High-tempo Music And Exercise

Music holds a near-sacred place in the fitness world. Many exercisers swear that their music makes the difference in whether they finish a workout and the effectiveness of that workout. Some exercise programs are even built around specific types of music or rhythm structures. But does music really have benefits to exercisers?

Yes, says new research. A study just published in Frontiers in Psychology says that high-tempo music can both improve the benefits of exercise and make it seem less difficult to complete. The effect was greater in those doing high-intensity exercise like weightlifting and those engaged in endurance exercise, like walking.

If music can give exercisers an edge, might it be one way to keep those “resolutionaries” who showed up at gyms and health clubs across America in January going long enough to actually succeed? Is it gaining an advantage as simple as listening to a certain kind of music while you exercise?

This study is the first of its’ kind to link listening to high-tempo music while exercising to perceived reduction of effort and increased benefits. The researchers were hoping to find ways to help people increase and improve their exercise habits.

We know that millions of people listen to music while exercising. We also know from previous research that music can take your mind off the discomfort of physical exertion and fatigue. It can also be what encourages some people to join in and do some exercise.

The experience of music is very personal and subjective, however. There are personal preferences as well as cultural factors which combine to influence how we experience music and it’s effects on us. Rhythm, melody, mood and lyrics all play a part in the experience and what we take from it.

In order to unlock music’s full potential as an exercise enhancer, researchers first needed to understand some specifics about it. Which specific properties of music effect us during exercise? Which varieties of music are best suited to which types of exercise?


The research team began by looking at how the tempo of a specific piece of music affected female volunteers who were either engaged in endurance exercise by walking on a treadmill or performing high-intensity exercise by using a leg press.

Some exercisers worked in silence, while others listened to popular music at a variety of tempos. Researchers looked at a variety of data that included the exercisers opinions about the amount of effort required to complete the exercise and their heart rate while doing so. An increased heart rate indicated that the exercise was of greater physical fitness benefit.

“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,” explained Professor Luca P. Ardigò of the University of Verona in Italy. “This means that the exercise seemed like less effort, but it was more beneficial in terms of enhancing physical fitness.”

While both groups benefited from listening to music, the greatest benefit seemed to accrue to the endurance exercisers. This is an indication that those engaged in endurance activities like walking, running, cycling or hiking may receive the biggest “bang for the beat” from high-tempo music.

The current study was small and researchers hope to perform similar studies with larger samples in the future. They believe their results may offer a simple way to improve levels and effectiveness of physical activities simply by adding a musical element.

“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.

It’s been said that music holds charms to calm the savage beast. Apparently, it also holds something that may charge up your workout!

Keep the faith and keep after it!

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Journal Reference – Vittoria Maria Patania, Johnny Padulo, Enzo Iuliano, Luca Paolo Ardigò, Dražen Čular, Alen Miletić, Andrea De Giorgio. The Psychophysiological Effects of Different Tempo Music on Endurance Versus High-Intensity Performances. Frontiers in Psychology, 2020; 11 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00074

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