Cardiologist Dr. James Lyons shares insights on how different types of music affect your heart rate and blood pressure
Several studies point to how music directly affects a person’s heart rate and blood pressure. This can be beneficial for both exercising and relaxing. Music is a combination of sounds that includes beats, tones, tempos, melodies, lyrics, pitches and harmonies. When music is played, the heart begins to sync with the different rhythms and pulses.
When we are exposed to, for example, classical music (Mozart) or songs with slow beats, the parasympathetic nervous system is affected, decreasing our heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. Conversely, when rock music (Led Zeppelin), or songs that have a fast beat are played, the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, increasing our heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. So, while music certainly affects heart rate, the genre of music played is an important factor in determining acceleration or deceleration of it.
Given this connection, upbeat music may positively impact your exercising and/or running because it increases your heart rate and thereby endurance, stamina, intensity and excitement. There are playlists and fitness apps that include songs with higher beats per minute, or BPM, meant to match up with your desired speed and heart rate. A moderate aerobic workout, for example, should start out with uplifting music that has a tempo of about 130 to 150 beats per minute.
Music has been shown to have other potential effects on your health including reducing anxiety and improving mood. Whether the effect of music on the heart leads to better patient outcomes has not been proven. However, I encourage my patients to use music as a safe and healthy way to reduce stress if it works for them. There is certainly no harm in doing so. Of course, regular aerobic exercise remains my number on recommendation for stress reduction, maintaining a healthy weight, and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.