When we think about exercise, music immediately comes to mind. Movement and music are integrated parts of the same experience. Everyone has felt that surge of energy on the dance floor when their favorite song comes on. There’s something profoundly stimulating about music that instinctually guides our bodies. But what exactly is the nature of the relationship between music and fitness? There are so many studies and ongoing research around this question, so we’ve compiled a few of the highlights.
A study conducted by the research team at Stanford University School of Medicine found that listening to music triggers parts of the brain associated with paying attention. They found a link between listening to music and brain activity, as different segments of the music would elicit responses in both the left and right sides of the brain. It demonstrated the ability music has to harness the power of the brain.
When performing strategic movement sequences, mental and bodily awareness is essential. If music can light up the brain, then that can encourage new neural pathways and expand the mind-body connection in new ways. Being present is a challenge in and of itself in today’s world: Our attention is constantly hijacked by distractions. If music can anchor the brain’s focus, then we can maintain a conversation with our bodies that is the foundation to full-body health.
The science is in: Music heightens our physical performance. In a study published in NIH, researchers found that music has an ergo-genic effect, which “increases exercise performance, delays fatigue and increases performance and endurance, power and strength.” Performance is intricately linked to our mental state, so music’s ability to impact our mood quantifiably improves our physical capacity. If you’re looking to level up and rise to the next challenge, incorporating more music-centric workouts into your routine may help you along your journey.
One of the highest indicators of a sustainable exercise routine is motivation. Performance is important, but it’s more about having a continued practice, and motivation is the determining factor in building habits. Costas Karageorghis, an associate professor of sport psychology at Brunel University, studies the effects of music on physical performance. In an article for the New York Times, he talks about understanding music as a motivational force that helps us exert energy longer, and endure more pain. If we can extend our movement for even the length of one song, that can add up over time and transform your fitness level.
While joy might be less of a quantifiable measure, it’s the whole point to working out. If total-body wellness is a celebration of life and all its possibilities, why shouldn’t exercise be joyful? According to a study about psychological responses to music during physical activity, music increases our enjoyment of the activity we’re performing. The results found that music up-regulated beta waves, which causes more feelings of enjoyment.
Dance is an ancient activity—we’ve been doing it since the dawn of civilization. Historians and scientists have studied the origins of dance and why humans do it, and a lot of research has come up around the social significance of dance. In a study from the Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University, researchers found that moving to a beat in synchrony with others does wonders for our mental health. Their findings are fascinating: “Music provides a unique and implicit context for social bonding by introducing temporal and affective frameworks, which facilitate movement synchronization and increase affiliation.” In essence, music strengthens our interpersonal connections, so if you’re looking for community, try moving to music with others. Going to a group workout class where everyone moves to the same beat will make you feel more connected.
All in all, the benefits of moving to music are abundant and noteworthy. This is just the tip of the iceberg: More and more studies are being conducted around the way the brain and body reacts to music. We at Tracy Anderson Method are passionate about building and strengthening the mind-body connection, and music plays a key role in that process. Want to reap the benefits of moving to music? Stream Tracy’s playlist for the ultimate performance-boosting and joyful workout experience.