Switch on your iPod and plug in the earphones for listening to music while exercising is a good idea. But a musical feedback that imitates the effort you are expending can be even more thrilling, researchers found.

Not only does the thumping and jamming sound shift your focus, making you workout for longer durations, but also helps physiologically, researchers suggest.

According the findings of a new study, working out with a musical feedback reduces the effort perceived while doing strenuous activity.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany roped in 63 male and female volunteers.

The participants were made to workout on three fitness machines: a tower, a stomach trainer, and a stepper. Later, some of the participants were assigned to a separate regimen of isometric exercise.

All participants worked out while listening to music on their portable devices. However, for one set of exercise, they played a musical feedback technology, named the “jymmin”, a cross between “jammin’” and “gym.”

The music the ‘jymmin’ plays mirrors the wearer’s energy expended level at any given moment. For instance, when working out on a tower, “no sound except some very deep bass frequencies” is audible, but as the workout gets strenuous, “the bass line and the beat blend in their higher frequency spectrum,” the researchers report.

This immediate musical soundtrack mirroring of effort expended had a positive effect on the exercisers.

Exercisers listening to a standard musical soundtrack who roughly expended the same effort looked more tired than ones listening to high-tech musical feedback. ‘Perceived sense of exertion was significantly lower’ for the latter group, researchers noted.

Surprisingly, the exercisers’ oxygen consumption was lower when they listened to musical feedback. “It thus rather appears that participants were able to apply a comparable amount of force using less oxygen,” study’s lead researcher, Thomas Hans Fritz of the University of Ghent explained.

“If music can make ‘physically taxing group activities’ less exhausting, it may have evolved as a useful tool to facilitate the completion of essential societal projects,” Fritz added.

The findings of the study are posted online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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