Music is a big part of the workout experience. It would be unsettling if you went into a gym that had absolutely no music playing, just silence. Not only can music drown out the sound of your fellow exercisers huffing and puffing, it can actually boost performance.
It’s no secret that a good song can make you work harder, but why does that happen? Researchers have actually looked into this phenomenon, and found some interesting results. One study, published in 2017, led young male and female participants through an aerobic workout.
They let the participants decide how long they’d exercise for, but kept them moving at a pretty good pace. The group that didn’t listen to music stopped at, on average, 22 minutes into the workout. Participants listening to music lasted 37 minutes on average, 15 minutes more!
Interestingly, the people who listened to music had a higher heart rate than those who didn’t. The researchers were confused, because they couldn’t trace back the increase in heart rate to a change in workout intensity or duration. That means music simply makes your heart beat faster.
A more-recent study investigated what type of music makes people work harder. They split songs into groups by tempo. There was a low, medium, and high-tempo group. Furthermore, they split up participants into two different workouts. One group did a circuit-style workout, the other moved at a constant pace (endurance workout).
Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that faster music makes people work harder. They considered a medium tempo song to be between 130-150 beats per minute, and a fast song to be between 150-170.
So, does just any music boost performance, as long as it’s at the right tempo? That might not be the case, according to research published in Functional Morphology and Kinesiology. The researchers were trying to figure out if it’s more important to listen to music you enjoy, rather than just playing anything.
They found that listening to music you don’t enjoy can actually hurt performance! However, if you listen to music you do enjoy before your workout, the performance-enhancing effect can last until the workout is over.
It’s important to recognize that music is a cheap, effective way to get a good workout. If you’re tired and dragging, at least try to listen to music you enjoy on the way to the gym. That can be all you need to hit some new personal records.