Imagine this: After a difficult day at the office, you desire a lively Zumba lesson with the music turned up so loud you can’t help but be engrossed in it. Or maybe you just want to soothe your nerves with a mellow yoga session, tuning in to nothing but the sounds of your own breath.
If you’ve looked for either of these two extremes, you understand that the atmosphere and volume of a group fitness class can genuinely influence how you feel during and after the workout. “I consider volume as a sensory experience from an evolutionary perspective,” shares Willow McGinty, LMHC, a therapist with Thriveworks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who specializes in anxiety, coping skills, stress, and ADHD. She’s also a committed weekly participant in group fitness classes and a former college athlete. “Loud sounds in nature have a tendency to originate from things we need to pay attention to because if not, there can be dangerous repercussions.” Thus, high volumes in workouts are great when you require motivation, a surge of energy, or need to concentrate on something other than your own thoughts.
Unsure if your body requires that or something more serene? Below, professionals share what you can anticipate from each choice.
The argument for the peaceful workout
1. They deliver tension relief
Yoga classes and leisurely walks are filled with pros, especially following a stressful day. “We can opt for a quieter workout experience for a feeling of tranquility, stress relief, and to manage reactions to chaotic periods in life,” McGinty mentions. (Interesting fact: Some yoga postures can even aid your body in releasing stress and anxiety.) Indeed, as per a study in the International Journal of Yoga, yoga can decrease stress, depression, and chronic pain, and enhance your overall well-being.
2. They can act as a substitute for meditation
Calmer alternatives can sometimes function as a more active form of meditation. “Quiet workouts provide some people with meditative benefits that enable them to calm their mind and lower their heart rate through breathwork, soothing music, etc.,” reveals Rishi Mandal, CEO of the fitness app Future. “Just like we allocate time for ourselves to engage in an invigorating workout, it is equally important to allow ourselves the time to slow down and unwind.” Although meditation can be an immensely effective tool for managing our mental health, many individuals find it challenging to simply sit still, so an alternative that brings similar benefits through movement may feel more achievable.
3. They cultivate greater body awareness
Quieter workouts may be preferable for individuals with sensory challenges, newcomers to exercise, those trying to recover from disordered eating or body dysmorphia, or those in the luteal and menstrual phases of their cycle when anxiety is more likely to be heightened, McGinty adds.
This is because quieter workouts can help us become more attuned to our bodily signals and discomfort, both internal and external. “People who have a feeling of being adrift in life, struggle to identify emotions, and individuals undergoing major life changes may benefit the most,” she expresses. “Quieter workouts can assist us in being mindful of movements that trigger or release painful/painful feelings.”
A quiet workout can also prompt heightened focus and a gentler approach, which can aid in “more effectively tending to any injuries we may be recovering from,” McGinty states.
4. They can help maintain consistency
Calm sessions also allow for adaptability when you desire to move your body but don’t feel up for much. In that sense, they enable you to uphold a regular exercise regimen, if that’s a personal objective. “Keep in mind, the most effective fitness routine is the one you’ll adhere to, so even just stretching and dedicating time in a ‘quiet’ mode will have a tremendous impact,” Mandal suggests.
Best silent exercise choices
McGinty proposes strolls in the park while listening to natural sounds, engaging in traditional South Asian yoga practices, and swimming. Mandal mentions tai chi, qigong, and yoga as indoor options, as well as gardening, hiking, and fishing during warmer seasons.
Relax by getting your “om” on:
The argument for the louder workout
1. They can make it simpler to exercise more intensely
When aiming for an intense, sweat-inducing workout, it’s time to really crank up the music. “Some individuals feel that loud music and a high-energy setting improve their performance, encouraging them to lift heavier weights, run faster, or exert more effort when surrounded by noise and music,” Mandal remarks.
However, music isn’t the sole source of noise—instructors and coaches also contribute. “Members tell us that they get a burst of energy when they hear audio motivation and advice from their coach during a workout,” Mandal adds.
2. You can become immersed in the sound
Another advantage of loud workouts: They serve as a good distraction. “Loud workouts could be beneficial for individuals in need of an escape,” McGinty suggests. “Loud, high-intensity workouts are favored by my clients who are working out as part of their journey to stop self-harming habits and, consequently, loud workouts are viewed as a harm reduction strategy for some.”
3. They can invigorate you
Moreover, loud workouts can energize you and contribute to a more positive outlook, according to McGinty. She prefers to do them in the morning for that reason. This makes sense since, as Mandal points out, they usually elevate your heart rate, hype you up, and help you get “in the zone.”
But ensure to engage in loud exercising safely
McGinty does caution about the safety and health risks of loud workouts. “For instance, loud music while running/walking outside can compromise our situational awareness and render us more susceptible to malicious individuals or other environmental hazards,” she points out. “We can also harm our hearing if the decibel levels are excessively high for an extended period.”
Upon attending group fitness classes where the music is excessively loud, McGinty utilizes earplugs. She also encourages individuals working on their assertiveness and self-advocacy skills to request the instructor to lower the volume if it’s uncomfortable.
Best noisy exercise choices
McGinty’s preferred high-energy class is hosted by Orangetheory Fitness, although she acknowledges HIIT classes, and indoor cycling classes with vibrant lighting are other prevalent, energy-charged options. Mandal highlights that more experiential methods of getting movement in are growing in popularity, such as rage rooms, ax-throwing, paintball, and laser tag.
“A fitting exercise routine for you may encompass some intense sound assistance and some quieter, more contemplative sounds,” Mandal suggests. “Finding that personalized mix is what it’s all about.”