The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.
The performance of runners who listened to a self-selected playlist after completing a demanding thinking task was at the same level as when they were not mentally fatigued, the research found.
The study is the first to investigate the effect of listening to music playlists on endurance running capacity and performance when mentally fatigued.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used two tests to study how listening to music affected the running performance of eighteen fitness enthusiasts.
One test looked at the effects on interval running capacity – alternating between high intensity running and lower intensity jogging – with a group of nine physically active exercisers, and the other on a 5km time-trial with a group of nine trained runners.
The groups completed a 30-minute computer-based cognitive test which put them in a mentally fatigued state before completing a high-intensity exercise. The runners were tested with and without self-selected motivational music.
Researchers assisted participants in choosing motivational songs with a pre-test questionnaire asking them to rate the rhythm, style, melody, tempo, sound and beat of the music.
Examples of songs participants listened to were: ‘Everyday’ by A$ap Rocky, ‘Addicted To You’ by Avicii, ‘Run This Town’ by Jay-Z, ‘Power’ by Kanye West, ‘No One Knows’ by Queens of the Stone Age, and ‘Eye of the Tiger’ by Survivor.
During the exercise, heart rate and rating of perceived exertion were measured at multiple points.
The team took into account the results of a baseline test taken by participants which was without a mentally demanding test beforehand – and without the use of music.