Effects of music during exercise on RPE, heart rate and the autonomic nervous system

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2006 Sep;46(3):425-30.


Aim: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between the influence of music on RPE during sub-maximal exercise and on the autonomic nervous system before and after sub-maximal exercise.

Methods: Heart rate (HR), HR variability (HRV) and rates of physical fatigue (RPE) during exercise at 60% and at 40% VO2max with and without music were measured. The exercise protocol consisted of a 30-min seated rest (control) period followed by a 30-min submaximal cycling exercise and a 35-min recovery period. Autonomic-nervous activity was measured before and after exercise. During exercise, RPE was recorded every 3 min and HR was recorded for every minute.

Results: Although RPE did not differ during exercise at 60% VO2max, this value was lower during exercise at 40% VO2max in the presence, than in the absence of a favorite piece music (P < 0.05). HR, HFA and LFA/HFA of HRV significantly differed with exercise intensity in the absence (P < 0.05), but not in the presence of music.

Conclusions: These findings suggested that music evokes a ''distraction effect'' during low intensity exercise, but might not influence the autonomic nervous system. Therefore, when jogging or walking at comparatively low exercise intensity, listening to a favorite piece of music might decrease the influence of stress caused by fatigue, thus increasing the ''comfort'' level of performing the exercise.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Music*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Reference Values