WASHINGTON — Popping in your earbuds and blaring your favorite playlist during a workout may do more than just rev you up — it may actually push you to work out longer. A new study finds that listening to high-energy, upbeat music helps people last longer during a standard cardiac stress test.
Doctors often used cardiac stress tests to see if a patient is healthy enough to take on a new workout regimen or to simply evaluate one’s fitness level. They’re typically performed on treadmills or other aerobic equipment and assess a person’s blood pressure, heart rate, and overall cardiovascular health while exerting themselves. Researchers from Texas Tech University found that people listening to music during the test were able to continue exercising for nearly a minute longer than those not listening to music.
“Our findings reinforce the idea that upbeat music has a synergistic effect in terms of making you want to exercise longer and stick with a daily exercise routine,” says lead author Dr. Waseem Shami, MD, a cardiology fellow at the university, in a media release. “When doctors are recommending exercise, they might suggest listening to music too.”
It’s no secret that music can enhance our moods by releasing “feel-good” chemicals in our brains that boost energy. Prior research had indicated that music might influence certain markers of heart health, but this study was the first to analyze music’s impact on exercise tolerance.
Researchers recruited 127 patients, about 53 years old on average, for the experiment. Most had similar medical backgrounds, with hypertensions and diabetes among the more common conditions. They were each given headsets to wear while taking cardiac stress tests and some were played up-tempo tunes — mostly Latin-style music — while they exercised. Others heard nothing at all during the tests.
Treadmill speeds and inclines were increased every three minutes, making the test gradually more difficult and harder on the body. Most people last for about seven minutes.
“After six minutes, you feel like you are running up a mountain, so even being able to go 50 seconds longer means a lot,” says Shami.
Still, those listening to the music were able to push out an extra 50.6 seconds of exercise on average. Shami says that further testing is needed on a more diverse group to draw more conclusions from their findings.
“At least on a small scale, this study provides some evidence that music may help serve as an extra tool to help motivate someone to exercise more, which is critical to heart health,” he says.
Shami will present the findings on March 11 at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session.