When it’s time to work out, the essentials include a water bottle, the right shoes and headphones. For most people, the most essential item in that list are the headphones.
One study found that two out of three people will cut their workout short or skip it altogether without their headphones.
Research on music and exercise dates back to the early 1900s when Leonard Ayres discovered that cyclists pedaled faster while a band played. More recent studies show that music distracts people from pain and fatigue, raises moods, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency.
Not only does music distract, but it can motivate and encourage.
One study found that after a certain period of exercise and as fatigue begins to set in, music competes for the brain’s conscious attention and distracts you from noticing how tired you are.
Also, music changes your perception of effort, which makes sense. It’s a lot easier to run a few miles on the treadmill listening to Linkin Park or Jay Z. One study even found that those who listen to music on the treadmill increased their pace and distance with less fatigue.
And let’s not forget the most important benefit — mood enhancement.
Studies show listening to music releases the body’s happy hormones including dopamine and oxytocin and reduces cortisol levels (the body’s stress hormone) leading to a more positive mood.
And even though most gyms play music, some people must have their own music. Listening to music that is personal becomes more motivational by opening good memories associated with that music. Add to that the endorphins of a workout and you’re on fire.
While you’re feeling so good, remember that music can also distract you from pain. Because it’s releasing all those feel-good hormones, this increases your pain tolerance naturally.
So don’t forget those headphones, or you’ll have a tough decision to make.