Music and Physical Performance

As you may be aware, I have a bit of experience with exercise-y type things. However, you don’t have to be an exercise physiologist to realize that music can be utilized as a stimulant and/or sedative. It is widely accepted that music is helpful during workouts, but in this post, we’ll look at some details of why this is the case. Now, let’s get to the science, shall we?

Epinephrine and norepinephrine are the primary hormones synthesized by the adrenal medulla that are associated with the “fight or flight” response. When released, they increase heart rate, increase blood pressure, force constriction of blood vessels, raise respiratory rate, decrease the rate of digestion, increase efficiency of muscle contraction, increase blood sugar level and cellular metabolism. Needless to say, these factors greatly influence physical performance. Here’s a study that associates slow and fast music tempos with the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine, as measured during cycling…

Effects of pre-exercise listening to slow and fast rhythm music on supramaximal cycle performance and selected metabolic variables. Yamamoto T, Ohkuwa T, Itoh H, Kitoh M, Terasawa J, Tsuda T, Kitagawa S, Sato Y. Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and Sports, Nagoya University, 464-8601, Japan. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2003 Jul;111(3):211-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14972741

“Listening to slow rhythm music decreases the plasma norepinephrine level, and listening to fast rhythm music increases the plasma epinephrine level. The type of music has no impact on power output during exercise.”

Simple, eh? Forget the pre-workout drink, just make sure you have plenty of fast-tempo songs on your iPod. Here’s another study that supports fast-tempo music for raising the heart rate…

Revisiting the relationship between exercise heart rate and music tempo preference. Karageorghis CI, Jones L, Priest DL, Akers RI, Clarke A, Perry JM, Reddick BT, Bishop DT, Lim HB. School of Sport and Education, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, UK.  Res Q Exerc Sport. 2011 Sep;82(3):592. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21699107

“Slow tempo music was not preferred at any exercise intensity, preference for fast tempo increased, relative to medium and very fast tempo music, as exercise intensity increased.”

This study correlated music with increased grip strength, an excellent indicator of the strength of the neural connection to the muscles through the nervous system…

Effects of pretest stimulative and sedative music on grip strength. Karageorghis CI, Drew KM, Terry PC. School of Physical Education and Sport, Brunel University College, UK. Percept Mot Skills. 1996 Dec;83(3 Pt 2):1347-52. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9017751

“Repeated-measures analysis of variance and post hoc tests showed that participants evidenced higher grip strength after listening to stimulative music than after sedative music or a white noise control condition.”

Music can directly effect the autonomic nervous system at high exercise intensities, but what about lower intensity activity? Well, even though it hasn’t been as strongly associated with physiological effects, this study finds that it still might be useful in limiting fatigue…

Effects of music during exercise on RPE, heart rate and the autonomic nervous system. Yamashita S, Iwai K, Akimoto T, Sugawara J, Kono I. Center for Humanity and Sciences, Ibaraki Prefectural University of Health Sciences, Ami, Japan. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2006 Sep;46(3):425-30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16998447

“When jogging or walking at comparatively low exercise intensity, listening to a favorite piece of music might decrease the influence of stress caused by fatigue, thus increasing the ”comfort” level of performing the exercise.”

Here’s more research that supports that perceived fatigue levels are lower during submaximal exercise if the trainee is listening to music…

Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance. Waterhouse J, Hudson P, Edwards B. Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Henry Cotton Campus, Liverpool, UK. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Aug;20(4):662-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00948.x. Epub 2009 Sep 28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793214

“Healthy individuals performing submaximal exercise not only worked harder with faster music but also chose to do so and enjoyed the music more when it was played at a faster tempo.”

Now that we’ve covered the effects of music during exercise, let’s move on to the recovery period post-exercise.

Effect of different musical tempo on post-exercise recovery in young adults. Savitha D, Mallikarjuna RN, Rao C. Departament of Physiology, Narayana Medical College, Nellore 524 002. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2010 Jan-Mar;54(1):32-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21046917

“The study concluded that music hastens post exercise recovery and slow music has greater relaxation effect than fast or no music, recovery time being independent of the gender and individual music preference.”

There you have it — music is helpful pre, post, and during exercise to manipulate psychological and physical attributes.

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Sources

Effect of different musical tempo on post-exercise recovery in young adults. Savitha D, Mallikarjuna RN, Rao C. Departament of Physiology, Narayana Medical College, Nellore 524 002. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2010 Jan-Mar;54(1):32-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21046917

Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance. Waterhouse J, Hudson P, Edwards B. Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Henry Cotton Campus, Liverpool, UK. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Aug;20(4):662-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00948.x. Epub 2009 Sep 28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793214

Effects of music during exercise on RPE, heart rate and the autonomic nervous system. Yamashita S, Iwai K, Akimoto T, Sugawara J, Kono I. Center for Humanity and Sciences, Ibaraki Prefectural University of Health Sciences, Ami, Japan. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2006 Sep;46(3):425-30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16998447

Effects of pre-exercise listening to slow and fast rhythm music on supramaximal cycle performance and selected metabolic variables. Yamamoto T, Ohkuwa T, Itoh H, Kitoh M, Terasawa J, Tsuda T, Kitagawa S, Sato Y. Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and Sports, Nagoya University, 464-8601, Japan. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2003 Jul;111(3):211-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14972741

Effects of pretest stimulative and sedative music on grip strength. Karageorghis CI, Drew KM, Terry PC. School of Physical Education and Sport, Brunel University College, UK. Percept Mot Skills. 1996 Dec;83(3 Pt 2):1347-52. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9017751

Musical feedback during exercise machine workout enhances mood. Fritz TH1, Halfpaap J2, Grahl S2, Kirkland A2, Villringer A2. Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science Leipzig, Germany. Front Psychol. 2013 Dec 10;4:921. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00921. eCollection 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24368905

Revisiting the relationship between exercise heart rate and music tempo preference. Karageorghis CI, Jones L, Priest DL, Akers RI, Clarke A, Perry JM, Reddick BT, Bishop DT, Lim HB. School of Sport and Education, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, UK.  Res Q Exerc Sport. 2011 Sep;82(3):592. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21699107

The effects of synchronous music on 400-m sprint performance. Simpson SD, Karageorghis CI. School of Sport and Education, Brunel University, West London, Uxbridge, UK. J Sports Sci. 2006 Oct;24(10):1095-102. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17115524

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