As much as I love exercise, doing cardio without listening to music feels somewhat like dancing in a silent room. I need that adrenaline rush, that beat that syncs up with my heart, and that sense that I’m completing a mission in order to push myself to new heights (perhaps that’s why my favorite workout track is, by far, the ear-shatteringly epic “Like a Dog Chasing Cars” from The Dark Knight Rises).
Now, a new study that was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session this week provides scientific evidence that the significance of those heart-pumping tracks isn’t all in your head.
For the study, 127 volunteers with an average age of 53 were asked to take part in a 20-minute cardiac stress test on a treadmill wherein the speed and incline was increased every 3 minutes. Half of them were allowed to listen to music (mostly Latin beats); the other half were not. The majority of the participants were Hispanic, and the group consisted of slightly more women than men, but their medical histories were all very similar.
The researchers found that the music group could, on average, run 50.6 seconds longer than the non-music group. While this might not seem like a lot, it is for a stress test, given that most healthy people can only make it 6 or 7 minutes through the grueling challenge.
“After six minutes, you feel like you are running up a mountain, so even being able to go 50 seconds longer means a lot,” Waseem Shami, a cardiology fellow at Texas Tech University Health Sciences and the study’s lead author said in the ACC newsletter. “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. I think it’s something we intuitively knew, but we found [to be true]. I suspect if it had been a larger study, we’d see a bigger difference.”
Though the study was limited to a small group, it does indicate that upbeat tempos increase our stamina, helping us to push a little bit harder and, subsequently, burn a lot more calories in the end.
“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,” he said. “When doctors are recommending exercise, they might suggest listening to music too.”
If cardio isn’t your thing, however, don’t despair. Another study presented at the ACC showed that just a little bit of walking every week goes a long way for cardiovascular health, particularly in post-menopausal women. And another recent study found that longer, less strenuous workouts are more effective in prolonging longevity than high-intensity cardio.
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