Brian B. Parr, Ph.D., ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
There are many ergogenic aids that athletes use to improve exercise performance. These include nutrients like carbohydrates, drugs including caffeine and steroids, and invasive techniques like blood doping. Many of these performance-enhancing substances are illegal, banned, or dangerous, so ergogenic aids often have a negative connotation. And, while many of these aids may work for highly trained athletes who have already maximized their training, they don’t really benefit the rest of us.
However, there is one ergogenic aid that has been shown to safely, effectively and legally enhance performance for almost everyone. In fact, it is so widely used there is a good chance you already benefit from it when you exercise. That ergogenic aid is music!
Music is a psychological ergogenic aid that is known to affect mood, emotion, and cognition. Music played at a fast tempo can make you exercise harder and at a slower tempo music can help you relax. Let’s explore some of the psychological and physiological effects of music that can improve exercise performance and make your workouts more effective and enjoyable.
In most gyms, there is music playing in the background and many people listen to music using headphones while they exercise. A practical reason is that listening to music makes the exercise more enjoyable by providing a mental distraction from sensations of intensity and fatigue. This means that your exercise session may feel easier or shorter, even if you are working harder.
This is the same reason why talking with someone, watching a video, or listening to an audiobook can make an exercise session seem to go faster. As far as music goes, the benefits may vary based on the type of music. Music that you don’t enjoy is unlikely to elicit any positive impact on performance, so if you don’t like the tunes your gym is playing, grab your headphones and pick something you enjoy listening to, that fits your intensity goals for the workout.
Not only can listening to music make exercise more enjoyable, it can also help you get a better workout. Research suggests that when exercise is coupled with motivational music, people tend to exercise at a higher intensity. They also tend to fatigue at a slower rate leading to longer exercise sessions. This is because people report a lower rating of perceived exertion (RPE), a subjective measure of feelings of pain and fatigue. This means that the exercise may feel easier even at a higher intensity!
Tempo is an important aspect of music that contributes to performance. People tend to prefer a tempo that matches the exercise intensity. Fast tempo music fits well with higher intensity exercise, like running, and music with a slower tempo is better suited for lower intensity exercise, like yoga. Music tempo can also influence the intensity of exercise. Music with a faster tempo can promote more vigorous exercise, as measured by a higher heart rate, and a longer distance covered when walking, running, or cycling for a set time. If your exercise routine involves a series of periods of high intensity training followed by slower paced exercise, match your music to the intensity of the intervals to enhance your performance.
Another factor of music that can influence performance is whether it is synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous is when a person matches their movements with the music they are listening to. This is particularly effective for running, cycling, and rhythmic exercises like aerobics. Asynchronous is when the music and the movements of a person do not match, which may still provide benefits as background music.
Listening to music before exercise can also affect performance. Studies have shown that listening to music prior to exercise can improve motivation, arousal, and focus. This is why you often see athletes wearing headphones while they warm up before games or races. Research also suggests that listening to music during cool down can decrease recovery times by speeding clearance of blood lactate, a waste product produced during intense exercise. This is especially important if you are doing multiple bouts of exercise separated by short rest periods.
If you already listen to music during exercise you probably have your own favorites to play. If not, most streaming music services have exercise playlists you can try, some of which are even tailored to the specific type of exercise you are doing. For safety reasons, be sure to pay attention to your surroundings when you use earphones, especially outdoors. What if you prefer to exercise without music or other distractions? Like all ergogenic aids, the additional effect of music is small compared to the great benefits of the exercise itself, so keep doing what you are doing, with or without your jam.
by Brian B. Parr, Ph.D., ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
Saving money for emergencies is a wise habit and can be crucial to being prepared in case of a change in your financial situation due to a lost job or unexpected expense. While putting savings aside for a rainy day may seem like common sense, all too often people are caught without enough to tide them over if or when the unthinkable happens.
The principle of saving for a rainy day can also be applied to exercise and fitness. Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Among the benefits in the long list of positive health effects of exercise are a lower risk of weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. Lesser known benefits include improved mental health, cognitive function, and greater feelings of wellbeing. Exercise also is essential for healthy childhood development, maintaining wellness in adults, and even reversing some of the effects of aging.
When you are healthy, you can exercise to maintain a high level of fitness. This makes your day-to-day activities easier and serves as a reserve or “bank” to draw on when the need arises. Maintaining good fitness can help get you through a health crisis the same way saving money helps get you through a financial crisis. You never know when an injury or illness might strike that could limit your activity for days or result in a hospitalization that could keep you in bed for a week, a month, or longer.
The problem with periods of inactivity, like bed rest or hospitalization, is that severe physiological effects can occur within days and will only get worse over time. You may have noticed weakness and fatigue after spending a few days in bed with a cold or flu. Muscle strength declines with each day of bed rest, and can decrease by 50% after as little as three weeks of inactivity. A person who is fit and strong when they enter the hospital is likely to be better off when released than one who is less active before their illness or injury. And, older adults tend to fare worse than younger individuals. According to one study, the decline in strength seen in older men after just 10 days of bed rest was equivalent to the change in men 30 years younger after 28 days of inactivity. This loss in strength can result in a person having difficulty completing the most basic activities of daily living.
It’s not just the muscles that are affected, either. The bones can also become weaker during periods of inactivity. In fact, even a few weeks of bed rest can reduce bone density enough to expose patients to a greater risk of fracture. A well-rounded fitness routine can build bone density by putting stress on bones through weight-bearing exercise and strengthen muscles through the action of pulling on the bones during resistance training. When bed rest eliminates these stresses, bone density and muscle strength decline rapidly.
The good news is that most hospital patients are encouraged to get up and move around as much as possible. They may be prescribed inpatient physical therapy or rehabilitation after major surgery to help lessen the effects of prolonged bed rest. This post operative activity is important to their ability to bounce back and regain strength they will need to function after they return home.
We know that regular exercise can help lower the risk of heart attack and improve survival rates among heart attack victims. While immediate treatment of a heart attack using medications and surgery is critical, a patient’s positive outcome is also dependent on what happens next. In the not so distant past, heart patients were told to go home and rest and not stress their hearts. Today, there is strong evidence that exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation programs are key to improving long-term heart health and preventing future complications.
Comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation programs include monitored exercise, education about nutrition, weight control, stress management, proper medication use, and psychosocial support. Although the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation are well established through research and practice, unfortunately less than a third of heart patients who are eligible for cardiac rehabilitation actually take advantage of such a program.
Exercise is also known to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast, colon, bladder, lung, kidney, and endometrial cancers. This is because exercise causes changes at the cellular and hormonal level that result in reduced inflammation and improved immune system function. Regular physical activity can improve a cancer patient’s chance of survival and reduce the risk of recurrence of cancer.
Regular exercise also can help a person better handle cancer treatment. To be sure, cancer treatment can result in extreme physical effects including the loss of weight, muscle mass, strength, and endurance. The fitter you are when you begin treatment, the fitter you will be afterward thanks to the “reserve” you have in your fitness bank. You simply have more strength and endurance to draw on before you reach a point where you have difficulty tackling your normal activities. After cancer treatment, exercise programs can be crucial to helping you rebuild strength, endurance, and feelings of wellbeing.
Another benefit of cardiac rehabilitation and post cancer exercise programs is the encouragement of other survivors. Combined with support from medical professionals, family, and friends, these groups become an essential resource for information, comfort, and encouragement.
There are many immediate reasons to exercise and get fit, but when you make regular exercise a part of your life you are inadvertently putting away something for a rainy day. The investments you make in your fitness bank today – are investments you can count on if you are sick or injured in the future.
Brian B. Parr, Ph.D., is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
MADISON, Miss. – Starting this fall Belhaven University will open a new campus in Madison. According to Belhaven President Dr. Roger Parrott, the Madison site will offer a number of on-site degrees that will include undergraduate and graduate studies.
“I am thrilled we are opening a campus in Madison because so many working professionals need access to graduate degrees in a convenient location,” said Dr. Parrott. “We’ve been providing accelerated format degrees in Jackson for over 25 years, and I expect our new Madison campus will become a significant center of learning for those who want quality academic programs from a Christ-centered university.”
Most of the programs offered at Belhaven’s Madison campus are designed for working adults and function in tandem with students who need flexibility while earning a degree.
The brand new campus is located at 401 Baptist Drive in Madison. To enroll at Belhaven’s Madison Campus or for additional information, visit www.belhaven.edu, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 601-968-8905.
By Brian B. Parr, Ph.D. ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
The next time you are at the gym sweating through an hour on the elliptical machine or going for a long run to improve your fitness, think about this: you may be able to get the same benefits with just a few minutes of exercise. Sound too good to be true? Depending on your goals, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may work for you. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though. The exercise must be done at a very high intensity, often in short intervals separated by periods of rest or light exercise. Let’s explore the research, benefits, and drawbacks of HIIT.
Exercise to improve cardiorespiratory fitness typically involves 20–60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise done 3–5 days per week. This type of exercise is common for people who are training for an event like a 10k run since it leads to improvements in maximal exercise capacity (called VO2max) and endurance by increasing heart function and promoting changes in the muscle. These training adaptations are important for performance in endurance events like running, cycling, and swimming that require sustained effort. Traditionally, this type of training is also used by most people who are interested in losing weight or getting in shape, even if they aren’t competitive athletes.
Research and practical experience have shown that shorter HIIT sessions can be effective for improving fitness, too. For example, in one study these intervals were as short as 30 seconds of all-out, maximal exercise separated by rest periods, for a total of just six minutes of exercise per day. Other studies employ slightly less intense (still 90% of maximal heart rate) intervals for a total of 20 minutes of exercise per session. The results show that HIIT leads to adaptations in the muscle and improvements in VO2max that are greater than that of more traditional, lower intensity exercise.
A more recent study showed that sessions of one minute – yes, 60 seconds – of intense exercise can match the fitness and health benefits of more traditional workouts. Subjects in the study completed three, 20-second bouts of all-out, near maximal exercise separated by two minutes of light cycling on a stationary bike. After doing this three times per week for 12 weeks the changes in heart rate, muscle function, and blood glucose regulation were the same as those experienced by subjects who did the same number of 45 minute workouts, but at a lower intensity. Clearly, intensity matters when it comes to fitness and health benefits of exercise!
Does this mean that high-intensity training is right for you? It depends on several factors. First, the risk of injury during intense exercise is greater than during more moderate exercise. At the very least, exercise of this intensity is likely to be uncomfortable. Second, exercising at a high intensity may not be a good idea if you are not already in good shape or have other health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Third, HIIT may not be the best way for you to meet your exercise goals. If you exercise to lose weight your emphasis should be on duration, not intensity, to burn calories. If you are trying to build endurance for a marathon or long distance bike ride, you really do need to focus on longer duration exercise at least some of the time. Finally, this type of training doesn’t do much to help you meet other fitness goals including improving strength and flexibility, so you will still need to spend additional time in the gym.
For most people, there is little harm in trying some higher-intensity exercise, even just one day per week. In fact, many group exercise classes are designed to be a high-intensity workout, so this might be a good way to add more intense training sessions to your exercise routine. The bottom line is that HIIT should be part of your exercise regimen, not the whole program. Keep in mind that if you add up the total exercise time, including the warm-up, time between intervals, and recovery, the “one minute” workout is more like 10 minutes of exercise. This is still shorter than what you would probably do anyway, but certainly not a true 60 second workout.
Here is an example of a “one minute” HIIT workout used in a research study. The researchers in this study used a specialized cycle ergometer because the work load is easy to monitor, but you can do it on any stationary bike, treadmill, or rowing machine. The key is to alternate very intense work intervals with light recovery intervals. Keep in mind that “intense” is a relative term, so the resistance or speed you use may be different from what others do.
If this seems like too much, the good news is that HIIT is scalable. You can even incorporate HIIT intervals into walking or jogging outdoors. If your normal exercise routine is walking (or jogging) at a comfortable speed, try adding intervals of faster walking (or running). You can keep track of your time or use landmarks like blocks, lamp posts, or driveways to mark the start and end of your intervals. Going uphill and downhill is also a good way to introduce high-intensity work and recovery intervals into your routine.
As with any new type of exercise, listen to your body. If it feels like you are doing too much, slow down or rest. Doing something you don’t enjoy or that leads to injury won’t help you in the long run, no matter how effective the exercise may be. Lasting health and fitness benefits come from adopting an active lifestyle that includes regular exercise to improve endurance, strength, and flexibility, even if it isn’t HIIT.
Dig Deeper: The One Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter By Martin Gabala and Christopher Shulgan A decade ago, Martin Gibala was a young researcher in the field of exercise physiology – with little time to exercise. That critical point in his career launched a passion for high-intensity interval training (HIIT), allowing him to stay in shape with just a few minutes of hard effort.
The One Minute Workout includes the eight best basic interval workouts as well as four micro workouts customized for individual needs and preferences (you may not quite want to go all out every time).
The One Minute Workout solves the number-one reason we don’t exercise: lack of time. After all, everybody has one minute to spare.
November 21st 2017
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