Music is used frequently by athletes to increase motivation and improve aerobic and anaerobic performance (19). However, although athletes report favorable subjective effects of music during training or competition (e.g., general feeling, mood), research studies have not always supported this notion (30). Research on the effects of music on athletic performance has yielded conflicting results, and it has been suggested that the timing and type of music, the type of exercise, and the fitness level of the athlete may all affect the performance response to music (2,24).
In recent years, the discussion regarding what is the optimal music for use in sports and exercise, and especially what is “motivational music,” has gained scientific popularity. The term “motivational music” was defined as music that stimulates or inspires physical activity (20). It is suggested that 4 factors contribute to the psychophysical motivational qualities of music: the natural reaction to the rhythm and especially to the tempo, the musicality (melody and harmony), the suitability of music to the sociocultural background of the athlete, and the extramusical associations triggered by music. These 4 factors have been shown to be hierarchical, with rhythm response being the most important and association the least (30).
The majority of previous studies examined the effects of music on submaximal aerobic performance (1,6,8,15,21,23,27,28), and most of them reported positive effects of music on motivation, mood state, and RPE (6,15,23,27). The scant number of studies that have examined the effect of music on supramaximal exercise have yielded conflicting results (7,24). Most studies examined the effect of music during the exercise task on athletic performance. However, the interpretation of these results is not applicable for competitive athletes, because they cannot listen to music during competition and can listen to music only during warm-up or recovery from exercise.
Several studies have demonstrated that pretask music was associated with improved hand-grip strength (17), peak anaerobic power (12), netball shooting performance (22), and faster choice reaction time (3). To the best of our knowledge, the metabolic, physiological, and psychological effects of music during the recovery from exercise have never been studied. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the effect of motivational asynchronous music during the recovery from exhaustive exercise.
It is well established that active, compared with passive, recovery after intense exercise leads to a faster decrease of blood lactate level (11,16). A possible mechanism for the enhanced active recovery includes an increase of blood flow to the exhausted muscle, and as a result, enhanced metabolite washout. However, although most coaches recommend an active recovery after intense exercise, many athletes would not be able or willing to “keep moving” at the required pace during recovery after intense exercise. Motivational music may help athletes to overcome physiologic and psychological barriers and perform a more active recovery. Thus, we hypothesized that listening to motivational music during nonstructured recovery from exhaustive exercise (a 6-minute run at peak oxygen consumption) will be associated with a more active recovery (determined by step counts during 15 minutes of recovery), and as a consequence, with a faster and greater decrease of blood lactate level, and lower rating of perceived exertion (RPE).
Experimental Approach to the Problem
Music is used frequently by athletes to increase motivation and improve performance. Most studies have examined the effect of music played during exercise on athletic performance. However, interpretation of these results for competitive athletes who can use music only during warm-up or recovery from exercise is questionable. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine the effect of motivational music during recovery from intense exercise in 20 young adult male physical education students.
Exercise consisted of 6-minute treadmill run at peak V̇O2 speed that was determined from a prior maximal exercise test. To avoid possible learning and training effect, the 2 exercise sessions (with or without music during the recovery) were performed at random order, at the same time of the day, separated by 5–7 days to ensure full recovery of the participants. The participants were asked to refrain from intensive training during the day before each session.
We examined the effect of music on nonstructured recovery. Thus, at the end of exercise, the participants were instructed to “walk freely in the exercise laboratory” (a large sized room of an area of 20×40m). During the recovery, we measured the heart rate (HR, using a Polar HR monitor), RPE using the modified Borg scale (4), step number (using a step counter), and finger-prick lactate concentration (using a portable lactate analyzer). All measurements were performed at 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 minutes of the recovery period.
To mimic competitive conditions, music was played only during the recovery period after the exercise session. Because active recovery was found to enhance lactate decrease after intense exercise, we selected motivational music. The music selection was based on the hierarchical 4-factor conceptual model (9,18,20), indicating that strong rhythm and fast tempo (>120 b·min−1), followed by the musicality, the suitability of music to the athlete's sociocultural background, and lastly, the extramusical associations triggered by music, contribute to the music psychophysical motivational qualities. In addition, it was suggested that the rhythm and tempo should match the desired HR during the selected physical activity (30). Therefore, we selected a Western CD collection of greatest hits of all times converted to dance style with a rhythm of 32 and tempo of 140 b·min−1. The selection of 140 b·min−1 was made because we anticipated that it would match the participants' HR in the initial phases of recovery from the intense exercise and would motivate them to be more active in later stages of the recovery when the HR decreases. Because Western music is very popular in our country, this CD is used frequently in health clubs, schools, and sports colleges for aerobic training and thus also fulfils the criteria of the suitability of the music to the sociocultural background and strong association with sport. The tracks from this CD were ranked by the participants as a means to increase activity, and we selected the first 4, for use in this study. We hypothesized that the natural movement response to the rhythm and tempo of the music, and the music-related dissociation from unpleasant feelings (such as pain and fatigue), would lead the participants to a more active recovery and to a faster lactate clearance.
Twenty male physical education students from the Zinman College at the Wingate Institute participated in the study. Anthropometric and fitness characteristics of the participants are summarized in Table 1. The participants trained regularly between 5 and 8 h·wk−1. For the majority of the participants, the training was performed during the physical education classes at the college and included mainly moderate intensity endurance-type exercise without resistance training (ca. 50% aerobic-type exercises such as walking, crosscountry jogging, and cycling and about 50% ball games such as soccer, basketball, and volleyball).
The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board, and appropriate informed consent was obtained from all the participants.
Standard calibrated scales and stadiometers were used to determine height, weight, and body mass index (kg·m−2) during the first visit to the exercise laboratory. Triceps, biceps, suprailiac, and subscapular skin folds were measured to the nearest 0.1 mm, using Holtain skin folds caliper (CMS Weighing Equipment Ltd., Crymych, United Kingdom). Measurements were made on the right side of the body. All the measurements were taken by the same technician. Calculation of percent body fat was performed using standard equations (26).
In the first visit to the exercise laboratory, each participant performed an incremental maximal running test on a motor-driven treadmill (Woodway, PPS MED, Weil am Rhein, Germany) to determine the peak aerobic power (peak V̇O2). The initial conditions of the treadmill belt (speed and inclination) were set at 9 km·h−1 and 0%, respectively. The speed was increased by 1 km·h−1·min−1, whereas grade was maintained at 0% throughout the test. Vigorous verbal encouragement was given to the participants during the high-intensity phases of the exercise protocol until they reached volitional exhaustion. Gas exchange was measured breath by breath, and the peak V̇O2 was calculated using the Sensor Medics metabolic system (Sensor Medics, Yorba Linda, CA, USA). Each individual's speed at peak V̇O2 was used in the following exercise sessions to study the effect of music on the recovery from exercise.
During the exercise sessions, each participant ran 6 minutes at peak V̇O2 speed on a treadmill. Exercise with or without music during the recovery was performed in random order. The participants were asked to refrain from eating and drinking (except for water) for 3 hours before each session.
We examined the effect of music on nonstructured recovery. Thus, the participants stepped off the treadmill at the end of the exercise and were instructed to “walk freely in the exercise laboratory.” The laboratory temperature was maintained at 24°C. The participants were not allowed to exit from the laboratory, and only the participant and the laboratory technician (who was not aware of the purpose of the study) were allowed to stay in the room.
The HR was measured using a Polar heart rate monitor (Polar Accurex Plus, Polar Electro, Woodbury, NY, USA) during the exercise task, and the highest measurement was recorded. In addition, the HR was determined during the recovery period, and the average recovery HR was calculated. The RPE was ranked using the modified (1-10) Borg scale (4). The RPE was determined at the end of the exercise and during the recovery period. The average recovery RPE and the percentage decrease of RPE were also calculated. The number of steps during the recovery was measured using a step counter (Omron, Health-care Co, Kyoto, Japan). Finger-prick blood lactate level was measured during the recovery period using a portable lactate analyzer (Accusport, Boehringer, Mannheim, Germany).
A Western CD collection of greatest hits of all times converted to dance style with a rhythm of 32 and tempo of 140 b·min−1 (aerobimix spinning, IMP Records Ltd., 2004) was used. The first 4 ranked tracks from this CD (numbers 3, 5, 8, and 13) with accumulated time of 15 minutes were selected (“Freed from Desire”—Gala, 1996, “Time after Time”—Cyndi Lauper, 1984, “California Dreaming”—The Mamas and the Papas, 1965, and “Heaven”—Bryan Adams, 1983). In addition, and to mimic competition conditions, music was played by means of a portable MP3 device, and headphones were used. The music volume was equal to 70 dB.
To examine the individual effect of music during recovery on the HR, RPE, number of steps, and lactate level changes, a 2-way repeated measure analysis of variance with Bonferroni post hoc test was used. In addition, a paired t-test was used to compare mean changes in lactate, RPE, HR, and step number during the recovery with or without music. Data are presented as mean ± SD. Statistical significance was set at p ≤ 0.05.
No significant differences were found between end exercise HR of the recovery session with and without music (control) (188.6 ± 5.6 vs. 188.7 ± 5.4 b·min−1, respectively), the decrease in the HR during the recovery with and without music (F(4,76) = 0.10, p ≤ 0.98, ηp2 = 0.005), and the end recovery (15 minutes) HR with and without music (103.2 ± 14.0 vs. 103.8 ± 12.8 b·min−1, respectively).
The number of steps during the recovery period is shown in Figure 1. There was no difference in the number of steps during the first 3 minutes of the recovery with and without music. The number of steps was significantly greater at minutes 6, 9, 12, and 15 of the recovery with music (F(1,19) = 13.9, p ≤ 0.001, ηp2 = 0.40).
Lactate levels and the percent decrease in lactate level during the recovery period are shown in Figures 2 and 3. The percent decrease in blood lactate concentration was significantly greater during the recovery with music (from 3 to 6, 3 to 9, 3 to 12, and 3 to 15 minutes, Figure 2). There was no significant difference in blood lactate concentration at minutes 3, 6, and 9 of the recovery with and without music. Blood lactate concentration was significantly lower at minutes 12 and 15 of the recovery with music (F(4,72) = 4.8, p ≤ 0.002, ηp2 = 0.21, Figure 2). The mean blood lactate concentration was significantly lower, and the mean percentage lactate decrease was significantly greater during the recovery with music (Figure 3).
The decrease in RPE during the recovery with and without music is shown in Figure 4. There was no significant difference in the end exercise RPE between the session with and without music (7.8 ± 0.8 vs. 7.2 ± 0.8). No significant difference was found in the decrease in RPE during the recovery with and without music (F(4,76) = 0.48, p ≤ 0.75, ηp2 = 0.02). However, the mean percentage RPE decrease was significantly greater during the recovery with music.
The majority of the studies on music and exercise have examined the effects of music on performance during the exercise task and have focused specifically on submaximal aerobic exercise (e.g., [8,24]). This, however, is not applicable to competitive athletes, because they are able to use music only during warm-up or recovery and cannot listen to music during the competition. Although the beneficial effects of pretask music on performance were demonstrated (3,12,17,22), to the best of our knowledge, the effect of music on recovery from intense exercise has not been studied.
Procedures for improving recovery from exercise are, in general, either active or passive. In active recovery, the individual performs submaximal physical activity (walking or jogging), whereas in passive recovery, the individual sits or lies down. Previous studies assessing the recovery from high-intensity exercise demonstrated that active recovery was more efficient than the passive one, for removal of lactate from the blood and for restoring exercise capacity (11). Therefore, most coaches recommend an active recovery after intense exercise. However, although many coaches instruct their athletes to perform a detailed structured recovery, others give only general recommendation for active recovery. Despite this recommendation, some athletes would not be willing or able to keep a dynamic active recovery after intense exercise. Thus, the aim of this study was to examine if the use of motivational music may help athletes to overcome physiologic and psychological barriers and perform a more active recovery.
Selection of music type plays an important role in determining its effect on exercise capacity. It is generally accepted that music selection aims to optimize an individual's goal. When an athlete needs to be motivated or to remain aroused during intensive power and endurance exercise tasks, fast and motivational music should be selected. The use of the same music may be detrimental for exercise type that requires concentration and a high level of coordination (13). The aim of this study was to test the effect of music on recovery from intense exercise. Because active recovery was found to enhance lactate decrease after intense exercise, we selected motivational music (rhythmic with fast tempo). We hypothesized that the natural movement response to rhythm and tempo, and the music-related dissociation from unpleasant feelings such as pain and fatigue (30) would lead to a more active recovery and faster lactate clearance. Consistent with our hypothesis, listening to motivational music during the recovery was associated with increased voluntary activity, determined by the significantly greater number of steps taken. The increased number of steps during the recovery with music was accompanied by a significantly greater percentage decrease in blood lactate concentration and was also associated with a significantly greater percentage decrease in RPE. However, it should be noted that music preference is individualistic. Thus, the possibility exists that a better response could have been achieved if each participant selected his personal “favorite” tracks. Moreover, the present pilot study examined the effect of motivational music during nonstructured recovery from intense exercise. It is possible that in a structured recovery given by the coach, music may be less or even not effective.
Interestingly, music had no effect on the number of steps during the first 3 minutes of the recovery period, and a significant effect of music on absolute blood lactate concentration was seen only toward the end of the recovery period (minutes 12 and 15). This suggests the possibility that during conditions of marked fatigue in the early phases of the recovery (end exercise HR 188.6 ± 5.6 b·min−1, mean lactate level of 11.8 ± 2.5 nmol·L−1, and RPE of 7.9 ± 2.5), music had no beneficial effect. Only when fatigue decreased, and the HR declined (to 105–110 b·min−1), did music have a significant positive impact on recovery. Whether the music used in this study is optimal for enhancing recovery, or whether a gradual decrease in music rhythm and tempo to match the gradual decrease in HR during the recovery may prove more beneficial, needs to be further studied.
Several mechanisms may explain the reduced or lack of impact of music during phases of postexercise increased fatigue. Physical exertion results mainly from exercise intensity and duration. During markedly intense exercise, the athlete experiences a variety of exertion feelings, ranging from discrete symptoms to extreme general fatigue and exhaustion. Listening to music distracts the athlete from the simultaneous exercise-associated sensation of fatigue (the parallel processing model ). It is suggested that this mechanism operates mainly during low-intensity levels of exercise, when external signals can compete with internal signals. During or immediately after high-intensity exercise, internal cues, such as fatigue, have a stronger impact on mental status. Therefore, the effectiveness of external distracter, such as music, is limited. Lack of effect of music on performance during very intense exercise has been previously shown by several investigators (21,29,31).
Previous reports have demonstrated that music effects are inversely related to the participant's fitness level, had significantly greater enhancing effects in untrained subjects, and was more effective during the initial stages of training programs (5,14). As shown earlier, in this study, the participants' fitness level was moderate (peak V̇O2 level 54.1 ± 2.8 ml·kg−1·min−1). It is possible that listening to motivational music during recovery from intense exercise will not similarly affect elite, highly trained athletes.
In summary, listening to motivational music during nonstructured recovery from intense exercise was associated with increased spontaneous activity, faster reduction in lactate levels, and a greater decrease in RPE. Whether these effects lead to better training and competitive performance and whether the same effect will occur in structured recovery and in elite athletes are yet to be determined. Further studies are needed to examine the optimal selection of music for enhancing athletic performance and recovery in young competitive athletes. Additional efforts should be made to determine if individual music selection, or which of the music components (e.g., rhythm, tempo, melody, or harmony) plays a more important role in its beneficial effects (10).
(a) Listening to motivational music during nonstructured recovery from intense exercise led to a significant increase in activity level, to a significantly greater decrease in blood lactate concentration, and was also accompanied by a significantly greater decrease in RPE in young active men. Thus, motivational music may be used by athletes to improve recovery and performance. (b) The effect of music occurred mainly in later stages of the nonstructured recovery and not during the early stages of the recovery period, which are characterized by greater fatigue. (c) Further research is needed to establish the guidelines for an optimal music selection to improve recovery from intense exercise (other music types, individual music selection, etc.). (d) Further research is needed to establish whether music will have a similar beneficial effect on structured recovery from intense exercise and in elite athletes.
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