Student Athlete Column: Science Says Scatman John Will Make You Run Faster

Scatman is just one song that is scientifically proven to improve a workout. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Scatman is just one song that is scientifically proven to improve a workout. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Kevin Dineen, Contributing Writer

Today during team lift, my teammates and I were working on a routine that our coach, Gio, gave to us. We decided it would be nice to put on some music just to get through the workout. We put on “Electric Feel” by MGMT, which is described by the band as a “synth-rock” song. It’s upbeat and catchy, so I figured it would be a nice song to workout to.

Quickly after putting the song on Gio came over and asked what song we were playing, claiming, “this is way too happy.” I asked what he meant, and he told me that I needed to be playing something angry to really get the juices flowing. 

Normally I don’t listen to much angry music, but it made me think, what really is the optimal music for exercise? I figured it must come down to personal preference. Turns out there is a bit more to the science of music and exercise than I thought.

Listening to music while exercising is effective for a variety of reasons. Dr. Costas Karageorghi and Dr. David-Lee Priest submitted research on music and exercise to “The Sport Journal,” and after reading their research, I found some pretty interesting information.

They found that there are five key ways in which music can influence performances: dissociation, arousal regulation, synchronization, acquisition of motor skills and attainment of flow. The most interesting one and most effective at increasing performance was synchronization.

Karageorghis and Priest’s research found that synchronization of music and repetitive exercise consistently lead to higher levels of work output. By synchronizing the tempo of a song and exercise, athletes can prolong their performance and perform exercises more efficiently. It turns out that the mood of a song, angry or happy, is not as important as the rhythm itself (sorry Gio).

Haile Gebrselassie is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and actually broke the 10,000-meter world record three separate times between 1995 and 1998 while using the music synchronization method. Gebrselassie synched his stride with the rhythm of the song “Scatman” by Scatman John. If you’ve ever heard “Scatman,” you know it was probably difficult to listen to that song for 26 minutes straight, so I hope the record was worth it.

According to “Cambridge Audio,” Dr. Karageorghis has actually described music as a “type of legal performance-enhancing drug.” Unfortunately, music is not legal at some events anymore. In 2007 the New York City marathon actually banned the use of music from their event. U.S.A. Track and Field also banned the use of headphones and other music playing devices from their events. 

However, for the average person, music is perfectly legal and proven to be beneficial to training. So next time you are struggling through your jog or lagging on your last set, consider throwing on some Scatman John or anything else that fits your tempo.