How Music Helps You Get the Most From Exercise — and Stress Tests

Study finds music extends time on the treadmill

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Have you noticed it’s easier to work out when you’re listening to your favorite tunes? It turns out, music really may provide that extra oomph that makes you feel like you can exercise longer. A recent study found that music can boost treadmill stress test times as well.

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Preventive cardiologist Haitham Ahmed, MD, encourages patients to add music to their exercise routines. It can make the physical exertion easier and also may improve your performance on stress tests, he says.

“Music is an amazing thing. It’s truly a universal language. Everyone has different tastes, but music appeals to everyone,” he says. “The type of music you listen to during exercise doesn’t matter. Just pick something that makes you happy and motivated and distracts you so you can work out longer.”

Dr. Ahmed answers questions about why music may benefit those taking stress tests as well as why it has such a big impact on exercise.

Q: Why is it important to have a good time on stress tests?

A: How long you can exercise on a treadmill is one of the most important indicators of your long-term health. It’s a predictor of whether you’ll survive the next 10 years. Being able to exercise longer can increase your longevity by as much as 20 percent.

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Q: Does music affect your stress test performance?

A: Yes. Studies show that if you listen to music on a treadmill during a stress test, you can extend your exercise time by as much as six minutes.

Q: Why do you think music helps increase exercise time?

A: Listening to music while you exercise actually creates competition for your brain’s attention. Instead of focusing on how tired you are, how hard it is for you to breathe or how fast your heart is beating, you’re concentrating on other things.

Music also changes your perception of how hard you’re working. With your favorite songs playing, you feel like you’ve exerted yourself less and can tolerate more physical activity.

Q: What other benefits does exercising with music offer?

A: You might start to see the most positive impact of exercising with music within two months. Many people report a noticeable difference in how long they are able to work out.

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After three months, some people report less depressive feelings and less discomfort from other ailments. Overall, incorporating music into your exercise routine is a great way to improve your mental well-being.

Q: Can you listen to music during an actual stress test?

A: You can’t wear earbuds while you’re on the treadmill during a stress test because you need to hear your doctor’s instructions and communicate clearly. However, you can ask if the exercise lab can play music in the background to keep you motivated.

You may already know that you prefer to work out with music. But ask about adding music the next time you take a stress test. You may surprise yourself (and your doctor) with how much it boosts your treadmill time.

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