After running for 12 minutes on a treadmill, a new research was published in the journalPsychology of Music.
Past research has shown that listening to music while exercising improves performance. However, Michael J. Hove and his colleagues question whether this relationship might go both ways.
Exercise has well-known therapeutic effects, such as increased mood, arousal, and musical pleasure. Notably, these three factors are also involved in musical pleasure.
A sample of 20 university students aged 19 to 25 took part in a research. The two one-hour lab sessions were held one week apart: an exercise session and a control session. Participants listened to 48 unfamiliar song clips from various genres, and evaluated their enjoyment of each segment on a scale from dissatisfied to very enthused.
Participants listened to and rated half of the song clips before and after the exercise and control tasks, and took a test that measured their eye-blink rates as an indicator of dopamine function.
Researchers compared and contrasted individual music enjoyment ratings for the songs and assessed whether or not these averages varied from pre- to post-test (before and after the exercise or control task). They found that the students' music enjoyment ratings increased significantly after exercising, but did not decrease after listening to the podcast. This suggested that the exercise enhanced their enjoyment of the music, whether the song was upbeat or mellow.
Following the exercise, participants showed a higher rate of positive mood and arousal than following the podcast. And while change in mood was not linked to change in music enjoyment on neither the exercise day nor the podcast day, change in arousal was significantly related to changes in music enjoyment on both days.
Students who found themselves to be more enthusiastic after doing the exercise or podcast listening tended to perceive the music as more enjoyable, according to the authors of the research. These findings contradict research that suggests that arousal plays a role in how people perceive and enjoy music.
Hove told PsyPost that they identified several factors that might impact changes in musical enjoyment. The factor that showed the strongest correlation to increased musical enjoyment was increased arousal.
Exercise was not shown to affect dopamine function, as measured by their eye-blink rates. Changes in music enjoyment were positively associated with eye-blink rates, but the relationship was not statistically significant. Future studies with larger samples and a more direct measure of dopamine might shed more light on the potential role of dopamine in the connection between exercise and music enjoyment.
Exercise increases music pleasure, not by improving mood, but by increasing arousal, according to Hove and his colleagues. Because music listening and exercise are two therapies for depressed disorders, combing the two may provide optimal outcomes. Side effects may include reduced stress, improved health, and happiness.
Michael J. Hove, Steven A. Martinez, and Samantha R. Shorrock co-authored the study, Physical exercise increases musical pleasure: Modulatory roles of arousal, mood, or dopamine?