Music Pumps Brain During Exercise

Listening to tunes while you work out gives your mind a workout

WEDNESDAY, March 30, 2004 (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.

More information

The American Cancer Society has information about how music soothes distress during cancer treatment.

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