Listening To Music While Running Counters Mental Fatigue for Better Performance

Listening to music while running may be the key to increasing people’s performance when they are mentally fatigued suggests a study.

According to the study, runners who listened to a self-selected playlist after finishing a tough demanding cognitive activity performed at the same level as when they were not mentally fatigued.

The study is the first to investigate how listening to music playlists affects endurance running ability and performance when mentally weary. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used two tests to investigate how listening to music influenced the running performance of eighteen fitness enthusiasts.

Effect of music on interval running capabilities

One study looked at the effects on interval running capacity (alternating between high-intensity running and low-intensity jogging) in a group of nine physically active exercisers, while the other looked at a 5km time trial in a group of nine trained runners. Before the high-intensity exercise, the groups conducted a 30-minute computer-based cognitive exam that left them mentally exhausted.

The runners were tested with and without encouraging music that they chose. Researchers supported participants in selecting motivational songs by administering a pre-test questionnaire that asked them to score the music’s rhythm, style, melody, tempo, tone, and beat.

Examples of songs participants listened to were: Everyday by A$ap Rocky; Addicted To You by Avicii; Run This Town by Jay-Z; Power by Kanye West; No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age; and Eye of the Tiger by Survivor. Throughout the activity, heart rate and subjective exertion were measured at several points.

Interval running capacity is moderately greater with music

The researchers looked at the outcomes of a baseline test that individuals took without first doing a mentally taxing test – and without using music. The researchers discovered that the mentally exhausted fitness enthusiasts’ interval running ability was moderately greater with music than without music and was the same as when the individuals were not mentally fatigued.

The 5km time trial performances improved slightly with self-selected music versus no music.

Altered perception of the effort when listening to tunes while running

According to the researchers, the favourable effects of music may be related to an 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.” According to the researchers, there is a need for more research into how listening to music while running affects larger and diverse groups of people, in different situations, and with varied fitness challenges. At the University of Edinburgh, research in these areas is underway.

Story Source: Materials provided by the University of Edinburgh. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference: Hui Kwan Nicholas Lam, Harry Middleton, Shaun M. Phillips. The effect of self-selected music on endurance running capacity and performance in a mentally fatigued state. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 2021; 17 (4) DOI: 10.14198/jhse.2022.174.16

Page citation: The University of Edinburgh. “Running to music combats mental fatigue, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 June 2021. <>.

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Name of the Organisation: Music as Therapy, India
Music as Therapy is based in Hyderabad. Since 2015 it supports caregivers to introduce music for children with learning disabilities and autism. Most recently the institute has been considering the ways music might help local carers for people living with dementia.
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