Walk into any recreation center and you’ll notice that there are two types of people – those who wear headphones from the moment they step into the facility, and those who don’t. It’s all about personal preference, but from a performance standpoint, there are both pros and cons to wearing headphones while working out. Let’s dive in…
Motivation is something that can be difficult for people when they are trying to engage in a heart pumping workout. But for those who religiously wear their favorite pair of wireless AirPods or over-the-ear Beats, rocking out to your favorite jam can be incredibly invigorating. Wearing headphones and putting on a song that gets the juices flowing is a sure-fire way to reduce stress and put you in the mindset to crush your workout. And, being in a positive mindset will allow you to enjoy your workout and help you get to the finish line.
When the going gets tough, it’s easy to want to quit your workout. But listening to your favorite playlist is a good distraction from the muscle failure and pain you may be experiencing. So, focusing on the music and push past all that self-doubt.
Getting totally engulfed in your music may boost your performance – either by allowing you to keep going during an aerobic workout or to pump out an extra rep or two during strength training. According to research, listening to your favorite music can lower your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and help your workout feel easier.
Let’s face it, wearing headphones is a universal signal to not be bothered. And for those who use their workout time to disconnect from others and their daily stressors, headphones allow you to get into the zone and focus without worrying about engaging in small talk at the gym. Don’t get me wrong – there are benefits of social interactions at a gym – but when you're short on time and need to get in and get out in under 30 minutes, that focus is key.
Whether you are zoning out to your favorite hits from the early 2000s or working on your professional development with a leadership podcast, headphones may allow you to disconnect from the world. But in environments that are inherently dangerous – think rec centers, gyms, busy highways or secluded hiking paths – you may want to exercise with one ear open. According to a study from RealWire in 2019, 37 million Americans stated that they “feel they have put themselves in danger over the past 12-months when wearing headphones or earphones while walking, jogging or cycling.” And even worse, 26% of those individuals admitted to being in a dangerous situation and repeating the behavior.
The distraction of headphones takes the focus off your surroundings and also from yourself. Your inner ear has two main responsibilities: 1) allowing you to hear and 2) assisting with your balance. Cranking tunes to high volumes can throw off your sense of balance which can be potentially dangerous while you’re trying to concentrate on using a piece of cardio equipment or reach a new personal record (PR) . Additionally, damage to your cochlea – the spiral cavity of the inner ear which produces nerve impulses in response to sound vibrations – can result in hearing loss.
And did you know that your ear hygiene has a direct connection to your cardiovascular health? Because the ears have one singular, small artery responsible for all the blood flow to the area, they are extremely sensitive to blood flow. Ear infections can potentially reach this artery which connects directly to your heart, which is why it’s imperative to regularly clean your headphones after use. For earbuds, use an alcohol wipe or a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to thoroughly clean, especially around the listening area. Using a toothpick can assist with getting rid of material stuck to the front casing and seal. For headphones, you can use a sanitary wipe or a cloth with hand sanitizer to clear around the area.
The earbud and headphone market has increased dramatically with brands like Apple and Beats leading the way. For top-tier rated products, you can expect to spend anywhere from $90-$250 for these listening devices. Each is made with its own unique style and many people have their preferences for what works best for them. If you are not looking to take out a loan for these products and you settle for a cheap knock-off brand, then you can expect a solid five to ten uses before they quit working or fall apart completely.
Lost & Found
And let us not forget, these earbuds can be ridiculously small – 2nd Generation AirPods measure 0.65 by 0.71 by 1.59 inches. The most commonly lost items at Duke Rec & P.E. Facilities are... you guessed it, earbuds and headphones! Earbuds and headphones are typically lost while using cardio equipment, falling out of the user’s ears and getting trapped within the machine. Not even your “Lost my AirPods” App can help you with that one. Make sure you link your earbuds or headphones to your phone or other technology – I recommend naming them your contact information so they may be returned to you.
- If you are going to wear them, keep the volume to a manageable level
- Match your playlist to your mood, it will make a positive impact to your workout
- Make sure you find a pair that feels comfortable in your ear
- Know your environment and use them when it is safe to do so
So what’s best for me?
The goal is to improve your health and fitness, so choose what works best for you. You can even switch it up periodically depending on your mood. As the hip hop duo, “Black Sheep” once said, “The choice is yours!”
Image Credit: Akhil Yerabati on Unsplash