Older Adults' Music Listening Preferences to Support Physical Activity Following Cardiac Rehabilitation Academic Article uri icon


  • Music listening during exercise is thought to increase physiological arousal and enhance subjective experience, and may support physical activity participation among older adults with cardiac disease. However, little is known about how music preferences, or perceptions of music during exercise, inform clinical practice with this population.Identify predominant musical characteristics of preferred music selected by older adults, and explore participants' music listening experiences during walking-based exercise following cardiac rehabilitation.Twenty-seven participants aged 60 years and older (21 men, 6 women; mean age = 67.3 years) selected music to support walking over a 6-month intervention period, and participated in post-intervention interviews. In this two-phase study, we first identified predominant characteristics of participant-selected music using the Structural Model of Music Analysis. Second, we used inductive thematic analysis to explore participant experiences.Predominant characteristics of participant-selected music included duple meter, consistent rhythm, major key, rounded melodic shape, legato articulation, predictable harmonies, variable volume, and episodes of tension with delayed resolution. There was no predominant tempo, with music selections ranging from slow through to medium and fast. Four themes emerged from thematic analysis of participant interviews: psycho-emotional responses, physical responses, influence on exercise behavior, and negative experiences.Findings are consistent with theory and research explaining influences from music listening on physiological arousal and subjective experience during exercise. Additionally, for older adults with cardiac disease, a holistic approach to music selection considering general well-being and adjustment issues, rather than just exercise performance, may improve long-term lifestyle changes and compliance with physical activity guidelines.

publication date

  • 2016