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Music Affects Heart Rate

Mind-body movement professionals should consider the impact that music can have on their programs. According to a new study published in Circulation (2009; 119 [25], 3171–80), loud music increases heart rate and blood pressure, while soft music lowers both, independent of subjective musical preferences. This study adds to the growing body
of research documenting the effects of music on mood and physiology.

Researchers at Pavia University in Pavia, Italy, studied the interaction between music and the cardiorespiratory system to increase understanding of how music can be used
in rehabilitative medicine. Investigators
recruited 24 young, healthy volunteers, half
of whom were trained musicians, and measured their cardiovascular responses to music. Crescendos had a stimulating effect, and
decrescendos had a relaxing influence.

Barry A. Franklin, director of cardiac rehabilitation and exercise laboratories at William Beaumont Hospitals in Michigan and a spokesman for the American Heart Association, commented, “[The researchers] were able to see modest changes in all variables. As a clinician, one who works with
people with cardiovascular disease, I ask, can we extrapolate or generalize to clinical populations? I see some potentially very exciting
research and clinical applications to people with disabilities, where modest changes
could have very significant salutatory effects. If they listen to music through headphones while they exercise, can we get better changes on such measures as oxygen flow and
blood pressure?”

Al Bumanis, spokesman for the American Music Therapy Association, said, “One logical step would be to encourage interdisciplinary research, with relevant clinical populations
receiving specific music therapy
interventions. The effects of music therapy are being tested in people
in cardiovascular rehabilitation, brain-injured individuals and premature babies, among others.”


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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