Music tempo : a tool for regulating walking cadence and physical activity intensity in overweight adults?

Faulkner, Maria and McNeilly, Andrea and Davison, Gareth and Rowe, David and Hewitt, Allan and Nevill, Alan and Duly, Ellie and Trinick, Tom and Murphy, Marie (2021) Music tempo : a tool for regulating walking cadence and physical activity intensity in overweight adults? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18 (15). 7855. ISSN 1660-4601 (

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This study investigated if music tempo can prompt a desired walking cadence, and if music can provide a stimulus to regulate physical activity intensity in a longitudinal physical activity intervention with free-living adults. Overweight adults ( = 37; 94.26 ± 17.11 kg; 49.63 ± 12.37 years) were randomly assigned to an intervention (IG, = 17) or usual care group (UC, = 20) as part of a novel nine-month walking intervention. IG participants walked to self-selected music with a predetermined tempo and received a behavioural change support programme. At baseline, four-, six- and nine-months participants were asked to walk around an elliptical track at their habitual pace (0-2 min) and then in time to a predetermined tempo (2-8 min) designed to elicit moderate intensity. Cadence response (steps/min) was assessed and intensity (heart rate (bpm) recorded using wireless telemetry. A repeated measures general linear model (GLM) examined differences between groups over time ( < 0.05). All data is presented as means ± SD. At each assessment point both groups displayed an immediate cadence adjustment in response to music tempo ( < 0.01) i.e., habitual cadence vs. 3 METs target cadence ( < 0.05) and 3 METs target cadence vs. 5 METs target cadence ( < 0.05). Additionally, IG participants displayed an increased habitual cadence (0-2 min) at each assessment point ( < 0.05; 110 ± 9, 121.80 ± 7.5, 121.46 ± 10, 121.93 ± 7 steps/min respectively). UC participant's habitual cadence was unchanged from 0-9 months ( > 0.05; 120 ± 10, 116 ± 13, 119 ± 12 and 119 ± 9 steps/min respectively). Music tempo may be a useful regulatory tool to prompt the free-living individual to reach an appropriate stride rate to achieve a walking pace that is at least moderate intensity. It also appears that results may be trainable as throughout the study an increased habitual walking cadence was observed, in the absence of music.