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If you workout with music on your headphones it will feel easier and you can go longer with more energy. Maybe it does not sound that surprising to you but if you understand WHY this works the way it works you can turn it to an even greater advantage in your life. So how does it work?
Neuro-psychologist Erik Scherder was interviewed by Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant and provides interesting insights into how music helps us make things easier. He summarizes the impact of music on sports performance as follows; music has rhythm just like our bodies. For example our legs move to a (predictable) pattern. Also the communication between brain regions functions in a certain rhythm. And, if you play music that matches that rhythm then it improves communication between these different regions of the brain.
So what does that have to do with sports? To make sure we walk straight, our legs constantly tells our brain what they are doing. That information gets to the sensory parts of our brain, right next to the brain parts that control motion. That’s also where the music from our ipod arrives and that gives extra stimulation to this area, which then helps to make the legs move and perform better.
There’s more though! We have neurons in the brain called mirror neurons. These jump into action when we remember things, like emotions from the past such as a good time, a party, romantic time spent. If you use a song that has memories attached to it, then the mirror neurons will also facilitate and stimulate the movement of the legs with a perceived lower effort.
And… when the legs get tired from the sports movement, the music creates a distraction in our heads. It diverts from the signals saying that we are tired.
Surprising detail from research done as to which music creates the best effect? Eye of the Tiger from the Rocky movies does a lot better than a lot of other music. Maybe it’s because people who know the movie have good memories and emotions with that music.