Studies Show Music Boosts Exercise Performance

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If you know a lot of people who are seriously into running, you may have noticed that many hardcore runners scorn the idea of stuffing their ears with headphone when they are out on the running course. They may feel that staying focused and listening to the body is far more important than the fleeting entertainment you may get from those earburds. While this attitude is certainly understandable from a runner’s perspective, several studies have shown that music can have measurable effects that are beneficial for exercisers.

Music boosts performance

A group of researchers in Britain, for example, put together a running event with live music and a song selection chosen specifically to have the best effects for the runners. This was measured according to four main factors—musicality, rhythm response, cultural impact, and association. The first two factors are internal to the music, while the last two have to do with the mental associations that the runner may make with the music.

When compared to a control group of runners who had no musical accompaniment, those at the musical event performed better by a very substantial margin. Not only were they able to run faster for sustained periods, but they even had a 15 percent boost in endurance.

The effects are apparently greatest when the music is synced up with the heartbeat. It’s been shown that, if a musical program includes songs that have gradually increasing beat-per-minute rates, the exerciser’s energy level increases in sync.

Music and heart-rate

These findings were emphasized by a separate study that had participants cycle to the same song three different times. What the participants didn’t realize was that the song was played at a different rate of speed each time. The researchers discovered, as they had expected, that the faster the song was played, the faster the participants had cycled.

With several different studies coming to more-or-less the same conclusions, the truth is undeniable: When it comes to exercise, music helps. The only challenge for us non-scientist types is finding music that meets our needs. It’s not like we can just listen to a song and know that it syncs up well with our running heartbeat. At this point, the only way to find music that works is through trial and error. If you already know that there are some songs that make you feel pumped up and energized, that’s a good place to start. Otherwise, researchers recommend catchy music with a steady, driving beat.

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