The walking hack!

Activity is important for metabolic health, improved cognition and mental wellbeing.  This isn't guess work, studies show this time and time again!

Lockdowns, harsh winters, working from home and lower motivation has led to a drop in physical activity by up to 50% in adults (Stockwell et al., 2021).

Aside from scheduling in activity time and getting out there and getting it done, could there be another way to make daily activity part of who you are rather than something you "need" to do?

Neuroplasticity and listening to music during your activity holds the answers here, I will explain below.

Walking and listening to your favourite tracks really do go hand in hand!

There are some obvious reasons for this and some quite extraordinary science to the type of music you should listen to if you really want to boost your motivation and go the extra mile.

Getting up, getting outdoors and going for walks can often take a little willpower, especially in the winter months. It is something that you know you need to do, but potentially don’t feel like doing. Pairing your activity time with listening to something you love just makes logical sense.

Your music choices may help you as a distraction tool from the hill climbs you may experience, where the legs burn just a little more and you feel slightly breathless, or it can act as a powerful motivator for you to increase your walking intensity and push through.

Studies suggest that listening to music you enjoy helps you release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in establishing habits, motivation and reward signalling in the brain. If exercise is something you find challenging, you aren’t alone! For many people, the mere thought of activity can be off putting with the mind often associating this to negative experiences, such as, pain, muscle soreness, feelings of inadequacy or judgement. Luckily, the brain can be rewired through clever programming, by listening to music you can establish new reward pathways that will link exercise to a positive experience, making it a sustainable habit you will want to do forever.

If you really want to take your walking to a new level, you may want to listen to music that promotes an optimal state of consciousness. Sounds a bit woo woo right? Well, there is a classification of music call Binaural beats. Music that contains alpha wave binaural beats at 8 to 12 Hertz is known to aid a flow state, where you can perform cognitively and energetically at your best!

Whilst binaural beats may not be the first choice of music, it may be something to explore if you wish to use your activity time to optimise your productivity and processing power.

A few takeaways for you, your friends and family...

  • Aim for 7000-8000 steps per day on average.
  • Start small with activity, rather than jumping in the deep end
  • Build confidence in exercise
  • Pair exercise with something you really enjoy to listen to
  • Reflect on how you feel after you have moved or trained to embed the habit

Stockwell, S., Trott, M., Tully, M., Shin, J., Barnett, Y., Butler, L., McDermott, D., Schuch, F. and Smith, L., 2021. Changes in physical activity and sedentary behaviours from before to during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown: a systematic review. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 7(1), p.e000960.

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