Effects of music in sport and exercise have been investigated in many forms since the first published study by Ayers (1911). Music has been shown to provide
significant benefits to physical and psychological responses but whether such benefits apply to ultra-distance athletes is unknown. The present research quantified
effects of music in sport and exercise, specifically in terms of performance, psychological responses, physiological functioning and ratings of perceived exertion
(RPE); and also investigated such effects among ultra-distance athletes in training and race environments. Study 1 was a meta-analysis of published research evidence,
which quantified effects of music on performance, feelings (Feeling Scale - FS), heart rate (HR), oxygen utilisation (VO2), and RPE. A total of 86 studies producing 162 effects showed weighted mean effects of d = .35 (performance), d = .47 (FS), d = .14 (HR), d = .25 (VO2), and d = .29 (RPE) confirming small to moderate benefits of music.
In Study 2, two elite ultra-distance athletes completed a 20 km training session on four occasions listening to synchronous motivational music, synchronous neutral music, an audio book, or no music. Motivational music provided athletes with significant benefits compared to no music and audio book conditions. Neutral music was associated with the slowest completion times for Athlete 1 but the second
fastest for Athlete 2, behind motivational music. Using the same interventions in Study 3, nine elite athletes evaluated effects of music during ultra-distance races of
6, 24, or 48 hours duration. Findings showed the superiority of motivational music over other interventions during the 18-24 hour period. Psychological and perceived exertion benefits of music were reported by some athletes but individual differences were clearly apparent. Overall, lap times were faster during the no-intervention periods and anecdotal reports confirmed that interventions had negative effects for some ultra-athletes. Consistent with previous research included in the meta-analysis, the present findings supported the judicious use of music interventions in sport and exercise.