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Do headphones give sailors and airmen an edge on their PT tests?

A sailor wearing headphones takes the Navy Physical Readiness Test at Naval Base Kitsap, Wash. (Jon R. Anderson/Staff)

A sailor wearing headphones takes the Navy Physical Readiness Test at Naval Base Kitsap, Wash. (Jon R. Anderson/Staff)

Navy and Air Force PT test-takers may get an edge when it comes to music-fueled performance.

A new survey polling 1,000 Americans finds that a good playlist boosts workouts, adding to a body of evidence on the subject.

While sailors and airmen are allowed to amp up their PT-test cardio events with their favorite playlists, soldiers and Marines are forbidden from using music players during testing.

The survey, sponsored by headphone makers Sol Republic, finds “that two out of three headphone owners would be less active without music to push them, while 40 percent would kill their workout completely if they didn’t have their headphones.”

The favorite go-to workout song among those surveyed: rock classic “Eye of Tiger” by Survivor, which was “followed distantly” by Katy Perry’s “Roar” and the “Chariots of Fire” theme.

Of course, it’s not just headphone makers who say an up-tempo playlist can help improve your fitness focus.

Digging into some of the latest research, experts with the American Council on Exercise concluded that a good beat can directly impact performance.

“You go all the way back to rowers on the Roman Galleys,” says Dr. Carl Foster. of the University of Wisconsin in an ACE write-up on the studies. “The guy is sitting there beating on his drum and he drives the basic rhythm of the rowing. Part of that is coordination — you want the rowers to row together — but part of it is that people will naturally follow a tempo. It’s just something about the way our brains work.”

Runners should look for songs with 147 to 169 beats per minute, while cyclists will do better in the 135- to 170-bpm range.

“All things being equal, I think the stronger and more obvious the beat is, the more likely you will be to follow it,” Foster says.

One leading researcher on the topic describes music as “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug” when it comes to workouts.

In a 2012 review of music-fueled fitness studies, Dr. Costas Karageorghis of Brunnel University in London concluded that “during repetitive, endurance-type activities, self-selected, motivational and stimulative music has been shown to enhance affect, reduce ratings of perceived exertion, improve energy efficiency and lead to increased work output.”

So what are your go-to workout songs? Let us know in the comments below.

Jon R. Anderson is a staff writer for OFFduty. Contact him at jona@militarytimes.com.

14 Comments

E. Cartwright

about 7 months ago

Killswitch Engage - "In Due Time"

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TRAVIS ELLERBE

about 7 months ago

What you know by T.I.

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S. Mathews

about 7 months ago

I would openly welcome the use of headphones during the APFT. I do believe it does indeed help run times, and it helps my own. It's the same concept as using cadence. My playlist allows me to sync my strides to the beat of the song. It allows you to focus on something other than how much you hate running in a circle or that flat stretch of wooded road.

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Hilliard

about 7 months ago

I agree !!! The Army needs to get with the times. If I'm more focused on a really good song and not how much more time I have to waste before PT is over. I really believe that all Soldier would really get something out of the APFT.

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J. Messier

about 7 months ago

When I cycle, I use sections from my Sufferfest videos. Amazing for indoor workouts, they also work well on the road for just the music and the "speed up/ push it" audible cues. I used it on this past PRT and I added 30 calories to my usual burn amount. SO close to that excellent mark. I'll get it next time! The video I used for this PRT was called "Violator". It'l leave you feeling like a sack of jello.

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Monika Comeaux

about 7 months ago

I would welcome being able to wear headphones. When I listen to techno, I set my pace between 68-72 steps a minute, which is a very good pace for me when I aim to max my run.

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AF For Life

about 7 months ago

Of course the USMC and Army don't allow headphones....

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D Gomez

about 7 months ago

"New survey?" This fact is nothing new at all. It has been documented before.

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SSG J

about 7 months ago

Given the fact that most often APFT are conducted during PT hours where the roads are closed or in an area where traffic is not a concern I believe that it should be allowed. Music helps to take your mind off alot to include your running. Besides, maybe the Army should quit worrying about giving us troops a hard way to go and help us out.

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Robert

about 7 months ago

Intro to DMX It's Dark and Hell is Hot

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JReid

about 7 months ago

Cradle to the Grave - 5 finger death punch The concept of using high tempo music as a performance enhancer is not permitted by the Army due to the concept of self motivation and resilence. When physical performance is needed in a combat situation, and your body and mind are physically taxed, will it be the fast tempo music that pushes you to meet the standard (and stay alive)? Obviously this point can be debated with viable arguements such as "The APFT is used to maintain physical fitness. If music is used to enhance physical readiness while training, it will produce better soldiers.." Personally I would love to listen to some heavy music while training.. Pumps me up. hooah.

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Mike

about 7 months ago

Of course headphones help people run faster, no surprise. The navy and Air Force also don't conduct mass PT like the Army and Marines. Any given morning on large installations there could be 10,000 people running. Mix headphones in with the post PT formation traffic and we have a safety issue. I think the APFT could be an exception on a closed route, but mental conditioning and discipline to be able to maximize your physical ability without music is important because you don't get music on patrol. Also, go to 5k, 10k, half marathons and other races and see who comes in early, they don't use headphones because they trained their minds not to need them.

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Erik

about 7 months ago

Breathe by The Prodigy

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frank

about 7 months ago

Anything heavy metal. Laid to rest - lamb of god.

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