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Alberta student project finds music improves swimmer performance

A University of Lethbridge student project suggests that listening to music with underwater headphones while swimming competitively, can make you faster.

U of L student wanted to bring together 2 passions

A new University of Lethbridge student project suggests listening to music can increase a swimmer's speed. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

A University of Lethbridge student project suggests that listening to music with underwater headphones while swimming competitively, can make you faster.

Spencer Simkin is graduating from the digital audio arts program in the spring.

He took five swimmers between the ages of 12 and 20 and had them swim 400 metres while listening to four different songs, with different tempos.

"Music synchronicity is being used in other rhythmic sports like running and rowing, but no one was talking about or using it for swimming," Simkin said.

"I came up with the idea of using underwater headphones to work with the swimmers and have them swim to the rhythm of songs."

Simkin saw a jump in the strokes per minute when the swimmers listened to music.

Spencer Simkin picked 5 young swimmers to see if adding music to laps would make a difference. It does, to a point. (Supplied)

Without music, stroke rates ranged between 37 and 40. With music those rates increased to the range of 42 to 43.

He used four songs, one each week, getting progressively faster: The Indiana Jones theme song, Michael Jackson's Beat It, Eminem's Lose Yourself and Code Name Vivaldi by The Piano Guys.

"The study showed promising results. We did see a boost in the stroke rate, which is great," Simkin explained.

He said the last song, Code Name Vivaldi, is faster than the other three and it really pushed swimmers to work.

Older swimmers in the project, aged 15 to 20, got up to a stroke rate of 55. Younger participants got up to 46 strokes per minute but couldn't maintain it after 200 metres.

"I have a better understanding now of what is going on musically that these athletes can use. The best part of this research was finding out that music does play a role and you can use music to help improve performance," Simkin said.

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