January 23, 2017

12 Reasons to Mix Music with Fitness

One of my earliest experiences with the powerful influence of music on fitness was in the US Army. There we were—60 new recruits in Basic Training. None of us had ever worked together or even knew each other. Most were terribly out of shape. But our drill sergeants demanded that we march in synchronized formation, sometimes for many miles.

Unbelievably, within a few short days we were marching in synch by calling cadence. Calling cadence refers to call and response “songs” that establish a beat and rhythm to march to. Click here to watch a brief Air Force marching cadence. Calling cadence with a unified voice promoted camaraderie and morale. Lastly, calling cadence took the tedium and fatigue out of marching and made it fun.

12 reasons to mix music with fitnessToday, it’s not uncommon to see people running, biking, or working out with earphones dangling down to an iPod. Chances are they have recognized the powerful connection between music and fitness. In fact, music has become integral to their workout.

Here are 12 Reasons to Mix Music with Fitness:

1. Distracts from pain and tedium

One gets lost in the music, shutting out fatigue and any boredom that might surface from mere repetitive motion.[1] Upbeat tunes and songs with motivating lyrics give our brains information to process that takes our minds off the stresses of the workout.[2]

2. Increases endurance

“Music is like a legal drug for athletes,” increasing endurance by as much as 15%.[3] In recognition of that fact, the USA Track & Field Association has banned athletes from combining music with running in races that involve cash prizes and awards.[4] Type of music and its tempo play a huge role in this phenomenon. When researchers played calming music, they observed strength and endurance actually drop.[5] 

3. Steps up cadence of exercise helping you work harder

Studies with cyclists have demonstrated that they pedal harder when listening to fast music than they do listening to slow music. Songs that match elevated heart rate—120-140 beats per minute—show the greatest benefit.[6]

4. Reduces perceived effort

This is in part due to the fact that music enables the person exercising to relax, or get into the zone with their exercise routine.[7] Music that motivates you to push hard and keep going makes exercising feel easier.[8]

5. Elevates your mood

Consciously or subconsciously we tend to select music that will either promote the good mood we’re in, or move our mood to a better place. In a good mood, we’re more likely to exercise and take care of ourselves.

6. Promotes metabolic efficiency

Recent research revealed that when cyclists pedaled in cadence to fast-paced music, they required 7 percent less oxygen to perform the same work as that performed without music.[9]

7. Speeds post-exercise recovery

While so many benefits revolve around listening to music during exercise, researchers have discovered that listening to music while cooling down after exercise can significantly improve recovery. The study showed that blood lactate levels dropped more rapidly in the presence of music and perceived recovery felt less demanding to subjects.[10]

cyclists music oxygen8. Improves coordination and balance

Coordination and balance are core elements of any form of physical activity. As coordination and balance improve, so does fitness. By reducing muscle tension, music improves motor coordination and balance.[11], [12]

9. Helps synchronization for efficiency of effort

Whether running, cycling, walking, rowing, or participating in any other exercise that requires rhythm and tempo, music aids in getting our movements synchronized quickly and for top efficiency.[13]

10. Increases enjoyment of exercise

Subjects in various studies report that listening to music improves their enjoyment and sense of fulfillment while exercising.[14] If you get bored with a workout, a sure way to revitalize it is to change up your music or select the random function on your playlist.

11. Makes you want to move; stimulates, and arouses

When we hear music with a snappy, fun beat it’s nearly impossible to sit still. The music triggers something that makes us want to move and exercise provides a great outlet for that stimulation.[15]

12. Improves reaction times

Listening to faster tempo tunes with higher intensity before and during a physical activity can improve motor control and reaction times. This is especially important in competitive sports like tennis.[16]

Of course, not all music produces the same benefits. In order to get the most from mixing music with exercise, choose:[17]

  • Tunes with a beat that matches your desired heart rate or cadence during the exercise. Typically, this is somewhere between 120-140 bpm. Anything higher than that may prove counterproductive. The websites and phone apps below to help you select songs with a specific tempo.
  • Melodies that you enjoy. If you don’t like classical music, then a classical piece, even though it has a good beat, probably won’t work for you. Choose something that moves
  • Songs with lyrics and/or associations that motivate and inspire you. These types of songs have the ability to enhance your workout.

Websites and phone apps such as: Tangerine!, Songza, Jogfm, and ClickMix can help you find music and build playlists to match the tempo of your workout.

Examples of music that reach your target heart rate:

Music can add pleasure while improving endurance and efficiency in your exercise routine. If you currently struggle to maintain a regular fitness regimen, music could be the instrument that gets you in the groove.

I defy you to sit still and refrain from smiling as you listen to We Will Rock You by Queen! Or if Queen is not your style, how about Come go with Me by the Del Vikings. Here’s one with a great beat: Run through the Jungle by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The key is to play music that you enjoy and that moves you! Next time you go out for a jog, walk, or ride what tunes will you be playing to enhance your workout?

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Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.

 

Sources:
[1] Ferris Jabr, “Let’s Get Physical: the Psychology of Effective Workout Music,” Scientific American, March 20, 2013, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/psychology-workout-music/.
[2] Huffington Post, “7 Reasons You Should Listen to Music When You Work Out,” November 1, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/01/why-exercise-workout-music-playlist_n_4173931.html.
[3] Carl Foster, PhD, John Pocari PhD, Mark Anders, “ACE-Sponsored Research: Exploring the Effects of Music on Exercise Intensity,” American Council on Exercise, nd, https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/805/.
[4] Ferris Jabr.
[5] Nicole M. Harmon, Len Kravitz, PhD, “The Beat Goes On: The Effects of Music on Exercise,” IDEA Health & Fitness Journal, September 2007, http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/beat-goes-effects-music-exercise.
[6] Huffington Post.
[7] Nicole M. Harmon, Len Kravitz, PhD.
[8] Huffington Post.
[9] Dan Peterson, “Why Music Makes Exercise Easier,” Fitness on NBC News, October 21, 2009, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/33418663/ns/health-fitness/t/why-music-makes-exercise-easier/#.VIhx-THF-PN.
[10] Jeff Barnett, “Listening to Music Enhances Post Workout Recovery,” Breaking Muscle, nd, http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/listening-to-music-enhances-post-workout-recovery.
[11] eMed Expert, “How Music Affects Us and Promotes Health,” August 2014, http://www.emedexpert.com/tips/music.shtml.
[12] Helping You Care, “New Study Finds Exercising to Music Improves Balance & Reduces Risk of Falls in Seniors,” March 30, 2011, http://www.helpingyoucare.com/12464/new-study-finds-exercising-to-music-improves-balance-reduces-risk-of-falls-in-seniors.
[13] Fara Rosenzweig, “How Music Can Enhance Your Workout,” Active.com, nd, http://www.active.com/fitness/articles/how-music-can-enhance-your-workout.
[14] Len Kravitz, PhD, “The Effects of Music on Exercise?” University of New Mexico, nd, http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/musicexercise.html.
[15] Huffington Post.
[16] Muscle & Fitness, “Can Music Help You Lift More Weight?” nd, http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-tips/can-music-help-you-lift-more-weight.
[17] Dan Peterson.

Fight Metabolic Syndrome with Fitness

Metabolic syndrome is a fairly recent development in our culture resulting from being overweight and inactive. Metabolic syndrome is no small problem when 47 million Americans find themselves in its clutches.[1] And if you’re over 60, your chances of developing metabolic syndrome are 4 in 10.[2]

The dangerous factors that comprise metabolic syndrome significantly increase your risk for blood clotting, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.[3]

In fact, if you have three or more of these risk factors, you probably have metabolic syndrome right now:[4]

  • what metabolic syndrome will give youA large waistline
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated fasting blood sugar (indicates prediabetes—an early sign of type 2 diabetes)

Don’t Look for Symptoms!

If you think you’re safe from metabolic syndrome because “you feel fine,” think again! Other than a large waist, there are often no other visible or perceivable symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome.[5]

So let’s cut to the chase. If you have or develop metabolic syndrome, then here’s what you have to look forward to:

  • A life that revolves around doctor visits and lots of expensive medications with nasty side effects.
  • Probable complications involving coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and its associated problems.
  • An ever-decreasing mobility preventing you from being able to play with your grandchildren, socialize with your friends, or travel.
  • A life filled with “can’t-dos” (“I can’t do this.” “I can’t do that.”).

I hope that kind of future troubles you, because you don’t have to live that way. Your life doesn’t have to take that route. But in order to avoid that path of disaster, you need to take a different one now!

Metabolic syndrome is the result of being overweight and inactive.[6] It’s as simple as that. If that’s you right now…if you don’t exercise 3 times a week…if you have a job sitting down all day…if you consume more calories than you burn…you must make significant changes in your lifestyle to halt metabolic syndrome in its tracks.[7]

Inactivity breeds inactivity. Click to Tweet.

The longer a person remains inactive, the heavier they get; the stiffer and sorer their joints; the harder activity becomes; the more embarrassed they become about being seen in public. You can begin putting an end to this vicious cycle now, but you must make changes.

Medical professionals tell us that even a modest weight loss of just 5-10 percent of total body weight will impact insulin resistance and blood pressure.[8] To naturally lose weight, you need a two-pronged approach of a healthy diet and exercise. Let’s focus on exercise in this article.

Getting and Staying Fit

The human body is designed for mobility, strength, agility, and grace. You were created to be active. Perhaps you have an aversion to exercise because of a bad experience or some misconceptions:

  • You over-did it in the past and hurt yourself.
  • You see other sleek, muscular bodies and become disillusioned and depressed about your own body.
  • You’ve tried exercising in the past and didn’t enjoy it.
  • You think you don’t have time for exercise.
  • You can’t afford a gym membership or expensive equipment at home.
  • You’ve given up, “What’s the use?”

Whatever you do, don’t give up. You are worth it!

We could cite countless studies and examples on the benefits of exercise, but here’s one that may really encourage you.

A Duke University study found that moderate exercise at moderate intensity (e.g., walking briskly for 3 miles, 4 days per week, or 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week) can significantly reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome! The key is consistency.[9]

Exercise Tips

  • Check with your physician before beginning an exercise program.
  • Find an exercise that you enjoy (or can learn to enjoy).
  • Start out very slowly and work up gradually if you are unaccustomed to exercise.
  • Warm up before and cool down after exercising.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Set a timer on your watch or phone to track your time.
  • Decide to build exercise into your life to the extent that you miss it when you can’t exercise.

By the way, exercise is beneficial for metabolic syndrome even if you don’t lose weight. Click to Tweet.

Regular physical activity lowers: blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels. Furthermore, consistent moderate exercise also increases: flexibility, energy, mobility, and countless other health measures.[10]

If you are overwhelmed by the idea of beginning an exercise regimen or simply don’t know where to start, then use a handy tool like this below to chart your progress.

My Personal Exercise Plan (PEP):

(Example: Walk briskly 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.)
Personal Exercise Plan

 

workout by flickr mariachilyOr, if you are savvy with a smart phone, download a free or low-cost app for tracking distance, time, calories burned, elevation gain, and other helpful and fun measures. (I use Endomondo. Others include: BIDMC Pedometer, MapMyWalk, Walkmeter GPS Pedometer, RunKeeper, and The Moves.)

Decide today to put an exercise plan into action and look forward to a life:

  • Of mobility, fun and adventure
  • Playing with your grandchildren
  • Getting out with your friends
  • Unencumbered with medications and numerous health restrictions

What quality of life do you want? Don’t let metabolic syndrome take you down. You can beat it! The choice is yours. Act now and begin exercising your body your way to amazing and vibrant health!

 

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Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.

 

 

 

Sources:
[1] WebMD, “What Is Metabolic Syndrome?” December 21, 2013, http://www.webmd.com/heart/metabolic-syndrome/metabolic-syndrome-what-is-it.
[2] Mayo Clinic, “Metabolic Syndrome—Definition,” April 22, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20027243.
[3] Medicine Net, “Metabolic Syndrome,” September 19, 2014, http://www.medicinenet.com/metabolic_syndrome/article.htm.
[4] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “What Is Metabolic Syndrome?” nd, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ms/.
[5] Mayo Clinic, “Metabolic Syndrome—Definition,” April 22, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20027243.
[6] Mayo Clinic.
[7] Mayo Clinic, “Metabolic Syndrome—Definition,” April 22, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20027243.
[8] The University of Chicago Medicine, “Metabolic Syndrome,” nd, http://www.uchospitals.edu/online-library/content=P08342.
[9] Miranda Hitti, “Metabolic Syndrome: How Much Exercise?” WebMD, December 17, 2007, http://www.webmd.com/heart/metabolic-syndrome/news/20071217/metabolic-syndrome-how-much-exercise.
[10] Medicine Net.

Nourish the Soul with Passion

This post is unusual. I want to make room for a report that Dr. Nathaniel Branden sent to me last week. Nathaniel is almost universally recognized as the “Father of Self-Esteem.”

I just had to share this, because I know it will resonate with you and add value to your life. I consider Nathaniel to be a national treasure. He is one of the reasons I want to see aging turned back in our (his) lifetime. Here it is:

Passion and Soulfulness

By Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D.

When I think of nourishing the soul, I think of nurturing the ability to respond positively to life—that is, the ability to sustain passion for our interests, values, and projects.  I believe that the worst of all spiritual defeats is to lose enthusiasm for life’s possibilities.

Every life has its share of setbacks and disappointments—of tragedy and loss.  So, the question we all confront, in the face of negatives that may assail us, is:  How do we keep our inner fire alive?

Two things, at minimum, are needed:  an ability to appreciate the positives in our life—and a commitment to action.

Every day, it’s important to ask and answer these questions:
“What’s good in my life?” and “What needs to be done?”

The first question keeps us focused on positives; the second keeps us proactive and reminds us that we are responsible for our own happiness and well-being.

Another aspect of focusing on the positive, and thereby nourishing the soul, is to stay focused on the inquiry “What in my life do I most enjoy?  What most stimulates me?”  Someone once said that you can know who a man is if you know what wakes him up.

The pleasures that nurture me personally may be as simple as enjoying the view of the city and the ocean from the window of my living room, or spending time in the garden, or appreciating good health.  Of course, one of the greatest joys that nurtures me is having a loving relationship with my wife.  In addition, when I think of nurturing the soul, I think of listening to music and rereading books that have meant a lot to me.  I also think of the act of writing.  When I spend time at my computer, writing, I almost invariably experience a tremendous sense of appreciation of how wonderful it is to be alive.  If I am away from writing too long, I feel discouraged, or at least dispirited.  Writing takes energy, and it also creates energy.

Be Engaged in What You Do To Feel Alive

For all of us, the key is to pay close attention to which activities make us feel most alive, passion and in love with life—and then try to spend as much time as possible engaged in those activities.

Even when our life is most difficult, it is important to remember that something within us is keeping us alive—the life force—that lifts us, energizes us, pulls us back sometimes from the abyss of despair.  True spirituality does not exist without love of life.

.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but so often we look at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” ~ Helen Keller

If we feel unhappy or unfulfilled, the most urgent question is, “What needs to be done?”  Or one might say, “What’s missing in my life—and what can I do about it?”  The sin is to suffer passively.  We must never forget that we have the capacity to act.  So, we must always be concerned to know “What avenues of action are possible to me?  What can I do to make my life better?”

If we stay oriented to the two basic questions—“What’s good in my life?” and “What needs to be done?”—and strive to respond to those questions appropriately, the predictable result is that we will be happier human beings and get far more of whatever it is that we want in life.

Nourishing the Soul Positions Us For Enjoyment

Some writers—Erich Fromm, for one—contrast a so-called “being” orientation with a “doing” orientation.  The implication is that being and doing are in some sense antithetical.  Of course, they are not.  Doing and being, action and stillness, are dependent on one another.  Without action, we would cease to exist, and without stillness, we would neither be able to appreciate our existence nor have a foundation from which to act.  We need stillness, we need the pure experience of being, in order to fully realize ourselves.  Out of that stillness can come the motivation to act and also the awareness we need to act wisely, not to lose perspective.

When being and doing are in harmony, when stillness and action are friends to each other, we create an integrated, satisfied soul.  We are then in the best position to truly enjoy and appreciate life and not be destroyed by adversity.

The Process, Not Just The End Result, Brings Happiness

Another aspect of nourishing the soul is the ability to stay focused on the present, to live in the present.  Many years ago in the 1960s, I was writing a book called The Psychology of Self-Esteem.  I was a young man at the time, in my thirties, and one day I was sitting at my typewriter, impatient for the book to be finished, thinking that my life would really begin to unfold only when this book was finished.  Yet I intuitively knew that something was wrong with this line of thought.  So, I asked myself what I thought I would be doing when the book was finished, and I immediately answered, “Planning the next book.”  And when the next book was finished?  “Planning the book after that.”  I saw that my life, first and foremost, was about writing:  that was and is my passion.  So, in the middle of writing The Psychology of Self-Esteem, I finally realized “This is it.  This is my life.  If I can’t enjoy it now, every day, there is no reason to believe I’ll be better able to enjoy it in the future, after the seventh, eighth, or ninth book.”

That realization was a turning point for me.  The impulse to focus on the future can be quite strong.  It’s natural to look ahead.  Yet I realized that the key to happiness lay in enjoying the process, not just the final result—because the greater part of my life was going to be spent at the level of process and not at the stage of contemplating the finished product.  So, now I bless each day I can get up and go to my computer and sit down to write and know and love the fact that this is what my life is about.

I believe that earning your living doing something you enjoy is one of the very best ways to nourish your soul.  But even if you are employed at something that is not your ideal work, it is important to find ways to take as much pleasure in it as possible.  Living in the present moment can make ordinary activities more interesting and joyful; you may be surprised, if you only look, at what you will find.  If you try to stay connected with why you are doing what you are doing, for example, then even the parts of your life that aren’t especially exciting can become more meaningful.

Sometimes, I have to go to an event that doesn’t especially interest me.  I’ve learned to tell myself, Make this experience as happy for yourself as you possibly can.  Once that becomes a conscious purpose, it’s amazing how imaginative one can become.  Life becomes infinitely more interesting.

Be An Active Participant In The Drama Of Life

Nothing I am saying about the importance of living in the present denies the value of being concerned with the future.  We want to keep in mind our goals, what we’re moving toward, and to see the progression and direction that underlie our activities.  We need to be able to plan for the future without sacrificing the present, and enjoy the present without making ourselves oblivious to the future.  Obviously, we cannot control every single aspect of our life.  We are not omnipotent.  But, we do have an enormous degree of responsibility for the shape our life takes.  We have many options about how we will respond to events.  We are not passive spectators, but active contestants in the drama of our existence.  We need to take responsibility for the kind of life we create for ourselves.

How do we nurture the soul?  By revering our own life.  By treating it as supremely important.  By reaching for the best within ourselves.  By learning to love it all, not only the joys and the victories, but also the pain and struggles.

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