The aerobics classes at my gym encompass a wide range of ages, so one of the instructors focuses each of her sessions on a different decade’s music. And when she plays the oldies, the music of the fifties and sixties that I grew up with, I’m convinced my body thinks it’s in junior high school again. Just a few bars of “Dancing in the Street” and I’m as energized as I was when I first heard it at age twelve or thirteen.
If you find a little background music helps things along when you exercise, it’s not just your imagination. In a recent study, researchers found that the faster the tempo, the faster a group of exercyclists pedaled, and the faster their hearts beat. Why? According to Nina Kraus, professor of neurobiology at Northwestern University in Illinois, a possible explanation lies in the fact that humans, like songbirds, automatically feel the beat of a song; our hearts and our legs “want” to synchronize with the music. Music may also distract and make the time pass more quickly, diverting us from boredom and fatigue (and perhaps craving?).
So if you’re concerned about gaining weight after quitting smoking – in the spirit of “every little bit helps” – you might try adding a little music to your routine.
Cynthia S. Pomerleau, Ph.D., is currently research professor emerita in the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry. From 1985 to 2009 she served as director of the Nicotine Research Laboratory, where much of her research focused on the impact of smoking on women. She is the author of more than a hundred articles and book chapters on smoking and a contributor to the 2001 Surgeon General’s Report on Women and Smoking.