If the idea of raising your heart rate without a soundtrack is unthinkable, you’re not alone. The vast majority of us say that good music and a good workout go hand-in-hand. But why?

What have you noticed when you exercise to music? Does it make it easier? Does it motivate you? Researchers have looked at exactly those questions and this is what they have discovered…

How much music influences your workout depends on the type of exercise you’re doing. If you’re working out at a low to moderate intensity, research shows that playing music can be a great way of decreasing perceived exertion. This is most likely due to the fact that listening to music bombards your brain with stimuli that divert your attention from the discomfort of exercise, distracting you from how hard you’re working.

When it comes to higher intensity exercise, listening to music is less likely to lower perceived exertion. “It appears that when the intensity of exercise reaches a certain level music no longer provides enough of a distraction,” explains Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research.

However if you’re doing a high-intensity workout listening to music is still very beneficial. The right soundtrack can change the way you respond to high-intensity exercise by making you more likely to hang in there despite the discomfort.

Erin Maw is an expert in sourcing the sounds that will keep you going when your body wants to give up. Charged with shaping the soundtrack for new LES MILLS GRIT workouts, Maw says innovative and fun music is key. “You need upbeat, vibrant sounds, and lots of diversity to keep you constantly on your toes.”

“When a workout is well crafted to music, the music becomes the motivator,” adds Hastings. “In a good workout every beat is uniquely shaped to fit the exercise, setting the pace and driving the energy.”

Exercising to music has also been shown to help with metabolic efficiency. A 2012 study demonstrated that cyclists who pedaled in time to music required seven per cent less oxygen as cyclists who didn’t. It seems that music helps to achieve a degree of efficiency in our movement that requires less energy.

There are four aspects within music that influence exercise effectiveness. From most to least important they are:

  • The rhythm or beat of the music
  • The musicality, pitch or harmony
  • The cultural impact or what the music means within your society
  • And finally, any associations you have with that piece of music.

These four aspects feed into our motivational drive. They then affect our level of arousal, the perception of how hard we are working and finally our mood. When our mood is positively influenced it strengthens our exercise adherence by encouraging us to workout frequently.

“Put simply, exercising to good music can have a profound effect on how you exercise and ultimately how you’re feeling while you’re exercising,” says Hastings.

Choose a LES MILLS workout and you can be confident that every activity will be set to a great soundtrack designed to raise your heart rate and keep your motivation high.

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