The Effect of Music Listening on Running Performance and Rating of Perceived Exertion of College Students

### Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate how listening to music while running affects performance and perceived exertion of college students. Twenty-eight undergraduate kinesiology students (17 males, 11 females; age = 22.9 ± 5.9 yrs) were studied to determine if running performance and rating of perceived exertion were affected by listening to music. Running performance (RP) was measured by a 1.5-mile run. Two trials were performed, the first was a running performance without music listening (RPWOML = 12.94 ± 3.35 min) and the second trial was a running performance while music listening (RPWML = 12.50 ± 2.48 min). The second trial was measured five days post the initial trial. Listening to music (music listening) was defined as the subject’s self selection of music tracks and use of a personal digital audio player (e.g. IPod, MP3) during exercise. Perceived exertion without music listening (PEWOML = 14.7 ± 1.3) and perceived exertion with music listening (PEWML = 15.2 ± 2.4) was measured by the Borg 6 to 20 RPE scale. Data analysis was performed on the raw data by utilizing dependent t-tests to calculate and compare sample means. Statistical analyses determined a significant difference (p < .05) between running performance without music listening (RPWOML = 12.94 ± 3.35 min) and running performance with music listening (RPWML = 12.50 ± 2.48 min). However, no significant difference (p < .05) was determined between perceived exertion without music listening (PEWOML = 14.7 ± 1.3) and perceived exertion with music listening (PEWML = 15.2 ± 2.4) as measured by the Borg 6 to 20 RPE scale. In conclusion, the results of this study indicate that music listening has a significant effect on running performance during a maximal 1.5-mile run. However, music listening had no significant effect on rating of perceived exertion at this distance. Based on the results of this study it is recommended that coaches, athletes, and traditional exercisers consider listening to music during training to enhance performance.

**Key Words:** Music Listening, Aerobic, Performance, Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE)

### Introduction

In the past listening to music was relegated to travelling in automobiles, while in the home, while engaged in recreational activities and occasionally at work. Today, the portable music industry (e.g. cassettes, compact discs, and iPod/MP3 digital audio devices) has popularized music “on the go” and invaded just about every environment including training venues. These devices have made it easier for people to enjoy their music and create their own style of workouts with relative ease, regardless of the setting, and has transcended into a multi-million dollar industry (14). Similarly, the sports arena is an environment where music has flourished. Traditionally, music has been used to motivate and inspire people prior to an important event (e.g. pre-game of a critical contest) as well as when they engage in sports and training for competition. Thus, athletes and traditional exercisers alike have used music as an accompaniment to exercise to sustain motivation, resist mental and emotional fatigue, and potentially enhance their physical and athletic performance (10). Scientific inquiry has revealed three key ways in which music can ‘influence’ preparation and competitive performances through dissociation, arousal regulation, and synchronization (3, 4, 6, 8-10). More specifically, research indicates music to be particularly effective in distracting exercisers away from their perceived exertion.

#### Conceptual Framework

Conceptually the underlying framework of using motivational music in exercise and sport devised by Karageorghis et al. (7) indicated two main hypotheses regarding arousal regulation and fatigue dissociation. First, music can be used to alter emotional and physiological arousal and thus can act either as a stimulant or sedative prior to and during physical activity. Therefore, an athlete can use various music tempos as a ‘psych-up’ strategy in preparation for a competition or perhaps an aid to calming over anxiousness. Second, music diverts a performer’s attention from sensations of fatigue during exercise. This diversionary technique, known as dissociation, lowers perceptions of effort. Effective dissociation can promote a positive mood state, thus turning the attention away from thoughts of physiological sensations of fatigue (7).

#### Rated Perceived Exertion

Noble and Robertson (13) define perceived exertion as the subjective intensity of effort, strain discomfort and/or the fatigue that is experienced during an exercise. Currently, the most consistent findings suggest that perceived exertion will rate in lower values when participants exercise to music (12, 13, 22, & 24). The research data compiled from over the past two decades has found music particularly effective in distracting exercisers away from their perceived exertion during physical activity. A study by Nethery, Harmer, and Taaffe (12) found that perceived exertion while exercising to music was lower than for other attentional distracters and for the no distraction condition. Furthermore, Thornby et al. (22) tested exercising participants in the presence of music, no music and noise. They discovered that participants reported a lower perceived exertion while exercising in the presence of music in comparison to the no music and noise conditions.

These findings coupled with the popularity and substantial profits generated between the association of music and training (14) would seem to indicate a correlation between the use of music and performance. However, the effects of listening to music on performance and other physiological measures are less clear. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effect listening to music has on running performance and rating of perceived exertion of college students.

### Methods

#### Experimental Approach to the Problem

Listening to music (music listening) was defined as the subject’s self selection of music tracks and use of a personal digital audio player (e.g. IPod, MP3) during exercise. Running performance was determined by a maximal 1.5 mile run to predict VO2 max. Subjects were asked to complete the distance run in the fastest time possible. Results were recorded in minutes and seconds. A common field test equation, V02 max (ml*kg-1*min-1) = 3.5 + 483 / (time in minutes), was selected to access cardio-respiratory fitness of the subjects utilizing their 1.5 mile running performance (1). Perceived exertion was determined by the Borg 6 to 20 RPE scale. Rating of perceived exertion summarizes the exertion levels between rest and maximum effort numerically from 6 to 20 (2).

#### Subjects

Twenty-eight undergraduate kinesiology students (17 males, 11 females; age = 22.9 ± 5.9 yrs) from a south Texas university were studied to determine if running performance and rating of perceived exertion were affected by listening to music. Institutional Review Board approval and subject informed consent were obtained prior to commencement of the research study.

#### Procedures

All participants were required to fill out an informed consent document two days prior to testing. Participants were then instructed to obtain sufficient sleep (6-8 hours) and avoid food, caffeine, tobacco products, or alcohol for 3 hours prior to testing the 1.5-mile run (1). Prior to testing, a 1.5-mile course was measured with a Rolatape® distance measuring wheel. The start/finish line and .75-mile line were marked off with two cones each on the large sidewalk course. Three testers were used to ensure subjects completed the 1.5-mile run, two researchers were stationed at the start/finish line to collect run times and RPE scores for each participant, while another tester was stationed at the .75-mile line or turn around portion of the course. To complete the 1.5-mile run each participant had to begin at the starting line, run to the .75-mile line, and then simply turn around and run back to the start/finish line. Stopwatches were used to measure 1.5-mile run times. Following the course explanation; the participants were encouraged to warm-up and stretch before starting the 1.5-mile run, as well as verbally read the following instructions for use of the Borg 6 to 20 RPE scale:

> During the exercise test we want you to pay close attention to how hard you feel the exercise work rate is. This feeling should be your total amount of exertion and fatigue, combining all sensations and feelings of physical stress, effort, and fatigue. Don’t concern yourself with any one factor such as leg pain, shortness of breath, or exercise intensity, but try to concentrate on your total, inner feeling of exertion. Try not to underestimate or overestimate your feeling of exertion, be as accurate as you can (20).

The participants completed two separate 1.5-mile runs as a group during their regularly scheduled class time on their campus. The first trial was performed in silence without any form of digital audio device (IPod, MP3) which would enable music listening. Five days post the initial trial, a second 1.5-mile run was administered during the regularly scheduled class meeting. However, in this 1.5-mile run test participants were required to use digital audio devices during the trial to enable music listening. Music selection was not controlled during this experiment; therefore the participants were able to select their favorite musical tracks to accompany them on their second trial run. All run times were recorded as the participants crossed the finish line, and RPE was obtained shortly thereafter when the subjects were asked to pick the number best reflecting their exertion from the Borg 6 to 20 scale poster board on site.

#### Statistical Analysis

An experimental one-group pretest-posttest design was utilized. The subjects completed two 1.5-mile run trials to test the effect of music listening on running performance and rating of perceived exertion. Dependent t-tests were utilized to compare mean data from the experimental conditions: music listening and without music listening. Significance was determined at the probability level of .05.

### Results
The results are divided into two sections: running performance and rating of perceived exertion. Data analysis was performed on the raw data by utilizing dependent t-tests to calculate and compare paired sample means. The mean and standard deviation values for these two measures, according to experimental conditions, are summarized in Table (1).

#### Running Performance

Dependent t-tests were conducted on the subjects running performance times in conditions without music listening and with music listening. Two trials were performed, the first was a running performance without music listening (RPWOML = 12.94 ± 3.35 min) and the second trial was a running performance while music listening (RPWML = 12.50 ± 2.48 min). Statistical analyses found music listening had a significant t (26) = 1.75, p = .0478 impact on running performance as shown in Figure 1. In addition, music listening was found to have a significant t (16) = 2.07, p = .0445 effect on running performance for male subjects, whereas female subject t (10) = 1.23, p = .12 indicated non significance.

#### Rating of perceived exertion
A paired two sample dependent t-test was conducted on the subjects rating of perceived exertion after completing a 1.5-mile running performance in conditions without music listening and with music listening. The result of the two trials found the subjects rated perceived exertion without music listening (PEWOML = 14.7 ± 1.3) to be lower than ratings of perceived exertion with music listening (PEWML = 15.2 ± 2.4). Statistical analysis found the effect of music listening on the groups rated perceived exertion to be non significant t (26) = -1.22, p = .11 as shown in Figure 2. However, music listening was found to have a significant t (10) = -2.96, p = .01 directional effect on reported female rating of perceived exertion scores while non significance t (16) = -.18, p = .4263 was found among male rating of perceived exertion scores.

### Discussion

The effects of listening to music on running performance and the rating of perceived exertion during maximal 1.5-mile runs were investigated. By comparing the recorded ratings of perceived exertion and running times of the two situations, it became clear when the subjects exercised to music their running performance improved collectively. Previous research by Thornby et al. (22) also found that the time spent exercising, the amount of work done, and heart rate were all significantly higher in the presence of music than in the other conditions. Similarly, Edworthy and Waring (4) make the suggestion, in regards to music’s effect on running performance, that the pace of music will influence the pace of exercise. Therefore, the assumption can be made that exercising to fast tempo music should produce faster running performance. However in this study’s case, music selection was not controlled; therefore some participant’s personal preferences might not have met the tempo or vigorous nature of the exercise conducted. Even so, the results of the two trials found the subjects running performance while listening to music (RPWML = 12.50 ± 2.48 min) to be substantially faster than running performance without music listening (RPWOML = 12.94 ± 3.35 min).

These results indicate that music listening has a significant effect (p < .0478) on running performance during a maximal 1.5-mile run. Therefore, the research null hypothesis in regards to music’s effect on running performance has been rejected. Furthermore, male subjects in particular were found to perform better while listening to music.

Additionally, music listening was found to have no significant effect on rating of perceived exertion during a maximal 1.5-mile run. The findings of the most recent research reported the effectiveness of music on the subjects’ perceived exertion rate during submaximal exercise, Copland and Franks (3), Szmedra and Bacharach (20), and Potteiger, et al. (15). These authors suggested that in the absence of external stimulation (e.g. music) participants may focus more strongly on their own efforts and perceive them to be higher. This reasoning provides an explanation as to why traditionally subjects experience decreased RPE, particularly in submaxial exercise where music has been shown to effectively dissociate sensations of fatigue and promote a more enjoyable exercise experience. However, this study evaluated music’s effectiveness on a maximal 1.5-mile run. The result of the two trials found the subjects rated perceived exertion without music listening (PEWOML = 14.7 ± 1.3) to be lower than ratings of perceived exertion with music listening (PEWML = 15.2 ± 2.4). Previous research by Yamishita and Iwai (22) suggest that music’s effect on RPE is limited by the intensity of the exercise. Schwartz et al. (17) experienced similar findings stating that at 75% V02max RPE values did not significantly differ for participants between music and control conditions. Accordingly, these findings share the similar reasoning of Rejeski (16) which suggest that when subjects work at maximal intensities beyond anaerobic threshold, physiological cues dominate the attentional processes leading to external cues, such as music, to become less effective on RPE. Additionally, the results indicate listening to music has no significant effect (p < .05) on rating of perceived exertion during a maximal 1.5-mile run. Therefore, the research null hypothesis regarding music’s effect on rating of perceived exertion has been accepted. Furthermore, female subjects were found to rate RPE more difficult while listening to music. This further supports that music’s dissociative properties exhibited in sub max exercise are not transferred into maximal exercise over 75% VO2 max.

It is important to note that although none of the trials were conducted in wet conditions, wind speed and wind direction could not be standardized between trials and this may have been an additional error source. Both performance trials were conducted outdoors at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, wind speeds differed between trials; trial one experienced wind speeds of 8 mph with gusts of 14 mph while trial two experienced wind speeds of 18 mph with gusts of 25 mph. Due to these confounding factors conducting the research indoors would have addressed this problem. Unfortunately, an indoor track was not yet available at the university where the research was conducted. Secondly, the participants completed the two running trials together as a group. A natural tendency to compete may have compromised the internal validity of the study. However, the threat to internal validity was preferred to the potential lack of motivation had participants been required to complete the task individually (18).

### Applications In Sport

Music has been found to be an ideal accompaniment for exercise. It has the ability to alter emotional and physiological arousal as well as dissociate a performer’s attention from sensations of fatigue during exercise (19). The tempo of the music can also be used to influence exercise performance as their arousal level will be heightened by the fast tempo (7). If music is applied to these types of situations, music’s impact may have the ability to change the context in which physical work or exercise is performed and become a viable way of positively influencing an individual’s disposition as well as performance (10).

Due to the aforementioned training benefits of listening to music coaches, trainers, as well as performers should be cognizant of this revelation when planning their training regimens. Obviously, this would be especially relevant when engaging in a training session that the athlete and/or coach/trainer identify as being particularly taxing on the performer’s physiological systems. This extra-musical association could very well promote thoughts that inspire physical activity or relaxation within the athlete. For example, an athlete may associate vigorous exercise with the theme from the popular “Rocky” movie series, or possibly dreams of Olympic glory from Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire.” The resultant association can be attributed not only to the inherent musical characteristics, such as tempo or rhythm, but to the influence of elements of popular culture, such as cinema, television, and radio (6).

In general, the results of the research indicate that exercising to music makes training a more exciting and pleasant experience leading to improved performance. Accordingly, music used as a motivational aid can provide individuals an alternative to address the repetitiveness and mundane nature of many physical activities associated with aerobic performance training.

### Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the efforts of Ms. Elizabeth Perez, administrative assistant, in the author’s department for her tireless efforts in support of this study. Her editorial prowess and knowledge of APA style was tremendously helpful in creating a quality manuscript.

### References

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### Tables

#### Table 1
Effects of Music Listening on Running Performance and RPE

Conditions Running Performance RPE
No Music Listening Music Listening No Music Listening Music Listening
Groups M SD M SD M SD M SD
Female (N=11) 14.51 3.81 13.74 1.98 14.73 1.35 15.82 1.60
Male (N=17) 11.94 2.69 11.70 2.49 14.65 1.37 14.76 2.77
Combined (N=28) 12.95 3.36 12.50 2.48 14.67 1.33 15.18 2.40

### Figures

#### Figure 1
Running performance mean comparison among groups

![Figure 1](/files/volume-14/440/figure-1.jpg)

#### Figure 2
RPE mean comparison among groups

![Figure 2](/files/volume-14/440/figure-2.jpg)

### Corresponding Author

Randy Bonnette, Ed.D.
Department of Kinesiology, Unit 5820
6300 Ocean Drive
Corpus Christi, TX 78412
<Randy.Bonnette@tamucc.edu>
(361)825-3317

Randy Bonnette is the chair of the Kinesiology Department in the College of Education at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi.


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