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Music like Marvin Gaye makes exercise less tiring

headphones girl

Rhythm hits the spot in your brain that stops you getting tired and bored while you exercise, and Marvin Gaye’s 'Heard It Through The Grapevine' nails it. 

When Brunel scientists played exercisers the Motown classic, they said they felt less fatigue and the session seemed less of a chore.

The study, in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, shows how music while exercising stimulates a particular part of the brain related to movement and fatigue.

“Music is a very powerful stimulus and can be used to assuage negative bodily sensations that usually arise during exercise,” said Marcelo Bigliassi.

The researchers watched 19 healthy adults, with an average age of 24, do a handgrip exercise while listening to the track and then not listening to it. For 10 minutes, participants squeezed a hand strengthener for 10 seconds, then rested for 10 seconds.

fMRI scans highlighted which regions of their brains were activated. After the task, the participants were asked how exhausted they felt, whether they daydreamed and if they had discomfort in their hands. 

After doing the task listening to music, people said the tune made it easier. One said “it was so boring without music”, and another “I got so distracted that it felt like the whole exercise took only one minute.” 

“We have identified that exercising in the presence of music yields increased activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus”, said Bigliassi.

left inferior frontal gyrus

“This region (pictured) appears to be a hub of sensory integration, concerned primarily with selective attention mechanisms. Increased activation of the left inferior frontal gyrus was inversely related to exertional responses, indicating that when this region is active individuals tend to feel less fatigued.”

Bigliassi thinks the finding could help people more likely to dump exercise regimes, such as people with obesity or diabetes during the hardest stages of their workout.

But although science proves music reduces tiredness during exercise, Bigliassi worries that people may start to rely too much on music to escape reality. Despite his concerns, Bigliassi said: “Music and audiovisual stimuli can and should be used and promoted, but with due care.”

This story has appeared in the Independent and Daily Mail Online, among other news websites.


Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268176
Hayley Jarvis