From Kanye West to Queen, motivational music greatly helps runners combat mental fatigue

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Listening to music, from various genres including rap and hip hop, helps runners combat mental fatigue during their exercise, a new study shows.

Researchers find motivational music, including songs by Jaz-Z and Kanye West, can help boost people’s performance despite feeling tired. Results show runners who listen to music performed just as well after completing a mentally-fatiguing thinking task as those who ran without taking such a test.

The performance of runners who listened to a self-selected playlist may be due to the music altering their perception of the effort they’re putting into their running, researchers believe. The study is the first to investigate the effect of listening to music on endurance running capacity and performance while suffering from mental fatigue.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used two tests to study how listening to music affected the running performance of 18 fitness enthusiasts. One test looked at the effects on interval running capacity – alternating between high intensity running and lower intensity jogging – with a group of nine physically active exercisers. The other focused on five-kilometer time-trial with a group of nine trained runners.

Which songs help us keep the pace?

The groups completed a 30-minute computer based cognitive test which put them in a mentally fatigued state before completing their high intensity exercise. Researchers tested the runners with and without self-selected motivational music. The team also assisted participants in choosing motivational songs with a pre-test questionnaire asking them to rate the rhythm, style, melody, tempo, sound, and beat of the music.

Some of the songs runner selected include “Everyday” by A$ap Rocky, “Addicted To You” by Avicii, “Run This Town” by Jay-Z, “Power” by Kanye West, “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age, and “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

During the exercise, study authors measured heart rate and the rating of perceived exertion at multiple points. The team also took into account the results of a baseline test taken by participants without a mentally demanding test beforehand and without the use of music.

Music keeps our minds in the game

The results show the interval running capacity among the mentally fatigued fitness enthusiasts was moderately greater with music compared to without music. It was the same as when the participants were not mentally fatigued. The time-trial performances also showed small improvements with self-selected music versus no music.

“Mental fatigue is a common occurrence for many of us, and can negatively impact many of our day-to-day activities, including exercise,” says Dr. Shaun Phillips from Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education and Sport in a media release.

“Finding safe and effective ways to reduce this negative impact is therefore useful,” Dr. Phillips adds. “The findings indicate that listening to self-selected motivational music may be a useful strategy to help active people improve their endurance running capacity and performance when mentally fatigued. This positive impact of self-selected music could help people to better maintain the quality and beneficial impact of their exercise sessions.”

Researchers say there are opportunities for further study into how listening to music while running affects larger and different groups of people, in different settings, and using different exercise challenges.

The findings appear in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.

SWNS writer Sarah Ward contributed to this report.