Study suggests listening to music helps run further

A recent study has thrown more weight behind the idea that listening to music increases output when exercising. To many runners, heading out for their morning or evening run without their headphones is unthinkable. And a college in America has now discovered that the having upbeat music blaring in your ears does indeed help you perform better.

Waseem Shami of Texas Tech University Health Sciences led the investigation whereby two similar sample groups were put under a ‘Stress Test’. The test involved the individuals running on a treadmill that increased in both speed and incline at regular intervals. The length of time that each individual was able to run for was then measured.

Both groups wore headphones, but just one had music played to them.

The control group were out-performed by their music-listening competitors by some margin. In total they were able to keep up their runs for 50 seconds longer, totalling 505.8 seconds compared to the 455.2 seconds of the control group (the maximum time possible being 20 minutes).

Shami commented; “After six minutes, you feel like you are running up a mountain, so even being able to go for 50 seconds longer means a lot.”

“Our findings reinforce the idea that listening to upbeat music has a synergistic effect in terms of making you want to exercise longer and stick with a daily exercise routine. When doctors are recommending exercise, they might recommend listening to music too.”

Running with Headphones

But, the argument rumbles on…

The market for running soundtracks is obviously there with countless running-based CDs and albums marketed specifically for those who like to hammer the pavements.

However, the debate in the running fraternity as to whether it is wise to listen to music whilst running is far from over.

Some argue that music distracts you from your surroundings and is actually at the detriment to your running output. The belief is that with headphones, runners are unable to best monitor their breathing and general environment. In essence, listening to music actually distracts you from running to the best of your ability.

Scott Martin of Runners World, who used to listen to music whilst running said: “Running without music blasting in my ears has given me a whole new appreciation for the sport. I’m much more in tune with my body. I pay attention to my breathing and the way my feet hit the pavement. I can focus on my effort level and surroundings, rather than the song that’s playing in my ears.”

It may be that there are some drawbacks, but based on Waseem Shami’s recent study it does appear that the science points in favour of audio inspiration helping runners to a new PB.

What ‘type’ of runner are you?

However, it may ultimately come down to what ‘type’ if runner you class yourself as. Matt Kurton, who himself is a staunch anti-music runner probably summed it up best in this piece in the Guardian.

“Sports scientists differentiate between runners who are ‘associators’ – people who prefer to focus inwardly during a run – and ‘dissociators’ – people who spend their runs looking for ways to forget what they’re putting themselves through. But I think running without music actually helps me flit between both states. It gives me space to explore the world around me and to explore whatever is going on in my head.”

In the end, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to running. Some people will feel benefit from listening to music whilst running, others wont. It’s simply about finding a method that works for you.

So even if you are a runner that wouldn’t dream about souring the authenticity of your run with your favourite tracks blaring in your ears, consider that for others, it could be the difference between a new PB and disappointment.