Here's Why You Should Listen to Music, Not Watch TV, While Exercising


Falling behind on Vanderpump Rules? Turns out the worst time to catch up is when pumping some iron.

For many, incentivizing a workout is the key to actually getting up and doing it. Well-being and physical fitness are nice, yes, but those are longer-term goals. In the immediate, when one is tired after work and just wants to watch Netflix in bed, getting to the gym or going for a run is hard.

So why not watch TV on the treadmill instead? It mixes the best of both worlds — theoretically. The truth is that there are plenty of detrimental aspects to watching TV while working out. However, there is a good alternative. Pop in those earbuds, because listening to music instead is actually good for one's health.

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The biggest point in music's favor as an exercise aid is exactly how many ways it's been scientifically proven to help. 

Take cycling, for instance: In a study by Liverpool John Moores University, researchers found that according to their trials, "Healthy individuals performing submaximal exercise not only worked harder with faster music but also chose to do so and enjoyed the music more when it was played at a faster tempo."

Read more: New Study Finds Dancing Can Have a Surprising Impact on Your Health and Happiness

A review of another study, mentioned in a Scientific American article about music and exercise, described listening to music while working out as "a type of legal performance-enhancing drug." Basically, music serves as one of the easiest ways to boost performance during exercise, providing not just incentive for getting out there, but palpable benefits.

Indeed, as studies have proven, music increases endurance during routine physical activities, from running to relaxing during a cool-down. It's a win-win all the way through the workout.

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So why can't the same be said of watching something? Doesn't it serve as a similar distraction, allowing the workout itself to fade into the background as one focuses on the latest crazy plot twist on Scandal? Not exactly.

First, that distraction can actually be harmful. As sports psychology consultant Greg Chertok said in an article on the subject for Outside magazine, one's focus splits, leading to a less productive workout.

"I would not recommend movie watching to those whose goals are loftier than, let's say, staying active," Chertok said. "Attending to, following and processing movie content demands lots of cognitive storage, which depletes reserves that would otherwise be used to workout vigorously."

It also compromises the mental health benefits of working out. "Exercise can often help clear your mind and help you solve problems," University of Texas professor John Higgins said in the Outside article. "If you're now focused on the movie, you may lose that valuable benefit."

There's also the simple physical contortion your body does when watching a screen. Having to tilt one's head encourages bad form, negatively impacting a workout. 

So when hitting the gym, bring the tunes, not the tube. Save those backlogged episodes of American Crime for home — your friends Bey and Gaga will keep you good company instead.