Without pump-up tracks, working out can feel like a drag. You can hear your feet hitting the ground, your breath slowly getting heavier, and the annoying lady who’s talking on her phone. It’s long been an intuitive assumption that listening to music improves workouts, but now we have actual science to back that up.
In a recent study that was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session, researchers found that runners tuning into music during a cardiac stress test could run on average 50.6 seconds longer than their music-less counterparts. Although that may not seem like a lot of time, the near-minute is actually a pretty huge difference due to the grueling nature of the stress test, which measures heart rate and blood pressure responses to exercise while also noting symptoms of chest pain or heart rhythm changes.
For this study, all 127 participants—half with up-tempo Latin inspired music and half without—ran on a treadmill, and every three minutes the speed and incline was increased. In other words, by the end participants would have felt like they’re running up a mountain. Not only did the music-listeners run longer, but they also had a longer metabolic equivalent (MET), which is how exercise experts measure activity. One MET is defined as the energy it takes to sit quietly, and for the average adult, one MET equals about one calorie per every 2.2 pounds of body weight per hour. Translation: The music-listeners also burned more calories and energy than study participants who didn’t.
If you’re not convinced yet, next time you think about skipping music for your favorite podcast or TV show while you’re on the elliptical, know that a different study by Brunel University also shows that music results in a more enjoyable workout (not just a more efficient one). After monitoring 24 runners brain waves using a portable electroencephalogram (used to detect epilepsy), researchers found listening to Pharrell’s “Happy” boosted runners’ enjoyment by 13 percent as compared to people listening to a TED Radio Hours podcast, and 28 percent against people listening to nothing.
The Brunel researchers’ ultimate consensus was that “music rearranges the brain’s electrical frequency and causes a drop in focus but enhances enjoyment.” As important as your happiness is, the cardiac test links music directly to the heart, which means that the more motivated you are to work out, the better your heart health, and the better your heart health, the more you can do (like lasting longer in other forms of exercise, if you catch our drift).
Looks like it’s time to scroll through Spotify and make sure your workout playlist is top-notch.