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Does Listening to Podcasts Instead of Music Affect My Workout?

Must a voice be singing for me to get swole?

So you’ve made your way into the gym, you’ve attired yourself in some inexpensive yet shockingly utilitarian Old Navy workout gear and you’ve decided to cue up your favorite podcast. Personally, I don’t care if you listen to something from a cast member of The Sopranos or a couple of guys who have watched Grown-Ups 2 every week for a year; I’m not here to pass judgement. All I want to do is ensure that your auditory input isn’t somehow managing to sabotage your physical output.

Are you suggesting that what I’m listening to on my headphones has a direct influence on the quality of my workout?

I’m not only suggesting it; I’m making an unqualified declaration. Several studies have proven that the nature of what you listen to can have a significant influence on your workout, ranging from the intensity of your workout to the overall duration of your training. However, virtually every study along these lines has specifically involved the influence of music on training, and what transpires when the volume, genre and tempo of the music are varied. 

So if all of the studies involved music, how can the results of those studies guide our decisions with respect to listening to podcasts and other auditory intrusions?

Well, we can sagaciously select which logical deductions from these studies would still reasonably apply even if we replaced your up-tempo Dua Lipa playlist with Joe Rogan’s musings about fitness and HGH use. For example, one prominent study demonstrated that people who listened to music were more likely to extend the lengths of their workouts and train for longer durations than people who listened to nothing at all. The conclusion reached by the researchers was that the decision to extend exercise time had less to do with the specific nature of the music — or even the fact that it was music at all, per se — and had far more to do with the fact that listening to something you like renders you more inclined to prolong whatever activity engenders an opportunity keep listening.

In fact, this also seems to be supported by the conclusions of other studies suggesting that endurance trainees are the most likely athletes to benefit from having the opportunity to listen to enjoyable content during their workouts. Indefinitely extending a weightlifting session, which is usually capable of taxing and tearing down the targeted muscle groups in 30 minutes or less, is of far less value than protracting a round of steady-state cardio by a further 20 minutes, and potentially burning 200 to 300 more calories.

That’s cool. It doesn’t sound like there would be any drawbacks to listening to podcasts while I train.

Don’t get carried away. Since we’re already making logical deductions based on studies that explore the connections between fitness training and music use, another finding that would apply to a predilection for podcasts is that listening to music is distracting to the listener, and leads to a loss of coordination during training sessions, and potentially an increased number of injurious accidents.

That said, provided that you aren’t a notably fragile individual, an occasional stumble or misstep won’t prove disastrous — not to mention, it’s a relatively small price to pay for the sake of ensuring an optimal caloric burn at the conclusion of every workout. Or in practical terms: Carry on, Michael Imperoli.