Walking to the Beat

An article “Walking Gets Another Boost,” which appeared in the Health and Behavior section of USA Today on October 24, 2005, cited a study done by Christopher Capuano, director of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Psychology, and his graduate students Amy Hradil, Anna Rivera, Esther Rosen, Elizabeth Mezick, Rachel Goldman, Marissa Koziar and Bella Fayer.

His research team studied 41 overweight to moderately obese women during a 24-week cognitive-behavioral treatment program that consisted of dieting, walking and participation in weekly group meetings designed to promote lifestyle changes. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two exercise conditions: walking while listening to music of their choice using portable CD players or walking without music. All participants were expected to walk at least three times per week following a prescribed program that gradually increased distance and speed. By the end of the study, participants were walking 2 miles in 32 minutes. Participants were also required to keep daily records of their exercise and food intake and reduce their caloric intake to 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day.

The findings after six months were that the music-listening group adhered more closely to the walking program (98% adherent), and to the full program, than did the non-music group (only 68% adherent). Moreover, participants in the music group lost an average of 16 pounds and 4% of their body fat, while participants in the non-music group lost an average of only 8 pounds and 2% of their body fat. Capuano noted that “the big problem with a lot of exercise programs is that over time folks fail to adhere to them. The findings of this study suggest that listening to music while exercising can enhance exercise adherence and weight loss outcomes.”

Capuano presented the findings of his study at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, The Obesity Society, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on October 18, 2005 . Coverage of his study also appeared in an article run by WebMD Medical News on October 18, 2005, entitled “iPod May Jam Off the Pounds,” in an article run by The Financial Express on October 19, 2005, entitled “Music Key to Staying Slim,” and by several other news organizations and magazines since then, including Radio-Canada which interviewed Capuano and ran a story on his study.

In reading a recent article on the Web about his study, a woman wrote to Capuano and noted - “I feel compelled to tell you that without my CD player, I would not have lost 30 pounds (and counting). Music is essential to my workout. I make mixed music CDs and arrange the upbeat songs to create a 30 minute workout including a warm-up song, some “work hard” songs, and then a cool-down song. Thought you might recommend this technique because it really works!”

In his paper, Capuano noted that “listening to preferred music while exercising may facilitate focusing on the music or other pleasant stimuli rather than the discomforts that typically accompany strenuous exercise. Music may also evoke pleasant thoughts, possibly masking unpleasant stimuli (such as heavy breathing associated with physical exertion) or serving to distract one from the internal feelings associated with discomfort. Although the exact neurological substrates mediating the effects of music on pain or discomfort are not well understood, it has been demonstrated that music can reduce factors contributing to pain and discomfort such as stress, tension and anxiety.”


Christopher Capuano

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