Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance


Corresponding author: Professor J. Waterhouse, Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Henry Cotton Campus, 15-21 Webster Street, Liverpool L3 2ET, UK. Tel: +44 161 432 6352, Fax: +44 151 231 4353, E-mail: waterhouseathome@hotmail.com


In an in vivo laboratory controlled study, 12 healthy male students cycled at self-chosen work-rates while listening to a program of six popular music tracks of different tempi. The program lasted about 25 min and was performed on three occasions – unknown to the participants, its tempo was normal, increased by 10% or decreased by 10%. Work done, distance covered and cadence were measured at the end of each track, as were heart rate and subjective measures of exertion, thermal comfort and how much the music was liked. Speeding up the music program increased distance covered/unit time, power and pedal cadence by 2.1%, 3.5% and 0.7%, respectively; slowing the program produced falls of 3.8%, 9.8% and 5.9%. Average heart rate changes were +0.1% (faster program) and −2.2% (slower program). Perceived exertion and how much the music was liked increased (faster program) by 2.4% and 1.3%, respectively, and decreased (slower program) by 3.6% and 35.4%. That is, healthy individuals performing submaximal exercise not only worked harder with faster music but also chose to do so and enjoyed the music more when it was played at a faster tempo. Implications of these findings for improving training regimens are discussed.