High tempo music makes for easier exercise

Running with music - Frank Cone via Pexels

By Jack Robert Stacey

With many flocking to the gym to fulfil their New Year’s Resolutions, a new study shows that, during strenuous physical activity, upbeat music can have a significant mental impact, stimulating us for success and increasing our effectiveness when exercising. 

Research collated by Frontiers in Psychology highlights a close association between high-tempo music and increased levels of cardiovascular performance. Specifically, it notes that the upbeat music with approximately 170-190 beats per minute reduces the perceived amount of effort required in a physical activity, subsequently making the training appear more achievable and the exercise feel easier to the participant.

Although the notion that music had an impact on physical performance had been widely accepted amongst most researchers for many years, this new report is much more in-depth and proves this theory to be correct. However, other aspects of music, including genre and lyrics, that may have a direct impact on our cardiovascular capabilities have yet to be examined in the same level of detail as tempo. 

In this investigation, the researchers examined the effects of music with different tempos on 19 “active women” aged between 24 and 29. The performers were studied in high-intensity and endurance training scenarios, using the leg press and treadmill respectively in tandem with no music, low tempo music (90-110 bpm), medium tempo music (130-150 bpm), or high tempo music (170-190 bpm). Through repetition the research suggested that the use of high-tempo music in an endurance training scenario slightly raises the “metabolic demand” of the performers, reaching 11% in contrast to the 6.5% of high-intensity activity. 

Modern athletes, and their coaches, have long implemented music regularly within their training regimes to serve as inspiration in the pressured and physically demanding environment. Before taking part in professional competition, many athletes, including Olympic medallists Courtney Hurley and Jason Rogers, cite music as their optimal way to “pump up” before competing; noting that it is critical that the song have a deep emotional significance and/or get them in a good mindset.  

While the research implies that high-tempo music should be used to boost physical performance, further research is required to be conclusive. This research has opened up a previously theoretical area of psychological and scientific debate, alerting us to the future promise of utilising music in varying manners to achieve maximal performance in athletes.


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