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Whale Songs and Workouts


Submitted by ScubaFit on 2010-05-19

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by Gretchen Ashton


The backwall of Molokini crater was more picturesque than usual. With visibility of 150-200 feet we drifted with gray reef, white tip and Galapagos sharks cruising below. A blue dragon nudibranch was a treat to find, and the pyramid butterfly fish were especially bright. But the real joy of this dive was the orchestra of humpback whales that accompanied us. The sound of their underwater melodies were music to our ears and the "good vibrations" within our bodies struck a transforming chord, making this one of our most memorable diving experiences.

The effects of the whale songs on our diving experience are similar to how music enhances other activities. While the choice of music preference is a factor, music evokes mental, physical and emotional responses. Although heart rate is only moderately affected, all types of music slightly alter heart rate. Heart rate increases in response to faster music and decreases in response to slower music.

Studies performed on the subject of music and aerobic exercise indicate music can be motivational. It seems to have a perceived influence changing mental attitude more than physical skill, but masks and reduces factors of exercise discomfort, stress and anxiety. Some individuals exercise longer and are more adherent to an exercise program with the influence of music. Aerobic exercise is the highest priority for divers.

Studies performed on the subject of music and strength training reveal no significant difference when listening to upbeat music over silence, but found a decrease in strength when listening to calming music over silence and upbeat music. Divers will benefit from at least a couple of days of strength training each week.

Music and exercise is probably best applied in aerobic dance classes. In 1993 with the advent of step aerobics, Reebok established "beats per minute" (bpm) guidelines for a six-inch step of 120-122 bpm. The higher the bpm the more difficult the class may be. Today, we have many varieties of aerobic classes to choose from. Average heart rate is between 72-80 bpm and most music tempos are from 70-170 bpm.

    The following is a list of types of aerobic classes and their typical bpm:
  • Low Impact Aerobics (133-148 bpm)
  • High Impact Aerobics (135-160 bpm)
  • Mid-Impact Aerobics (130-140 bpm)
  • Step Aerobics (120-127 bpm)
  • Super Step Aerobics (126-138 bpm)
  • Interval Aerobics (123-150 bpm)
  • Circuit Aerobics/Resistance (123-160 bpm)
  • Warm Up (120-134 bpm)
    If you are interested in participating in aerobics classes to maintain your physical fitness for diving:
  • read class descriptions carefully,
  • ask the instructor the bpm of the class,
  • inform the instructor if you are new to class and of any injuries or health concerns,
  • monitor your individual heart rate, (it will not be the same as the class bmp), and
  • modify your movements and intensity to work at your own level.

Article by Gretchen Ashton of ScubaFit

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