Did you know that listening to music while working out measurably improves physical performance
In spring 1999, almost a decade ago, the first author published in The Sport Journal an article titled “Music in Sport and Exercise: Theory and Practice.” The present article’s origins are in that earlier work and the first author’s research while a master’s student at the United States Sports Academy in 1991–92. To a greater degree than in the original 1999 article, this article focuses on the applied aspects of music in sport and exercise. Moreover, it highlights some new research trends emanating not only from our own publications, but also from the work of other prominent researchers in the field. The content is oriented primarily towards the needs of athletes and coaches.
Music in Sport and Exercise: An Update on Research and Application
With the banning of music by the organizers of the 2007 New York Marathon making global headlines, the potentially powerful effects of music on the human psyche were brought into sharp focus. In fact, music was banned from the New York Marathon as part of the wider USA Track & Field ban on tactical communications between runners and their coaches. The marathon committee upheld this ban, which is often otherwise overlooked, justifying its action in terms of safety.
The response to the ban was emphatic. Hundreds of runners flouted the new regulation and risked disqualification from the event—such was their desire to run to the beat. Experience at other races around the world confirms the precedent set in New York; try to separate athletes from their music at your peril! But why is music so pivotal to runners and to sports people from a wide variety of disciplines?
How Music Wields an Effect
In the hotbed of competition, where athletes are often very closely matched in ability, music has the potential to elicit a small but significant effect on performance (Karageorghis & Terry, 1997). Music also provides an ideal accompaniment for training. Scientific inquiry has revealed five key ways in which music can influence preparation and competitive performances: dissociation, arousal regulation, synchronization, acquisition of motor skills, and attainment of flow.