Could music improve your 5K running time?

A groundbreaking new study of real runners has revealed some incredible new facts about the impact music can have on your running, especially over a 5K distance.

Could music improve your 5K running time?

Music comes with a multitude of fitness benefits!

  • Listening to music while you run makes you run faster‚Ä®.
  • Choosing your own music is more effective than music with a high BPM.
  • Listening to your favourite tunes after you run speeds up your post-run recovery‚Ä®.

Find out exactly how music can help your running, what you should be listening to, and when, below.

Study criteria

This study goes beyond previous research by introducing more realistic variables. A previous experiment conducted at Brunel University in 2008 found that listening to music while you exercise could increase your endurance by up to 15%. All thirty participants were asked to exercise on a treadmill while listening to a selection of carefully chosen loud and high tempo motivational rock or pop music.

This new study however, took participants outside where variables like weather become a factor, better simulating a training situation. These runners were also asked to choose their own music in an attempt to prove that music is more than just a distraction technique and actually evokes an emotional and physical response.

Chosen for the study were 15 amateur male runners between the ages of 23 and 26, weighing between 68 and 88kg, and who ran between 4-10 hours per week with 3-6 years of experience or training in an attempt to find normal, but well trained runners.

These runners were then asked to choose 10 slow songs (80-100bmp), 10 medium speed songs (110-150bmp), and 10 fast songs (140-160bpm). The only criteria was that they had to be songs they thought would motivate them.

Performance and speed

All participants performed five physical tests individually where they had to run 5K as fast as they could.

The study found that by listening to music before you set off, your body is better prepared and able to pick up your heart rate more easily making your run feel easier.

During their runs they were asked questions such as 'how hard is your task at the moment?' as well as being monitored on a variety of different physical changes such as heart rate and rate of perceived exertion.

When both fast and slow music was listened to during the run, the runners showed significant improvement to their initial speed in the first 800m, decreasing their initial two lap times.

Overall the runners' results show that:

  • A massive 89 per cent were more likely to perform better with slow but motivational music.
  • A huge 85 per cent were more likely to perform better with fast but motivational music.

The tests also found that listening to music created an increased parasympathetic tone; your heart rate and respiratory rate slow down, you need less oxygen, making it easier for your body to run.

Recovery

Another key finding in this study was that listening to slow or calmer music after your run helps you recover faster. When the slow music was played the heart rate and respiratory rate slowed down at a faster rate than without music.

This study suggests that synchronous music (songs with a clear and steady beat) is much more likely to elevate your performance but that asynchronous music (background music) can still have a great effect.

So there's no need to worry about what your music is or whether it has the perfect beat for training; just choose music you like and run!

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