On my runs I notice that most runners prefer to listen to music while running. I have noticed that it is not confined to only a certain group of runners. I have seen old people, stroller pushing people, track sprinters, and even someone carrying a CD Man (that’s serious). As a thinker and a non-music listening runner I began to think about these people and wondered what they were listening too and why do so many people run to music?
Research has confirmed the benefits of exercising to upbeat music. In a study by Porcai and colleagues, presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, volunteers listened to music of various tempos while they worked out on stationary bicycles. The researchers found that the cyclists’ pedaling speed increased as the music tempo increased. Their heart rates and power outputs also varied (Porcai, J. “Effects of Music Tempo on Spontaneous Cycling Performance”, Meeting of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Kansas City, Usa/Missouri, October 16-19, 2003)
Len Kravitz, (not to be confused with Mr. Lenny Kravitz who I do suggest you listen to while exercising) an Associate Professor of Exercise Science at the University of New Mexico, in an article on the university’s website, cited a survey of 70 college students enrolled in an aerobic dance class. (Gfeller, K. – 1988 – Musical components and styles preferred by young adults for aerobic fitness activities. Journal of Music Therapy, 25, 28-43). In his summary he states, “97% of the students felt (perceived influence) that the music affected their performance during aerobic activity. Respondents identified the following factors that influenced their aerobic performance: music style (97%), rhythm/beat (94%), tempo (96%), lyrics (77%), volume (66%), mood (37%), and melody (17%). The results of this study support previous research that indicates that music benefits students from a motivational standpoint” (Nelson, D. O., & Finch, L. W. – 1963 – Effects of audio-analgesia on gross motor performance involving acute fatigue. Research Quarterly, 33, 588-592).
While I usually do not listen to music on my runs, I have experienced the benefits of running to a cadence from my four years of service in the United States Army. Runners that do not have the benefit of someone yelling a beat at them can find music as a pace setter. It is important to find the songs that have the right BPM (beats per minute) for your pace. To figure out your BPM go on a run with a playlist of varying paced music and pay attention to what songs are the most comfortable to you. Once you have established your BPM, add similar songs to your run list. There are a couple of websites available that categorize songs by BPM and even sell mixed CDs and digital music. Apple Computer, Inc. is also getting serious about music-paced running. They have partnered with Nike to form Nike+iPod and to market the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. A sensor in the Nikeplus running shoes tells the runner how far he/she has run and how fast. All of the data can be synched, stored, and displayed on the iPod and the nikeplus.com website. They also have posted “Nike Sport Music” on the iTunes Music Store. While not specifically selected for music-paced running, the playlists are designed to motivate the runner. And there is more. Apple has applied for a patent for an iPod program that will vary the tempo of iTunes songs to match the runner’s cadence. It will also allow the runner to select a song with a tempo that already fits her or his pace.