The general problem of this study was to determine the effect, if any, that music had on heart rate, lap pace, and perceived exertion rate (RPE) during a 20-min self-paced run completed by a group of trained participants and a group of untrained participants. The participating subjects, all males, attended a college with an enrollment of 1,200. There were 12 participants, ranging in age from 18 to 23 years. They comprised two experimental groups. Experimental Group A consisted of 6 subjects who were considered untrained individuals, because they did not partake in exercise, or only in very limited exercise. Experimental Group B consisted of 6 subjects who were considered trained individuals, because they were in the habit of running more than three times a week to reach or exceed a target heart rate. The 12 subjects signed an informed consent form before participating in the study. No pre- or post-test capable of affecting the rate at which subjects completed the 20-min run was taken. The data were collected, condensed, and analyzed to measure performance differences when running to music and running without music. Analysis of the collected data employed Microsoft Excel as well as the t-test for the two samples’ means. Findings were that music had a noticeable effect on the pace demonstrated by both groups when running. Differences in heart rate and perceived exertion were found only in the untrained group, which may be due to source of error problems. Further research is recommended involving various styles of music and forms of athletic performance other than running.
Effects Music Has on Lap Pace, Heart Rate, and Perceived Exertion Rate
During a 20-Min Self-Paced Run
In exercise performed by many children and adults, music is a consistent part of the routine. Many people report finding it easier to run or exercise while listening to music. One possible reason for this is that music allows a runner to take part in the beat or tempo of the music. When concentrating on the beat or tempo, a runner may work harder to keep pace with the music. The music may also allow a runner to forget about pain or strain endured during running, contributing to a quicker lap pace. Some individuals, furthermore, report that music excites them, and excitement increases blood pressure and heart rate, potentially providing quicker acceleration to a target heart rate. The physical state that accompanies excitement, then, means the athlete’s body warms up faster and he or she gets into the flow of the exercise or competition more quickly. A fourth potential benefit of exercising to music is that moving in a rhythmical fashion tends to eliminate wasted motion.
In general, many studies have related the use of music in exercise to improved performance, finding specifically that listening to music prior to or during exercise improves performance. Reasons given include (a) music provides a pacing advantage; (b) music is a form of distraction from exercise; and (c) music may affect mood, raising confidence or self-esteem and helping subjects enjoy exercise, thus fostering both their interest in working out and the level of exertion they put forth (Anshel & Marisi, 1979; Becker et al., 1994; Beckett, 1990; Boutcher & Trenske, 1990). In addition, Pujol and Langenfeld (1999) found, in developing their Wingate Anaerobic Test, several studies indicating music is of benefit when the physical performance is submaximal. Professional and recreational athletes alike use music for motivation and to forget about mental and emotional fatigue, several researchers have stated. Also, 10 different studies agree that “exercise endurance, performance perception, and perceived exertion levels are positively influenced by music versus non-music conditions” (Browney, McMurray, & Hackney, 1993).
The study involved 12 male participants ranging in age from 18 to 23 years. All were enrolled in a college having about 1,200 students. The 12 subjects were divided into two experimental groups. Experimental Group A consisted of 6 subjects who were considered untrained individuals, because they did not partake in exercise, or only in very limited exercise. Experimental Group B consisted of 6 subjects who were considered trained individuals, because they were in the habit of running more than three times a week to reach or exceed a target heart rate. Subjects were asked to fill out a questionnaire to provide information on age, weight, height, and body fat quotient (each subject’s body fat was measured by the researcher). Participants were also asked to complete an informed consent form developed by the researcher but typical of such forms used in standard research settings.
No pre- or post-test capable of affecting the rate at which subjects completed the 20-min run was taken. The subjects were instructed to refrain from eating or drinking for 3 hours before the test (drinking water was, however, allowed). They were asked to wear a pair of jogging shorts and a tee shirt during the assessment, which was completed at a 160m indoor track during the work week and the hours 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This ensured the consistency of the environment across assessments, for which a four-week scheduling window was established. (The month-long window was necessary both for the participants’ convenience and due to scheduling conflicts at the track facility.) The 12 participants were asked to arrive individually, on the day and at the hour best fitting their daily schedules.
When a participant arrived at the indoor track, his resting heart rate was determined by the researcher, before the start of a pre-run stretching period. During that stretching period, a participant was guided individually by the researcher through a 15-step stretching routine. At the end of the stretching period, a subject received instructions from the researcher on the run to be performed: to run for 20 minutes at his own pace in the innermost lane of the three-lane track. Before beginning the run, a participant was fitted with a heart-rate monitor and was given a cassette tape and portable cassette player that could be held in hand or attached to the jogging shorts. Participants heard the music through headphones connected to the portable cassette player. Each was informed of the cassette tape’s contents before beginning the run. Each was instructed to adjust the sound volume of the player to a comfortable level before beginning the run and not to adjust it during the run. Each was asked to turn on the cassette player at the start of the run.
At this point, a participant was showed a card presenting a perceived exertion scale; the contents and use of the scale were explained. Each participant was told that, every 2.5 min during the run, he would need to point to the card as he continued running. The card would be presented to the participant by the researcher, who would be located on the inside of the track and would come to the runner (participants were told not to worry about coming to the researcher to see the card). The participant was told that the researcher would not offer spoken encouragement, and it was reiterated that the 20-min run should be at his own pace.
At this point, a participant was instructed about the location of the starting point and ending point of a lap around the track. The spot was clearly marked on the track with red tape. The final instruction given a participant constituted a brief explanation of how the runner would be told to stop running via a signal (both arms raised straight overhead) from the researcher indicating completion of the 20-min assessment period. When the run had been completed, 15 min were allowed to elapse and then the researcher measured the participant’s heart rate again.
Prior to the assessment period at the track, each participant’s body fat was measured using the Tanita Body Fat Monitor/Scale (TBF-612). Equipment used at the track was the Polar Pulse heart rate monitor; a White-Westinghouse portable cassette player with connecting headphones; and a Fuji cassette tape (DR-I) playing 5 min of recorded music, followed by 5 min of no music, another 5 min of music, and another 5 min of no music. Music played consisted of two songs in a techno, or electronic dance music, style. The research also used a perceived exertion scale (Borg, G.A.V-4). The researcher worked with one assistant, who used a handheld stopwatch to record the time a participant took to complete each lap around the track (i.e., the lap pace). Data on heart rate and perceived exertion were collected every 2.5 min during the 20-min assessment. In addition, each subject’s heart rate was determined both prior to the assessment and again 15 min after completing the 20-min run. During the run, the lap pace was recorded each time a subject completed 1 full lap.
The collected data were subjected to statistical analysis to identify differences in heart rate, perceived exertion, and lap pace when running to music and when running without music. The analytical process employed was Microsoft Excel, using the t-test for the two samples’ means.
Figure 1 illustrates the results pertaining to the first research question: How is the lap pace of untrained participants and trained participants affected by listening to music? Among both trained and untrained participants, listening to music increased lap pace to a statistically significant degree. With music, a trained participant’s lap pace averaged 52.25 s; without music, trained participants on average took 55.22 s to complete a lap. Similarly, with music, an untrained participant’s lap pace averaged 49.75 s; without music, untrained participants on average took 54.63 s to complete a lap, some 5 s slower. For trained participants, the average difference in lap pace when running to music versus running without music was just 3.03 s. This result suggests that the untrained participants were less able than the trained participants to set a constant pace for themselves throughout the run.
Figure 2 shows the results pertaining to the second research question: How is the perceived exertion reported by untrained participants and trained participants affected by listening to music? In Figure 2, the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) averages reflect the measurements recorded for the two sample groups each 2.5 min throughout the 20-min run. Among the trained participants, no significant relationship was observed between RPE and the presence or absence of music. Among the untrained participants, however, a significant relationship resulted. This group’s average RPE while listening to music was 13.4, compared to an average of 17.5 without music. The group perceived themselves to be exerting more effort to run when they did not hear the music.
Figure 3 shows the results pertaining to the third research question: How is the measured heart rate of untrained participants and trained participants affected by listening to music? In Figure 3, the average heart rate per 2.5-min interval is illustrated for the group of trained participants and the group of untrained participants, both with and without music. For the trained participants, no significant relationship was observed between heart rate and listening to music. Among the untrained runners, however, a significant relationship was found, namely that average heart rate fell by almost six beats per 2.5-min interval when music was played.
Table 1 details, for the group of trained participants and the group of untrained participants, the mean values for height, weight, body fat, and pre- and post-run heart rates.
|Body fat (%)
|Pre-run heart rate
|Post-run heart rate
The data collected by the study indicate that listening to music while running decreases the lap pace of both trained and untrained participants. The research clearly demonstrates that playing music had a profound effect on the male college students in the study. Among trained participants, listening to music while running slowed lap pace by an average 3 s, for an average of 52.25 s per lap. Untrained participants exhibited a larger change, slowing average lap pace by almost 5 s when listening to music (Anshel & Marisi, 1979; Becker et al., 1994; Beckett, 1990; Brownley, McMurray & Hackney, 1995; Schabort, Hopkins, & Hawley, 1998).
Furthermore, untrained subjects showed a decrease of more than 4 points in rate of perceived exertion when they listened to music as they ran. Thus, an untrained participant listening to music reported feeling a level of exertion (13.04 on average) only .21 points higher than a trained participant (reporting 12.83 on average) under the same conditions.
The contrast in heart rates between the trained and untrained subjects was similarly slight when music was played. When listening to music while running, an untrained subject recorded an average heart rate of 176.38 beats per minute (over the 2.5-min interval); while a trained subject recorded an average heart rate of 174.00 beats per minute (over the 2.5-min interval)—just 2.38 fewer beats (Potteiger, Schroeder, & Goff, 2000; Pujol & Langenfeld, 1999).
Interestingly, among the untrained subject pool, listening to music was associated with a decreased lap pace, one averaging 49.75 s and ranking 2.5 s quicker than the trained subjects’ average lap pace. With music playing, untrained subjects’ average heart rate fell by more than 13.00 beats per minute (over the 2.5-min interval), while trained subjects’ average heart rate slowed by just 2.88 beats per minute (over the 2.5-min interval).
The choice of participants for the study may have introduced a source error in the research, in that it is uncertain whether all students exerted themselves equally during the 20-min observation period. Future research might involve setting some goal tending to elicit maximum exertion. Each participant’s personal characteristics may also have constrained his performance. For instance, neither experimental group had been actively “matched” or “balanced” by the researchers in terms of athletic ability or height and weight. It may be important to consider physical stature during selection of participants.
More subtle personal characteristics may have come into play in the form of participants’ relative enjoyment of the selected music, which comprised upbeat techno tunes. Future research might consider offering runners (or other participants) a choice of music, in an attempt to preclude boredom or irritation that could affect performance.
To summarize, the research showed music to exert a noticeable effect on lap paces of both trained and untrained runners. Significant differences in heart rate and perceived exertion in the presence or absence of music were observed for the untrained participants. That these significant differences were not seen for the trained participants likely reflects source errors in the study. This general type of performance research should be continued, focusing on various musical styles’ effects on various types of athletic performance and standardized test results, for a range of study participants.
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