Music and exercise: the perfect combination

September 2, 2010 by  

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The most popular post ever at Battling for Health is 102 Great Running Songs For A Fun And Fast Paced Workout which to date, generated 134 comments and 24 tweets. In fact, even though the post was written way back in 2008, comments still continue to come in.

I try to do a jogging run every week day and my MP3 player is my constant and loyal companion during these solitary runs. I am not the only one who runs, exercises or works out with music. Most of the joggers I meet along the way have earphones. Check out your local fitness clubs and see how many members work out with music.

So what is the link between music and exercise?

British researchers at the University of Liverpool conducted a study last year to find out. They recruited 12 male students who were asked to use stationary bikes while listening to 6 predefined music tracks which should be appealing to this age group but are of different tempos. The work out lasted for 25 minutes and the participants had to this 3 times. Once, with the music played at normal tempo, once, with the music played 10% slower and once with the music played 10% faster. The participants were not informed of the manipulation of the music tempo. During the work out sessions, work done, distance covered, heart rates and satisfaction with the music were measured. The results should that speeding up the music resulted in increased performance on the bikes, with equivalent increase in heart rates. Decrease in the tempo, on the other hand, also translated into less power and slower performance and decreased heart rate. Satisfaction with the music and the overall work out session increased with higher music tempo and decreased with lower tempo. The study authors concluded:

“…healthy individuals performing submaximal exercise not only worked harder with faster music but also chose to do so and enjoyed the music more when it was played at a faster tempo.”

Now, Brazilians know a lot about music and know what they want in terms of music. Researchers from the Department of Physical Education of São Paulo State University investigate how preferred and non-preferred music can affect exercise performance. 15 participants performed continuous cycling exercise at high intensity during 3 sessions: one session listening to a preferred music track, one session listening to a non-preferred track, and one session without music. Exercise distance, heart rate (HR), and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) during the performance was recorded. The results showed larger distance and higher RPE when participants performed while listening to preferred music. The authors concluded:

“…listening to preferred music during continuous cycling exercise at high intensity can increase the exercise distance, and individuals listening to nonpreferred music can perceive more discomfort caused by the exercise.”

The results of these 2 studies indicate that music can enhance physical exercise performance, however, tempo and preference should be considered.

The music that I listen to during my runs – Bryan Adams, Alanis Morrisette, Shania Twain, ABBA – might be a bit too mundane or slow for most people’s taste but it really makes my runs enjoyable. Maybe I should speed the same tracks a bit to improve my speed. But on the other hand, I run for fun and health, and not for winning. I think I should keep it at that. And if you want to share your running/exercise songs, just go and add them to our list of Great Running Songs For A Fun And Fast Paced Workout.

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