If you have a play list you listen to while exercising, you are one of many who find music a helpful physical aid. But what is it about music that gets us going? The most common response is that music reduces effort and increases endurance. But how? Tom Stafford, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sheffield, UK, says the answer lies more in our brain than in our muscles. Specifically, music likely affects the performance of our motor cortex, an area of the brain that manages our physical movements. Listening to music, says Stafford, helps us determine not only how fast to move our muscles but when to move them, too.
What’s the Big Idea?
The benefits of music apply most to self-paced exercises like running or rowing, rather than non-paced tasks like judo or football. “[Stafford’s] speculation is that music helps us perform by taking over a vital piece of the task of moving, the rhythm travels in through our ears and down our auditory pathways to the supplementary motor area. There it joins forces with brain activity that is signalling when to move, helping us to keep pace by providing an external timing signal.” In essence, music encourages our brains to keep a consistent exercising rhythm, which helps us move more efficiently.
Combining years of neurological research and mindfulness techniques, Dr. Heather Berlin helps us better understand how the body’s most complex organ can easily be misled into negative thinking - and how we can stop that from happening.