Even Slow Music Can Make You Faster

IF YOU FIND Mozart motivating, take heart. A new study has found that your running playlist is just as effective as one with the “Rocky” theme on repeat.

Studies have shown that music—specifically fast music—can improve athletic performance in elite and recreational athletes. But a new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that a tune’s tempo may matter less than whether the listener finds it motivational.

Researchers had 15 male runners run three all-out 5Ks (spread over many weeks): one while listening to slow motivational songs (those having 80–100 beats per minute, like Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”); one while listening to fast tunes (140–160 beats per minute, like Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us”) and one with no music at all.

Compared to when they ran in silence, runners ran faster with music, specifically in the first 800 meters of the 5K. The difference in their finish times when the music was fast compared to when it was slow, however, was not statistically significant.

Here’s the breakdown: They averaged 27:33 when running headphone-less; 26:00 when listening to slow motivational music; and 26:06 when listening to fast stuff.

Because the participants selected their own playlists, the study authors confirmed that when it comes to feeling motivated it’s more about what the song means to you than anything else. “People seem to feel music as a sum of its parts regardless of tempo,” wrote lead author Marcelo Bigliassi in an email.

Bottom line: Load up your player with whatever jams work for you. Just remember to modulate all that motivation so you don’t blow your run by going out too fast.


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