Running to music

Music can help you run more efficiently and for longer, according to research.

What effect does music have on us?

Music can influence our state of mind. Not only can it enhance our mood, it can also change our mood. It can relax, and it can energise.

Music can act as a companion to whatever activity you're engaging in, from reading to exercising.

If you can match the tempo of the music with the activity, it can improve your enjoyment of that activity.

How can music help running?

Music can trick your mind into feeling less tired during a workout, especially repetitive movement exercises such as running.

Research suggests that listening to music while exercising can reduce perceptions of effort and tiredness.

If you're listening to music while running, it can distract you from the actual effort of running – you're listening to the beat of a song, rather than the thump coming from your heartbeat.

Does that mean I'm likely to run for longer?

By reducing your feeling of tiredness, you're more likely to go on for longer.

What's more, research suggests that if you keep in step with the music, your stride will be more rhythmical and therefore more efficient.

Tests on walkers found walking in time to a musical beat improved their endurance.

What's 'running to the beat'?

Running to the beat involves matching the beat of the music to your running speed to support your effort and, by speeding the music up, drive your running stride.

Ideally, the beat should be even throughout the song – that is, there should not be any changes of rhythm during the song.

Also, try to pick songs with a similar beat when creating a playlist.

What's 'beats per minute' music?

Beats per minute (bpm) music is specially composed to get you running in step with the number of beats on a track.

All music has a bpm. Mercy by Duffy has 127bpm. Don't Stop the Music by Rihanna has 123bpm.

Most people find 150bpm a gentle pace, and by 190bpm they're running as hard as they can.

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Can running to the beat help me run faster?

The body has natural rhythm and is at its most efficient when it's moving in rhythm. Running to the beat is a bit like dancing to music.

We tend to dance to the tempo of the music. In the same way, with running we'll naturally have a tendency to keep in step with the speed of the music.

How should I create my playlist?

You should select music appropriate to the task. If you want to go for an easy run, select music with a lower bpm, such as Search for the Hero by M People (100bpm).

If you're feeling more energetic, choose songs with a higher bpm, such as I See You Baby by Groove Armada (128bpm).

Whatever you choose, make sure it's music you enjoy listening to!

What if I'm not in the mood to go running?

Getting out of the door can be the hardest step when you're saying to yourself that all you want is another cup of tea.

Music can help you get into exercise mode. Have a few motivational songs at the start of your playlist that you can play as you're getting ready.

The simple act of pressing "play" flicks a switch in your mind to signal that your session has begun, and in a short time you'll be out of the door.

Any safety advice when running to music outdoors?

Keep the volume down. If you're running outside listening to music, you need to hear what's going on around you.

You should be aware of your surroundings at all times, including road traffic, cyclists, dogs and other potential hazards.

Page last reviewed: Tue Apr 2019 Next review due: Sat Apr 2022

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