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  • Writer's pictureDerrick W. Spell, MD FACP

The Power of Music!

Updated: Feb 12, 2020

When you are overweight or obese, exercise can be very challenging. You can use music as a form of motivation, especially in the beginning of your weight loss journey. You can also use music to provide a distraction from the physical exertion. For example, the armed forces have used military cadences for years. Military cadences, or cadence calls, are basically work songs that are repeated during marching or running. Cadences are thought to improve motivation, breathing, and rhythm during exercise.

Listening to music can enrich any workout while allowing time to go by faster. Dr. Chris Capuano and his research team at Fairleigh Dickson University studied 41 overweight or obese women for 24 weeks. All the women were expected to walk at least three times weekly. Half of them could listen to their choice of music while walking, however the other half were not allowed to listen to any music while walking. At the end of the study, 98% of the music group continued the recommended walking compared to only 68% in the non-music group. The investigators proposed that listening to preferred music may facilitate focusing on the music rather that the exercise itself. They also suggested that music may induce pleasant thoughts, thereby distracting one from the uncomfortable aspects of walking. In addition to an increased adherence to walking, those in the music group of the study also lost more weight.

Other research has demonstrated that music can mediate the effects of pain or discomfort. In cancer patients, music has been shown to decrease anxiety and pain while improving mood and overall quality of life. In patients with chronic arthritis, listening to classical music for as little as twenty minutes decreases joint pains by 50% or more in as little as two weeks. Another study demonstrated that fast-paced music enhances both endurance and drive when exercising on a treadmill. Music may also be used to enhance post-exercise recovery.

I think it is important to devote time to creating your own workout music playlist. Choose tunes with a tempo that matches your desired workout pace. For instance, I have a normal pace playlist as well as a fast pace playlist. Rotate your songs periodically and be on the lookout for new tunes to incorporate into a mix. Today, most great movies have an accompanying soundtrack that makes the film complete. Try and imagine Rocky Balboa running through Philadelphia without the montage! That is the power of music!


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