Music has been shown to be capable of improving runners’ performance in treadmill and laboratory-based experiments. This paper evaluates a generative music system, namely HEARTBEATS, designed to create biosignal synchronous music in real-time according to an individual athlete’s heartrate or cadence (steps per minute). The tempo, melody, and timbral features of the generated music are modulated according to biosensor input from each runner using a combination of PPG (Photoplethysmography) and GPS (Global Positioning System) from a wearable sensor, synchronized via Bluetooth. We compare the relative performance of athletes listening to music with heartrate and cadence synchronous tempos, across a randomized trial (N = 54) on a trail course with 76 ft of elevation. Participants were instructed to continue until their self-reported perceived effort went beyond an 18 using the Borg rating of perceived exertion. We found that cadence-synchronous music improved performance and decreased perceived effort in male runners. For female runners, cadence synchronous music improved performance but it was heartrate synchronous music which significantly reduced perceived effort and allowed them to run the longest of all groups tested. This work has implications for the future design and implementation of novel portable music systems and in music-assisted coaching.
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