An iPod or MP3 player strapped to your arm is a must-have accessory for many runners. But more than just a fitness fashion statement, scientific research shows that listening to tunes while pounding the pavement or treadmill has numerous benefits. Here are six, plus some tips for getting the most out of your workout music:
1. Music will fire you up before a run
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that runners who listened to music before a run had a decreased vagal tone. “A decreased what?!” you say. Vagal tone is a brain process related to the autonomic, or involuntary, nervous system. In non-science geek terms, having a decreased vagal tone before a run makes you more aroused – in other words, pumped!!
2. Music will help you to run faster
The same study also found when the runners listened to music they ran the first two laps of a 5km run faster than when they didn’t. After those initial laps though, music didn’t appear to have a huge effect on running time. This backs up previous research which found the higher your effort level, the less magic music will have on performance. Simply put, a few rocking songs will get the best out of you in the early stages of a run.
3. Music will boost your mood
When we feel good we’re more enthusiastic about working out. Numerous studies have shown uplifting music enhances our mood and changes our frame of mind.
Also read: 5 Habits Fit People Live By
4. Music will fool you into thinking running is easy
Listening to music in the early stages of a run can reduce your perception of how hard you are pushing by about 10 per cent, according to experts. As music is an ‘external stimuli’ it can block out the body’s internal voices, which might be crying out, “I’m fatigued!” This stops happening though when the brain switches its attention inwards during higher levels of effort.
5. Music will help you to keep pace
Runners are always talking about ‘getting into their rhythm.’ Well, a 2012 Brunel University study has given a whole new meaning to this. It found that a good beat can help you keep pace when running, with music able to stimulate the motor area of the brain enabling us to get moving.
6. Music will help you unwind after a run
Listening to calming music after running will help your body return to its pre-run state faster. Brazilian researchers analysed the effect of post-run music on runners’ internal systems, including their heart rates and found this to be the case.
What type of music?
As to what music to listen to while running, not surprisingly fast-paced is best. In 2009, researchers at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University found that bike riders’ heart rates and mileage decreased when listening to slow tempo music. Also a 2006 University of Plymouth study found runners selecting a speedier treadmill pace when listening to fast and loud music.