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  Last updated: 11/30/2013


I suspect many of us use headphones at the gym as a distraction during the boredom of off season training. And I am not going to belabor the issue of safety linked to the use of headphones while driving or biking. But this article led to a quick search of the literature for data on the relationship of music and athletic performance.

First, a comment on this article. I think the results are biased by the choice of subjects "active young adults, not specifically trained cyclists" which, I think, helps to explain the result: "most of the improvements from the music came about in the first 3K, with higher speeds and heart rates. Following the first 3K, speed was pretty much identical between the music and control conditions, and this suggests that music mainly stimulated or primed the subjects for higher starting levels, possibly by increasing their arousal." Just what you might expect from the "occasional" athlete. My suspicion is that their edge from this "warm up" effect of music is of very limited significance for those that train and ride regularly.

Is there any other data? Only a few studies have been done and these have shown minimal if any performance improvement from listening to music WHILE ON THE BIKE. On the other hand, several have shown a benefit of music in the pre and post exercise period.

Article 1 - Influence of music on Wingate Anaerobic Test performance. " significant differences between conditions for any measures."

Article 2 - Effect of motivational music on lactate levels during recovery from intense exercise. "listening to motivational music during nonstructured recovery from intense exercise leads to increased activity, faster lactate clearance, and reduced RPE and therefore may be used by athletes in their effort to enhance recovery."

Article 3 - The Effects of Music on High-intensity Short-term Exercise in Well Trained Athletes. " may be used during warm-up before performing activities requiring powerful lower limbs' muscles contractions during short-term supramaximal exercises."

So best to use that music only on the trainer and take out those earbuds while on the road and instead focus on the traffic and terrain.

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