Interval exercise training can elicit physiological adaptations similar to traditional endurance training, but in reduced time. However, the intense nature of specific protocols, particularly the “all out” efforts characteristic of sprint interval training (SIT), may be perceived as being aversive. The purpose of this study was to determine if listening to self-selected music can reduce the potential aversiveness of an acute session of SIT by improving affect, motivation and enjoyment, and to examine the effects of music on performance.

Twenty moderately active adults (22±4 y), unfamiliar with interval exercise, completed an acute session of SIT under two different conditions: music and no music. The exercise consisted of four, 30-second “all-out” Wingate Anaerobic Test (WAnT) bouts on a cycle ergometer, separated by four minutes of rest. Peak and mean power output, ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), affect, task motivation and perceived enjoyment of the exercise were measured. Mixed-effects models were used to evaluate changes in the dependent measures over time and between the two conditions.

Peak and mean power over the course of the exercise session were higher in the music condition (coefficients = 49.72 [SE=13.55], 23.65 [SE=11.30], p<0.05). A significant time X condition effect emerged for peak power (coefficients = -12.31 [SE = 4.95], p<0.05). There were no between-condition differences for RPE, affect or task motivation. Perceived enjoyment increased over time, and was consistently higher in the music condition (coefficient = 7.00 [SE=3.05], p<0.05).

Music enhanced in-task performance and enjoyment of an acute bout of SIT. Listening to music during intense interval exercise may be an effective strategy to facilitate participation in, and adherence to, this form of training.