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Music and Health Essay - Karl

Music and Health Assignment
Motivating and Ergogenic
Playlist to Promote
Physical Health
Name: Karl Hemmings
Student ID: 1085371
Word Count: 2192
Karl Hemmings
As an ardent and dedicated competitive powerlifter with over six years of strength training under
my belt, I have personally experienced the ergogenic effects music has on my training. As
expected, the effects are not limited to anecdotal evidence, with Karageorghis et al. (2013), finding
that music listening during exercise can enhance physical performance, strength and power, whilst
simultaneously reducing fatigue. In powerlifting, an immense amount of physical exertion takes
place as a large stress is placed on the body. Therefore, the playlist I have tactically crafted, aims
to motivate myself to continuously push my limits as well as boost my athletic performance
resulting in improved physical health.
To facilitate the creation of my playlist, I segmented my training session into five stages,
specifically, warm-up, squats, bench press, deadlifts and cool down. Next, I participated in the
process of active music listening to examine and reflect upon my current gym playlist of more than
100 songs (Gault, 2011). This process entailed analysing both the musical elements, namely,
rhythm, volume, tempo and melody, as well as non-musical elements, lyrics and personal
associations. Over the course of a few weeks, I successfully narrowed down my original playlist
to the 20 songs I found to be highly motivating with ergogenic qualities. To perfectly align the
playlist to my training session, I sorted the potential songs into five groups based on their musical
characteristics as well as non-musical features and aligned each group with a specific section of
my workout. I trialled these five ‘sub-playlists’ throughout my regular training sessions and
analysed each song using the framework of the Brunel Music Rating Inventory 2 (BMRI-2). This
rating system quantifies the degree to which a piece of music motivates the listener to exercise
more intensively (Karageogrhis, Priest, Terry, Chatzisarantis & Lane, 2006). Based on a predetermined timeframe for each stage of my workout, I used a combination of my ratings from the
BMRI-2 as well as consideration of the non-musical elements to determine which songs to include
within each section of the workout. I selected two songs for each of the 5 stages of my workout
and this resulted in a playlist length of 52 minutes which corresponds with the time I usually
exercise for.
I selected the first warm-up song based on its ability to effectively stimulate physiological arousal,
which results in heightened motivation to work out intensively (Bishop, Karageorghis & Loizou,
2007). The second warm-up song was chosen due to its ability to evoke positive nostalgic
associations which generate individualistic motivation. Next, is the central and most physically
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demanding portion of my workout, that is the squat, bench press and deadlift. For this section, I
selected the six songs with the highest BMRI-2 ratings, that is, these songs had an upbeat rhythm,
fast tempo, euphoric melody and hence significant motivating and ergogenic effect, enabling me
to perform to the highest possible degree. A study by Karageogrhis et al. (2006) found that listening
to motivational music while exercising accrues psychophysical benefits such as decreased rate of
perceived exertion (RPE), improved affective states and optimal arousal levels. To conclude, I
selected my first cool down song based on its highly euphoric lyrics and melody which generate
an improved psychological state and promote exercise adherence. My second and final song serves
to maintain a degree of physiological arousal through its medium tempo and create a perfect ending
to my workout with its beautifully textured chord progressions that generate a comforting and
optimistic psychological effect (Kelley, Andrick, Benzenbower & Devia, 2014).
1. Hale, N.D., Mathers, M.B., III. & May, B.H. (2002). Till I Collapse [Recorded by Eminem
featuring Nate Dogg]. On The Eminem Show [Record]. Santa Monica, CA: Aftermath
Records. (2001).
My playlist begins with the ultimate pump up song ‘Till I Collapse’ by Eminem, chosen because
of its highly motivating lyrics. The song’s intro depicts the universal theme of abandoning one’s
goals during times of difficulty through “when you feel weak you feel like you just wanna give
up”. Given the strenuous nature of powerlifting, I occasionally enter the gym spiritless and
demotivated but as I hear Eminem shout “motivation to not give up and not be a quitter”, I am
immediately motivated to work out as hard as possible. This motivating effect comes from the
song’s ability to successfully stimulate physiological arousal and help me mentally envision a
successful workout. This is supported by Karageorghis and Priest (2012) who found that pre-task
music can optimise arousal and encourage task-specific motivational imagery.
2. Booker, S., Newman, W.J. & Spencer, M. (2013). Love Me Again [Recorded by John
Newman]. On Tribute [MP3]. Jamaica: Universal Island Records. (2012).
For my dynamic warm-up, ‘Love Me Again’ by John Newman was chosen due to its unique ability
to induce positive reminiscences and personal associations. The song brings me back to the time I
spent playing FIFA 14 and repeatedly heard this song on the game’s soundtrack. Given my innate
desire to be the best, I was an extremely competitive gamer and consequently associate this song
with a desire and motivation to succeed highly. Barrett et al. (2010) found associations induced by
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music often represent a form of nostalgia, and for me the memories positively motivate me to
‘smash’ my upcoming workout. Additionally, hearing this song on the FIFA 14 soundtrack
corresponds to the time in which I began strength training and hence enables me to reflect on how
far I have come with my training.
3. Prydz, E. (2015). Opus [Recorded by Eric Prydz]. On Opus [MP3]. Hollywood, CA: Virgin
Commencing the strength training portion of my workout, for my increasingly heavier, warm up
sets, I have chosen ‘Opus’ by Eric Prydz because of its distinctive progressive tempo and
increasing volume which engenders ergogenic effects. Szabo, Small and Leigh (1999) argued that
music with an increasing tempo results in increased work output and distraction from fatigue. In
addition, Corigliano (2017) found a positive correlation between the volume of music and its
ability to yield performance enhancing benefits such as decreased RPE and enhanced muscular
endurance. Lastly, the progressive nature of the song enables me to properly pace myself through
my lifting sets and increase my intensity purposefully in order to avoid injury.
4. Larsen, P. & Stokes, D. (2012). Beating of My Heart (Mattisee & Sadko Radio Remix)
[Recorded by M-3ox]. On Beating of My Heart [MP3]. Los Angeles, CA: Warner Dance
Continuing with squats, I have chosen ‘Beating of My Heart’ by M-3ox because of its volume
fluctuations and climactic upbeat tempo. I find these produce performance enhancing effects.
Throughout the song, volume and tempo follow a cyclical structure familiar to pop songs of
increasing before a ‘drop’ and then building back up again (McFerran, 2019). This predictability
allows me to align my sets with the stimulative ‘build up’ of the song and my rest time with the
softer volume and slower tempo portions of the song. By aligning my sets with the music, I felt
the ergogenic effects of enhanced work output and improved strength and power during my
training. This is supported by Papa (1990) who concluded significant improvements in strength
output in the presence of stimulative music.
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5. Ferguson, D.B., Jr. & Marenyi, T. (2019). REDLIGHT (Holy Goof Remix) [Recorded by
Holy Goof]. On REDLIGHT [MP3]. New York City, NY: Ultra Records.
Moving onto my second exercise, the bench press, I have chosen ‘Redlight’ by Holy Goof on
account of its exuberant, adrenaline-spiked bassline and 130 beats-per-minute (BPM) tempo which
is conducive in promoting psychophysical benefits of lowered RPE and heightened motivation. To
support this claim, van Dyck et al. (2017) reported that an upbeat tempo was the most significant
determinant in generating a psychophysical musical response. In addition, McCown, Kesier,
Mulhearn and Williamson (1997) found that listening to music with an exaggerated bass during
high intensity training resulted in strong motivational responses. Personally, this song is the
catchiest in this playlist, which results in peak motivation levels as I reach the midpoint of my
workout. Moreover, Ballmann et al. (2019) found that preferred music amplified one’s motivation
to continue exercising and lowered RPE through its distracting effect.
6. Luyks, T. & Soest, K.V. (2008). Nobody Said It Was Easy [Recorded by Evil Activities]. On
Evilution [Record]. Netherlands: Neophyte Records.
Continuing with bench press, I selected ‘Nobody Said It Was Easy’ by Evil Activities due to its
strong rhythm, rapid tempo and hardcore style which together motivate me to exercise harder
throughout the latter part of my workout. Clark, Baker, Peiris, Shoebridge and Talor (2016) found
that stimulative musical elements, which comprise the BMRI-2, result in heightened motivation
and enhanced energy that induces physical movement. Further, hearing this song brings me back
to 2018 when I attended my first music festival, Defqon.1. As such, I have developed an extramusical association with this song as it reminds me of the electrifying and energetic atmosphere
of the festival and further motivates me to push myself harder (Clark, Baker & Taylor, 2016).
7. Wieland, R. (2018). Zombie [Recorded by Ran-D]. On Zombie [MP3]. Zeeland,
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Armada Music.
To begin my final, yet most gruelling exercise, deadlifts, I have chosen ‘Zombie’ by Ran-D
because of its vivace tempo of 156 BPM which results in reduced fatigue and pain. Patania et al.
(2020) reported that high tempo music can effectively alleviate the perception of pain and
exhaustion by diverting focus away from areas of discomfort. This distracting effect is vital in
maintaining the highest degree of performance throughout the remainder of my workout as it
Karl Hemmings
decreases the RPE of my subsequent sets. Moreover, upbeat tempo music has been shown to
produce physiological responses (e.g., the release of endorphins) that inhibit our perception of pain
(Ballmann et al., 2019).
8. Davidson, T. & Magid, D. (2018). Overkill [Recorded by RIOT]. On Dogma Resistance
[MP3]. Vancouver, Canada: Monstercat.
For my final, heaviest sets of deadlifts, I selected ‘Overkill’ by RIOT because of the personal
associations developed and reinforced throughout my years of training. These extra-musical
associations are driven by the song’s vivace tempo of 174 BPM which make this song extremely
motivating and ergogenic (Trehub & Schellenberg, 1995). Similar to a boxer becoming
conditioned to a specific piece of music prior to fighting, I have trained my brain to produce a
‘fight-or-flight’ response when hearing this song. As such, I am highly motivated to push my body
to its limits and from experience regularly achieve new personal bests under this song’s guidance.
However, my experience differs from the findings of Pujol and Langenfeld (1999) who concluded
that the ergogenic effects of music are not present at supramaximal exercise intensity.
9. Fogelmark, K. Garritsen, M.G., & Nedler, A. (2018). High on Life [Recorded by Martin
Garrix]. On Kontor Festival Sounds 2018.03 – The Closing [MP3]. Amsterdam,
Netherlands: Stmpd Rcrds.
Commencing my cool down, I opted for ‘High on Life’ by Martin Garrix due to its elated lyrics
and exultant melody which combine to yield a euphoric psychological state that motivates me to
adhere to my daily workouts. The song’s repetitious post-chorus lyrics “High on life ‘til the day
we die” embody and amplify the feeling of ecstasy evoked within myself upon completion of my
training session. In addition, I find myself humming along to the unforgettable and joyful melody
which results in a concoction of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters being released. To support, the work
of Salimpoor, Benovoy, Larcher, Dagher and Zatorre (2011) found that the melodic features of
music are responsible for heightened emotional arousal due to a release of endogenous dopamine.
Karl Hemmings
10. Gonzalez, A.G., Gonzalez, Y. & Kibby, M. (2011). Midnight City [Recorded by M83]. On
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming [MP3]. Paris, France: Naïve Records.
To end my playlist, and training session, I have chosen ‘Midnight City’ by M83 for two distinct
reasons. First, due to its ability to maintain a degree of physiological arousal with its medium
tempo of 100 BPM, such that I translate my intra-workout alertness to everyday activities. Second,
because it creates a perfect ending to my workout with its euphoric melody which yields the
psychological benefits of improved mood, reduced stress as well as pride in my physical
accomplishments achieved during the training session. However, this choice of end of workout
music is in contrast with the findings of Palit and Aysia (2015) who recommend slower tempo
music during cool down as it reduces physiological arousal to resting levels.
Final Comments
Overall, I have had tremendous success in using my music playlist to motivate me to constantly
push my limits as well as enhance my athletic performance leading to improved physical health. I
accredit the playlist’s success to my strategic ordering and selection of the songs in line with the
recommendations of the literature. First, I adopted the motivational lyrics of Eminem to ensure I
began the workout motivated to train hard. Next, I selected songs due to both their musical
elements as well as non-musical associations which produced the highest motivating and ergogenic
qualities in order to combat fatigue, increase work output and lower RPE. To conclude the
workout, I chose music which yielded psychological benefits such as improved mood in order to
leave the gym in a positive mindset.
Despite the multitude of physical as well as mental health benefits of listening to music whilst
exercising, the playlist was only tested on myself, thus its peculiar and diverse genre selection,
namely, rap, pop, progressive house, drum and bass, hardstyle and electronic dance music, may
not be appreciated by all listeners (Schäfer, 2016). Moreover, certain songs were chosen on
account of the unique, positive personal associations these songs evoke. However, other listeners
may experience opposing associations and memories because of differing environmental
backgrounds (Sakka & Saarikallio, 2020). Since preferred music has been shown to produce
significant motivating and ergogenic effects, given the uniqueness of every individual, for a
playlist to be most effective it should be personalised (Ballmann et al., 2019). Lastly, after testing
this playlist over several weeks, I have started to find it repetitive which has personally diminished
Karl Hemmings
the playlist’s effectiveness in motivating and producing performance enhancing benefits. To
combat this, multiple playlists could be created, and cycled between to avoid the predictability and
boredom of using a singular playlist.
To promote greater community wide participation in physical activity, society should be educated
about the potential health benefits of music listening whilst exercising and encouraged to design
their own music playlists. By constructing a personal music playlist, individuals can select their
favourite genres and artists, preferred volume or tempo, as well as songs with personal associations
to realise their exercise goals.
Karl Hemmings
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