Study homes in on ideal tempo of music to improve your workouts
New research is suggesting upping the tempo of the music you listen to while exercising can not only make the exercise seem easier, but actually raise your heart rate and increase the benefits of physical training.
It is perhaps no surprise music helps people exercise more effectively. Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes jogging while listening to fast-paced music can testify to the fact that rhythmic, high-intensity music at the very least can make exercise feel a little easier.
A number of prior published studies have clearly demonstrated how music can help shift a person’s attention away from the physical discomfort associated with exercise and this new research set out to understand how particular tempos of music influence perceived exertion across two different exercise types.
Nineteen female subjects were recruited for the research. Each subject completed a number of exercise sessions consisting of either an endurance exercise (walking for 10 minutes at a steady pace on a treadmill) or a high-intensity exercise (using a leg press machine). Four different music conditions were tested for each type of exercise - no music, 90 to 110 bpm (beats per minute), 130 to 150 bpm and 170 to 190 bpm.
"We found that listening to high-tempo music while exercising resulted in the highest heart rate and lowest perceived exertion compared with not listening to music," says Luca Ardigò, one of the authors on the new study from Italy’s University of Verona. "This means that the exercise seemed like less effort, but it was more beneficial in terms of enhancing physical fitness."
Importantly, the study revealed the benefits of high-tempo music were most prominent during endurance exercises as opposed to more short-burst explosive exercises. The researchers hypothesize the reason behind this difference may stem from the extra cognitive fatigue associated with endurance exercise. As anaerobic high-intensity exercise is intrinsically shorter in duration and requires fewer decision-making processes, music is less influential on a person’s perception of effort.
One of the more prominent limitations of the study is its singular focus on the tempo of music. Despite concluding 170+ bpm music to be the most effective for endurance exercise, the researchers do note other musical characteristics certainly need to be evaluated in future research to better understand any optimal aural accompaniment to exercise.
"In the current study, we investigated the effect of music tempo in exercise, but in the future we would also like to study the effects of other music features such as genre, melody, or lyrics, on endurance and high-intensity exercise," said Ardigò.
The new study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.