Being active is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and yet many people struggle to find the motivation to exercise. For a long time, many people have thought that listening to music can help motivate people to exercise.
As such, the University of Cumbria is embarking on the largest study of its time, seeking to analyse the preferred music of choice that motivates participants to undertake an effective exercise routine.
The aim of the study is to monitor which genres of music are best for fuelling the motivation to exercise, and whether or not this varies depending on your location in the UK.
Music as a source of motivation to exercise
The scientific term for music being a source of motivation to exercise is music as an “ergogenic aid”, which is a relatively recent field of study that experts have been analysing for over two decades.
Research has shown that different components of music, from the tempo to the lyrics, can have a direct impact on an individual’s performance during exercise. Not only can music increase motivation to exercise, but it can affect a person’s attitude during a workout; it can also serve as a distraction from pain or discomfort that may be experienced during a gruelling exercise routine.
Dr Costas Karageorghis, a reader of sports psychology at Brunel University, discusses the impact of music on performance during exercise in his book, Applying Music in Sport and Exercise (2016).
Even the world’s top athletes benefit from listening to music during training, as an ergogenic aid can help individuals to find “the zone”, which is an optimum state for the mind during exercise. This is because music can act as a distraction during a workout and can help to block out external factors that may otherwise deter someone from exercising to their full potential.
The importance of the research
The rise of technology, along with other factors mean that we are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles. It is thought that music could play an important role in combating the obesity epidemic that is having a detrimental impact on health and wellbeing.
Not only can music be a good source of motivation to exercise, but it can also have a positive impact on someone’s emotional state, as there is an association between exercising and feeling happier. Exercise itself is a natural mood enhancer as it releases endorphins; however, someone who is disinterested in exercise may need more of an incentive to partake in regular exercise and make it a part of their everyday routine for the long-term.
There are some instances where music can have a negative impact upon performance during exercise; however, this is dependent on personality traits. Those with an associative attention style, who are typically athletes and gym-goers that constantly monitor their performance and progress, may find music too much of a distraction from their workout. However, people with a dissociative attention style rely on music as a distraction from pain or discomfort experienced whilst exercising.
Research conducted in amateur running clubs has found that music can act as a distraction from the sound of heavy footsteps and being out of breath, which has a detrimental impact on performance as it can be demotivating.
Is music the best source of motivation to exercise?
While words of encouragement from a personal or professional trainer, fellow runners or gym-goers can also be a positive source of motivation for someone undertaking exercise, listening to music is thought to be one of the best ways to enhance exercise performance. Many gyms play music through a sound system for their members, however many people choose to create a more personal playlist to listen to via a personal music device in order to motivate them during exercise.
Motivation to exercise to a music playlist may come from the tempo or rhythm of a song, as well as a pre-established emotional response or attachment to a certain genre, artist or album.
Indeed, the research at the University of Cumbria hopes to inspire and motivate others to maintain a healthy lifestyle by identifying certain songs or genres of music that already motivate the 200,000 participants of the study.
The survey may be fun, but it has a serious message in that it hopes to inspire and motivate more reluctant exercisers to become more active and adopt long-lasting exercise regimes to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Making the effort to exercise for at least thirty minutes per day is a major part of self care and can reap vast health benefits, and music may be the best soundtrack for motivation to exercise.