Get Your Groove On: The Music and Movement Connection

The idea of exercising to music is certainly not new, but I found this article on the topic insightful, plus it includes several resources (and I’ve added a few more) that you may find useful for getting your groove on….


Music is your best workout partner

(by J. D. Heyes for NaturalNews) If you’re looking to get the most out of your workouts, no matter what it is that you’re getting set to do — cardio, weightlifting or an intense crossfit session — you might first think about getting your groove on.

In fact, according to various studies, if the music that you listen to fits the rhythm and mood of the physical activity you’re performing, you tend to work out a little harder.

“The metronome aspect, the synchronization of movement to music, is the most important,” Carl Foster, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse, told The Washington Post.

He went on to say that the notion of synchronizing movement to some sort of beat is not a new concept; in Roman times, rowers aboard galleys moved in concert with the beat of a drum.

Finding what’s right for you

“But there is also the distraction and arousal that music brings,” Foster said, noting that both matter, it’s just not clear to what extent. “There’s definitely more buried in music that affects us. But we don’t know exactly how to tease it out.”

How do you know what the “right” music is for you?

As reported by the Post:

If you want to make a workout mix based on tempo — or BPM, for beats per minute — various websites, including, can help you determine the tempo of your favorite music to see whether it fits your intended activity. Or you can go to sites such as that offer playlists at a certain BPM for running and cycling as well as other activities. Other sites include and

“Music is positive energy,” Deekron “the Fitness DJ” Krikorian, who produces fitness playlists for MotionTraxx, told the paper. “So when I put together playlists, I look for intensity, positive feeling and cohesiveness.”

He says that if he finds a song that feels good in terms of mood and intensity — but it just has the wrong tempo — he may edit it somewhat in order to change the beats per minute to fit the type of exercise.

“The beat becomes very important anytime there is repetitive movement,” Krikorian said. “Our instincts tell us to move to the beat. Our feet tell us to move to the beat.”

As far as what the ideal cadence is for running, that’s a hotly debated topic in the world of running. That’s because we’re not all built alike and we don’t run at the same tempo or stride. That means that finding what’s right for you could take a bit of trial and error.

Some experts say an eight-minute mile generally corresponds with 170 BPM; others say that figure is closer to 200 BPM. Still, others say the ideal running pace is somewhere between 170 and 180. And there are a few studies that indicate that a faster BPM may be better in terms of preventing injury.

Faster is better in some cases

Then again, you could just try some sort of group fitness class instead, such as step aerobics, cardio-kickboxing or cycling. Instructors have been conducting those kinds of classes to musical beats for years.

Ingrid Nelson, a cycling instructor who packs her tempo-driven classes at Washington, D.C.’s Biker Barre, told the Post that intensity, style and cadence are all important when putting together her playlists.

“I like a lot of ’90s hip-hop and usually stay in the range of 95 to 105 BPM,” she said. But she added that she could go as low as 80 BPM or even as high as 120 BPM if she is prescribing hill-climbing or sprints.

Harold Sanco, a group fitness director and instructor at Results gym in the nation’s capital, said that, for some fitness activities like step aerobics, the tempo usually rises to about 130 BPM.

“You have to pick music that is both safe and effective. If you are going too fast, you risk injury and you’re not working out effectively because you are not getting the full range of motion,” he said.

And here’s another article about the benefits of combining music and exercise, this one is by Lee Dye for and focuses on how exercising to music helps improve mental performance….

Study: Exercise and Music Clear the Brain

By Lee Dye

Exercise is good for the body as well as the psyche, according to scads of scientific research. But here’s a new wrinkle. If you listen to music while exercising, your brain will probably work better, too.

Clinical psychologist Charles Emery of Ohio State University has studied the effect of exercise on various types of patients over the years, and to no one’s surprise he has found that it helps in many ways. But as a lover of music, as well as an exercise enthusiast, Emery decided to kick his research up another notch and see what would happen if he combined those two passions.

“I’ve always thought that music had many benefits for people, and increasingly people use music when they exercise, so it seemed like a logical next step in terms of a research project,” Emery says.

So along with Evana Hsiao and Scott Hill of Ohio State, and David Frid of Pfizer, Inc., Emery put his theory to the test, with the help of 33 men and women in the final weeks of a cardiac rehabilitation program. Each of the participants were tested for mental performance after exercising without music, and exercising with music.

The results were very convincing.

Vivaldi Tested, But Not Limited

On average, the participants performed more than twice as well on a verbal fluency test after listening to music while exercising than they did after exercising without the music.

“When there was no music, there was no change,” Emery says.

Emery chose Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” for the project because prior research by other scientists with that particular piece indicated that it helped patients with lung disease perform better mentally.

Emery suspects, however, that similar benefits could be gained by listening to all kinds of music, not just classical. The passionate, upbeat rhythms of “The Four Seasons” may stimulate mental performance because it is complex, thus forcing the brain to organize neural transmissions. But other selections might work better for some people.

“I don’t think there is anything specific to Vivaldi or even classical music that would necessarily trigger enhanced brain function,” Emery says. But he is pretty confident these days that music makes a difference, whether it is jazz, hip hop, or classical.

And while his research was centered on cardiac patients, because they often suffer some mental decline as a result of their illness, Emery thinks it works for everybody, not just those who are sick.

Music Enhances Frontal Lobe

Listening to music is a more complex endeavor than it seems on the surface. The human brain has to sort out tones, and timing, and sequencing of various sounds, to comprehend music. So according to theory, that should fire up the frontal lobe of the brain, the part of the brain that is associated with higher mental functions, like thinking abstract thoughts, or planning for the future.

So the researchers used a simple but widely respected test to see if the frontal lobe became more active in participants who listened to music while exercising. The test involves sequencing, within narrow limits, and some degree of mental agility, all functions of the frontal lobe.

FYI, when I was putting together this post I also came across a number of other music and exercise related resources, including and a site called, where you can create your own custom aerobic mix, plus this article about the top 100 best workout songs:


p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts, and tell your friends to do the same. Also check out my website’s To Your Health page and Evolution Made Easier blog for more helpful health tips, tools and information.

Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.


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