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Sports Med Open. 2015;1(1):15. Epub 2015 Jul 14.

Spontaneous Entrainment of Running Cadence to Music Tempo.

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IPEM, Department of Arts, Music and Theatre Sciences, Ghent University, Technicum Blok 2, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 41, Ghent, Belgium.
EuroMov, Movement 2 Health Laboratory (M2H), University of Montpellier, 700 Avenue du Pic Saint Loup, Montpellier, France.



Since accumulating evidence suggests that step rate is strongly associated with running-related injuries, it is important for runners to exercise at an appropriate running cadence. As music tempo has been shown to be capable of impacting exercise performance of repetitive endurance activities, it might also serve as a means to (re)shape running cadence. The aim of this study was to validate the impact of music tempo on running cadence.


Sixteen recreational runners ran four laps of 200 m (i.e. 800 m in total); this task was repeated 11 times with a short break in between each four-lap sequence. During the first lap of a sequence, participants ran at a self-paced tempo without musical accompaniment. Running cadence of the first lap was registered, and during the second lap, music with a tempo matching the assessed cadence was played. In the final two laps, the music tempo was either increased/decreased by 3.00, 2.50, 2.00, 1.50, or 1.00 % or was kept stable. This range was chosen since the aim of this study was to test spontaneous entrainment (an average person can distinguish tempo variations of about 4 %). Each participant performed all conditions.


Imperceptible shifts in musical tempi in proportion to the runner's self-paced running tempo significantly influenced running cadence (p < .001). Contrasts revealed a linear relation between the tempo conditions and adaptation in running cadence (p < .001). In addition, a significant effect of condition on the level of entrainment was revealed (p < .05), which suggests that maximal effects of music tempo on running cadence can only be obtained up to a certain level of tempo modification. Finally, significantly higher levels of tempo entrainment were found for female participants compared to their male counterparts (p < .05).


The applicable contribution of these novel findings is that music tempo could serve as an unprompted means to impact running cadence. As increases in step rate may prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of common running-related injuries, this finding could be especially relevant for treatment purposes, such as exercise prescription and gait retraining.


Music tempo can spontaneously impact running cadence.A basin for unsolicited entrainment of running cadence to music tempo was discovered.The effect of music tempo on running cadence proves to be stronger for women than for men.

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