Should you listen to music while running?

15 May, 2019 • by Admin

Do you listen to music while running or exercising? There are pros and cons to turning up the audio when you’re working out.

Listening to music when you hit the gym or running on the road to improve your workout isn't exactly a new concept. But understanding how your favorite tunes enhance your exercise is a little less obvious.

The first run I did five years ago, I had no music and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the whole experience. But then my brother gave me an iPod, and we joke that that’s what turned me into a runner.

Men and women process music differently. Women tend to focus on the melodies, while men are more interested in the lyrics. Hip-hop ranks most popular among men, while women are after a faster tempo and more lighthearted lyrics.

I tend to customize an intense, high-energy build before a big push in class and before all-out running speed on the treadmills. I think people work their hardest when they have a good mix of songs they can sing along to in their heads, or zone out to and forget the discomfort.

Benefits of Music While Running

There’s undeniably a vast number of benefits that listening to music in the gym provides which can all come together to give you the best workouts of your life. Experiment with different kinds of music so you can figure out what works best for you and then, most importantly, enjoy yourself!

  • Music makes you happier: your brain releases a ‘happy hormone’, dopamine when you listen to music as neuroscientist
  • Music enhances running performance: runners who listened to fast or slow motivational music completed the first 800 metres of their run faster than those that listened to calm music or ran without.
  • Music lowers stress: listening to music can decrease levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
  • Music reduces depression: if you are having a challenging day, lift your spirits with some classical or meditative music.
  • Music is the good kind of distraction: while the study did suggest there's more to it than distraction, working out with music did make participants less aware of their exertion.
  • Music ups your effort: a study found that cyclists actually worked harder when listening to faster music as compared to music at a slower tempo
  • Music puts you "in the zone": we associate certain songs with memories, often relating to the context in which we originally heard them
  • A good beat can help you keep pace: The rhythm of your workout music stimulates the motor area of the brain as to when to move, thereby aiding self-paced exercises such as running or weight-lifting.
  • Music can elevate your mood: listening to music allowed them to think about themselves, who they wanted to be and give them an escape from the present
  • Music makes you want to move: the brain gets excited and induces movement in the listener
  • Losing track of time: listening to music has the effect of making time feel faster than it usually does

Why People Don’t Listen to Music While Running

While it works for many, music isn’t for every runner. Some might find it a distraction, certain races prohibit headphone use and safety is a consideration as music can shut out nearby noises.

  • One downside is that your cadence may be off, as you'll likely speed up and slow down based on the tempo of the music. That's fine if you're doing a run when you don't care too much about your pace, but it can be a disadvantage when you're trying to pace for a specific workout or race.
  • One of the main reasons to leave your headphones at home is for your own safety. We might come across distracted drivers, cyclists, or oblivious walkers, sometimes with their own headphones in. If you are consumed in your music on a run, you might not be able to hear approaching cars, people trying to communicate with you, or even bad weather in the distance. In 2016, there were more than 3,000 deaths caused by distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you know you’ll be on a busy road or packed towpath, it might be best to ignore the headphones for one run.
  • You don’t want to become dependent on music to get you through a run because on race day, you might have to be your own inspiration, it is inefficient to run a race unevenly like this, and it will come back to haunt you
  • In today’s society, distractions from technology are everywhere, and a person without a phone in their hand is a rare site. Running is a way for many to clear their heads and get away from these distractions, and Denison believes music negatively effects that experience.

Choose the Right Music

How to choose the right music for working out? Well, unfortunately the answer is not so straightforward. Musical tastes are often subjective. Not everyone loves pumping electro beats. However, a general pattern can still be found. First of all, it can be a good idea to think about which type of workout you’re about to do. Choose a type of music where the rhythm and tempo match with the exercises. Research suggests that some activities, especially those that are characterized by repetitiveness such as warm-ups, stretching and circuit training are particularly suitable to perform while listening to accompanying music.

It is important to take the intensity of the activity into account. When we want to raise the heart rate while doing a workout, such as running, it is better to select music where there is a gradual raise of the tempo.

In recovery sessions, especially after complex and structured workouts, it is better to listen to music that changes tempo and rhythm, for example from slow to fast or from loud to soft.


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