I love music. I am a music addict, if you will. I listen to music every day, but especially when I’m running or exercising. I can’t go to the gym without my headphones, and running without music is like running with 20-pound weights on my feet.
When practicing with my lacrosse team, we always make sure to have a speaker and a good playlist on hand. When our speaker dies 20 minutes into practice, as it usually does, our groans are heard loud and far.
Why is this? Why do we like listening to music when working out or doing physical activity? This question has been asked before, and lots of different studies have been done on the answer. Music can be used as a stimulant or a sedative. It enhances one’s mood, builds confidence and improves muscle control. Music can enhance athletic performance on many levels.
A quote by Costas Karageorghis, who has spent 25 years studying music and its influence on the brain, says, “When the brain is listening to music, it lights up like a Christmas tree. It’s an ideal stimulus because it reaches (parts of the brain) that can’t easily be reached.”
Karageorghis’ research has shown how music regulates moods and helps those listening to filter out distractions. He says that music can be like a performance-enhancing drug. It’s just that intoxicating.
Nathan Keith Schrimsher, a 2016 Olympian competing for Team USA, listened to “One Day Too Late” during his last competition. He said, “It just put me into an attitude to not quit and to give everything I have to make my life matter.”
If music can spark such strong words from an Olympian athlete, it must be doing something.
Not only does music affect your brain, but it affects your body as well. Music makes you want to move. Yes, this is quite obvious, as dancing goes hand in hand with music. But research has shown that syncing the tempo of music with an athlete’s heart rate improves stamina, speed and athletic performance.
One reason I love listening to music when exercising is that I can’t hear myself breathing hard. Music takes our mind off of fatigue and helps us perform more efficiently by saving energy. Our mind focuses on the music and the beat, so we don’t think so much about our tired bodies. Music keeps us going longer.
In 2007, the USA Track and Field put into effect a rule that banned the use of headphones and portable audio players at its official races. They did this “to ensure safety and to prevent runners from having a competitive edge.” The fact that this rule was enacted speaks volumes for the power of music.
I rely on music to pump me up for games and workouts and will find myself doing a full 180 if I forget my headphones on the way to the gym. Music can excite and hype up athletes, but it also does more than that. Music helps to prep the brain for action, which is something athletes are all about.