Previous research has investigated the use of music as an ergogenic aid for exercise performance; however, the effect of music on exercise may differ between individuals of varying levels of mental toughness (MT). Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the moderating effect of MT on the effect of listening to music during exercise. Methods: The current study used a counter-balanced design, utilizing a mixed-methods approach. Thirty-one recreationally-active individuals (22.13 ± 2.11 yrs, 1.73 ± .10 m, 75.68 ± 14.67 kg, 42.89 ± 5.31 mL·kg·min-1; 65.5% males) were recruited for this study. Participants completed an initial visit to complete a MT questionnaire and create a personalized music playlist of at least 15 songs. Participants completed two familiarization trials and a VO2max test on the treadmill, all on separate days. The experimental trials consisted of two separate conditions: 1) no music (NM); and 2) self-selected music (SSM). For each experimental trial, participants performed a time-to-exhaustion (TTE) run at 80% of their VO2max, separated by at least 48 hours, followed by a post-study interview. Pearson product-moment correlations were used to investigate relationships between performance variables and MT. Moderated regression analysis was used to determine a potential order effect, as well as a potential moderating effect of MT on change in performance between NM and SSM groups. Linear regression analysis was used to determine a potential relationship between MT and change in performance between NM and SSM groups. An alpha level of p ≤ 0.05 was used to determine statistical significance. All qualitative data from post-study interviews was transcribed, coded, and categorized into primary themes. All statistical analyses was conducted via the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) software for Windows version 21 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL). Results: Averages were calculated for MT (156.39 ± 9.38), TTE SSM (14.18 ± 4.79 minutes), and TTENM (12.23 ± 5.24 minutes). Correlations were found between VO2max and TTESSM, TTENM, and MT (r = 0.390, p = 0.030; r = 0.519, p = 0.003; r = 0.404, p = 0.024; respectively). Moderated regression analysis revealed a non-significant interaction between MT, music, and order, indicating no order effect (β = -0.416, p = 0.735). Independent samples t-tests revealed no significant difference in MT, performance, or VO2maz between groups of participants who received music first or music second, indicating no effect of order (F = 0.388; p = 0.538; F = 0.537; p = 0.470; F = 0.070; p = 0.794; respectively. Moderated regression analysis, via linear regression, determined no significant moderating effect of MT on the change in performance between trials (ΔTTE) (F (3, 58) = 0.958, r = 0.217, p = 0.498). Linear regression, however, revealed a significant main effect of MT, indicating an inverse relationship between MT and ΔTTE (F (1, 29) = 4.417, r = -0.634, p = 0.044). Discussion: The results from the current study indicate that greater levels of MT were associated with less change between the two performance trials, however, there were no significant relationships between MT or performance with self-selected music. This finding suggests that individuals with greater MT may demonstrate consistent patterns of performance, irrespective of the presence of external factors. Understanding the effects of MT and how external and internal stimuli affect performance may allow exercise professionals to tailor their training or rehabilitation programs to each individual, therefore increasing exercise performance and adherence.


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Graduation Date





Garcia, Jeanette


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Community Innovation and Education


Learning Sciences and Educational Research

Degree Program

Education; Exercise Physiology









Release Date

May 2019

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)