Running to the Beat


It can lower blood pressure and it has a stirring effect, It’s a source of pleasure and medicine for the heart (Teng et al., 2007). If the rhythm is slow it can have a relaxing effect but quicker tempos concentrate the mind (Bernardi et al., 2006). It can even be used as a form of pain relief (Nilsson et al., 2005).  Doing it has soothing effect, leading to an amazing night’s sleep and the dose response is cumulative – meaning the more you do it the better you sleep (Lai & Good, 2005). Its good effects are not limited to humans; when cows do it, it can improve their milk production. Listening to music can change your brain, and runners use it all the time, music was a fundamental part of many runners routine!

massive headphonesRunners use music because pre-run music better prepares them for the workout ahead; it can make them run faster and may even help them recover faster (Bigliassi et al., 2015). So when running, and listening to self-selected, motivational and stimulative music (a matter of taste), it has been shown to make running feel easier and improve effort during the run – it makes runners work harder. So the Chariots of Fire or the Rocky theme tune may do the trick improving motivation, mood and provide distraction from the pain of a long or fast training session. But unfortunately, the faster and fitter a runner gets the less benefit can be derived from the use of headphones.

These lab based test results may be accurate, but like most non elite runners I don’t run purely for performance gains, I swear. I am happier to be distracted by sounds around me, the smells and the slap of each footstep. Thinking about nothing in particular, but the mind naturally finds topics to focus on. It is usually things that have been avoided all week. Life changing decisions are made, problems fixed and plans made. Yes my times may suffer and my motivation wander at times due to the lack of music to distract from the inevitable suffering of a hard run, but I am happy to sacrifice the times and the earphones in the pursuit of mental clarity.



Bernardi L, Porta C & Sleight P. (2006). Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory changes induced by different types of music in musicians and non-musicians: the importance of silence. Heart 92, 445-452.


Bigliassi M, Leon-Dominguez U, Buzzachera CF, Barreto-Silva V & Altimari LR. (2015). How does music aid 5 km of running? J Strength Cond Res 29, 305-314.


Lai HL & Good M. (2005). Music improves sleep quality in older adults. J Adv Nurs 49, 234-244.


Nilsson U, Unosson M & Rawal N. (2005). Stress reduction and analgesia in patients exposed to calming music postoperatively: a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Anaesthesiol 22, 96-102.


Teng XF, Wong MY & Zhang YT. (2007). The effect of music on hypertensive patients. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc 2007, 4649-4651.


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