Listen closely – sounds can help your movements

March 6, 2019

You’re out for a nice quiet dinner. A waiter drops a tray. Your body jerks and your head automatically looks in the direction of the crash. You feel your heart beating faster for a few minutes after that. Why does an unexpected sound cause such a reaction? It’s actually part of our survival instinct. The brain gets alerted and the body gets ready to respond. Our movement system is very dependent on what we hear around us.

Coupling sounds and movements

Aware of the connection between movement and sound, researchers from Spain decided to explore how this might be able to help stroke patients in their recovery. They determined that listening to two types of sound can help with rehabilitation. First, listening to your own movements. Second, listening to external sounds.

How the sounds your movements make can help you

Paying attention to the sounds your body makes as you move can help you improve your walking. For example, if you listen to your steps. Each time one of your feet hits the ground, you hear a footstep. If you try to control how your feet hit the ground and step as quietly as possible, you’ll notice that your walking pattern changes. It becomes more controlled, maybe slower, maybe more even.

You can try this out for yourself with our Strokemark app which comes out in August. If you try to walk as silently as possible in our squat walking challenge, you can see how this works. You need to crouch down and walk like a tiger approaching his prey. As you do this, you’ll activate your leg muscles more. Try this for a few steps and we promise you’ll feel your muscles working.

How external sounds play a role

The researchers found that listening to an external beat can also improve walking by helping you keep a steady pace. Following the time of a set rhythm makes your steps more regular and controlled.

We use this principle in our app as well. Our walking course offers several exercises that use a built-in metronome. Synchronizing your movements to the rhythm of the metronome can help you move more smoothly and faster.

Let the sounds around you guide your movements

Studies show that paying attention to and using sound to guide your movements can enhance your rehabilitation efforts. Incorporating this natural instinct can help you improve your walking ability and walking speed. Whether you want to experiment with this method on your own or follow the instructions in our walking course, make sure you try this. A rhythm-based approach can take your walking to the next level!


The lead author of this original article is Nina Schaffert from the Department of Movement and Training Science, Institute for Human Movement Science, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.

Editorial note:

Our bodies react to sound. That's why using sounds in your rehabilitation can help improve your walking.

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