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The right music can boost fitness performance


Recently an older relative had the chance to sit in on my Friday ‘Strength Train Together’ class, which is a total body workout with plates and barbells. I warned her that the music would be loud, and probably not the type of music she would like. After all, she is about 25-plus years older than me, so I wouldn’t expect her to like the same things I do.

I gave her the choice of coming into the YMCA gym and observing or going somewhere quieter so she could read while I taught class. She was curious, so she stayed in the gym for the entire hour. And she stayed for the senior class following mine.

Her main comment afterward was about the music in both classes. She has not attended many fitness classes in her lifetime, so she was very curious why we played music at all. Of course, she did not like the music — but she also thought we should have no music when we exercised.

I explained that in my 36 years of teaching and taking fitness classes, there hasn’t been a single class that did not play music.

Not expecting her mind to be changed, I explained about the beat of the music and how important it was to connect the exercises to the music. They go together.

Music is imperative to a successful class. The music can motivate you — and it does. Good music, whether on an iPod or in a class setting, can make you go farther or work harder. It is essential to distract you from what you are doing. It can elevate your mood, motivate you and wake up your mind.

In a class setting, different instructors use music in different ways. Usually the motivating factor is the beats per minute (BPM). They can run between 125-150 for a motivating beat. A yoga class might use 100 BPM music, while a spin class might use 160 BPM for the sprinting tracks.

    In looking into this subject, I came across the work of a professor of sports and exercise psychology at Brunel University in London named Costas Karageorghis. He has studied extensively the psychology of exercise and music, and has said that music can be a “type of legal performance enhancing drug.”

At Brunel University, scientists have determined that listening to music while exercising can elevate your performance by 15 percent and lower your rate of perceived exertion by 12 percent.

Apparently, USA Track and Field governance was concerned enough about the possible performance advantages of listening to music that in 2007 they banned listening to music while competing in events.

As you can imagine, many people were unhappy with this new rule, and it has been amended somewhat since then. But many running purists agree. I know many runners who do not like listening to music. Maybe it’s a safety issue.

I personally like to walk on the weekends by myself so I can listen to the music that motivates me. In my classes, I put a lot of effort into the music I use for each type of class I teach, and I get positive feedback — except for my older relative. Gimme the beat please!

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer. She is fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.