April 5, 2012 at 11:32 am EDT | by Kevin M. Norris
Feel the beat

(Photo by Sombrero2003 via wikimedia)

In 2007 music among the competitors was banned from the New York City Marathon and also by the USA Track and Field. This made global headlines where music’s impact on exercise became more closely scrutinized.

In August 2010, the New York Times wrote an enlightening piece — “Phys Ed: Does exercise make you work harder.” The article cites a great deal of evidence and research to support music’s impact on exercise.

Who does not like some kind of music and who doesn’t use music to stimulate an activity? Why not use music while we exercise? Is there a benefit? I used to view music as a distraction from the body, which in exercise, of course, is the activity at hand. I would often tell my personal training clients to forego the headset, the TV, e-mail, etc., in lieu of focusing on the body; the heart, lungs and muscles so they were completely attuned to what was happening in the body. I was trained to recognize how important the mind/body connection is and that the experience of exercise was enhanced by focusing on what you are doing. By focusing, the thinking was, you would garner greater results.

But I’ve discovered that music can provoke an uplifting and motivational addition to exercise and there’s evidence to confirm this. While not everyone may love exercise, there is clearly a widespread love for music so why not combine the two so they “play” off one another. And while some will indeed use music solely as a distraction from exercise, others may encounter several added benefits.

To gain better understanding of just how much music influences exercise I went to gay local music entrepreneurs, Michael Pipitone and Mike Babbitt, co-owners of Yes! Fitness Music. They had a lot to say about music’s impact on exercise. After all it’s what they sell with more than 40 years of experience in the exercise music industry between them and boasting about 20,000 songs in their archives. Half their market is focused on serving high-energy exercise music both for group exercise instructors and personal workout enthusiasts.

If you don’t know who Pipitone and Babbitt are yet, you will. With several number one fitness albums on iTunes including “In the Key of Glee Workout Mix” inspired by the hit TV series and as the U.S. sub-publisher of the Pitbull hit “Krazy” featuring Lil’ Jon, these guys are making a name for themselves in D.C. and beyond.

Pipitone’s and Babbitt’s enthusiasm for what they do is matched by the enthusiasm in the music they sell. Yes! Fitness Music specializes in creating dance and up-tempo remixes of current and classic songs by updating and re-engineering them for a new audience. Tempo is only one part of the re-engineering equation, but if you want to create your own up-tempo music playlist from virtually any song in your iTunes library, you can download an app on your iPhone or iPod Touch called Tempo Magic Pro and it will increase the beats per minute of any song by as much as 24 percent.

Clinical psychologist Charles Emery of Ohio State University has studied the effects of exercise on various types of patients over the years and discovered that listening to music while engaging and performing in other activities enhances the experience. Emery took his research further to ascertain what would happen when these two passions were combined and discovered music’s positive effects on exercise.

Emery discovered that music stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain, the area responsible for and associated with higher mental function. It’s no wonder exercise helps us think through and process other areas of our lives, giving it a great duel purpose. People often do their best thinking while they exercise — it can stimulate us to think more clearly.

The United States Sports Academy has published in-depth articles focusing on the applied aspects of music in sports and exercise. The articles include work from prominent researchers in the field and support the multitude of positive influences music has on exercise.

IDEA, which bills itself as “the world’s largest association for fitness and wellness professionals,” has done extensive research as well and has collected supporting data on the effects music has on exercise.

The overwhelming majority of their findings agree that music stimulates and we use music to stimulate just about every conceivable activity from Yoga to housework. I’ve used music to help me sleep since I was 12. It’s been demonstrated among the research that music improves compliance, reduces feeling of fatigue, boosts spirit, increases the relaxation response and improves motor coordination.

The findings are not universally accepted — there are some researchers who rebut the findings, but there’s enough solid research from credible sources to use music when you work out.

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