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Running for Fitness – The Advantage of Running With Music

I enjoy listening to music while exercising. When I look around the gym where I work out or watch other runners when I’m out running for fitness, it’s clear I’m not alone. But apart from the simple enjoyment of music, is there any benefit to running with music?

First, I find certain songs to be very enjoyable and motivating. Sometimes a song re-connects me to another place and time, such as a memorable run in a beautiful location or a time in my life when everything was going great for me. When those songs play, time seems to slip by and part of my training run slips away beneath my feet without notice and seemingly without effort.

Some research has been conducted that indicates that respiration and heart rate may follow music. In other words, listening to upbeat music may induce your breathing and heart rates to increase. When played before moderate work, like slow, easy running for fitness, such upbeat music could therefore help to prepare your body for exercise. And as you approach more intense workout phases – like intervals or hill training – playing more intense music with a faster tempo can help elevate your heart rate. Playing more relaxed tunes between intervals can help lower your heart and recover a bit before you push hard again.

When researchers looked for a relationship between use of music and fitness level, they really couldn’t find any. It seems that listening to music while running won’t make you any fitter than simply running. On the other hand, if running to music encourages you to run faster or longer or harder, there is no doubt that you will receive the health benefits of a better workout.

Another interesting effect of exercise on running is that of perceived effort. Runners who listen to music while running often feel like it’s not as hard as running in silence. Maybe it’s the motivational effect, perhaps it’s the plodding along matching footfalls to the rhythm of the beat or maybe it’s simply a distraction from the repetitive nature of running. To me it doesn’t make any difference as to the reason. When I’m training or running for fitness, I like listening to music because it helps make the whole experience more enjoyable.

A couple of safety notes when listening to music when running outdoors: make sure you remain aware of your surroundings. To stay safe, you should be able to hear trains, cars, cyclists, dogs and people approaching. And follow safe practices with the volume so you don’t damage your hearing. It’s too precious.

So there you have it. Find some motivating music, load it on your MP3 player (or even your vintage Walkman if you’ve kept yours alive) and go for a run. Go until you run out of music or you’ve finished your planned run. Any way you slice it, running for fitness is music to my ears.