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The pros and cons of music and running

There are those that swear by it – and those that believe it is the worst thing you can do. Music and running can create quite a divide and here we explore the advantages and disadvantages.

The benefits of music and running

In the simplest sense, many people find that music makes running more enjoyable. Indeed, 75% of runners in a survey of more than 3,500 people by Runner’s World magazine said that music playing in their headphones, such as Miiego, makes the exercise more enjoyable.

In scientific terms, there also appears to be advantages to listening to music while running.

A sports science study at University of Wolverhampton into the effectiveness of music to help runners regulate their positive and negative emotions found that motivating music helped improve performance.

More specifically, at John Moores University in Liverpool another study found that music helped people to exercise according to a tempo. When the music was speeded up by 10% no one noticed but they exercised faster.

At Brunel University in London it was shown that in some cases music can enhance performance benefits by “up to 15%”. Music was also found to lower the perception of effort by masking some of the pain associated with training.

A spokesperson for the study said: “We know from scanning the brain that when athletes are played loud upbeat music there is an increase in activity in the ascending reticular activating system.”

Other studies reveal that music while exercising can aid concentration. So if you find that the same running route is getting a little boring and this means you are less likely to perform well, by adding some up-beat music to make it feel easier and more enjoyable.

But, of course, you do need to make sure the music that you play while running will serve you well. Leaving the app to make a “shuffle” selection could throw up a slow classical track right after Springsteen’s Born to Run.

So it’s important that you choose a playlist that includes the right music, includes high tempo and upbeat tunes, especially those with mood lifting and motivating lyrics. The aim is to have music that makes you feel positive. Try Chariots of Fire and see how you feel while running, although all music will be dependent on each person’s taste.

Any disadvantages to music and running?

When running with music it’s important that you avoid places where there is a lot of traffic or other people. Without being able to hear what is going on around you can easily put yourself in danger of an accident.

There are also merits to running without music on occasions. Being able to hear your own breathing will tell you how hard, or not, you are working. You can focus on the finer parts of becoming a better runner if you are not being distracted by music.

Experts tell you that you should always listen to your body and “feel” how you are performing. If you have loud and fast music in your ears you can become distracted into working too hard, or, vice versa, too slow if you are listening to slow-tempo and calming music.

Running can also be a lot more enjoyable if you are more in tune with what is around you. There is little to beat a trail run amid natural surroundings and listening to the peace and quiet. Many runners find huge joy in this kind of get-away-from-it-all natural style running.

It’s also important to note that listening to a lot of loud music through headphones can lead to hearing damage so if you do like to do this make sure you do not have the volume too high.

At the end of the day it’s about personal preference whether you like to listen to music or not while running. Perhaps there are times, for example on routine training runs, when music could be a huge aid and others, when you are heading for a longer run off-road and amid nature, when you should switch off the tunes and listen to the sounds of silence around you.

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