As a recent 60-Second Science podcast explained, music syncs up the heartbeats of singers. Now comes a study on music and the steps of walkers. It’s not just the beat that affects a walker's pace. Scientists discovered that even at the same tempo, different types of music affect stride differently. The study is in the journal PLoS ONE. [Marc Leman et al., Activating and Relaxing Music Entrains the Speed of Beat Synchronized Walking]
Researchers created 52 different 30-second musical excerpts. Although all songs shared the same tempo and meter, they ranged from a simple metronome ticking to a traditional Irish tune to Van Halen. As subjects listened, they walked around an open field wearing sensors to measure stride length and timing. Afterwards, they rated each song with qualitative descriptions.
Although the participants stepped to the same beat for each song, they lengthened or shortened their strides for different types of music, which modified their speed. In general, longer strides accompanied songs rated as aggressive and loud. So if you want to pick up the pace, don't just choose a fast jam—find one that pumps up your energy as well.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]