Effect of listening to music on running

This is another one of those way outside my area of expertise, but I just have to write about it! I previously covered another study on Enhancing Running Performance by Coupling Cadence with the Right Beats in which I mentioned that when I listen to something while running, I listen to podcasts from The Skeptics Guide to the Universe for an “escape to reality” and not to music. This study just came up in my alerts and I could not resist writing about it:

Bigliassi, Marcelo; León-Domínguez, Umberto; Buzzachera, Cosme F.; Barreto-Silva, Vinícius; Altimari, Leandro R.
Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: July 15, 2014
This research investigated the effects of music and its time of application on a 5 km run. 15 well-trained, male long-distance runners (24.87 +/- 2.47 years; 78.87 +/- 10.57 kg; 178 +/- 07 cm) participated in the present study. Five randomized experimental conditions during a 5 km run on an official track were tested (PM: Motivational songs, applied before 5 km of running; SM: Slow motivational songs, applied during 5 km; FM: Fast and motivational songs, applied during 5 km; CS: Calm songs, applied after 5 km; CO: Control condition). Psychophysiological assessments were done before (functional near-infrared spectroscopy, heart rate variability, valence and arousal), during (performance time, heart rate and rate of perceived exertion) and after (mood, rate of perceived exertion and heart rate variability) tests. The chosen songs were considered pleasurable and capable of activating. Furthermore, they activated the three assessed prefrontal cortex areas (medial, right dorsolateral, left dorsolateral) similarly, generating positive emotional consequences via autonomous system analysis. The first 800 meters were accomplished faster for SM and FM compared to other conditions (P < 0.05); moreover, there was a high probability of improving running performance when music was applied (SM: 89%; FM: 85%; PM: 39%). Finally, music was capable of accelerating vagal tonus after 5 km of running with CS (P < 0.05). In conclusion, music was able to activate the prefrontal cortex area, minimize perceptions, improve performance and accelerate recovery during 5 km of running.

I will have to admit that this…

In conclusion, music was able to activate the prefrontal cortex area, minimize perceptions, improve performance and accelerate recovery during 5 km of running.

….is pretty damn impressive!

As always, I go where the evidence takes me until convinced otherwise and maybe I need to stop listening to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe and start listing to music!

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3 Responses to Effect of listening to music on running

  1. Naomi July 17, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    I’m assuming they were running solo, I’d love to see how these results played out in a social running situation i.e. something akin to a road race. Would the FM/SM still be beneficial?

  2. Kevin A. Kirby, DPM July 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Long distance running, like all sports, definitely has a mental/psychological aspect to it. Whether it is music or meditation, many athletes have found that “getting their mind right” by listening to their favorite music or just sitting quietly by themselves before a big game or event helps them improve their performance during their competition. Other researchers have also found physical performance benefits of music in athletes.


    The psychological aspects of physical performance is a whole field of study in itself and is definitely a factor in athletic competitions.



  3. Ian Griffiths July 18, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    If encouraging someone to increase their cadence I’ll often suggest they download a metronome onto their iPod (other MP3 players are available…) I know some who prefer a playlist which is suggested to promote a higher cadence. I believe most of the “running compilation” albums you see advertised are songs at around 180bpm (linking back to the erroneous assumption that a cadence of 180 is ideal for all). I’ve often thought that generating a database of songs that would encourage different cadences would be useful – suspect something similar exists online already.

    In an ideal world I’d love to find groups of monozygotic twins who run with an identical cadence and put them on a treadmill at the same known speed. Give one of them Michael Bolton’s greatest hits album to listen to and the other The Prodigy’s greatest album to listen to and see how things change. Bringing Michael Bolton into research would be a first surely??

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