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Music to make the heart beat faster

Gym-goers have long exercised to music but it has taken research from Brunel’s Dr Costas Karageorghis to show that working out to a beat really can improve your fitness.

For more than 10 years, Dr Karageorghis and his team have mapped the effect of musical tempo on exercise. They have built up a strong evidence base which shows that, while music certainly helps us to exercise, it’s far from a simple relationship.

Carefully-selected music is now proven to reduce the perceptions of exertion by up to 12%, improve the beneficial exercise effects by up to 15%, movement efficiency by up to 7% and extend voluntary endurance by as much as 15%.

The research also confirms that faster music works best at higher exercise intensities, but the relationship is not a simple linear one. Instead there is a series of dips and plateaux within a much narrower band than expected (125 – 140 beats per minute).

The work has been embraced by a diverse range of stakeholders from the media, health, entertainment and technology sectors.

Dr Karageorghis is consultant to Run to the Beat, organisers of a series of events that fuse half-marathon running with scientifically-selected music performed by live acts and DJs. The London event, now sponsored by sportswear giant Nike, attracts up to 20,000 participants.