Almost everyone agrees that listening to music can motivate us, change our mood, or even get us moving differently. There’s something about a rhythm that draws people in. That got us thinking. Could music or listening to a rhythm help stroke survivors with their rehab? And if so, what’s the best way to do this?
We found that using a metronome, a device that keeps a beat, helps improve walking. Metronomes are used to help musicians keep a certain rhythm as they play a piece of music, but portable and downloadable ones now make it possible for people to use on the go. Using a metronome as you exercise can help you keep a certain rhythm and can improve your movements in two ways.
Two ways that rhythm can help improve movements
1. Rhythm can help you focus on the correct execution on an exercise
We suggest using a metronome because correctly performing a movement requires you to do it with the right timing. If you do an exercise like the squat, for example, too quickly, you won’t activate your muscles in a way that will give you the results you want. You also increase your risk of injury because your form might suffer. But if you do a squat slowly enough in time with a metronome and hold it for 2 seconds in the lowest position, your leg muscles really have to work, and you’ll feel a difference. It will feel harder to do, but that’s because you’re working with targeted muscles and not letting momentum or other muscles take over.
2. Rhythm can help you improve your motor control
Using the natural tendency to sync with rhythm helps you move in a better fashion. For example, if you use a metronome when you walk and force yourself to sync with the rhythm, you have to focus on the sound. Your walking pattern has to adapt in order to keep the pace. This usually results in an improvement in how you move your leg forward and an increase in push-off force without really thinking about it. Set the metronome a little faster than your average walking speed, focus on the rhythm, and you’ll be walking more quickly, and maybe even more smoothly than you usually do. First, you change your movement pattern during the exercise by focusing on the metronome pace. Then, your muscles start to adapt and get used to this new pattern to the point where you’ll be walking better even without the metronome. And the more you train, the more likely your comfortable walking speed increases as well.
Once you find your favorite rhythm, you can always find a song with this rhythm to encourage you even more! You can find the beats per minute for lots of popular songs on websites like www.bpmdatabase.com .
Using a metronome for rhythm is effective
Fully focusing on syncing with the rhythm of a metronome is often more effective than trying to change your movements consciously because your body naturally adjusts. This simple adjustment to your therapy program results in less stumbling and a steadier pace, thus reducing your risk of falling.
You can buy a metronome to have at home or a portable one that you can take along with you. If you have a smartphone, you can download one for free by searching on Google or going to your app store.
We recommend you try adding a metronome to your workout to help control your movements during your exercises and to increase your walking speed. It’s a great way to pick up your pace!
The lead author of this original article is Tamaya Van Criekinge from the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the Multidisciplinary Motor Centre Antwerp, University of Antwerp, Belgium and from