Participants in popular races has continuously increased in the last decade. Most of these runners are amateur, with a reported 46.3% suffering from injuries during one year of follow-up.
Although running injuries can be caused by multiple factors, a correct support is essential to absorb the impact with the ground. The most repeated injuries in runners are knee (20.9%), calf (16.3%), Achilles’ tendon (12.2%), feet (9.2%), and hip (8.8%).
Stride frequency is defined as the total number of running steps per minute. The frequency with the minimal metabolic cost is known as optimal stride frequency (OSF), that usually coincides with the frequency that runners choose, or preferred stride frequency (PSF).
Nevertheless, when runners are tired, the stride frequency changes, causing an increase in the metabolic cost of running.
At the same speed an increase in stride frequency (SF) can reduce the risk of injury: the metatarsal is supported while the knee, ankle, and hip joints absorb less mechanical energy due to the lower impact of limbs against the ground.
It has been shown that music is a useful tool to modify stride frequency. Musical rhythm produces a synchronous effect in physical activities with cyclical movements (running, cycling, rowing, and others) due to the synchronization of bodily movement to the beats. Additionally, it offers additional benefits such as decreased perception of fatigue, improved emotional regulation and improved aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance, among others.
A recent study tested if popular runners training with music feedback at a controlled pace (+10% PSF) improved SF even in the absence of sound stimuli.
Included 12 active runners (8 males, 4 females) with an average age of 36.7 years, who run more than 15 km per week and not having suffered any injury or illness in the previous 6 months.
The initial test was a dynamic warm-up (5–10 min) and subsequently, a music rhythm test to assess the participants’ ability to keep the rhythm of the music while running.
Afterwards a test to measure the PSF (using video capture analysis) was performed, running for 20 min at moderate intensity on a course of 450 m straight, 0% gradient asphalt road.
The experimental group received an individualized music track with a beat, in bpm, that matched an OSF speed a 10% higher than their PSF and instructed to use it while following their usual training plans.
The running tests to measure PSF were repeated after 15 days and 30 days.
- There was an improvement in stride frequency in the group which used music feedback during their running training sessions.
- Due to the increase in SF the risk of injury could be reduced.
- Music also works as a stimulus to learn the running technique.
Despite the reduced size of the sample of this study, it seems that music playlists with a preset speed (in bpm) may help to increase stride frequency and reduce the risk of injury (by improving the running technique), while being also motivational for recreational runners.
Sellés-Pérez, S.; Eza-Casajús, L.; Fernández-Sáez, J.; Martínez-Moreno, M.; Cejuela, R. Using Musical Feedback Increases Stride Frequency in Recreational Runners. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 3870. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19073870