What music to choose to play sports or work?


At noon on March 17, 2020, the first health measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic began. Travel is restricted, public and professional spaces indoors are closed. The practice of compulsory teleworking spread almost instantly throughout France. Almost one in 2 people worked from home at least one hour per week during the first four weeks of confinement, while only 3% of French employees said they practiced telework 4 years ago.

Working from home seems to save time, energy and money , since there is no need to travel. However, in teleworking, our activities are plural and mix in the same place. Thus, we face the weakening of the boundaries between professional and private life, a significant difficulty for which we were not prepared.

The practice of teleworking has advantages and when it is efficient, its spatio-temporal organization allows a balanced sharing of professional and personal activities. For this, the arrangement of our private spaces is an obligation to which we have to get used to because although working in an individual office is the preferred option for workers according to a study conducted by the Workplace Management Chair of ESSEC Business School, the trivialization of post-Covid – 19 telework is gradually gaining ground. How do we manage to reconcile our different activities in one and the same place?

Listening to music is part of our daily life . It accompanies us on average 15 hours per week in our movements, our physical activities and reflections (for example during our study hours). With the democratization of telework, the transitions between professional and personal activities can be difficult. Music can offer an enhanced sensory environment that helps us pace our daily lives and accompany our physical activities, reflections and make us more efficient in their achievement.

Music for sports

Running, indoor weight training or yoga, all physical activities during which the use of music is common. Although we can guess the psychological and ergogenic effects (benefits in terms of performance and endurance) of listening to music during physical activity, knowledge of the characteristics of the selected music is essential to guarantee their supporting role. according to the objectives set. We offer you a review of the main criteria to be taken into account for the selection of music that will best accompany the performance of your physical activities.

The first criterion is the tempo, that is to say the speed of the music. We observed that the attentional cost of a physical activity , that is to say the fatigue linked to a strong mobilization of our concentration on a task, was less important when participants synchronized with a tempo of 120 bpm (beat per minute) rather than faster or slower tempos. In addition, their movements were more precise and more stable . For an optimal effect of music on physical exertion, we therefore recommend that you opt for music of around 120 bpm.

The second important criterion is familiarity. Compared to unfamiliar music, knowing music allows you to perform more precise movements during physical activity. Knowing a music is being able to predict the course of the melody and the rhythm, nothing better to effectively synchronize your movements with the song you are listening to.

Finally, pleasantness is the third criterion to be taken into account. Pleasant music has undeniable distracting effects. Our attention will focus on music that we find enjoyable, which results in a certain variability in the movements performed, especially for the elderly. To optimize the accompaniment of a physical activity which requires precise movements, a moderately appreciated music must be privileged in order to allocate more attention to the task to be performed.

Music during reflection

In addition to accompanying us in our physical activities, music can also be a support in carrying out our professional activities or our study hours, those for which we must concentrate or think. Researchers have been interested in the productivity of computer developers volunteering to listen to music during their professional activity. Listening to music has not only reduced the time allocated to professional activities, but it has also increased the quality of their work. As if to accompany a physical activity, the ideal music to support a reflective activity brings together a set of precise criteria.

The first important criterion is the absence of words. Indeed, music without words must be privileged, in particular during a reading activity: because of the verbal and semantic load that they carry, the words have a distracting effect .

In addition to being speechless, we advise you to choose soft music with a slow or moderately fast tempo . Intensity and tempo play an important role in maintaining concentration, music with too fast tempo in addition to too high a volume, negatively influence the ability to concentrate.

As we have been able to see, the heterogeneity of the criteria of the music to accompany our physical and reflection activities is great, and additional studies on this subject are awaited. We were interested in the musical habits of young and old French-speaking adults, 509 participants responded to our online survey. The musical styles favored (jazz, classical and ambiance) and rejected (disco, metal, hard rock, techno) do not vary according to age, as does a certain preference for the absence of words.

Young adults often use music to concentrate, and they use headphones, earphones or radios and speakers to listen to music during their thinking activities. Conversely, older adults rarely listen to music during such an activity, the equipment used is largely confined to the sole use of radio or speakers. Finally, regardless of age, two profiles seem to emerge: young and old adults who listen to exclusively familiar music to concentrate, and those who listen to absolutely unknown music.

Based on these initial results, we conducted another study in which 111 French-speaking adults participated. Supportive music for performing a brainstorming activity is music that is perceived as pleasant and sweet, that would make us feel calm, relaxed, tender, upset, inspired and nostalgic.

Our study made it possible to understand more specifically the importance of the criterion of musical style: within privileged and rejected musical styles, there are differences between young and old adults. While classical music Rêve d’Amour by Franz Lizst is considered pleasant and supportive by both populations, classical music Water Musicby Georg Friedrich Handel divides young and old adults. A next longitudinal study will be conducted with around sixty young and old adult participants. The volunteers will perform tasks involving their concentration with music that they have selected or that will be imposed on them. This will allow us to better understand whether our choices are indeed the right ones when it comes to creating a favorable working environment.

Our living spaces are not only limited to furnishing. Our ability to efficiently carry out the activities that take place there is influenced by our environment, and in particular by the musical atmosphere. Knowing the ideal music to give the right rhythm to our daily life in our various activities is based on precise criteria. We offer two playlists to accompany your physical activities and reflections; they are available on the following links.

Author Bios: Roxane L. Bartoletti is aPhD student in Cognitive and Experimental Psychology at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis (UNS), Segolene MR Guérin is a PhD student at the University of Lille, Xavier Corvelyn is an Associate Professor, Nice Sophia Antipolis University (UNS) and Yvonne Delevoye is a Professor in Neuropsychology also at the University of Lille