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Education > Sweatin' in Small Shorts -- and They're All Small Shorts

The faces and forms of the American fitness revolution have changed a lot in the last twenty years. Long before Tae-bo, spinning, or Bikram yoga dominated the workout world, step aerobics, calisthenics, and inline skating were hotter than Jane Fonda’s spandex fashions. The last twenty years also saw the rise and fall and redemption of Dr. Atkins, the cooling off of the South Beach Diet, and the sour resurgence of the Grapefruit Diet. Similarly, the last two decades have seen radical changes in pop music. Punk died, grunge faded, and the Macarena got really old really fast. Boy bands faded away into power ballad pumping solo careers. Music stars got reality shows. Reality stars released albums. And yet, through all this change, one fitness fad stood the test of time and has the results to prove it – Richard Simmons' literally timeless classic, “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.” With three million copies sold, “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” raises the question: what does Richard Simmons have that is so irresistible? It certainly isn’t those short shorts of his. The answer is a magical ingredient he tapped into long before the rest of us – the music! Now, twenty years later, science is proving his method.

More gain with less pain!
Studies by the Department of Kinesiology at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania and the Department of Physical Education and Sport Science at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota have proven the multiple effects of music on exercise. These results were proven on the well and sick alike – and the news is very encouraging. In the first study, ten physically fit men listened to music while running on a treadmill. They exhibited healthier blood pressure, heart rate, and general comfort than when they ran without music. Their perceived effort was also dramatically reduced by the music. The scientists also tested twenty-four patients with moderate-to-severe COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.) All study subjects were told to walk at their own pace for twenty to forty-five minutes up to five times a week. All were given pedometers and twelve were given portable tape players to walk with. The walkers with music experienced a significant decrease in dyspnea (painful, short breathing) which allowed and encouraged them to walk further distances than the other group. No matter which group you are in, you can reap the benefit of adding a little pleasure. More gain with less pain!

The better the beat, the bigger the bonus!
The biggest part of Richard Simmons’ secret is that music is a major muscle motivator. And here’s the rest (also backed up by science, of course). There’s a reason he chose “Great Balls of Fire” and “Peggy Sue.” According to WebMD Medical News, new research now proves that listening to up-tempo music can increase the intensity and speed of your workout. Test volunteers, all in good health, were given a mix tape. They were instructed to cycle on a stationary bike for sixty minutes and listen to the full tape. The study showed that as the music’s tempo increased, the exercisers pedaled faster. Heart rate and power output also increased as the beats quickened.

Like Michael Jackson always said, it’s “Easy as 1,2,3”
Banish the idea of a painful, boring workout. The road to wellness can be fun and stress-relieving. So grab your Walkman, Discman, or iPod and get moving! Remember:

  • While listening to your music, don’t forget to listen to your body. It’s all about balance. Let your heart and muscles be encouraged but not dominated by the music. Allow your inner rock star to take frequent breaks. Slow down when you need to and don’t forget your water!
  • Cooling down is as important as boogying down. Make sure you have some mellower music on your workout mix as well. Think of your cooldown as a vacation after hard work. Enjoy it. Relish it. Focus on your breathing and everything you’ve accomplished.
  • Variety is the spice of life, so that one Spice Girls CD (although fabulous) is bound to get old. Keep yourself motivated by mixing up your music. Having one tape, CD, or playlist with multiple artists works best. And don’t let yourself go into auto-pilot, either. When you get too used to one mix, be sure to explore something else. Don’t worry, you can always bring back your old favorites.


Wait, there’s more!

Around the time my daughter learned algebra, research revealed that music is good for your mind. Enya CDs popped up in classrooms; quiet study time now had a Vivaldi overtone. So approach this science like an algebra problem: if music is good for your brain, and music is good for your body, can it exercise both at the same time? According to a research team at Ohio State University, “yes!” Thirty-three patients at a cardiac rehabilitation center were given a tape of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” to listen to while running. Shortly after, they were given a test on verbal ability. A few days later, this pattern was repeated without the music. The results were astounding. During the trial with music, the runners experienced healthier heart rates and blood pressure – a major benefit for people with cardiac issues. They also scored higher on their verbal tests that day. Not only does involving music make you healthier, it makes you smarter as well. Now that’s what I call having your (low-fat low-carb) cake, and eating it too!

2008 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted provided the authors are notified and the following information is included:


Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at www.KathleenPassanisi.com

Annie Passanisi,the daughter of motivational speaker Kathleen Passanisi, inherited her mother's love for women's issues and the platform. If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swing set champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.