Making music reduces physical strain

A relatively recent study “Musical agency reduces perceived exertion during strenuous physical performance”, by Thomas Hans Fritz et al., conducted in Germany and Belgium, has found that “making music makes strenuous physical activities less exhausting”. What does that mean? I believe it doesn’t come as a surprise that music can be mentally supportive during exercise. Some good music (while running, for example) can be motivating and push someone to put in that little extra effort, or distract someone (reduce the person’s self-awareness), making the work seem easier.

But what this research shows goes a step further; if the hard physical work incorporates a form of creating music, the physical strain is decreased. The amount of energy used is effectively reduced, making the physical actions more efficient.

In the study, scientists performed a series of test with fitness machines. One of the tests compared people passively listening to music while exercising and another group with the ability to control musical characteristics through physical movements.

The scientists measured metabolic data as well as questioned the participants about their sense of exertion. Both forms of measurements gave a similar result: The questions showed that for most participants the strain was felt less when they were actively creating music and the metabolic measurements indicated that in those cases the muscles used less energy and hence were used more efficiently.

The underlying reasons why the human body reacts like this are still unclear (presumably it has something to do with emotionally driven motor control), but the results of this study may already prove useful in the development of new athletic sports technology, and help understand the therapeutic power of music and its role in the creation of human society.


The next post will be Lichen talking about other benefits of music!

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3 Responses to Making music reduces physical strain

  1. I’m not really sure with what you mean with creating music, could you please elaborate a bit more on this?

    Also, in the experiment, isn’t it more of a psychological effect?

  2. The experiment involved the modification of different fitness machines. From the paper:
    “… the movement of the fitness machines was mapped to a musical composition software (Ableton Live 8) so that the deflection of the fitness machines corresponded to musical parameters of an acoustic feedback signal.”
    So one group of participants listened to music of which the characteristics changed (for example by applying filters or changing the pitch) based on their movements (called ‘condition B’).
    Another group of participants (the control group) listened to music passively i.e. they had no control over the characteristics of the music (‘condition A’).

    Solely based on the results of the questions they were asked about perceived exertion, you could think a psychological effect is involved, but the metabolic measurements showed that the muscles were used more efficiently for condition B than for condition A, and this cannot be attibuted to psychological effects.

  3. Lu Hongyang says:

    Most people like listening music when taking exercise. And some kinds of music can really inspire people, indeed. I think the emotional influence by music is significant and further it can affect the physical behaviour. Using appropriate music in athletic sports can help athletes to improve themselves, I think.

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