Relationship between Exercise Heart Rate and Music Tempo Preference

By Karageorghis, Costas I.; Jones, Leighton et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Relationship between Exercise Heart Rate and Music Tempo Preference


Karageorghis, Costas I., Jones, Leighton, Low, Daniel C., Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


The present study examined the predicted positive and linear relationship (Iwanaga, 1995a, 1995b) between exercise heart rate and music tempo preference. Initially, 128 undergraduate students (M age = 20.0 years, SD = 0.9) were surveyed to establish their three favorite music artists. A separate experimental group of 29 undergraduates (M age = 20.3 years, SD = 1.2) selected the music of a single artist from the three highest-rated artists from the earlier survey. They reported their preference for slow, medium, and fast tempo selections from each artist for three treadmill walking conditions at 40%, 60%, and 75 % maximal heart rate reserve. A mixed-model 3 x 3 x 2 (Exercise Intensity x Music Tempo x Gender) analysis of variance was used to analyze the data. Results indicated there was no three-way interaction for music preference. There was, however a significant (p < .05) two-way interaction for Exercise Intensity x Music Tempo (partial 712 = .09) and a significant (p < .05) main effect for music tempo, with large differences evident between preference for medium versus slow tempo and fast versus slow tempo music at all exercise intensities (partial 712 =. 78). Participants reported a preference for both medium and fast tempo music at low and moderate exercise intensities and for fast tempo music at high intensity. Only partial support was found for the expected linear relationship between exercise intensity and music tempo preference.

Key words: music speed, rhythm response, treadmill walking

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The use of music in sport and exercise contexts has attracted considerable interest from researchers in recent years (e.g., Karageorghis, Terry, & Lane, 1999; Szabo, Small, & Leigh, 1999; Tenenbaum et al., 2004), and it has long been considered effective for enhancing the exercise experience (for a review, see Karageorghis & Terry, 1997). Poorly designed studies and lack of an underlying theoretical framework blighted much of the early research in this area. These problems were addressed in part by Karageorghis and Terry (1997), who provided guidelines on study design, and Karageorghis et al. (1999), who developed a conceptual framework for assessing the motivational qualities of music in sport and exercise.

In their conceptual framework, Karageorghis et al. (1999) proposed that four factors contribute to the motivational qualities of a piece of music: (a) rhythm response, (b) musicality, (c) cultural impact, and (d) association. Rhythm response relates to the musical rhythm, most notably tempo (speed of music as measured in beats per minute), whereas musicality is the response to pitch-related elements, such as harmony and melody. Cultural impact refers to the pervasiveness of the music within society, and association pertains to the extramusical associations a piece may evoke (e.g., Vangelis's Chariots of Fire with Olympic glory). The factors exhibit a hierarchical structure (i.e., rhythm response is the most important, while association is the least important contributor to the motivational quotient of a piece of music).

Tempo is considered to be the most significant determinant of musical response (Brown, 1979; Budd, 1985; Hevner, 1935; Karageorghis et al., 1999). Berlyne (1971) predicted a curvilinear relationship between preference and tempo. A review by Bruner (1990) supported this; however, the listener's physiological arousal and the context in which the music is heard may affect the tempo preference (North & Hargreaves, 1997), meaning that as physiological arousal increases, one should, accordingly, prefer higher tempi. Neuropsychologists have asserted that the optimal speed at which humans are able to process rhythmical stimuli may influence preferred tempo (Carroll-Phelan & Hampson, 1996). Fast tempi and strong rhythms may contribute to preference, because they are inherently stimulative (Gaston, 1951). Therefore, Berlyne's (1971) proposal, that the arousal potential of stimuli determines preference, appears intuitively appealing. …

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Relationship between Exercise Heart Rate and Music Tempo Preference
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