By Kennedy Shelley
Can you maximize your workout by increasing music tempo?
That question has finally been answered by science.
Most trainers and athletes have known for decades that music makes the workout go by faster, but this study wanted to see if you fooled yourself into working out harder depending on the beat of the song.
The researchers don’t call it “fooling yourself” the technical term is Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE), but in essence that is the way of measuring how fast and how hard you think you are working out.
The RPE is your view of how hard you thought you worked; it is subjective. But it can be graphed against the actual heart rate which does show how hard you worked.
While we all have our favorite music to listen to, the question was can you get better workouts with higher tempo music?
There were 19 female participants in the study from 24-31 and the study was held in Italy. This was not a randomized trial; these were all healthy women who volunteered.
All of them engaged in physical activity 3-5 times a week for at least one year.
They were tested on two types of exercise – endurance work (i.e. a treadmill) and high-intensity training (i.e. weightlifting).
They would then work out in four segments:
- No Music
- low: 90–110 bpm (beats per minute)
- medium: 130–150 bpm
- high: 170–190 bpm
The music was shuffled randomly to keep it from being part of the routine.
So on the endurance, the participants walked on a treadmill for 10 minutes at 4 miles an hour. They would measure the heart rate and ask how tired they were.
Then on high intensity, they were told to lift ten times and the load was increased until they could not perform ten repetitions.
Again, their heart rate was noted, and they were asked about their perceived rate of exertion.
Some music helped every type of exercise. But the study showed that the faster the tempo the more profound the energizing effect during the endurance work.
This means that we fool ourselves into thinking we are giving less effort than we really are when we are using up-tempo music.
So, if you want to run harder and faster, you need fast beat music.
But the results were not as profound on weightlifting.
It is theorized that we have to focus and concentrate during lifting and the subconscious effect of music isn’t as powerful as a distraction.
In other words, it is tough to fool yourself during lifting.
What is nice today is you don’t have to break down songs to get the right beat per minute, many music services will do it for you automatically.
The authors noted:
“repeated movements seem to be related to the phases between pulse music beats, stimulating a feedback/forward loop and that rhythm may even result in improved execution of movements.”
Music seems to have a profound impact on the autonomic nervous system and even affects our blood pressure and heart rate.
They are hoping in the next study to look at music genres and work with a broader group of subjects.
But the takeaway from this is that you should be listening to fast-paced music during your runs or bike rides if you want to push yourself to get faster and not feel as tired.