Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Music to my ears: Increase your workout intensity with your favorite tunes

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I LOVE musisearch-2c of almost every kind but some music has me moving and  grooving to the beat as soon as the first note plays.  I see my class participants faces noticeably change when their favorite artist or song begins playing during their workout. We all know it’s enjoyable to listen to music, but what if the music substantially increases the benefit you’re getting from your exercise? This seems to be the case, recently demonstrated in a study that examines the relationship of music to the intensity of our workouts. A study divided people into two groups and had them complete high intensity interval training. You’ve read about this in some of my previous blogs, but for the uninitiated, it’s sprinting, cycling or doing some form of cardio work at an all-out pace for 30 seconds to 1 minute (longer if you can) followed by a rest period of 1-4 minutes. The kicker is that it can be just as effective as exercise that is 3-4 times as long, but you MUST give it your maximum effort, and stay in your target heart rate for the duration of the burst. For a 60 year old, target heart rate is approximately 160 beats per minute, which most people find very grueling. However, when people went all out when listening to their favorite songs, their exercise output increased, but their subjective report of how unpleasant it was decreased. There is NO downside to this finding- music makes you work harder and enjoy it more (or should I say hate it less?) Read on for more details at

Our nervous system somehow revs us for the arousal that follows, preparing it for an intense effort. You’ve probably experienced this without even knowing it when dancing at a club or a wedding or some festive occasion with friends or family. You’re sweating, your heart rate is up, you can keep going for way longer than you might if you were doing what you considered to be “exercise”.

So, what are some of your favorite songs and artists? I have a challenge for you. Send me some of your suggestions of your favorite music, or compile a CD. I’ll download it onto my ipod and use it for classes, and you’ll have motivation for getting your favorite music together.  I’ll publish the suggestions in a future blog about music so I can share the ideas that come from my readers. That way, we can all potentially benefit from those songs we love. So let’s get moving faster,  lifting harder, and kick it up a notch !


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