Movement and music – a close connection

Whether booming basses while dancing in the disco, motivating beats in the gym or stimulating rhythmic music for running. For many people, music is simply part of movement and sport. Even the ancient Greeks saw music as a form of expression that touched both soul and body. And from today’s scientific perspective, the body in particular represents an interface between physical and mental or emotional processes, which are also influenced by acoustic stimuli. [1]

In the following sections you will find out exactly what effect music has on you and your movement sequences, whether you can increase your physical performance with it and what role the emotional level plays in this.

Music and emotions – How emotions and movement interact

Music has a great influence on our emotions. Surely you know this from many different situations in your life. There is sad, funny, relaxing and uplifting music. Especially with the latter we quickly get the desire to move. So it puts our body into a state of excitement.

This effect can be explained well from an evolutionary-biological perspective. After all, emotions are evolutionary mechanisms for controlling performance, which enable us to react appropriately to fluctuating environmental influences. 2] Shrillness, loud or inappropriate sounds indicate danger, and the body is accordingly put on alert to be prepared for a possible threat scenario. If you use music to make your body believe that you are in a similar situation, you will become more alert and can better activate your power reserves. [3]

Motivating music – activation and performance enhancement

But the effect of music cannot be attributed solely to security mechanisms. Many studies show that it has an influence on the personal commitment and motivation of athletes. Motivation is seen as the totality of all emotional and neuronal activities that make you strive towards a goal. So it is easier for you to start doing sports at all.

Motivating music also directly increases your physical performance. Among other things, the heart rate is positively influenced at high running intensity. For example, the release of the messenger substance vasopressin ensures that the blood vessels in the body dilate. As a result, more blood can be pumped through the bloodstream per heartbeat during physical exertion, so your heart rate remains lower. [4]

Movement to the rhythm of the music

In music, rhythm and tempo determine the speed. Music is mainly perceived through the ears, but can also be felt physically. And especially in endurance sports, the rhythm helps you to find an even and effortless sequence of movements. Your body adapts to the rhythm of the music. The same effect can be observed with the help of a simple metronome. Uniform movement allows you to save energy during sporting activities. It is therefore beneficial if the rhythm of the music roughly reflects the rhythm of your movements.

In one study, for example, scientists increased the tempo and rhythm of the music played by runners. The test persons automatically adapted their walking pace to the speed of the music and ran significantly faster than before. [5]

How does music affect our bodies during sporting activities?

Music has a direct effect on our body via the central nervous system, i.e. the brain and spinal cord. The cerebral cortex serves as a control centre that interconnects the various areas responsible for processing music. The internal organs are also linked to this system via neural structures. Rhythm, tempo and harmony of music in particular have an influence on blood pressure and heart rate. The release of various messenger substances also plays a role. [6]

Where can I find the right music for my sport?

If you are looking for the right music for your sport, you can find pre-produced songs and playlists already tailored to the respective sports on YouTube, Spotify or iTunes, for example, under the corresponding keywords. For example, music with 110 to 130 BPM is best suited for running, as this speed is in the range of the running pulse rate. Several studies have also shown that it is important for athletes to be able to decide on the music for their sport themselves. It is therefore best to choose pieces that you personally like. For optimum wearing comfort, many manufacturers offer special sports headphones that fit perfectly even when you are moving. [7]

Self-assessment and dexterity

However, music cannot influence all factors of physical performance. In a study by the Max Planck Institute, researchers were able to show that although motivating music leads to a higher risk taking, the participants’ motor skills did not improve significantly through the use of music. In the study, 150 participants were each asked to throw a ball into a basket. The participants were allowed to choose the throwing position themselves. The further away they stood from the basket, the more difficult the throw became, but the higher the reward. Participants who listened to motivating music threw their balls on average from a position further away, but did not hit them better than their abilities under normal conditions.

In this study, the motivating music improved the self-assessment of people who had previously shown good skills in handling the ball. People who had not done so did not throw with higher self-esteem. [8]

Watch your limits

Music can also delay your feeling of exhaustion and suppress it to a certain extent. One of the reasons for this is to drown out the body’s own signs of exhaustion, such as heavy breathing or palpitations. However, your body will also use these characteristics to help you assess your own level of exhaustion. You should therefore be careful not to put too much strain on yourself and always pay attention to the signals your body sends out. In patients who are already weakened, the combination of music and sport, and the double burden of physical activity with simultaneous emotional activation, can also quickly lead to overstimulation. [9]

Music and relaxation

Many athletes use relaxation music to help them regenerate more quickly after sporting activities. Several studies have shown the effect that relaxing music can have on the value of recovery. For example, slow music has been linked to a faster normalisation of heart rate and blood lactate levels. Lactate is produced when the oxygen demand in the muscle is not sufficient to provide the energy needed for your muscles to work. sonamedic also offers you a wide range of meditations with relaxing music to help you regenerate optimally after exercise. [10]

Scientific Sources

1) Kreutz, Gunter / von Georgie, Richard: Handbuch Musikpsychologie, hsg: Lehmann, Andreas C. / Kopiez, Reinhard, 2018, Seite 622. Online

2) Egermann, Hauke / Gunter, Kreutz: Handbuch Musikpsychologie, hsg: Lehmann, Andreas C. / Kopiez, Reinhard, 2018 Seite 619. Online

3) Gasenzer, E. R. / Leischik, R.: Musik, Puls, Herz und der Sport, Zeitschrift Herz. Cardiovascular diseases, 2016, Seite 47. Online

4) Elvers, Paul / Steffens, Jochen: The Sound of Success: Investigating Cognitive and Behavioral Effects of Motivational Music in Sports, 2017. Online

5) Van Dyck, E. / Moens, B. / Buhmann, J. / Demey, M. / Coorevits, E. / Dalla Bella, S. / Lehmann, S: Spontaneous Entrainment of Running Cadence to Music Tempo, 2015. Online

6) Kimmerly, Derek / Lee, Sam: Influence of music on maximal self-paced running performance and passive post-exercise recovery rate, 2014. Online 

7) Ansgar Mertin: Musik beim Sport. Die besten Trainings gibt’s bei 160 Beats pro Minute, Datum des Zugriffs: 30.09.2019. Online

8) Elvers, Paul / Steffens, Jochen: The Sound of Success: Investigating Cognitive and Behavioral Effects of Motivational Music in Sports, 2017. Online 

9) Gasenzer, E. R. / Leischik, R.: Musik, Puls, Herz und der Sport, Zeitschrift Herz. Cardiovascular diseases, 2016, Seite 50. Online

10) Eliakim, Michal / Bodner, Ehud / Eliakim, Alon / Nemet, Dan / Yoav, Meckl: Effect of Motivational Music on Lactate Levels During Recovery from Intense Exercise Online

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