From Ergo Log
Lots of athletes like to train to music. That’s not so surprising, as music banishes fatigue and reduces pain, facts that have been known since Aristotle. But in 2001 the Japanese endocrinologist Hajime Fukui published the results of a study that might cause you to wonder if there isn’t another side to the coin when it comes to training with music. Fukui discovered that music lowers testosterone levels, in men at least.
Fukui, who works at the Nara University of Education, did an experiment with seventy students aged from 19-25. Half of the students were women and half were men. Fukui got them all to listen to music for 30 minutes.
Ten students listened in the afternoon to their personal favourite music, ten listened to cantatas sung by Gregorian monks, ten to music that was popular at that moment, ten to Mozart’s Sonata in D Major, K. 448, ten to jazz and twenty didn’t listen to any music at all. Each of the groups consisted of equal numbers of men and women.
Fukui took a saliva sample from each of his subjects before and after they listened to the music, and measured the concentration of testosterone in the saliva. He discovered that listening to music raised the concentration of testosterone in the women [first figure below], but that it lowered the concentration of testosterone in men [second figure below]. The concentration of testosterone in saliva gives an indication of the concentration of testosterone in the blood.
Fukui interprets his results from an evolutionary theory perspective. He thinks that humans invented music to make living and working together in groups easier. The high level of testosterone in men, which is accompanied by aggression and more or less continuous sex drive, is an impediment to this, and music helps.
Fukui did not look at what music does to men and women who train. But if they react in the same way as the subjects in this study, then natural male athletes may be reducing their progression by training to background music.
Among the women, the testosterone boosting effect was strongest among those who listened to music of their own choice.
Among the men, listening to their own choice of music was what lowered their testosterone levels the most. The damage to the men was confined by listening to Gregorian music. Perhaps not quite the musical accompaniment you’d choose for your workout.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Jun; 930:448-51.