In 2007, USA Track & Field, the governing body for competitive distance running, banned athletes from popping in ear buds and listening to music during competitions, "to ensure safety and to prevent runners from having a competitive edge." The move was in response to countless studies that found athletes perform at a higher level when they sync their minds and bodies to a musical beat.
Numerous studies have found that music helps athletes ignore pain and fatigue signals, increases their endurance and may even improve metabolic efficiency. And so, music helps athletes of all skill levels -- in competition or just working out -- run longer distances, pedal a bicycle longer and swim even faster. Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, a leading authority on the psychology of exercise music, has called music "a type of legal performance-enhancing drug."
Enhance to the music:
- Researchers have found that fast songs with strong beats are particularly stimulating. The most popular types of exercise music: hip-hop (27.7 percent), rock (24 percent) and pop (20.3 percent).
- Most treadmill runners seem to favor music around 160 beats per minute. Apps such as Songza and jog.fm help people match the tempo of their workout music to their running pace.
- In a 2012 study, Karageorghis and his colleagues found that music can function like a metronome, helping someone maintain a steady pace and decrease energy expenditure.