From Our 2004 Archives

Music During Exercise Boosts Brain

Many people listen to music while exercising because music can provide both motivation and distraction. At a gym, music may be playing over speakers for everyone to hear although many people prefer to listen their own music by wearing individual earphones.

Question: But does listening to music while exercising do more than improve timing in exercise?

Answer: According to a new study, listening to music while exercising can improve mental performance as well. Not only did participants in a study feel better emotionally and mentally after working out, but if they also listened to music (in this case, Vivaldi's "Four Seasons"), their verbal fluency scores were double than if they exercised without listening to music.

Comment: Did one of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" help more than the others? If so, was it Spring? (our guess)

It is also interesting to note that one of the study's authors works for Pfizer, Inc. Perhaps the music companies might be willing to sponsor this type of research in the future.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors,

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Music Pumps Brain During Exercise

WEDNESDAY, March 30 (HealthDayNews) -- Music can do more than help pump up your exercise sessions, it can also give your brain a boost while you do your workouts.

Ohio State University researchers found that listening to music during exercise helped cardiac rehabilitation patients increase their scores on a verbal fluency test.

"This is the first study to look at the combined effects of music and short-term exercise on mental performance," study author and psychology professor Charles Emery says in a prepared statement.

"Evidence suggests that exercise improves the cognitive performance of people with coronary artery disease. And listening to music is thought to enhance brain power. We wanted to put the two results together," Emery says.

He and his colleagues studied 33 men and women in the final weeks of a cardiac rehabilitation program. The study participants completed a verbal fluency test before and after two separate workout sessions of treadmill exercise. The 30-minute workouts were scheduled a week apart.

During one of the sessions, the participants listened to classical music -- Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons."

The participants reported feeling better emotionally and mentally after exercising, whether or not they had listened to music. But their scores on the verbal fluency test were more than twice as high after they listened to music while exercising compared to when they worked out without music.

"Exercise seems to cause positive changes in the nervous system, and these changes may have a direct effect on cognitive ability," Emery says.

"Listening to music may influence cognitive function through different pathways in the brain. The combination of music and exercise may stimulate and increase cognitive arousal while helping to organize cognitive output," he says.

The findings were published in a recent issue of Heart & Lung.

--Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, March 23, 2004

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