On the stability and relevance of the exercise heart rate–music-tempo preference relationship

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ObjectivesTo examine the stability of the cubic (two points of inflection) exercise heart rate–music-tempo preference relationship found by Karageorghis et al. (2011) in cycle ergometry using a different exercise modality (treadmill exercise). To advance previous related studies through the inclusion of psychological outcome variables (e.g., state attention and intrinsic motivation) and post-experiment interviews.DesignA mixed-model experimental design was employed with two within-subject factors (exercise intensity and music tempo) and a between-subjects factor (gender). The experiment was supplemented by qualitative data that were analyzed using inductive content analysis.MethodsParticipants (n = 22) exercised at six intensities (40–90% maxHRR) during which they were exposed to music tracks at four tempi and a no-music control. Music preference, affective valence, and perceived activation were assessed during the task. Immediately afterwards, an attentional focus item, the short Flow State Scale-2 and items from the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory were administered. A subsample of participants (n = 8) was interviewed using a schedule of open-ended questions.ResultsResults did not support a cubic relationship but rather a quadratic one (one point of inflection), and there was a weak association between the optimal choice of music tempo and positive psychological outcomes.ConclusionsThe range of preferred tempi for treadmill exercise (123–131 bpm) was narrower than that for cycle ergometry (125–140 bpm). Regardless of its tempo, music reduced the number of associative thoughts by ˜10% across all exercise intensities.HighlightsWe examined the stability of the heart rate–music-tempo preference relationship.We included psychological outcome variables and post-experiment interviews.Results showed a narrower band of preferred tempi (123–131 bpm) than expected.Interview data reinforced influence of music on dissociation across intensities.Weak association between optimal music tempo and positive psychological outcomes.

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