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How Music Can Rev Up a High-Intensity Workout

The volunteers repeated these workouts two additional times, once without music and once while a podcast about the scintillating topic of consumerism played in the background. The researchers aired the podcast to test whether aural distractions besides music affected workouts. During and after each session, the scientists tracked heart rates, power outputs and people’s feelings about the exercise, and then they compared numbers.

As a group, the volunteers almost all reported feeling relieved and happy after all three workouts, primarily because they were done. This response is likely to be familiar to anyone who does intervals. It’s a pleasure to be finished.

But the volunteers also reported having enjoyed the exercise most when the music was playing, compared to when they heard the podcast or nothing. Surprisingly, they also turned out to have exerted themselves most then. Their heart rates and power outputs were significantly higher during the session with songs than without, even though their subjective rating of the difficulty of the exercise remained constant. In other words, they pedaled harder when music played, but did not feel as if they were doing so.

These findings suggest that up-tempo music may change not just our psychological but also our physical responses to H.I.I.T., says Matthew Stork, a postdoctoral researcher at UBC Okanagan who led the new study.

That the podcast did not affect exercisers in the same way is also interesting, he says, because it indicates that the music did not so much distract exercisers as engulf them.

“There’s this idea called entrainment,” he says, meaning that our bodies tend to sync with rhythms from the world around us, especially the rhythms of music.

Entraining to the songs, the volunteers would have upped their pedaling to pair it with the musical

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