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Do headphones give sailors and airmen an edge on their PT tests?

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A sailor wearing headphones takes the Navy Physical Readiness Test at Naval Base Kitsap, Wash. (Jon R. Anderson/Staff)

A sailor wearing headphones takes the Navy Physical Readiness Test at Naval Base Kitsap, Wash. (Jon R. Anderson/Staff)

Navy and Air Force PT test-takers may get an edge when it comes to music-fueled performance.

A new survey polling 1,000 Americans finds that a good playlist boosts workouts, adding to a body of evidence on the subject.

While sailors and airmen are allowed to amp up their PT-test cardio events with their favorite playlists, soldiers and Marines are forbidden from using music players during testing.

The survey, sponsored by headphone makers Sol Republic, finds “that two out of three headphone owners would be less active without music to push them, while 40 percent would kill their workout completely if they didn’t have their headphones.”

The favorite go-to workout song among those surveyed: rock classic “Eye of Tiger” by Survivor, which was “followed distantly” by Katy Perry’s “Roar” and the “Chariots of Fire” theme.

Of course, it’s not just headphone makers who say an up-tempo playlist can help improve your fitness focus.

Digging into some of the latest research, experts with the American Council on Exercise concluded that a good beat can directly impact performance.

“You go all the way back to rowers on the Roman Galleys,” says Dr. Carl Foster. of the University of Wisconsin in an ACE write-up on the studies. “The guy is sitting there beating on his drum and he drives the basic rhythm of the rowing. Part of that is coordination — you want the rowers to row together — but part of it is that people will naturally follow a tempo. It’s just something about the way our brains work.”

Runners should look for songs with 147 to 169 beats per minute, while cyclists will do better in the 135- to 170-bpm range.

“All things being equal, I think the stronger and more obvious the beat is, the more likely you will be to follow it,” Foster says.

One leading researcher on the topic describes music as “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug” when it comes to workouts.

In a 2012 review of music-fueled fitness studies, Dr. Costas Karageorghis of Brunnel University in London concluded that “during repetitive, endurance-type activities, self-selected, motivational and stimulative music has been shown to enhance affect, reduce ratings of perceived exertion, improve energy efficiency and lead to increased work output.”

So what are your go-to workout songs? Let us know in the comments below.

Jon R. Anderson is a staff writer for OFFduty. Contact him at jona@militarytimes.com.

Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is a writer for OFFduty. Reach him at jona@militarytimes.com.