30 Jul

Musical Healing

Runners with headphones

New research suggests that listening to music after a run can speed your recovery. The information, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, also backs previous findings that you get less benefit from music the harder you run.

Researchers in Brazil tested the effect of music on 15 runners before, during and after running a 5k time trial on the track. Participants in the study had been runners for an average of just under five years, and averaged about an hour of training per day.

The researchers measured pre-run brain activity, arousal, and heart rate variability, during-run perceived effort and time, and post-run mood and heart rate variability. The study included four tests with music: pre-run motivational music (110-150 beats per minute); running with slow music (80-100 beats per minute); running with fast music (140-160 beats per minute); post-run calming music (95-110 beats per minute); as well as running with no music.

On average, the runners covered the 5ks faster when they listened to music before and during. In the no-music condition, the average 5k time was just under 27:20. In the pre-run condition, it was 26:45. When the runners listened to fast music during the 5k, their average time was just over 26:00. Surprisingly, the fastest average time, 26:00, came when the runners listened to slow music during their 5ks.

When the runners listened to music after their 5ks, it had the opposite effect of pre-run music on vagal tone‚ music increased it compared to not listening to music post-run. This means that the runners' internal systems, including heart rate, were returning to normal more quickly. As the aim of post-run recovery measures, such as hydration, nutrition and gentle exercise, is to speed the body's return to its pre-workout state, this suggests that slow music after a hard run can help in that process.