For many, listening to music is the best way to stay focused when exercising. It may inspire you to work harder when working up a sweat in the gym, but according to a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology, what it won’t do is make a difference to your overall performance – at least when it comes to a ball game. However, it could potentially increase risk-taking behavior and self-esteem.
The study included 150 volunteers who were divided into three separate teams. The ball had to be thrown from a fixed spot into a funnel basket by the participants. Researchers did this to see if the music would have an influence over the results of the ball game. The participants also received a monetary incentive for each successful trial
“While the role of music in evoking emotional responses and its use for mood regulation have been a subject of considerable scientific interest, the question of how listening to music relates to changes in self-evaluative cognitions has rarely been discussed," shared co-author Dr Paul Elvers, from Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, in a statement. "This is surprising, given that self-evaluative cognitions and attitudes such as self-esteem, self-confidence and self-efficacy are considered to be sensitive to external stimuli such as music."
The task involved participants listening to their own choice of music, no music, or music suggested by the researchers. The first part involved the volunteers throwing a ball into a funnel basket from a spot they couldn’t move from. In the second part of the experiment, they were judged on their risk-taking ability, as the individuals were able to choose where they wanted to stand.
Overall, the study showed to some degree that listening to music doesn't have a negative or positive influence, at least in this type of situation. However, it did heighten the self-esteem of those who were doing well in the experiment, especially those who chose their own music and who were male.
Further research to understand the benefits of music while exercising is necessary, especially as a past study from 2010 found that cyclists who listen to fast music work harder. Other research has also found that music may in fact help runners.
“Additional research is also needed to address the potential mechanisms that may account for the finding," Dr Elvers added. "We believe that music's ability to induce pleasure as well as its function with respect to self-enhancement serve as promising candidates for future investigations."
To see if this theory holds true for other sports, a more in-depth study needs to be done.