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How does music impact your performance?

Updated: May 31, 2023

Nowadays, if you pay attention to people exercising, you might see that lots of them are wearing air plugs.

They can be weight-lifting at the gym, running in a parc or cycling, a big majority seems to be listening to music.

But is that a good or a bad thing? How does music impact your performances?

There are studies that can help us answering these questions.

One of these studies selected 30 people and tested them on a 5 x 10 minutes run on a treadmill.

They were listening to music either fast/loud, fast/quiet, slow/loud or slow/quiet.

And measures of running speed, heart rate and perceived exertion were observed.

After the tests, searchers noticed significant effects and interactions for running speed and heart rate. But no difference for perceived exertion.

Which means that if you are running and listening to music at the same time, your speed and cardiac rythm are both affected by the tempo of it but you are less aware of your body tireness.

An information that can be usefull if you are trying to perform your best for a race or just for personal reasons.

Whilst it is important to pay specific attention to your body's feedback to make sure you are not going beyond your limits and possibilities.

Also it is important to note that in this study fast/loud music was the one that enhanced the most the performances.

girl listenning to music with headphones, brown jumper and brown background
Music & its impact on performances

The importance of music choice

A different study that measured performances and perceived exertion on runners listening to self-selected motivational music showed an interesting result.

If runners select the music they would like to listen to, there is a small increase in performances (-10 seconds on a 1.5 miles run).

However there is a significant decrease in perceived exertion (-0.5 points).

Two results that confirm the positive impact of music on performances but also accentuates the fact that listening to music make you feel less exhausted whenever you are running.

A mental boost that is not negligeable.

Another study of 2006 corroborates these results.

Participants increased their pace and distance travelled while listening to high paced music without becoming more tired.

girl listening to music wearing a yellow t shirt and jeans and glasses surrounded by plants
Music choices

Music improves aerobic performances but what about anaerobic?

In 2011, 8 men and 7 women (from 18 to 25 years old) got tested on bench press followed by a wingate test while listening to self-selected music.

They performed 5 sets at 70% of their 1RM and the results were the same for both men and women.

There has been an increase in total work, peak power and reps.

Also, their heart rate regulated quicker after the wingate test.

man wearing purple tank and white hairband walking on treadmil in a gym and  listening to music with headphones
Music while working out

The limits of music effect on anaerobic exercises.

This study of 2021 examined the effects of slow and fast music tempo on perceived exertion, affect, heart rate, and performances during isometric strength exercises (what are isometric exercises).

Participants were assigned to one of three conditions (no-music control, fast-tempo music, and slow-tempo music) and performed two isometric strength exercises (wall-sit and plank).

Results showed that slow and fast tempo got better results at the wall-sit exercise but similar results for the plank.

Also neither music condition affected perceived exertion, heart rate or affect.

girl listening to music on the beach, running, wearing a yellow top and curly hair and headphones
Music & run

In conclusion

It seems that music definitely enhances aerobic performances, like running.

About anaerobic performances the results vary.

Concentric and eccentric exercises seem also to be enhanced by music which is not always the case for isometric exercises.

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