Reggae’s not for runners

Do you walk or run listening to music? Then don’t pick reggae or jazz – at least not if you want to walk or run faster. Instead, try speeding up to music you don’t really like.

Steady beats encouraging ING Marathon runners. Photo: Lisbeth Ganer

Steady beats encouraging ING Marathon runners. Photo: Lisbeth Ganer

This may seem like an odd piece of advice, but a survey done by Belgian researchers, published in the scientific online journal PLOS ONE, shows that certain kinds of music, like jazz and reggae, make the steps shorter, whereas others, such as pop and techno, make them longer. The participating walkers also reported speeding up if they didn’t like the music much. 

They walked to the beat of 52 different pieces of music – including Haydn & Vivaldi, Manu Chao & Django Reinhardt, Clawfinger & The Communards, traditional Indian & Irish – all pieces in the same tempo. The walkers consistently kept the tempo, so the results suggest that differences in walking speed are a result of longer or shorter steps to certain kinds of music.



“I love working for Uncle Sam”

Beat synchronized walking is nothing new. Historically, it’s been used to create a feeling of bonding and arousal. Just picture a scene from Full Metal Jacket or any US Army movie. According to the article, this effect is called muscular bonding; music and rhythmic, repetitive movements creating a common experience and feeling.

Music activates you or relaxes you, also when it comes to the physical strength of a movement. And good news for couch potatoes: Music motivates you more if you’re untrained. According to this survey, which music works best has to do not only with tempo, and not necessarily with musical preferences, but with sonic patterns and fluctuations.

So perhaps you should think outside your standard musical box, review your running playlist and actually add some songs you don’t like!

By Unni Holtedahl, August 2013



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