How Music and Video Can Aid Hard Treadmill Workouts

Turning some of your attention to music and video can make even the hardest treadmill workout more enjoyable, suggests research published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Physiology.

It’s not news that music, video and other distractions can make stationary exercise more bearable. But most research, and most real-world anecdotal evidence, has to do with workouts of easy to moderate intensity. The new research looked at whether music and video made hard workouts more enjoyable.

Thirty-four young adults did stationary bike workouts at two intensities: 10 per cent of max below their ventilatory threshold, and 5 per cent above their ventilatory threshold. In running terms, those intensities roughly equate to steady-but-not-easy pace and 5K to 10K pace, respectively. The participants rode at both intensities in four conditions: no music or video; music only; video only, of a rider’s-eye view of passing through a park; and the park video accompanied by music.

The participants answered questions about how aroused they felt and how much they enjoyed 10-minute bouts of the two intensities during each of the four music/video conditions. This study, then, didn’t look at whether music and/or video helped the participants work harder, or maintain a given intensity longer. It measured whether, at a set intensity and workout duration, music and/or video made the workouts more enjoyable.

The answer was an unequivocal yes. At both of the workout intensities, the participants said they felt more aroused and they enjoyed the workouts more when listening to music and when listening to music while watching video, compared to no music and no video, and compared to video only with no sound. The participants reported this heightened arousal and increased enjoyment when queried during (!) the workouts and after.

This research suggests that music, either by itself or accompanied by video, can make even very hard treadmill workouts more enjoyable. Greater enjoyment should lead to more willingness to attempt and stick with hard treadmill workouts, which many runners turn to during the winter when outside conditions can interfere with faster running.

And in the experience of many runners, anything that can keep you on the treadmill until your planned workout is complete is welcome.

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