There was no significant higher-order interaction effect of condition–time–gender for HR (P = 0.071, ηp2 = 0.05). There were also no significant two-way interactions of condition–gender (P = 0.185, ηp2 = 0.04) or time–gender (P = 0.250, ηp2 = 0.03). There was, however, a significant two-way interaction effect of condition–time (P = 0.023, ηp2 = 0.06; see Table 1). The largest decline between active and passive recovery was evident in the control and slow, sedative music conditions when compared with the fast, stimulative condition (see Fig. 4). HR was more elevated in the fast, stimulative music condition at time 2, time 3, and time 4 (+10 min, +20 min, and +30 min, respectively) when compared with the slow, sedative music and control conditions.
There was no significant higher-order interaction effect of condition–time–gender for sysBP (P = 0.086, ηp2 = 0.04). Similarly, there were no significant two-way interactions for condition–time (P = 0.267, ηp2 = 0.03) or condition–gender (P = 0.544, ηp2 = 0.01). There was, however, a significant two-way interaction for time–gender (P = 0.014, ηp2 = 0.12; see Table 1). Examination of SEs for the interaction indicated that men’s sysBP was higher at time 1 (active recovery) and lower at time 3 and time 4 (+20 min and +30 min, respectively) when compared with women’s.
There was no significant higher-order interaction of condition–time–gender for diaBP (P = 0.941, ηp2 = 0.01). There were also no two-way interactions for condition–time (P = 0.097, ηp2 = 0.05), condition–gender (P = 0.473, ηp2 = 0.02), or time–gender (P = 0.680, ηp2 = 0.01).
Inferential statistics for all main effects are presented in Table 1 along with descriptive statistics.
There was a main effect of condition for affective valence (P = 0.006, ηp2 = 0.12; see Table 1), with pairwise comparisons indicating that slow, sedative music elicited more positive affective responses compared with control and fast, stimulative music. There was also a main effect of time (P < 0.001, ηp2 = 0.34), with pairwise comparisons showing differences between time 1 (active recovery) and time 2, time 1 and time 3, time 1 and time 4, and time 2 and time 4 of the passive recovery phase. There was no main effect of gender (P = 0.949, ηp2 = 0.00).
There was a significant main effect of condition for affective arousal (P < 0.001, ηp2 = 0.50; see Table 1), with pairwise comparisons showing that there were differences among all three conditions. There was also a main effect of time (P < 0.001, ηp2 = 0.66; see Table 1), with pairwise comparisons indicating that there were differences between time 1 and time 2, time 1 and time 3, time 1 and time 4, time 2 and time 3, and time 2 and time 4. There was no main effect of gender (P = 0.502, ηp2 = 0.01).
There was no significant main effect of condition for salivary cortisol (P = 0.823, ηp2 = 0.01), although there was for time (P = 0.003, ηp2 = 0.18; see Table 1). Pairwise comparisons indicated a significant difference between time 1 and time 3, time 1 and time 4, time 2 and time 3, and time 2 and time 4. There was also a significant main effect of gender (P = 0.042, ηp2 = 0.10), with pairwise comparisons indicating that the cortisol levels recorded for women were significantly lower than those for men.
There was no significant main effect of condition for HR (P = 0.918, ηp2 = 0.02) or gender (P = 0.259, ηp2 = 0.03). There was, however, a significant main effect of time (P < 0.001, ηp2 = 0.46; see Table 1), with pairwise comparisons indicating that there were significant differences among all four time points (time 1–time 4; P < 0.001).
There was no significant main effect of condition for sysBP (P = 0.064, ηp2 = 0.07). There was also no main effect of time (P = 0.126, ηp2 = 0.05) or gender (P = 0.419, ηp2 = 0.02).
There was no significant main effect of condition for diaBP (P = 0.256, ηp2 = 0.03). There was also no main effect of time (P = 0.586, ηp2 = 0.01) or gender (P = 0.447, ηp2 = 0.01).
The research hypothesis stating that the slow, sedative music condition would be the most efficacious in terms of expediting recovery from exhaustive exercise was only partially supported. The null hypothesis in regard to the moderating influence of gender was accepted, albeit that women seemed to show more pronounced reductions in affective arousal in the transition from active to passive recovery, and lower cortisol levels in the latter stages of passive recovery in response to the slow, sedative music condition when compared with their male counterparts. The condition–gender interaction effect for arousal was associated with a medium effect size (ηp2 = 0.09), whereas the time–gender interaction for cortisol was associated with a medium-to-large effect size (ηp2 = 0.13).
Influence of music on recovery processes
With regard to the primary research hypothesis, it would seem that the application of slow, sedative music immediately after intense exercise is beneficial from a psychological standpoint. Over time, the slow, sedative music condition elicited significantly lower affective arousal scores when compared with both the fast, stimulative and no-music control conditions (ηp2 = 0.22). This finding illustrates the potential salience of a musical stimulus in down-regulating arousal (7,32). Overall, the slow, sedative music condition also yielded significantly higher scores for affective valence (ηp2 = 0.12) coupled with lower affective arousal scores (ηp2 = 0.50) during recovery, when compared against the other two conditions.
As suggested earlier, the two music conditions generally had a more potent influence on the arousal dimension of core affect when compared with the valence dimension (1,19). Given that exercising at a severe intensity causes a sharp decline in affective valence and induces high levels of psychomotor arousal (18), environmental manipulations that assuage these effects (e.g., the present slow, sedative music condition) would be considered preferential in terms of recovery processes. Moreover, such manipulations have important implications for public health when considered in light of recent work that links exercise-related affect with adherence to exercise (3,33,34).
From a physiological standpoint, the effect of our experimental manipulations on recovery is slightly less clear. Unlike previous studies (10,35), which reported that slow music accelerated hemodynamic (blood pressure and HR) recovery compared with both fast music and a no-music control, the present results only show some gender differences over time (ηp2 = 0.12), principal among these being lower sysBP in the slow, sedative condition during the latter stages of passive recovery for men when compared with women. It is notable that the main effect of condition for sysBP was borderline nonsignificant (P = 0.064, ηp2 = 0.07), with the trend across conditions mirroring that of past studies (10,35).
The significant time–condition interaction effect for cortisol (ηp2 = 0.11) leads us to accept the hypothesis that slow, sedative music would elicit the most favorable psychophysiological response. In the control condition, cortisol levels remained relatively stable over time, albeit that there was a small but significant increase at time 3 (+20 min) when compared with time 1 (active recovery; see Fig. 2). The fast, stimulative condition yielded the highest cortisol level across all time points and exhibited a fairly stable profile with no significant differences across time points. Contrastingly, the slow, sedative condition yielded the lowest cortisol levels at time 1 and time 3 when compared with fast, stimulative music (see Fig. 2). Although overall, the cortisol findings are in line with the suggested delay of ~20 min required to observe a change relative to a stressor (36), it would seem that slow, sedative music serves to maintain steady cortisol levels. This contrasts with the control and fast, stimulative conditions wherein there is a rise in cortisol between time 2 (+10 min) and time 3 (+20 min; see Fig. 2). The benefits identified for the slow, sedative condition in terms of the psychological recovery profile were closely emulated in the psychophysiological data (see Figs. 2, 4).
A plausible alternative interpretation of these psychophysiological data is that heightened cortisol release immediately after exhaustive exercise is beneficial to short-term recovery; indeed, the primary physiological role of glucocorticoid secretion is to help mobilize stored energy by allocating glucose to the brain, thus increasing the chances of survival under conditions of chronic stress (37). In addition, cortisol is known to act as a potent anti-inflammatory agent (38), thus possibly negating excessive muscle inflammatory responses to exhaustive exercise. Notably, recent data have shown elevated levels of hair cortisol in endurance-trained athletes, possibly reflecting repeated activation of the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenocortical axis through physical stress of intensive training and competitive races (39). In relation to long-term training adaptations, the biological effects of cortisol on the target tissues are less clear. Intracellular bioavailability depends on tissue-specific enzymes that interconvert active cortisol to inactive cortisone, which modulates cortisol action on target cells. This process seems to be important in maintaining equilibrium during regular and intensive exercise.
The psychological findings provide support for the proposed mechanism of the brain stem reflex that is expounded in Juslin’s (12) unified theory of emotional responses to music. The fundamental acoustic properties of the music played a salient role in the regulation of affective arousal (see Fig. 1). Nonetheless, this mechanism was only partially supported by the psychophysiological marker of salivary cortisol (see Fig. 2). The observed increase in cortisol levels in the fast, stimulative condition relative to slow, sedative music at time 1 (active recovery) and time 3 (+20 min) offers some support for the potential of the latter to down-regulate levels of physiological arousal. As Juslin suggests, multiple mechanisms might be activated in tandem when one listens to music; hence, there is potential to confound interpretation of psychobiological measures.
Influence of gender
No condition–time–gender interaction was identified for any of the dependent variables. Nonetheless, a condition–gender interaction for affective arousal was evident (ηp2 = 0.09; see Table 1). Analysis of SEs indicated that women exhibited a more pronounced reduction in arousal scores than did men in the slow, sedative music condition. Past research has shown that women have a greater tendency compared with men to use music for emotional regulation (16) and that women also benefit more from music when a complex motor task is coordinated with the rhythmical qualities of the music (40). The former, rather than the latter, might explain the moderating influence of gender that is evident among the present findings. Further research is warranted to elucidate the moderating influence of gender in the active and passive recovery that follows exhaustive exercise. In the present study, condition–gender interactions did not emerge for any physiological variables. This concurs with the findings of Savitha et al. (10), who reported no gender differences under similar circumstances. Nonetheless, the time–gender interaction effect for cortisol (ηp2 = 0.13) closely matches the findings of Kirschbaum et al. (41), who reported consistent gender-based differences in mean cortisol response (1.5- to twofold higher in men) in response to a psychological stressor. The time–gender interaction effect for sysBP, which showed higher levels for men at time 1 (active recovery) but higher levels for women at time 3 (+20 min) and time 4 (+30 min), is slightly anomalous. This finding might suggest that men pushed harder than did women in the closing stages of the exhaustive exercise task and then recovered more effectively during the passive recovery phase.
Although this study was designed to account for several methodological flaws evident in past research (9,10), it is not without limitation. In music-related studies of this nature, it is not possible to use a double-blind approach—at the very least, the participants will know that they are being exposed to a musical stimulus—meaning that there is a possibility for experimenter effects to ensue. Moreover, participants might respond to a given musical work differently on an individual basis to how they might respond in a social context (8).
There is evidence surrounding the limitations of traditional ramp-based protocols in consistently eliciting similar V˙O2max responses, in part because the end point of the test is not known to the participant (42). Lucía et al. (43) used a similar protocol to the one used in the present study and found that only 24% of nonathlete participants elicited a V˙O2max “plateau” consistent with the “classical criteria” of an absolute maximal effort. We did not measure the time that it took participants to reach exhaustion and so could not subsequently use this as a possible covariate in the analyses. Inconsistent levels of fatigue and/or exhaustion may, therefore, have influenced the recovery profile of participants and created a potential source of experimental error. Nonetheless, this potential threat to internal validity was assuaged somewhat by the use of a crossover design. Finally, the timing of trials in the present study did not fully account either for the daily diurnal variation of cortisol levels or for those associated with the female menstrual cycle (44).
To help clarify the role of recuperative music and potential moderating influence of gender on postexercise recovery, future research might focus on a number of areas in addition to the methodological limitations of the present study (i.e., blinded design, ramp test protocol, including time to exhaustion as a covariate, daily and menstrual variation in cortisol). First, the relative dearth of research on the moderating influence of gender during recovery from exhaustive exercise requires further exploration across a range of modalities that afford greater ecological validity (i.e., everyday training or competitive settings ). Second, other proxies of recovery, such as HR variability and electroencephalography, would help to elucidate the psychophysiological implications of recuperative music (45). Systematic attention of the underlying mechanisms that might explain the psychophysiological responses to music could facilitate the endeavors of future researchers. For example, an exploration of how specific psychoacoustic qualities of music relate to psychophysiological measures, such as salivary cortisol, might enable practitioners to target music-related interventions with greater accuracy.
Cortisol levels were heightened during active recovery in the fast, stimulative music condition when compared with the slow, sedative music condition, which can be interpreted as a beneficial short-term recovery process to help mobilize stored energy by allocating glucose to the brain. Ostensibly, fast, stimulative music is more beneficial than slow, sedative music in psychophysiological terms during periods of active recovery only (6). Measures of affective valence, affective arousal, and cortisol showed the slow, sedative condition to be associated with superior recovery rates during passive recovery. Slow, sedative music also seems to confer greater benefits for women than for men in regard to affective arousal during recovery. The present findings indicate that music of a slow, sedative nature can expedite the recovery processes that follow strenuous physical exercise and is particularly beneficial in terms of down-regulating affective arousal.
C. I. K. received financial support from the former School of Sport and Education at Brunel University London for the cost of cortisol analyses. M. B.’s contribution was supported by a grant from the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel. M. H. acknowledges support from the National Institute for Health Research Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, which is a partnership between University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Loughborough University, and the University of Leicester.
The authors have no conflicts of interests to declare. The results of the present study do not constitute endorsement by the American College of Sports Medicine.
The results of the study are presented clearly, honestly, and without fabrication, falsification, or inappropriate data manipulation.
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Keywords:© 2018 American College of Sports Medicine
AFFECT; CORTISOL; ENTRAINMENT; RECOVERY; PSYCHOBIOLOGY; SEDATION