The idea comes from a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, in which researchers observed exercisers and their responses to music. One group of participants merely listened to tunes, while the other group made their own music using software that translated their motion into notes.
Both groups exerted equal force during their respective workouts. However, the music-making group had lower perceived exertion, meaning the exercise felt easier to them. They also used less oxygen, demonstrating that their bodies were working more efficiently. Given these factors, they likely could have exercised longer than the music-listening group before growing fatigued.
According to lead researcher Thomas Fritz, a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, making music may activate emotion motor control, which causes automatic actions, such as smiling genuinely instead of forcing a smile. It's almost like being on autopilot as you exercise, which makes the activity seem far easier.
The Problems You May Face
Of course, there are some practical issues to deal with. If you work out at the local gym, you may not want to belt out your favorite tunes for all to hear -- for the sake of your dignity as well as your workout-neighbor's eardrums. In your living room or basement, however, you may feel free to croon away.
Another glaring problem is the fact that it's not possible to sing and get a good cardio workout at the same time. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directly address singing in their guidelines for achieving an effective workout intensity. During a moderate cardio workout, "you can talk, but not sing." During a vigorous cardio workout, you can't even finish a sentence without pausing for breath.
Singing While Strength-Training
But don't give up on the music-making concept just yet. You can still sing while lifting weights or performing other strength-training exercises, such as push-ups and squats. And Fritz theorizes that you may be able to activate your emotion motor control by simply moving in pace with the beat of a song, even while keeping quiet.
Singing or no singing, the success of your workout program mainly depends on consistency. To help keep your body in top shape and help prevent chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, perform moderate cardio exercises, such as brisk walking or lap-swimming, at least 150 minutes per week. In addition, perform strength-training exercises at least two times per week, allowing 48 hours for your muscles to rest. Perhaps singing will help you accomplish this with as little pain as possible.
Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.