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It May Be Time To Rethink
Music While You Workout

If you’ve been among those enjoying a fitness centre, which features loud music as you pump iron everyday, perhaps it’s time for a rethink.

How is it harmful?
The noise hazard due to loud gym music is dependent on an individual’s susceptibility and to the level and duration of exposure to high-intensity music. Damage caused due to regular exposure for prolonged periods to sound levels above 85 decibel can put you at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. The risk is proportional to the duration of exposure — greater the duration, higher the risk. Unfortunately, there are no standardised tests which can predict who is at greater risk. However, some researchers suggest that a cumulative effect taken over a period of 24 hours for any individual can predict the risk of hearing loss.

The ideal sound
Assuming the average aerobic workout or weight training session lasts for nearly 45-60 minutes, the maximum noise level for the music should be maintained up to 85 dB (decibel levels) or less. Research suggests that listening to loud music, either through an ambient source or headphones, for prolonged periods can at least lead to temporary hearing loss (it’s reversible though; typically felt after going to a night club with powerful sound).

Psychological effects: Good and bad
Just as music therapy has been proved to heal you, noise therapy can harm you too! Research suggests that different categories of music play a significant role on the peripheral nervous system and also on the heart beat. Listening to ‘techno’ music while running or weight training can improve the peripheral blood flow to the muscles and can allow the heart to beat more rhythmically. Soothing or slow music is suitable while stretching and relaxing. If you’re into meditation or yoga, silence is best.

Plugging in the agony
If your portable music player is your inseparable friend while working out, remember that a typical player generates sound volume at a level of 100-130 decibel and most people keep the volume to at least three fourth of the maximum. Now chew on this: the noise of a motorcycle 30 feet away is about 80 decibel; the intensity level in the front row of a rock concert is about 110 decibel and the noise of a military jet taking off is about 140 decibel at 100 feet.

Keep it low
A common perception is that louder the music, more enjoyable is the exercise and harder the effort put in. However, a recent study (by Wilson and Herbstein) has found that ‘low-risk’ sound levels (ie 85-dBA or less) could be used in aerobics classes without reducing comfort, enjoyment, or motivation to exercise. Again, an ambient source would still be preferable rather than head/ear phones. So if your portable music player is a part of you, the simplest way to care for your ears is to tune down the volume or if that’s too difficult, reduce the time you spend with it plugged in. Focus on breathing and building your six-pack instead!

Music and fitness
Music does play a role in motivation and recreation while gymming.While pumping music aids aerobics and weight training, slow instrumentals soothe your nerves while stretching and doing exercises.

January 7, 2010

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