For many people, listening to music is a must in training. More motivation, fun, less pain, more performance and therefore, more results. Science begins to discover exactly the why and the how of such an influence.
Certain phenomena peculiar to music are well known. It catches our attention, raises our spirits, triggers emotions, modifies and regulates the mood, increases the excitement and accelerates the rhythm of the movements. It also distracts us from the pain and fatigue that we may experience while exercising. It is therefore not surprising that when it comes to music, the brain and the body are both involved and each one influences the other.
Prof. Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University, London, author of the book “Introducing Music in Sport,” described this use of music as “a legal drug that improves performance.”
One of the peculiarities of the human being is that, unconsciously, he instinctively synchronizes his rhythm to the one he listens to. As many studies have shown, it can cause us to walk, run, swim, pedal or paddle faster. Only music encourages us to train faster and more efficiently, but it also gives the impression that the effort required is milder. This interaction between music and exercise is a thriving research topic that stems in part from new technologies that take our playlist everywhere with us.
What’s going on in our brain?
Scientists have known for a long time that there are direct connections between auditory neurons and motor neurons. Even perfectly still, listening to music that we like increases activity in different areas of the brain. Some researchers argue that the instinct that drives us to coordinate our movements on the rhythm of music could be attributed to this “neural crosstalk”.
Dr Marcelo Bigliassi of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, has spent the last ten years examining the neural networks that are active in this type of situation to better understand the influence of music on psychological, physiological behaviour. and psycho-physiological. “In general, my studies indicate that auditory and audio-visual stimuli can increase the use of dissociative thoughts, such as daydreaming, elicit a more positive emotional state, alleviate fatigue-related symptoms, and improve physical performance,” did he declare. “And the mechanisms that underlie such effects seem to be associated with the rearrangement of the electrical frequency of the brain. “
He found, for example, that theta waves – low-frequency brain waves, often associated with sleep, which correspond to feelings of deep relaxation – tend to upregulate in response to stress, but are downward throughout the day. “As a result, sensory stimuli could partially offset the detrimental effects of fatigue and facilitate the execution of movements. This seems to be particularly true in tricky situations, such as the first training sessions or in patients suffering from obesity and/or diabetes.
In a recent study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to study areas of the brain that are activated during music sports sessions. This combination would produce increased activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus, an area of the brain that appears to be directly associated with the treatment of feeling of exertion. “As a result, the increased activation in this region seems to soothe the pain sensations associated with this type of situation. “
However, it is important to understand that these psychophysical effects depend on many factors. It seems that beginners are more sensitive to music than experienced sportsmen. This may depend in part on the personality. Some researchers have suggested that extroverts – who usually look for external sources of stimulation – would be more sensitive to music than introverts. “The use of music also depends on the participant’s attention, the intensity of the exercise, its complexity, etc.,” says Bigliassi.
Some activities lend themselves particularly well to musical accompaniment, especially if they are repetitive, such as warm-up, weight/circuit training, stretching, etc. Whatever you do, it’s best to adjust the tempo to the activity, says Professor Peter Terry of the University of Queensland, in his article “Psychophysical Effects of Music in Sport”.
Be careful, however, to stay tuned to your body and do not go beyond an intensity you are not used to.