Optimising Workouts with Adaptive Music and Sound


We all know that listening to music can pump us up or mellow us out depending on the type of music. But did you know that music can actually have measurable effects on your cardiovascular and respiratory systems? A fascinating study published in the journal Heart in 2006 explored this in detail (https://heart.bmj.com/content/heartjnl/92/4/445.full.pdf).

The researchers found that faster tempos in music led to increased breathing rate, blood pressure, and heart rate in the subjects. Slower, more meditative music had the opposite relaxing effect of reducing these markers. Even inserting a short 2-minute pause of silence caused a drop in blood pressure and heart rate below baseline resting levels.

Interestingly, the style of music (classical, techno, rap etc.) wasn’t as important as the tempo in driving these physiological changes. The researchers hypothesized that the effects may be due to both respiratory entrainment (unconsciously syncing your breathing to the musical rhythm) as well as a general psychogenic arousal response.

Music That Drives You

So what does this mean for your workout? Using adaptive music technology that can sync the music’s beats per minute (BPM) to your target heart rate zone could provide a purely physiological boost. By matching the music tempo to your optimal cardiovascular intensity, it may make working out in your target zones feel more natural and achievable.

The pause effect also opens up exciting possibilities. Adaptive workout music could strategically insert short rhythm-less breaks during a workout to briefly relax the cardiovascular system before kicking back up into the more intense zones and BPM.

Conditioning (Just like Pavlov.. well less brain probes)

For musicians and musically-trained subjects, the effects of tempo on physiology were even more pronounced. This could allow for more individualized and optimized adaptive music programming and demonstrates the impact of recognition. For example, as we design the intros and exits for workout zones, we repeat recognizable patterns of instruments or sounds, conditioning the user to prepare for a harder workout.

The applications of adaptive music go far beyond just making your workout more enjoyable. By tapping into the innate biological connections between sound and cardiovascular function, it may be able to help you work out at peak efficiency in a way that just feels right.

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