Go ahead and congratulate yourself for your last workout … In the middle of a hectic lifestyle, it’s too easy to shelve a crucial sweat-session. What you likely already know is that exercise will increase your energy levels, lower your stress hormones, and provide a healthy perspective on those mounting obligations and worries. Taking the time to lace up sneakers and do what your body needs is rarely followed by regret. What you may not realize is how you direct your attention during a workout can truly harm or benefit you.
Think for a moment about your last visit to the gym. For how much of your workout were you watching television, answering emails, texting a colleague, on the phone, or surfing the internet? While your body might be ‘exercising’, your brain is ‘working’ and/or ‘distracted’. According to a recent study by the International Data Corporation, half of all smartphone owners are “plugged in” while exercising. While this common habit may appear to save time, it could undo the positive effects of your workout.
If your mind is heavily engaged in work-related activities on your smart phone or distracted by television while your body is exercising, you are more likely to get injured, and to exercise with poor form and less intensity. These distractions are more likely to dampen the benefits of exercise we’ve come to appreciate: increased energy, mood boost, stress hormone reduction, and ability to gain a healthy perspective on life.
So what’s the best course of action? Whenever possible, exercise outdoors in nature as you’ll get a ‘two-for-one’ experience… the benefits of physical exercise combined with the emotional and spiritual healing benefits of being in nature. If you cannot exercise outdoors, then use the gym. If you are feeling the need to dampen the gym’s sensory overload (grating mechanical sounds, fluorescent lighting, laminate ceilings, etc) then my recommendation is wise use of your technology. My recommendations is:
1. Put your smartphone on ‘airplane mode’.
2. Focus on your breathing (4 count breath in- 1 count pause- 6 count breath out).
3. Pump up the music!
People have exercised to a soundtrack for generations for a good reason. In addition to dampening the environmental sensory overload of the gym, fast-paced, upbeat music will motivate and inspire you during your workouts.
“There are direct connections from auditory neurons to motor neurons, ” says Jessica Grahn, a cognitive neuroscientist with a focus in music at Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute in Ontario. “When you hear a loud noise, you jump before you have even processed what it is. That’s a reflex circuit, and it turns out that it can also be active for non-startling sounds, such as music.”
Also important is the type of music itself. You want to avoid the same tunes that play in your office’s break room everyday, for example. This might mean exploring new artists and even genres to develop your ideal audio workout buddy. It is also best to choose fast paced songs, as you will unconsciously strive to match the tempo and likely increase the intensity of the workout.
So, don’t feel the need to cut the apron strings from your smartphone entirely. Next time you step foot in the gym, switch to “airplane mode”, focus on your breathing, turn on the music, and have fun! Exercise should serve as a time-space sanctuary, free of diversion and full of inspiring tunes.
Below is a great workout playlist with fun, unique tracks. In the coming months, I will use Grooveshark™ to embed health related playlists. Music and wellness are very connected and I cannot wait to explore their relationship further.
1. Jabr, Ferris. “Let’s Get Physical: The Psychology of Effective Workout Music: Scientific American.” Scientific American. Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc., 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 June 2013.