Effects of music in exercise and sport: A meta-analytic review.

Regular physical activity has multifarious benefits for physical and mental health, and music has beenfound to exert positive effects on physical activity. Summative literature reviews and conceptual modelshave hypothesized potential benefits and salient mechanisms associated with music listening in exerciseand sport contexts, although no large-scale objective summary of the literature has been conducted. Amultilevel meta-analysis of 139 studies was used to quantify the effects of music listening in exercise andsport  domains.  In  total,  598  effect  sizes  from  four  categories  of  potential  benefits  (i.e.,  psychologicalresponses, physiological responses, psychophysical responses, and performance outcomes) were calcu-lated based on 3,599 participants. Music was associated with significant beneficial effects on affectivevalence (g0.48, CI [0.39, 0.56]), physical performance (g0.31, CI [0.25, 0.36]), perceived exertion(g0.22, CI [0.14, 0.30]), and oxygen consumption (g0.15, CI [0.02, 0.27]). No significant benefitof music was found for heart rate (g0.07, CI [0.03, 0.16]). Performance effects were moderated bystudy domain (exercisesport) and music tempo (fastslow-to-medium). Overall, results supportedthe use of music listening across a range of physical activities to promote more positive affective valence,enhance physical performance (i.e., ergogenic effect), reduce perceived exertion, and improve physio-logical efficiency.

Music  has  been  a  fundamental  aspect  of  human  culture  andevolution  that  may  even  predate  verbal  communication  (Mithen,2005;Patel, 2008). In various guises, it infuses every society onearth, from the most primitive to the most advanced. Music punc-tuates our daily lives and accompanies a broad range of activity: itis integral to initiation ceremonies, weddings, and funerals; moth-ers use it instinctively to offer comfort to a restless child; it rousessoldiers preparing to enter the fray and serves to coordinate theironward march; our most intimate moments are heightened by itspresence;  and  it  pervades  many  aspects  of  exercise  and  sport. (Clark, Baker, & Taylor, 2016;Levitin, 2006). Indeed, so funda-mental is music to the human condition that German philosopher Friedrich   Nietzsche   famously   declared,   “Without   music,   lifewould be a mistake.

”A  sharp  increase  in  obesity,  physical  inactivity,  and  cardiore-spiratory diseases is a source of growing concern to governmentsand national health providers in many developed nations (Radfordet al., 2018;Wanner, Richard, Martin, Faeh, & Rohrmann, 2017).Lack  of  physical  activity  is  one  of  the  principal  risk  factors  fornoncommunicable diseases, which are the leading cause of deathglobally. A well-documented barrier to continued engagement inphysical activity concerns the lack of pleasure derived from par-ticipation  (e.g.,Williams,  Dunsiger,  Jennings,  &  Marcus,  2012).Accordingly,  in  recent  years,  the  field  of  exercise  and  healthpsychology  has  witnessed  a  paradigmatic  shift  from  cognitivismtoward  hedonism  (Ekkekakis,  Hartman,  &  Ladwig,  2020).  Theupshot of this shift in practical terms, is that messages highlightingrational reasons for physical activity participation (i.e., “it’s reallygood for you”) should be supplemented by an emphasis on expe-riences  that  are  pleasant  and  enjoyable  (Brand  &  Ekkekakis,2018).

Reaping the benefits of physical activity is entirely contingentupon habitual and frequent engagement. For this reason, the psy-chological  components  that  underlie  physical  activity  adherencehave come into sharp focus (Ekkekakis et al., 2020). Of these, theconstruct  ofaffect,  a  gestalt  assessment  of  how  pleasant  andaroused one feels, is paramount. Earlier work showing the importance of experiencing positively valenced affect to reinforce phys-ical activity behavior has given way to more nuanced explanations.For  example,Parfitt  and  Hughes  (2009)elucidated  the  implications of thepeak-end rule, which holds that instances of extremelypositive affective experience (referred to asaffective peaks) duringphysical activity, and especially during its final moments, encour-age future participation via the proposed mechanism of affectivememory (Fredrickson & Kahneman, 1993).

Physical activity intensity is thought to be a key determinant ofaffect  and  is  duly  considered  as  a  moderating  variable  in  thepresent  analysis.  The  dual-mode  theory  proposed  byEkkekakis(2003)provides  a  framework  describing  the  affective  impact  ofthree  levels  of  physical  activity  intensity  that  vary  qualitatively.Moderatephysical  activity,  which  is  lower  than  the  ventilatorythreshold (i.e., the intensity at which breathing becomes labored),is  characteristically  pleasurable.Heavyphysical  activity,  whichlies close to the ventilatory threshold, may be perceived as plea-surable  or  displeasurable  depending  on  the  interpretation  of  theperformer.Severephysical activity, which lies beyond the venti-latory threshold, is almost universally perceived as displeasurable.Given its propensity to enhance affective states during physicalactivity, music has been advocated as a means by which to increaseadherence to physical activity (e.g.,Clark et al., 2016;Hutchinsonet al., 2018). The role of music may prove especially beneficial,given  that  it  has  been  shown  to  have  a  positive  influence  onaffective valence, even at higher physical activity intensities (e.g.,Bigliassi, Karageorghis, Nowicky, Orgs, & Wright, 2016;Terry,Karageorghis,  Mecozzi  Saha,  &  D’Auria,  2012). 

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