Are you determined to exercise more this New Year? Adding music to your workout will make exercising more enjoyable, but does music make you run faster as well? Research shows that music helps divert your attention from the workout, making you work out harder while enjoying it more at the same time.
Music can impact your exercise experience in a variety of ways. For example, music can increase your motivation to exercise, help during a workout by synchronizing your movements to a certain tempo,[1,2] and lower heart rate and improve recovery afterwards.
And certainly, for many people, music helps make exercise more enjoyable. Studies show that people who listen to music during exercise report higher levels of enjoyment both during and after exercise compared to those without music. These results apply to high intensity workouts, as well, such as sprint interval training.
But there is more to the story than music simply being enjoyable. Our brain is constantly taking in massive amounts of information, and it must choose what to filter out and what to pay attention to. This is the same during exercise, with information from different sources competing for your awareness.
Listening to music during a workout adds another piece of information competing for your awareness; the music will capture some of your attention, making you focus less on feelings of fatigue, exertion, and other negative signals. As one study puts it, “theoretically, the auditory stimulus is expected to prolong time to exhaustion by acting to limit the processing of fatigue-related cues.” Studies show that music does, in fact, allow you to increase the amount of work being performed without paying as much attention to your level of exertion and fatigue.[6,8]
However, music can only help at lower intensities, before a threshold is reached. After a certain point, your brain has to focus on only the most important signals it is receiving, which during high intensity exercises come from within your body (not from external signals like music). Music can reduce perceptions of effort by about 10 percent at low-to-moderate intensity exercise.
Studies show that listening to music can, in fact, increase your speed while running. One study found that people who listened to fast tempo music during exercise chose to run at a faster speed. But music seems to be most important only at the beginning of a run. In one study, researchers found that during a 5 km run, people who listened to music ran faster, but only during the first 800 meters of their run. They also expressed more pleasure during their workout, and had better markers of preparation and recovery for the workout. Another study found that people who listened to music during the first 1.5 km of a 5 km race ran faster during the first and second kilometers than those who did not. Music during the last 1.5 km had no effect, however.
Music doesn’t just help you to run faster, but it can improve your physical performance in other forms of exercise as well. Those doing sprint-interval exercises with music had higher peak and average power outputs than those not listening to music.
Why not try listening to music during your next workout? It might make you find exercise more enjoyable, push a bit harder, and run a little faster. Let us know if you find music to help you during exercise in the comments section below.
Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.
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