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Tune in for better performance

Listening to music can improve your training performance, so grab your iPod and get outside for a walk or run....

Many people believe that listening to music during exercise results in improvements in performance. Surely it must be easier to do that long run while bopping away to your favourite tunes?! And how much easier is a long cycle at the gym with a TV to watch?! However until now very little research has been conducted examining the effects of music on actual performance.

ipod music exercise motivationRecently researchers from Loughborough University and Liverpool John Moores University examined the physiological and psychological effects of music on 10-km cycling time trial performance. A total of 16 endurance athletes who utilized cycling in their training were recruited for this study. Each subject performed two 10-km time trials, one of which required subjects to listen to music. The music selected was categorized as 'trance' music, which was a form of dance music with a tempo of ~142 beats per minute.

The results of the study suggest that the utilization of music did contribute to a significantly higher mean speed (+2.6% km/h), mean power (+4.7% W), and mean heart rate (+4.2 beats/min) when compared to the time trial performed without music. Close inspection of the music time trial revealed that the subjects cycled faster during the first 3 km and last km of the time trial when compared to the condition that did not have music.

When looking at the subjects’ rating of perceived exertion (RPE) during the time trials, it was determined that the music condition elicited a significantly higher average RPE (+5.6%) when compared to the time trial performed without music. Further exploration into why the music was effective revealed that the music’s 'tempo' and 'rhythm' were the most motivating components of the music.

In conclusion, it appears that using music can enhance performance through increasing the athlete’s ability to maintain higher speeds, power output, and heart rates during 10-km time-trial performance. However, the athlete may have to pay particular attention to the initiation of the time trial, as a fast start may impair performance at the end of the race.

Based upon this research, it appears that dance music that has a fast 'tempo' (and contains strong rhythms) may be the most beneficial type of music for the athlete to select. So get some solid tunes into your iPod or MP3 player and enjoy the benefits that music will have on your performance!

Atkinson G, Wilson D, Eubank M. (2004). Effects of music on work-rate distribution during a cycling time trial. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 25:611 – 615.

Source: NSCA website.

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