In this post, you will learn about the research that supports running with music. This is Part 2 of my series on Running with Music. Read Part 1, Is Listening to Music While Running OK?
The Psychological Effects of Music
Dr. Costas Karageorghis, deputy head of research of the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University in London, has spent the last 20 years researching the psychological effects of music in sports. In 2007, he published a paper about it in The Sport Journal. According to Dr. Karageorghis, music can help you improve your running performance in five key ways:
- Arousal Regulation
- Acquisition of Motor Skills
- Attainment of Flow
Listening to Music Can Make You Feel Less Tired
Dissociation refers to the idea that music can divert the mind from feelings of fatigue, essentially lowering perceptions of effort and promoting a positive mood state. In other words, listening to music while running can make you feel less tired while also making you feel happier. Furthermore, this is particularly true at low and moderate intensities.
Put simply, music can make a somewhat-hard training session seem more fun.
Listening to Music Can Prepare You For a Race
Music alters emotional and physiological arousal and can be used to help you feel calm. Similarly, music can also help you get psyched up for an event. This is known as Arousal Regulation.
Running to the Beat Can Prolong Your Performance
Synchronization refers to moving “in time to music”. Musical tempos can regulate your movements and prolong your performance. Synchronizing movements with music also enables you to perform more efficiently, resulting in greater endurance. The synchronization effect in running was demonstrated in an experimental setting by Karageorghis, who found that motivational synchronous music improved running speed significantly in a 400-m sprint, compared to a no-music control condition.
Music Can Help You Acquire Better Motor Skills
Music has also been found to aid in the acquisition of motor skills in the following three ways:
- By transporting the body through effective movement patterns.
- The lyrics from well-chosen music can reinforce essential aspects of a sporting technique (The researchers provide an example of playing Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” while practicing the shot put to reinforce pushing at the end and not throwing.).
- Music makes the learning environment more fun, increasing players’ intrinsic motivation to master key skills.
Music Can Help You Attain a Flow State
And finally, the researchers found that music may help in the attainment of flow, the pinnacle of intrinsic motivation. Karageorghis conducted several research studies that found that music improved athlete’s scores on the Flow State Scale (FSS) developed by Jackson and Marsh in 1996.
The Effect of Music Listening on Running Performance and Rating of Perceived Exertion
Randy Bonnette and his colleagues at Texas A & M University published this research in 2012. In this study, 28 students ran one-and-a-half miles during two timed trials with and without music. Runners selected music that they enjoyed. Statistical analyses determined a significant difference between running performance without music listening and running performance with music listening.
Interestingly, music did not affect how hard the runners felt they were running. As a result, the researchers recommend that runners should consider listening to music while training to enhance performance.
Coupling Cadence with the Right Beats
A year later in 2013, Robert Jan Bood, Marijn Nijssen, John van der Kamp, and Melvyn Roerdink published their research study titled “The Power of Auditory-Motor Synchronization in Sports: Enhancing Running Performance by Coupling Cadence with the Right Beats”. Bood and his colleagues had nineteen participants run to exhaustion on a treadmill under three conditions:
- Listening to the steady beat of a metronome.
- Listening to the beat of the music.
- A control condition with no acoustic stimuli.
They found that runners could run longer when they had acoustic stimuli than when they didn’t. Surprisingly, they found no difference between the two experimental conditions: running to the beat of a metronome vs. running to the beat of motivational music. It would seem that simply running to the beat was enough to allow these runners to run longer.
Put simply, the researchers concluded that motivational music with the right beat helps runners to work harder and more efficiently, which is likely to enhance their running performance.
How Does Music Aid Running?
In 2015, Marcelo Bigliassi, Umberto León-Domínguez, Cosme F Buzzachera, Vinícius Barreto-Silva, and Leandro R Altimariin published “How does music aid 5 K of running?” in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Fifteen male long-distance runners participated in five randomized experimental conditions in which they listened to slow and fast motivational music either before or while running a 5K. Of course, this was in addition to a condition in which the runners listened to no music. The researchers concluded that music
- Could minimize perceptions, improve performance, and accelerate recovery.
- Was correlated with increased well-being and reduced anxiety, generating positive emotional consequences.
- Accelerated the vagal tonus, which means your body can relax faster after stress.
Synchronizing Steps in Running
And as recently as 2019, Poel, de, H., van der meer, E., Frank, B., & Blikslager, published “Synchronizing Steps in Running”. In this study, the researchers found that running to the beat may enhance performance.
Almost shockingly, the researchers also found that if the beat doesn’t match the runner’s step rate, his performance may suffer!
So that’s my rundown on the research on running with music. I’d like to know what you think in the comments below.
And stay tuned for Part 3.
Keep running to the beat!
Bood, Robert Jan, et al. “The Power of Auditory-Motor Synchronization in Sports: Enhancing Running Performance by Coupling Cadence with the Right Beats.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0070758
Karageorghis, Costas, and David-Lee Priest. “Music in Sport and Exercise : An Update on Research and Application.” The Sport Journal, 20 Oct. 2016, thesportjournal.org/article/music-sport-and-exercise-update-research-and-application/.
Bonnette, Randy, and Morgan C Smith III. “The Effect of Music Listening on Running Performance and Rating of Perceived Exertion of College Students.” The Sport Journal, 25 Nov. 2013, thesportjournal.org/article/the-effect-of-music-listening-on-running-performance-and-rating-of-perceived-exertion-of-college-students/.
Bigliassi, M, and U León-Domínguez. “How Does Music Aid 5 Km of Running?” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25029009/.