Listening to uptempo music significantly improved patients’ exercise capacity during a stress test, compared with patients who didn’t listen to music, according to data from a randomized trial of 127 patients.

Exercise stress tests are frequently recommended to evaluate patients for heart disease, but many patients don’t work hard enough to reach a useful level of exertion, Waseem Shami, MD , of Texas Tech University in El Paso, said in a web briefing in advance of the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.

Although many exercisers find motivation in listening to music during workouts, the value of music to improve the quality of treadmill exercise stress testing has not been well studied, said Dr. Shami, who said he was inspired to conduct the study based on his own experience with music providing motivation for his daily runs.

The group of patients that listened to lively music averaged 55 seconds longer exercise time, compared with the no-music control group, Dr. Shami said. The average exercise time was 505.8 seconds in the music group and 455.2 in the control group (P = .045).

Dr. Shami and his colleagues randomized 67 adults scheduled for cardiac stress tests to listen to music during the test and 60 controls to undergo the test without music. The average age of the patients was 53 years, and 61% and 67% of those in the music and control groups, respectively, were women. Demographic characteristics and variables, including resting heart rate and blood pressure, were similar between the music and control groups.

In a clinical setting, the use of music may help reduce unnecessary stress testing, which is deemed unsuccessful if the patient doesn’t exercise hard enough to achieve a target heart rate. “Perhaps this motivational tool can help us make stress testing more valuable,” said Dr. Shami. The results were limited by the relatively small study population and the fact that the researchers, not the patients, chose the music, Dr. Shami said.

More research is needed in a larger trial, and “allowing patients to choose their own music might make an even bigger difference,” he noted. Also, patients’ discomfort with exercising in general and exercising in public may have impacted the results, he said.

Moderator Martha Gulati, MD , of the University of Arizona, Phoenix, noted that an area for future research might be to do a cardiac stress test without and without music on the same person, with the patient serving as his or her own control.

Dr. Shami had no relevant financial conflicts to disclose.


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