Music, Sports & Exercise: How Tracks & Tunes Can Improve Your Performance

This is a guest post by Anne McLean of the Music Division

Costas I. Karageorghis, PhD
Tuesday, October 23 7:00 pm
Mumford Room, James Madison Building, 6th floor

Like to run / cycle / hit the gym? Love music? Taking along our earphones and favorite playlists definitely seems to help us step it up. On October 23, find out why in this fascinating Concerts from the Library of Congress presentation from Costas Karageorghis, an expert on the psychological effect of music in the domain of sport and exercise. This event is presented in cooperation with the  Library’s Office of Health Services and the Science, Technology and Business Division.

Dr. Karageorghis has documented his impressive 25-year body of research in more than 100 scholarly articles and two textbooks, published by Human Kinetics. Applying Music in Exercise and Sport (2017) and Inside Sport Psychology (2011) reveal the science behind the structured and systematic use of music to improve sports performance and enhance the exercise experience. Most recently, Karageorghis is engaged in examining the concept of “multi-modal” stimulation, involving not only the use of music, but video images, virtual reality and visual primes to enhance the sensory experience during physical activity.

A reader in sports psychology and Divisional Lead for Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at London’s Brunel University, Costas Karageorghis has been a consultant for sports federations, sports and music equipment companies and Olympic athletes. But you don’t have to be an Olympian to benefit from his findings; in fact, it seems that music may be most beneficial to low-to-moderate intensity exercise. Having trouble getting motivated to exercise? He offers interesting news: “Music can alter emotional and physiological arousal much like a pharmacological stimulant or sedative. It has the capacity to stimulate people even before they go into the gym.”

With a media profile that includes coverage from outlets like Scientific American, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post, Karageorghis has attracted enthusiasts worldwide, at all levels of ability. His talks and coaching sessions draw in the layman with direct language about his theories and helpful suggestions. “Music lowers your perception of effort,” he comments. “It can trick your mind into feeling less tired during a workout, and also encourage positive thoughts…it can reduce our perception of effort by as much as 10%.” Listening to music distracts us from discomfort, interfering with the brain’s signals of pain, strain or fatigue. Our favorite tunes can increase endurance and stamina, and help us get into the realm of alpha brain wave activity. Used on a continued basis, Karageorghis indicates, compositions that are found to be effective can build what has been called “an optimum state of mind for exercise,” and even get us to the “flow state.”

The  Library’s event will definitely offer tips on how to create a personalized playlist with maximum benefits, not only for aerobic exercise, but for flexibility and strength workouts, spinning classes, yoga, and other pursuits. A good playlist would utilize a variety of rhythmic qualities and variations in melody, tempo and lyrics—tooled to specific motions and activities—and cover tracks for pre-workout and preparation through cooldown. Karageorghis’s personal playlist numbers range from Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony in E-flat major to songs like Flo Rida’s “Let it Roll” and “I Like to Move It” by Reel 2 Real.


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