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Exercise Music: Tunes to Get Fit By

Want to have more fun and work out harder? Exercise with music, experts say.
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Whether it's Bach or Beck that's music to your ears, listening to music while you exercise may improve your fitness, commitment, and enjoyment.

"Music enhances a workout, it makes you work harder without realizing it, and it makes the workout go by faster," says fitness expert Petra Kolber, a spokesperson for the IDEA Health and Fitness Association. "Music takes exercise from just being exercise to being an experience."

And music may do more than that. A study in 2005 found that listening to music while exercising boosted participants' weight loss and helped exercisers stay consistent.

Researchers tracked a small group of overweight or obese women over 24 weeks while they dieted, exercised, and met in weekly group sessions promoting lifestyle change. Half the women were given CD players and told to listen to the music of their choice while they walked.

All participants lost weight. Weight loss and reduction in body fat were greater for those who listened to music while they walked.

These women were also more consistent with their exercise, as well as the requirements of the study overall, says researcher Christopher Capuano, PhD. The second factor, he says, is even more significant than the losses.

"Music promoted better compliance with the program," which, in turn, resulted in weight loss, says Capuano, director of the school of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J. "It's not that music causes you to lose weight. It causes you to be more adherent."

Capuano adds that music can make exercise seem easier -- or at least keep you from thinking about how hard it is.

"The more unfit you are, the more difficult exercise is," Capuano says. "Music helps break the monotony of exercise and provide a distraction from the physical exertion."

Ken Alan, a personal trainer and the owner of Aerobeat Music, has been mixing music for group classes for two decades now.

"Whether it's classical, rock 'n' roll, heavy metal or rap, if someone enjoys a particular type of music, it can be very motivating to help them get through a workout," Alan says. "It can help the time go by faster and it can reduce the perceived intensity or exertion."

When Tommy Woelfel guides people through an indoor cycling class at Crunch fitness in Los Angeles, he is very attuned to the music.

"I choose music that fits specifically to the chosen activity," he says.

For example, the slow, steady, driving beat of "Running up That Hill," by Placebo (a remake of an old Kate Bush song) takes participants in Woelfel's class up an envisioned incline that they match by adjusting the resistance on their bikes.

"Working with a partner can push you," says Woelfel. "And music can do that, too."

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