Music extends exercise time during cardiac stress testing
Listening to upbeat music during an ECG treadmill stress test significantly prolongs exercise time, suggests a pilot study presented at the American College of Cardiology 2018 (ACC.18) Annual Scientific Session in Orlando, Florida, US.
“[T]his study provides some evidence that music may help serve as an extra tool to help motivate someone to exercise more, which is critical to heart health,” said lead author Dr Waseem Shami from Texas Tech University Health Sciences in El Paso, Texas, US.
Compared with control participants without tunes playing in their ears, exercise time was significantly longer by almost a minute among those who underwent cardiac stress testing while listening to an upbeat music (455.2 vs 505.8 seconds; p=0.045). [ACC.18, abstract 1182-006]
“I think it’s something we intuitively knew, but we found [to be true]. I suspect if it had been a larger study, we'd see a bigger difference,” said Shami.
In addition, participants with music on had an increased metabolic equivalent of task (MET) ─ a measure of exercise intensity ─ compared with those without music on during the cardiac stress testing (9.45 vs 8.67; p=0.094), although the difference was not significant between the two groups.
No difference was seen in the proportions of patients who were able to achieve the maximal target heart rate in both groups, to which the researchers suggested that a larger study is needed to tease this out.
The single-centre, single-blinded study involved 127 patients (mean age 53 years, >60 percent female) scheduled for an ECG treadmill stress test. They were randomized to undergo cardiac stress testing wearing headphones which contained either up-tempo music (such as Latin-inspired tune) or without music on. Both groups of patients had similar medical history, in particular hypertension and diabetes. The ECG treadmill stress testing followed the Bruce protocol, whereby the treadmill speed and incline was increased every 3 minutes.
“After 6 minutes, you feel like you are running up a mountain, so even being able to go 50 seconds longer means a lot,” he said, explaining that stress tests can be challenging, and even painful to some people.
Although the study subjects were participants undergoing cardiac stress testing, Shami believed that the implication of the findings could extend to a broader population and help motivate people to exercise. Based on expert recommendations, adults should get ≥30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week.
“Our findings reinforce the idea that upbeat music has a synergistic effect in terms of making you want to exercise longer and stick with a daily exercise routine,” said Shami. “When doctors are recommending exercise, they might suggest listening to music too.”