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Moving to the Beathoven: What are the best pieces for a classical workout?

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Listening to music when we run can reduce how tough we find it – especially when we match the tempo of the beat to the speed of our strides. But whilst most gyms and fitness centres interpret this idea with blaring dance music, are other types of music, such as classical, also effective?

“Modern neuroimaging methods have provided my group with a considerable boon in examining the cerebral mechanisms that serve to explain how music influences our emotions, thought patterns and behaviours,” said Prof Costas Karageorghis, a Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology at Brunel University London, who this week joined legendary fitness guru Mr Motivator on his new Scala Radio show Mr Motivator On Da Run to explain the science behind music’s fitness boost and to share his personal favourite classical pieces .

“For example, we have been able to show that the presence of music during repetitive exercise can directly influence the activity of clusters of neurons – or neuropopulations – in such a way that the frequency of alpha waves is altered.

“The neuropopulations fire less frequently but with greater amplitude and the change of activity in the brain is associated with the control and stimulation of the working muscles. This mechanism might account for the ‘flow’ or ‘zen-like’ state that we sometimes experience when working out with musical accompaniment. It almost seems as though the music can help put us into ‘autocruise’, to use a vehicular analogy.”

During his section of On Da Run, Prof Karageorghis, who admits to being a big fan of Mr Motivator since the late 1980s, said that listening to classical music can help reduce ‘exercise consciousness,’ decreasing the amount that fatigue related signals are registered in our brains and that the genre is particularly effective at “reducing perceived exertion” and “improving mood-state”, especially if it’s something you ordinarily listen to.

“For lovers of classical music, I think the use of your favourite movements, or your favourite pieces, or even a whole symphony during exercise you find particularly challenging can be beneficial and is to be recommended,” Prof Karageorghis told Mr Motivator.

Prof Karageorghis was also asked to provide his own personal favourite classical workout tracks for the listeners, which he finds particularly beneficial to his exercise regime: “There are iconic cues in some pieces of music and I think such cues can render these pieces of music particularly effective in psyching-up and preparing mentally for athletic endeavour or for an exercise session.”

Prof Karageorghis’s classical work-out play list:

Mental Preparation: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony (Op. 55)

Warm-up: Vangelis’s Chariots of Fire

During Running: Rossini’s William Tell Overture

Warm-down: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (Op. 92)

Post-run Recuperation: Hildegard von Bingen’s O Euchari in Leta Via    

For further information on Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at Brunel, please visit: brunel.ac.uk/sport-health-and-exercise-sciences

Reported by:

Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
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