High-tempo music may make exercise easier and more beneficial, study suggests

A study published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Psychology’ is the first to shed light on the psycho-physiological effects of high-tempo music on endurance
in high-intensity performance

Listening to high-tempo music such as Taylor Swift, Green Day or Caro Emerald may give you the boost you need to get off the couch and resume a healthy lifestyle. The impact of high-tempo music on physical exercise is the subject of a study published in ‘Frontiers in Psychology’ and conducted by the University of Verona with co-author Luca Paolo Ardigò, professor of Methodology and didactics of physical activities at the department of Neuroscience, biomedicine and movement of the University of Verona, directed by Andrea Sbarbati. The study was conducted in collaboration with Vittoria Maria Patania, Dražen Čular and Alen Miletić, from the University of Split (Croatia), Johnny Padulo, from the University of Milan, Enzo Iuliano and Andrea De Giorgio, from the eCampus University of Novedrate.

The study has found that, when it comes to exercising, listening to high-tempo music (170-190 beats per minute) can improve your training performance with less effort, and boost your mood. With the right music, training can become much more enjoyable and effective. What’s more, specific types of music can increase the benefits of training and reduce the perception of physical exertion. Choosing what music to listen to is, actually, a very subjective matter based on individual or cultural preferences, but the study demonstrates that the ideal music for training is high-tempo music, especially when doing endurance exercises such as walking, or when training with high intensity exercises such as weightlifting.

The team of researchers at the University of Verona recruited 19 female volunteers to either perform endurance training (walking on a treadmill) or high-intensity exercises (such as using a leg press). Volunteers either performed the exercise in silence or completed the session while listening to music at different tempos, including low (90-110 BPM), medium (130-150 BPM) and high (170-190 BPM).

Some parameters such as maximum strength, the perception of the effort required by the exercise, and heart rate were then analysed, assuming that the higher this is, the more the exercise is beneficial for fitness.

“We found that listening to high-tempo music while exercising resulted in the highest heart rate and lowest perceived exertion compared with not listening to music,” explained Ardigò. “This means that the exercise seemed like less effort, but it was more beneficial in terms of enhancing physical fitness.”

This research opens up a number of scenarios. First of all, researchers aim to carry out a study on the impact that music can have on fitness with a larger sample, including men and individuals of different ages. Other possible developments would involve looking at aspects such as music genre, melody or lyrics, as understanding these elements could help unleash the full potential of music as a tool to boost physical performance.