Does Music Aid Running?

Some people believe listening to music while they run pushes them harder.  Others believe it’s a distraction. Who’s right? Does music aid running?

In 2014, 15 well-trained male long-distance runners with an average age of 24 participated in a study to investigate the effects of music on performance during a 5km run. They gave each runner a mobile music device and tested five different types of songs:

  1. PM: Motivational songs, applied before 5 km of running;
  2. SM: Slow motivational songs, applied during 5 km;
  3. FM: Fast and motivational songs, applied during 5 km;
  4. CS: Calm songs, applied after 5 km;
  5. CO: Control.

Psychophysiological assessments were done before (functional near-infrared spectroscopy, heart rate variability, valence and arousal), during (performance time, heart rate and rate of perceived exertion) and after (mood, rate of perceived exertion and heart rate variability) tests.

The results

The first 800 meters were accomplished faster for SM and FM compared to other conditions (P < 0.05); moreover, there was a high probability of improving running performance when music was applied (SM: 89%; FM: 85%; PM: 39%). Finally, music was capable of accelerating vagal tonus (the vagus nerve) after 5 km of running with CS (P < 0.05).

So there you have it, music was able to activate the prefrontal cortex area, minimize perceptions, improve performance and accelerate recovery during 5 km of running. Good stuff. So strap on that iPod and get running!


How Does Music Aid 5KM of Running? J Strength Cond Res, 2014 Jul 15, Bigliassi M., Leon-Dominguez U, et al. PMID: 25029009