Most of us are music fans. We all have a specific song, band, or genre that somehow speaks to us — it gets our blood flowing, the adrenaline rushing, and our feet tapping. Because of that, music can be used as a tool. If you walk through the modern office, you’re likely to see a good number of people wearing headphones, using music as a way to keep their productivity up and to find a rhythm within their workflow. It’s also an extremely common sight in a gym or fitness center.
And perhaps that’s the way we need to start thinking about music: as a tool. According to new research, reframing the way we think of or use music can actually be an incredibly effective way to help us get in shape.
After all, there’s a reason so many workout music mixes exist on Spotify, right? They’re there for a reason, and that’s due to the fact that for a good number of people, music can act as a catalyst — it’ll get them up and moving. For people who have a hard time getting motivated to go to the gym or get any kind of exercise, that catalytic response is prime for exploitation.
New research from the University of British Columbia in Okanagan all but proves that music can be as effective a tool as any to help get people up and moving.
“In a recently published study, researchers Kathleen Martin Ginis and Matthew Stork studied the attitudes of moderate exercisers towards high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which they hadn’t been exposed to before,” A UBC press release reads. “The pair found that the first-timers not only had positive attitudes toward HIIT, but that participants also reported feeling more positive about the exercise regimen if they listened to music while they exercised.”
Your new secret weapon: Workout music
So, there you have it: A new, effective weapon that might provide the motivation or catalyst you need to get up and get to the gym if you’ve been struggling with it.
The study was published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, and though it may not come as a surprise to folks who have already established solid exercise habits, it could inspire some folks to try a different strategy when encountering weak will-power in regards to fitness. Don’t feel like going to the gym, for example, and would rather go play Battlefield 1? Music may be the tiebreaker.
The research looks at high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as it relates to “moderate” exercisers — a group that often doesn’t reach their weekly recommended amount of exercise (~150 minutes per week, for most people). HIIT workouts are faster and more efficient than, say, running X miles or for X minutes. HIIT speeds things up, and ratchets up the intensity so that you’re getting a harder workout in a shorter amount of time.
The issue, however, is that HIIT workouts are pretty unpleasant and, well, intense. For that reason, many people are turned off by the idea. That’s where music comes in.
There’s nothing quite like a shot of adrenaline to get you ready to do something unpleasant, and for a good number of people, music can be the delivery system. Think about it this way — if you’re getting ready for a big presentation, a job interview, or maybe even a stressful social interaction (first date, etc.), a lot of us will put on some of our favorite music to help improve our mood or get the adrenaline going. To get psyched.
It’s the same basic principle — use music to get yourself ready for a tough workout. If you’ve traditionally flaked out on your workouts, finding a song or two that gets you going may be the key to actually getting yourself to the gym. And listening while you workout, as many people do, actually makes the experience more enjoyable. If you can ingrain in your head that working out is fun, and that you enjoy it, you will probably go more often.
“There has been a lot of discussion in the exercise and public policy worlds about how we can get people off the couch and meeting their minimum exercise requirements,” said Martin Ginis, professor of health and exercise sciences at UBC in a press release. “The use of HIIT may be a viable option to combat inactivity, but there is a concern that people may find HIIT unpleasant, deterring future participation.”
But with music? It’s a better experience. So, if you haven’t done so already, try incorporating some Kanye into your workout — it might be the missing piece of the puzzle.