Blog exercise focus

Cue the “Rocky” Montage Theme

Focus@Will cultivates playlists that’ll keep you focused when you’re writing or coding or shooting off emails at your desk—cerebral stuff. The sorts of sedentary intellectual rigors from which your brain’s always looking to flee, latching onto one shiny distraction after another.

But when we transcend the desk, we find the not-so-sedentary task that just about everybody could use some help with: exercise. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reports that fewer than one-in-four of us gets the recommended 150 minutes of weekly moderate exercise.

          Surveys show a bunch of reasons why we aren’t meeting our exercise goals and, predictably, the biggest answer is that we just don’t have the time. But, as Laura Vanderkam of the Wall Street Journal writes: “Instead of saying, ‘I don’t have time,’ try saying, ‘It’s not a priority.’”

          Needless to say, if you were more focused and productive during your work hours, you’d gain more time, energy, and enthusiasm for taking care of your body.

          It’s fair to say that health should be a priority, and we can all make the time for it if we commit ourselves. But what’s rough is the drudgery, right? Running toward nowhere on a treadmill. “I pick things up. I put them down.” It’s taxing and tedious and therein lies the reason the mind is quick to wander.

          Guess what? Studies show music makes exercise more bearable. Not only that, it can improve performance.

          Using electroencephalography (EEG) technology to monitor the brainwaves of participants in an exercise study at the Brunel University London, researchers found that, during a 400 meter walk, those who listened to music were 28 percent happier than those who walked without any auditory stimulation.

          The person who’s happier doing the difficult task is likely to go at it a bit longer.

          USA Track & Field, the entity that sets rules for competitive marathons, caused a stir a few years ago by banning headphones and iPods. They claimed they instituted the prohibition for legal reasons, to make sure you’re not so zoned out that you don’t see the ice cream truck barreling down the road you’re running on. But also, to “prevent runners from having a competitive edge.” That’s interesting.

          And correct. Among other advantages, cyclists who listen to music require less oxygen, traversing the same distance, than those who cycle without help. A study published in Sports Medicine-Open showed that runners who exercised with music, contrasted to those who ran without it, exercised a significant amount more per week.

It’s because of something called entrainment.

When you synchronize music to your workout – especially relatively up-tempo music, about 120 beats per minute – you can get into a rhythm of exercise that might pay more dividends beyond duration alone. According to Scientific American, however, the motivation derived from fast- or aggressive-sounding music plateaus at around 145 bpm. Focus@Will music varies in tempo depending on your brain type and other measures.

Synchrony can occur consciously, as when you deliberately match your footfalls with the beat. But even when you’re not trying, it often occurs non-consciously: spontaneous entrainment.

When getting into the nitty-gritty, though, of whether music makes you focus on your workout, makes you think more critically about what you’re doing and economize your energy across different exercises, versus whether it’s just amping you up so you can throw weights around for a little longer than usual – that’s up in the air.

What’s clear, though, is the direct link between exercise and concentration. The more you move, the better your focus, memory, and mood. And we’re talking about when you get back to your desk.

We’re going to make a case for listening to F@W when you work out, and we’d love to hear back from you about how it works. Our unscientific study here at Focus Central has revealed mostly positive outcomes, with a few holdouts:

“I was able to do more reps on the more up-tempo channels.”

“I don’t know, but it felt like the music disappeared somewhere, and all of a sudden, an hour went by. I usually tire out after about 40 minutes.”

“I prefer my own playlist for max motivation. My music gets me pumped up. But I get into it, and it does distract me from what I’m doing in the gym sometimes. I think that makes me more prone to injury.”

Share your experiences with us here. And visit to try it for yourself.

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