If music makes you smarter, and exercise helps brain function, can exercising to music really boost brainpower? Some researchers said it can.
Volunteers who listened to Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" while working out on a treadmill did much better on a test of verbal ability than when they exercised without music, a team at Ohio State University found.
"Evidence suggests that exercise improves the cognitive performance of people with coronary artery disease," said psychologist Charles Emery, who led the study.
"And listening to music is thought to enhance brainpower. We wanted to put the two results together," Emery added in a statement.
Writing in the latest issue of the journal Heart & Lung, Emery and colleagues said they studied 33 men and women taking part in a cardiac rehabilitation program after having bypass surgery, angioplasty or other procedures to treat clogged arteries.
The volunteers said they felt better emotionally and mentally after working out with or without the music. But their improvement on the verbal fluency test doubled after listening to music on the treadmills.
"Exercise seems to cause positive changes in the nervous system, and these changes may have a direct effect on cognitive ability," Emery said.
"Listening to music may influence cognitive function through different pathways in the brain. The combination of music and exercise may stimulate and increase cognitive arousal while helping to organize cognitive output."
Emery said he now wanted to test people using music of their own choice.
"We used 'The Four Seasons' because of its moderate tempo and positive effects on medical patients in previous research," Emery said. "But given the range of music preferences among patients, it's especially important to evaluate the influence of other types of music on cognitive outcomes."