Why do we need the
Scroll down to learn why Dr Rock developed The Music Diet
(4 min read)
I began my music journey in the 1980s. I started my first business aged 19 as a self-employed tennis coach in Wales and was also in a band at the time. I used to bring my ghettoblaster onto court and play the songs I was learning while warming up waiting for the youngsters to arrive for their lessons. Then I began using the music in my lessons, showing the players how to synchronise their moves to the beat during warm ups and drills.
Before long I was earning a ton of cash. I had more clients than the other coaches. I put this down to my superb coaching skills and magnetic charm (lol). But a few years later when I read my first music neuroscience article while studying psychology I learned that in fact it was due to the music. It'd never occurred to me that music influences brain activity and key neurochemicals. At the time I'd never even heard of neurochemicals! My undergraduate dissertation explored self-efficacy and performance strategies for national tennis players and examined how music could play a role.
Following graduation I began putting music to work in my professional life as a sport and exercise scientist. I developed music based exercise programmes for public participants and worked with elite athlete programmes, showing how to use music to control anxiety and boost motivation, confidence and endurance. I set up one of the first GP Referral programmes in England, linking local doctors' surgeries with local exercise to music classes and personal trainers.
My MSc thesis continued my examination of the effects of music on the brain. The research study clearly showed that when people synchronise their exercise movements to a beat they tend to keep doing that movement for longer before wanting to stop. This had important implications in terms of encouraging exercise. The summary of my research was presented by the fabulous Dr Costas Karageorghis at the British Association of Sport & Exercise Sciences annual conference and published in the Journal of Sport Sciences. You can read it here (page 16). Costas has continued to examine the effects of music on sport and exercise performance and built an incredible body of research. The fitness industry built an empire on these neuro effects....exercising to music engages people.
So at this point in the late 1990s I was confident that the sport and exercise sector would produce a healthy nation. New health club chains were popping up all around and students were queuing up for fitness qualifications to become personal trainers and exercise to music instructors.
SO WHY ARE WE IN THIS HEALTH MESS TODAY?
WHY DID THE SPORT & EXERCISE SECTOR FAIL TO PRODUCE A HEALTHY POPULATION?
What went wrong?
1. We made exercise too formal
Bearing in mind that at the end (or start) of a long day we have several choices, most people tend to choose the choices that are most enjoyable, fun and easy.
There are too many barriers to exercise.
Do we need to get changed into a special outfit to do basic exercise (simply moving around more)?
- No, in fact we do not.
Do we need to go to a special place to do exercise?
- No, in fact we do not.
Do we need an expert to lead us through the exercise?
- No, in fact we do not.
Do we need to spend (read this as "waste" for people who have no spare time) time warming up to do basic exercise?
- No, in fact we do not.
But the exercise industry (and I also take blame for this as I was heavily involved in developing and delivering these curriculums in the 1990s) purposely made exercise a complex routine that required special clothing (££), special places (££) and special qualified people (££) to show special moves and techniques.
For the bulk of the population these are all barriers to exercise as it's far easier to not do exercise and instead choose to spend precious spare time (and money) on other more enjoyable things. Fitness industry revenues have been continuing to rise (largely due to the general population buying fitness wear as everyday fashion), but so have average waistlines.
2. We made exercise too boring
Partly due to the factors listed above.
Also due to the fact that for some unknown reason (and I am still trying to get to the bottom of this) it is very difficult / impossible to get a license to be allowed to use hit songs for use in exercise settings (in classes or online). Bearing in mind that the effects of music on the brain (and therefore the body) are amplified when the songs have deep emotional resonance, this means that this lack of access to commercial music due to licensing difficulties is completely compromising the success and engagement of public facing exercise programmes.
I must confess I simply cannot understand why this is the case and I'm encouraging the music industry to review. Aside from the huge benefits to public health, this exercise based use of commercial music would open up another revenue stream for the music industry. In the UK alone there are 62,000 self-employed fitness professionals. Imagine if they were able to pay £9.99 per month for a license to use hit songs in their classes. This access to commercial music would empower them to create more engaging exercise offers AND open up a potential licensing income of £7.4M p.a. for the UK music industry (plus the revenue from music being bought for this purpose). Expanding licensing tariffs to enable musicians to easily offer instrument lessons, choirs, gigs, dance sessions, DJ sets, exercise sessions etc online (all of which deliver health benefits) would also open up new revenue streams for performers. These virtual opportunities are an earning lifeline right now for musicians who have lost live revenues due to Covid-19.
Similarly, a single blanket music license that covered all NHS environments would enable health professionals to use music however, whenever and wherever they want to improve the wellbeing of patients and staff.
Compare the 2 approaches below
The first example is a screen grab from a 15 minute video I received in a mailout from Public Health England during lockdown to encourage me to stay healthy.
Steph the instructor is lovely and poor Phil is trying his best to look as if he's enjoying it. But if I'm being honest they are rather boring exercises, being done in silence and apparently requiring fitness clothing. Really? Is this the best we can do to encourage people to move more?
The second is an alternative 15 min workout based on the Music Diet. This is our Moves & Grooves session that we've been trialling at midday (UK) on Tuesdays. In the screen grab below we're rocking out to some pumping hit tunes and pretending to play guitar like Pete Townsend. A few moments later we were jumping around in the moshpit and then playing the drums like Ringo Starr. The photo's blurry because we are MOVING and having fun. Importantly (and I really love this about our new virtual world) if people do not want to be seen on camera they can do the moves in complete anonymity while still feeling a part of the class. This is something that simply isn't possible in physical class settings.
We need to empower exercise professionals and partner them up with musicians so they have the BEST chance of engaging the general public and getting them moving more. We need to increase the fun factor and decrease the formality factor. We need to merge the sport and exercise industry and the music industry in a close marriage that spawns a healthier nation.
This is why I wrote the Music Diet book and developed the Music Diet wellness programme.
We need to adopt an entirely NEW approach to wellness. One that is much less formal, much less onerous, much simpler and much more fun.
Because it's pretty clear that the methods used in the past decades haven't worked so far and are unlikely to engage people in future. That's why we're in lockdown. We need to dramatically improve the nation's health and resilience. Let's not keep making the same mistakes.
In 2000 I examined securitisation for my MBA thesis. Bowie had recently used this financial tool, selling all his future royalty streams for an upfront lump sum payment. This was possible because there was certainty regarding the fact that people would always want to listen to music (especially an artist like Bowie). Despite a period of tech transition, this has proven to be true. Music is still a big commercial draw. I started working with brands in the early 2000s and my PhD examined the lifelong effects of music from our youth. Our brains are drawn to music, especially if it matches our tastes and music memories. There are neurological evolutionary reasons for this. Music is used in shops, hotels, spas etc to influence these brain responses and create a certain environmental experience. Humans were born to move to music and it provides the soundtrack to our lives right through to the end of our days. As well as being immensely enjoyable it's extremely good for our brains and bodies and it's ENGAGING. So let's take these lessons and apply them to health and wellbeing.
I've now been in this field for over 25 years and it amazes me that the power of music is not being fully harnessed in our society. The World Health Organisation also highlighted this fact in 2019. Thanks for reading and visiting this website. Music doesn't have the power to transform health alone, but it's definitely a vital ingredient in the formula. It's time to broaden our approaches. Let's kick start a health REVOLUTION to increase the health resilience of the nation and protect us from ever having to go through another devastating experience like Covid-19 in future.