This is the one thing that could make exercise a bit more enjoyable

Woman in gym on treadmill smiling

Exercise is like marmite: some people love it, while others hate it. But if you fall into the latter category, fear not – scientists reckon they’ve found a way to make your time spent in the gym more enjoyable, and it’s pretty simple.

Researchers at Brunel University in London have revealed that listening to musicwhile you’re working out could make things more enjoyable.

This might seem a bit obvious. After all, it’s no secret that music can elicit an emotional response from the listener – making us feel happy, sad, angry or even motivated – which is why so many people find it so much easier to run while listening to music.

However, for this particular study, the researchers wanted to look specifically at how the brain responds to music when we exercise using electroencephalography (EEG) to help them along the way. Study co-author Marcelo Bigliassi and his colleagues explained:

“The brain mechanisms that underlie the psychological effects of auditory stimuli during physical activity are hitherto under-researched; particularly so in ecologically valid settings.”

Bigliassi added:

“The EEG technology facilitated measurement during an ecologically valid outdoor task, so we could finally explore the brain mechanisms that underlie the effects of music during real-life exercise situations.”

Runner wearing headphones

The study

A total of 24 study participants walked 400 meters on an outdoor track at a pace of their choice under one of three conditions: some subjects walked while listening to six minutes of the song Happy by Pharrell Williams, some participants listened to a spoken word podcast, and some subjects did not listen to anything. During the walk, each individual had his or her brainwaves measured using EEG, and they were also asked to report on feelings of alertness and fatigue.

It was found that listening to music led to a 28% and 13% increase in enjoyment during the walking task, compared respectively to those with no auditory stimuli and those listening to podcasts. Seemingly, this was due to an increase in beta waves in the frontal and frontal regions of the cerebral cortex. Bigliassi said:

“We showed that music has the potential to increase beta waves and elicit a more positive emotional state. This can be capitalised upon during other forms of exercise and render a given activity more pleasurable.”

He added that those people who avoid exercise because they do not enjoy it should consider listening to music.

The study was published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise.


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