How the Beat Helps Keep You from Feeling Beat

Do you have to have your tunes when you work out? It turns out that music does more than distract us. A new study shows that exercising with music can make our moves more coordinated. Basically, the music’s beat helps keep us from feeling so beat.

In the study, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences tested subjects under two conditions. The first scenario had them working out on exercise machines with music playing in the background. In the second situation, the machines were rigged so that using the machine got music to play.

Credit: Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Credit: Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Most people felt less severe strain in the second situation, where their use of the machine made music interactively. The scientists also measured oxygen intake, changes in muscle tension, and other data. They found that people used less energy when their use of the machines played the music. In other words, making music helped people exercise more effectively.

“These findings are a breakthrough because they decisively help to understand the therapeutic power of music,” said Thomas Fritz, one of the scientists who worked on the study. In the press release announcing the findings he added, “Making music makes physical exertion less exhausting.” The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This is all great news, but let’s hope gyms don’t decide to rig all their machines the way they were in this study. Otherwise, a crowded gym could have us all working out to cacophony. That would not be music to our ears.

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