Original Article by Martina Simos

A new study reveals when children exercise to music the benefits include better co-ordination and concentration and less anxiety.

Research goes as far back as 1911, when an American educator named Leonard Ayres did a study which showed cyclists could pedal faster if music was playing rather than pedalling to silence.

More than 100 years later another study – Effect of Music-Movement Synchrony on Exercise Oxygen Consumption, published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness (2012) – found using music in exercise programs led to improvement in areas such as movement, co-ordination and concentration and a decrease in anxiety in social situations.

When children exercise to music it prompts a whole lot of brain changes and inspires them to exercise more often and more intensively, says psychologist Kirrilie Smout.

“On the whole, it makes us feel less anxious, more connected to others, more energetic and more relaxed,’’ she said. “Having music and exercise linked together is a great idea. Our kids need exercise to be healthy, learn more and feel better – and anything we can do to help kids to exercise is a positive thing.’’

It’s a view Hawthorndene Primary School teacher Ric McDonald shares.

Eight years ago Mr McDonald, who originally trained as a physical education teacher, began an Exercise To Music program (ETM) at the school for the Year 6 and 7 classes.

What began as a fitness program for lunchtime has now branched into a choreographed show presented at nearby schools. Up to 28 students are selected to be part of the tour group. “Over the years doing ETM, I’ve found that at the start of a school year the majority of students who sign up for ETM trials ranges from 35-60 students, with about 90 per cent girls and 10 per cent boys,’’ he said.

“In the last few years, the number of boys has shown a steady increase, with last year’s ETM team being made up of 18 girls and eight boys.

“So far this year we have held one trial to give me an indication on numbers for ETM and there were 10 boys in attendance.”

Those who are selected have high fitness levels because on a performance day up to 30 dance routines are done. They also need to be able to attend practice sessions regularly and have timing and choreography skills.

“It’s all about fitness and by the end of term three kids are pumping out 30 routines in one day,’’ Mr McDonald said.

“At the start it was a fitness idea at lunchtimes for kids to do aerobic-type dance moves. It just got bigger and bigger.’’

The rest of the ETM participants also perform at school-based events such as assemblies. Eva, 12, finds participating in ETM helps with her fitness levels and she feels good while exercising to songs she likes.

“I love dance and … I really like how our team gets to go and perform at other schools too,’’ Eva said.