Listening to music can make up for mental fatigue while running, says study

Listening to music can make up for mental fatigue while running, says study

Listening to music while running could help combat mental fatigue, research suggests (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Listening to music while running could help improve people’s performance when they feel mentally fatigued, a new study suggests.

The research found that the performance of runners who listened to a self-selected playlist as they ran after completing a demanding thinking task was at the same level as when they were not mentally fatigued.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used two tests to study how listening to music affected the running of 18 fitness enthusiasts.

One test looked at the effects on interval running capacity – alternating between high intensity running and lower intensity jogging – with a group of nine exercisers, and the other on a 5km time-trial with a group of nine trained runners.

The groups completed a 30-minute computer based cognitive test which put them in a mentally fatigued state before completing high intensity exercise.

They were tested with and without motivational music which they selected.

The research team took into account the results of a baseline test taken by participants which they did without completing a mentally demanding test beforehand and without music.

The researchers found the interval running capacity among the mentally fatigued fitness enthusiasts was moderately greater with music compared to without music, and was the same as when the participants were not mentally fatigued.

The 5km time-trial performances also showed small improvements with self-selected music versus no music.

Researchers say the positive effects of music could potentially be due to altered perception of effort when listening to tunes.

Dr Shaun Phillips, of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education and Sport, said: “Mental fatigue is a common occurrence for many of us, and can negatively impact many of our day-to-day activities, including exercise. Finding safe and effective ways to reduce this negative impact is therefore useful.

“The findings indicate that listening to self-selected motivational music may be a useful strategy to help active people improve their endurance running capacity and performance when mentally fatigued.

“This positive impact of self-selected music could help people to better maintain the quality and beneficial impact of their exercise sessions.”

Runners listened to tunes by musicians including Jay Z (Yui Mok/PA)

Researchers helped participants chose motivational songs with a pre-test questionnaire asking them to rate the rhythm, style, melody, tempo, sound and beat of the music.

Examples of songs participants listened to included Everyday (A$ap Rocky), Addicted To You (Avicii), Run This Town (Jay-Z), Power (Kanye West), No One Knows (Queens of the Stone Age) and Eye of the Tiger (Survivor).

During the exercise, heart rate and rating of perceived exertion were measured at several points.

Researchers say there are opportunities for further study into how listening to music while running affects larger and different groups of people, in different settings, and using different exercise challenges.

Work in these areas is ongoing at the University of Edinburgh.

The study is published in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.

More in this section


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox