Music and health

Subject: Art
Type: Descriptive Essay
Pages: 8
Word count: 2006
Topics: Music, Exercise, Health, Physical Education, Stress


In the past few years I have been using the music from the playing in the gym for exercise, be it cardio, strength training or just simple stretches. I started using my own music when I decided to be running every morning for at least thirty minutes on weekdays in the park. All I would do is to shuffle up all the music from my playlist and run. There would be places that I would stop and take a breather but after I concentrated on picking a few specific songs that would seem to make me enjoy the whole run, I found myself taking fewer pauses and having an effective workout. There were certain songs that resulted to physiological response through the way I would run to the beat of the song. There were songs that affected the experience through association with the park and the elements around (Priest, 2004), through the mood that music would give (Zatorre et al, 2007) and through the distraction that the song gave me an intensity of exercise increased (Karageorghis & Priest, 2012). Some others made me feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of exercise and give me the motivation to adhere to the routine (Altenmuller & Schlaug, 2013; Clark et al., 2016).

I first analyzed my playlist for some songs that contributed to physiological arousal, subjective experience (Karageorghis & Priest, 2012) or both according to the Structural Model of Music Analysis (SMMA) criteria (Grocke, 1999). I then started using the selected songs during my workout and identified those that made me more motivated to workout. I was then able to pick ten songs that I preferred for the different sections of my workout; warm-up, cardio and cool down. The first two songs have a slow tempo that is best suited for warming up through simple walks, strides and dynamic stretches. The thick texture and inspiring lyrics have an effect on the mood that gives me the focus and motivation to complete a full workout, making me want to start the cardio already. The next seven songs, suited for the cardio section of the exercise, have an upbeat nature with a higher tempo. The first three songs of cardio are arranged in increasing tempo to match up with the task of running so as to increase the intensity as running continues. The upbeat nature of the music serves as a diversion from the breathing and the burn in the muscle too. I put a song with a slower tempo in the middle of the playlist intended as breather where I would hydrate and slow down my breathing and heart rate. The other three songs for the cardio are also upbeat so as to run to the beat. They also had inspiring lyrics that serve as motivation for the day and also uplift my moods for the start of the day. The last song is a slow instrumental for cool down that invokes calmness and relaxation as the muscle relaxes due to the lactic acid that had accumulated is cleared.

The playlist songs were selected to fit within a certain timeframe so that I knew when to change to a different section of my workout without looking at my watch. With the many songs I had on my phone it was easy enough to create several playlists so as not to get used to the same playlist. But they all had the same pattern and sequence in order to achieve the most I can from the workout and feel good about myself, mentally and physically, as I started the day. Here is an example of a playlist that I felt most successful.

Lana Del Rey. “Summertime Sadness.”

I started with this song because of the slow tempo and the thick texture. Simple walks and big strides to this song warm up the body. The tempo is moderate giving every stride to enough time to stretch the muscles and increase blood flow to every part of the body. The tempo is also conducive for breathing exercises that inflate the lungs well to prepare for a difficulty of the task ahead. The consistent rhythm and beat make the warm-up smooth, therefore, the energy is conserved for the cardio part of the workout.  The moderate volume, constant harmony, and simple instruments give me a melancholic mood that makes me focus on warming up each muscle targeted

Lana Del Rey. “Dark Paradise.”

This song has a slightly faster tempo than the previous song: Summertime Sadness. I chose the same artist for it made my warm-up transition smoother considering they both have the same classical style. I usually do my dynamic stretches with this song. The beat of the song makes it easier to dive deep into the stretches that I am doing which really stretches out the muscle and therefore warming them up. Breathing exercises are also going along with the beat of this song. The form of the song and variation of the instruments are minimal and limited and therefore warm up is still smooth and does not take up a lot of energy necessary for the cardio part of the workout (Yamamoto et al., 2003). After stretches, I jog on spot to keep my muscles warm until the next song start to start my cardio according to the rhythm of the song.

Anna Kendrick. “Cups.”

This song has a footy beat to it, therefore, it is easy to run to the beat the lyrics to the song also inspires the start of the run as the sun shines on my face. It has a physiological arousal that makes the body move along with the beat. The tempo of the song requires running at a moderate speed and hence the intensity of the exercise is not hard yet. It also invokes memories of when I used to run with my friends whenever we were together camping hence uplifting my mood. With the psycho-emotional experience, it is easy to run through the song without noticing.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. “Can’t Hold Us.”

The tempo of the song increases with this song and therefore that speed of the run increases through the physiological arousal. The song motivates me to pick up the pace and keep at it. Associations with running, nothing can hold me back when running. Even as the exercise intensifies, the lyrics, the form and the timbre of the song serve as a diversion from the energy needed by the exercise at this point the volume of the song moves from moderate to loud that makes my strides more stretched out and high-powered (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The energetic rhythm with consistent pulse pumps me up as I run.

Pink. “Raise Your Glass.”

This song has volume variations from soft to moderate to loud that enhanced the intensity of my running. The volume increases in the chorus which gave me the motivation to give more power and speed into my steps and my running. I also varied my breathing pattern to the beat of the song to avoid panting the lyrics themselves inspired me to increase speed of my strides and keep them steady in speed and power. The energy from the song served as a good diversion from the intensity of the workout and the burn in my thighs and calves. The regular phrase length in the melody of the song makes it easy to step along due the cognitive processing and command to movement in the brain (Clark et al., 2016).

Chris Brown. “Little More.”

The tempo to this song is slower than the previous three songs. The steady beat and the consistent volume have a relaxing effect. This is where I hydrate and to a few stretches to lower my heart rate and breathing. It also gives my muscles time to clear the lactic acid that might have accumulated during the first phase of intensive cardio. The mood of the song relaxing and renews the energy so that one is ready for the second phase of cardio. The behavioural response kicks in where the happy hormone is produced and feels that they can do more. The release of dopamine and serotonin gives sense of achievement and accomplishment due to its effects on the reward centre in the brain (Altenmuller & Schlaug, 2013)

Rihanna. “Where Have You Been.”

This volume of the song starts soft and slowly picks as the bridge and the chorus is being sung. Therefore conducive for transitioning from rest to intense cardio. As the tempo and volume of the song increase so do the repetitive movement of the running increasing. The volume variation also gives me the push to give my strides more power. The beat itself give is a distraction from the intensity of the workout also. The general mood of the song is energetic and hence the same is radiated out of the activity. The consistent pulse in the rhythm and the predictable harmony makes it easier to along with the song in terms of intensity of the song. The changing tempo stimulates the body to engage more during exercise.

The Wanted. “Chasing the Sun.”

This song has a constant beat, consistent metre in time signature and constant fast tempo that is easy to run along to but the major reason for this song is the association to the lyrical message that motivates me to keep going. The physiological response to the beat makes the body move to the beat of the song (Clark et al., 2016). This song mostly appears to my subjective experience through mood and association with running.

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Jon McLaughlin. “Above the Radio.”

This is the song I chose to conclude the cardio section of the workout. The tempo of the song is a little bit slower than Chasing the Sun but the constant interval between the beats give a stimulus for the brain to initiate body movement according to the song (Clark et al., 2016). It also gives an inspiring message that I carry to start the day with and give me a pleasant mood. It ends with an instrumental that helps transition to the cooldown with easy and a relaxed mood.

Jon McLaughlin. “At Night.”

This instrumental has a slow tempo helps with slowing down breathing rate and restoring the heart rate back to normal. It eases the mind and stimulates the release of serotonin and low amounts of dopamine that act on different brain centre to bring forth relaxation. This instrumental stimulates awareness of self and environment and give positive attitude and feeling towards them. This makes me start the day as a positive happy person (Scherer, 2004). The instrumental make cooldown soothing and relaxing (Clark et al., 2015; Grocke & Wigram, 2007).


This playlist may be used in different physical activities, for example, cycling, kickboxing among others. The physical benefits can range from weight loss, muscle toning and strength training according to the activity it is used for. The songs selected can have benefits in mental health through the release of any tension and stress, improve self-esteem and alleviate any anxiety by enhancing confidence and awareness. Different playlist with different songs can make activities more entertaining for one may get bored listening to the same song. Music can be used in many ways to promote mental and physical health if most of the aspects of the music selected to match up the activity and the environment the music is being used in.

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