Step ClassesI have a confession to make and it is rather an embarrassing one. In the mid “noughties” I may well have owned an album by the electronic dance group ‘Scooter’. Some of their more, memorable hits included ‘Roll baby roll’ and ‘Maria’ (I like it loud). For those of you, who have ever heard any of their constant thumping and heavily relied upon electronic keyboards will know that actually they created incredibly catchy songs. Which is why they were used in so many Step and Aerobic class throughout Europe.  

There was a reason for my embarrassing admission and it was to set the scene for my question. Does music actually benefit exercisers?  For me the answer is simply, yes! I feel more motivated listening to music and I enjoy the prospect of exercising while listening to my pre-selected playlist. I mainly listen when running, but this is not for everyone.

My friend, who often takes part in half and full marathons to a decent level admits he cannot abide music during the event. More importantly, he does not like to train while listening to music as well. He claims music distracts him, saying “the constant changing of rhythm is detrimental to my constant running pace”. He may actually make a good point, but we are no further to finding out the answer. So we have one for and one against.

We have now established that amongst two friends it comes down to personal preference. But what does the science say? A recent study published in the ‘Journal of Strength and Conditioning’, they had two group's test this theory. The first group listened to music (of their choice) and the second group listened to nothing. The tests were performed over two different exercises – Bench Press and Squat Jumps.

The first test was the bench press and used 75% of the participants at a 1 rep max. The results showed no difference at all between the two subject groups. However, the group who listened to music claimed they felt slightly more fatigued than the group who had no music (hmmm this seems to be going against me).

The second test (the squat jump tested over 3 reps and Music or no music1 rep max, using 30% of participants) again showed similar results. The performance was the same until speaking to the groups afterwards. The group who listened to music showed greater speed and acceleration through the base of the jump (back to all square it seems).

The conclusion seems to be that when continuing resistance exercise (especially at 1 rep max) then listening to music seems to be a hindrance. When performing more cardiovascular exercise, listening to music appears to aid performance. The tempo and beat can be a motivator in regular cardio. However, when pushing resistance, the beat can disrupt concentration and change breathing patterns which will ultimately result in a fail.

Listening to music whilst exercising is a personal preference, but if you prefer running over bi-cep curls then get your iPod out.