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Listening to music could help make workouts last longer, study finds

If completing a one-mile run on the treadmill or a 10-minute living room workout is a struggle, there's a simple way to help push past the finish line: Listen to music.

During exercise, music motivates people to put more effort into it and helps them exercise for a longer period of time, according to a study presented recently at a session for the American College of Cardiology. That makes music a key part of improving heart health, the study's lead author, Dr. Waseem Shami, said.

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“Music has shown to increase exercise capacity in a smaller group of patients, which gives some evidence that music can be a key resource in a stress-testing lab and during regular exercise," said Shami, who is currently a Rutgers University fellow at the Robert Woods Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

The randomized study monitored 127 patients, ranging in age from 20 to 70, as they ran on a treadmill. While half the patients listened to upbeat Latin music during the routine electrocardiogram stress test, the other half didn't, yet all participants wore headphones. Every three minutes, the angle and speed of the treadmill would increase.

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Researchers, sifting through scores of medical data of each participant, found that the group who were fortunate enough to be accompanied by music worked out nearly 51 seconds longer than the group exercising in silence.

"If you suspect someone has heart disease, getting another minute out of them is a pretty rigorous result to get from a patient," Shami said.

One limitation to the study was the very specific selection of music. Shami admitted he would probably have a better workout if he was listening to rock and roll, his personal favorite.

"Music should be offered to the patients more," Shami said. "This can help be a resource or tool to really motivate a person and make them feel more comfortable and help them be more active."

Exercising can help to reduce the risks of heart disease, maintain weight loss and strengthen bones and muscles. But only about 1 in 5 U.S. adults aged 18 and older get the recommended amount of physical exercise each week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The federal guidelines are:

  • at least 150 minutes, or 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise
  • 75 minutes, or 1 hour and 15 minutes, a week of high-intensity aerobic activity
  • an equivalent combination of moderate- and high-intensity aerobic exercise

So, the next time you lace up your sneakers, make sure you have a playlist ready to go, too.

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