synchronization with the music, you’ll use 7% less oxygen than when you cycle the same way, but with asynchronous music playing.