Many of us know that an upbeat playlist can help us power through a workout, but new UK research now suggests that what you listen to after your gym session could also boost post-exercise recovery.
Carried out by Brunel University, the study set out to look at the effects of two types of music on recovery following exhaustive exercise, an area which so far has not been extensively researched.
The small study recruited 21 men and 21 women and asked them to cycle at a constant speed of 75rpm as a 300g weight was added to the bike each minute.
When they reached exhaustion, participants had a brief period of active recovery on the bike and then sat in a chair listening to an iPod, which the researchers refer to as 'passive recovery.'
Active recovery has become more popular in recent years, with some fitness fans believing that doing a lower intensity exercise after a higher intensity one, or on rest days, is better than doing nothing, as it helps to get the blood pumping which prevents muscle soreness and helps with the recovery process.
The iPods were programmed with either upbeat playlists, including pop tunes such as Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," "Cinema" by Benny Benassi and The Killers' "Mr. Brightside," or with sedative lyric-free tracks taken from a CD of music for hypnosis.
Researchers monitored participants' levels of the stress hormone cortisol using saliva samples, as well as their heart rate, blood pressure and their emotional state before exercise, immediately after, and in 10-, 20-, and 30-min intervals during the passive recovery.
They found that when participants listened to the slow, sedative music, they benefited from a reduction in the levels of cortisol and an improvement in emotional state.
In addition, the team also found that women benefitted more from the sedative music during recovery than men, particularly with regards to how they felt emotionally.
The slower, sedative music also led to participants to remember their workout more positively, an important factor as enjoyment can help to make exercise a habit.
"This study marks a new phase in harnessing the power of music in exercise," commented Brunel University London's Dr Costas Karageorghis. "This takes research into the effects of music on exercise into a new realm. It is part of a bigger picture of how to tailor music to how you want to feel and how to maximise its use at different stages of a workout to elevate your mood and disassociate from pain."
"Music and post-exercise recovery is relatively unchartered territory in my field and I'm really excited by it," added Dr Karageorghis. "We have a strong research foundation with which to build end-to-end music solutions and optimize how people the world over use music for exercise and health."
The results can be found published online in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.