Does Music Help With Exercise?

Do you listen to music when you exercise? Many people do but from my observations in gyms over the years, many don’t. I didn’t use to, and put up with the generic gym tunes played on repeat.

Perhaps some don’t want to but if I arrive at the gym without my headphones, the prospect of exercising without music makes me want to go home and get them. That would seem proof enough of the value music provides to us in exercise.

So does music help with exercise? Below I’ve listed some of the greatest benefits music has when listened to before, during and after exercising. Some may surprise you as they did me, and if you’ve never listened to your own music when exercising then I recommend you read on.


Music Makes You Move

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Music triggers activity in the amygdala, one of the centers of the brain linked to the feeling of emotion. It also instructs the brain to release dopamine, a chemical neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.

This explains why music makes us happy, to the extent that if we like it enough we can’t resist nodding our heads, tapping our feet and moving our bodies to it.

These powerful properties can be used to good effect to get us active enough to workout at home or get to the gym if we need a bit of encouragement, so it’s probably worth pressing play before you even start to exercise.

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It’s How Music Makes You Feel

As mentioned, music makes us feel good and triggers the release of dopamine within the brain, in fact it can result in the brain being flooded with it which is a reaction that occurs when we experience pleasure and this can rapidly improve our mood.

Dopamine is a type of brain chemical called a neurotransmitter. It’s known as ‘the feel good hormone’ and is also a precursor for adrenalin. It’s believed it’s primary function is to help ensure our survival, therefore rewarding us with the feeling of pleasure for things that promote life such as eating or having sex when we participate in those activities.

Being in a good mood from listening to music when exercising is only going to benefit your fitness regimen, helping your mind to associate that feeling with keeping fit and healthy and allowing you to enjoy even the hardest workouts.


Workout Harder Without Noticing

Music can significantly enhance your workouts by helping to distract you from tiredness and the physical strain of exercising.

The distraction music provides can help take our focus away from the stress and strains of a workout as we focus on it rather than physical exertion. The more engaged we are in the music, the less difficult the physical activity can appear to be.

This effect can add further benefit by allowing us to push the limits of our physical capabilities without noticing the exertion so much. For many of us the physical effort of exercise is part of the attraction of doing it, as is continuing to better ourselves to become fitter, stronger and faster.

As already mentioned in the previous points, music influences the way we behave and move and how it makes us feel, which instructs our brain to release powerful mood enhancing chemicals.

Those influences combine to create a powerful and distracting stimulus. Exercising to highly emotive music will certainly assist you in overcoming fatigue and furthering your physical boundaries.

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Music Aids Workout Recovery

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Ever listen to relaxing music after exercising? 20 to 30 minutes of slow music after a workout can produce bodily changes to help you recover more quickly.

When we exercise, our bodies produce a steroid hormone called cortisol in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration and the body continues to do this post-workout to aid recovery and get glucose to the brain and increase anti-inflammatory activity in the muscles.

Elevated cortisol levels for too long after exercise can be detrimental to recovery though. Although a natural and essential part of the recovery process, the quicker it’s over after cooling down the better your body recovers. Listening to slow and relaxing music in the first 30 minutes after exercise can help lower cortisol levels a lot quicker.


Music Improves Coordination

Music won’t just relieve exercise boredom as we now know, it can increase your stamina and put you in a better mood and when synchronised with your particular exercise, is shown to have positive physical and psychological effects.

Studies have shown that when listened to, fast-paced music can help improve a persons athletic performance and coordination in low to moderate level exercise. This can be by increase of distance traveled, pace, or repetitions completed and seemingly without becoming more tired.

Synchronising our pace with music feels good and if the tempo is right, can feel easy. This allows our body to perform more efficiently and at an increased work rate for longer.

Studies have shown for better performance in cycling the optimum music tempo to listen to is between 125 and 140 beats per minute (bpm) and for improved treadmill results, music between 123 and 131 bpm is best.

A reason why different forms of exercise have different ideal music tempos is related to our ability to keep time with the beat when performing a particular exercise, and synchronise our strides or pedaling to this. Our pace naturally differs between running and cycling, therefore different tempos are better suited to each.

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Improve Running Cadence And Injury Avoidance
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Following on from the previous advantage music has, in much the same way it can improve your running cadence. Also known as stride rate, cadence is the number of steps you take during a given period, and is measured per minute (SPM/Stride Per Minute).

Researchers have discovered that a small increase in stride rate resulted in significantly less impact on the hip and knee joints in runners which delivers a huge benefit in terms of injury avoidance. This can be achieved in an enjoyable and fairly accurate way using music of optimal bpm to listen to whilst running.

As we know, the ideal bpm for running on a treadmill is between 123 and 131. You may already have songs you prefer to listen to while running and it’s likely your playing device will also be able to tell you the bpm for those songs.The chances are, those songs will be within this range or close to it.

Search for more songs with the same or similar bpm’s and create a playlist designed for an entire run. You could start with slower bpm’s and increase them towards the middle before bringing them back down again at the end.

Several sites such as JogTunes, iTunes and Spotify allow users to search for music by bpm and compile playlists too.

There is also the Amazon Music Unlimited service that gives you unlimited access to over 50 Million Songs and begins with a Free 30 Day Trial at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk so what are you waiting for? That has to be worth a try!


Amazon Music Unilimited

Play On

I hope this was of some benefit to you, especially if you’ve never made a point of listening to music when you exercise. It’s certainly reinforced my need of music when working out and I absolutely recommend you start taking advantage of it.

I will end with one final and decisive conclusion;

A 2010 study led by sport psychologist C.I. Karageorghis simply states that music can improve athletic performance in people in two ways by either delaying fatigue or increasing work capacity. According to this study, the effects of music lead to “higher than expected levels of endurance, power, productivity, or strength”.

14 thoughts on “Does Music Help With Exercise?

  1. Hi Chris
    I found your article very interesting as Im not in the best of shape and I have been planning to exercise more. Reading the information in your article has actually encouraged me to get up and give it a go as I love music and knowing now that it will help me exercise in a better way is very encouraging.

    The article was easy to read and nicely written I will visit your site again in the future to enjoy your future articles.

    1. Hi, Gerald and thank you for taking the time to post a comment. I happy you found it to be a positive influence on your decision to exercise more and hope it’s long lasting.

      I appreciate you mentioning that you found the article east to read too. All the best to you!

  2. Great content Chris. I’ve always wondered about this as I listen to music every time I work out. I didn’t know that about the music and how it effects the amygdala, that’s very interesting. I wonder if certain music is better than others to work out and listen to?

    1. Hello and thank you for the comment. I’m the same, I listen every time I exercise and for me it’s part of the routine so it’s just not the same if I forget my headphones. That’s not to say I can’t exercise without it but personally, it makes a big difference.

      I like listening to music on Soundcloud where I can make playlists, listen to radio shows and podcasts and always find new and exciting music.

      I think music type depends on your taste and the type of exercise, but from what I’ve learned researching this article is that tempo can really help and I believe that because I’ve never been able to enjoy listening to slower paced music when I exercise, it just doesn’t give me that boost.

  3. Hi there,

    I have always thought that it’s better to listen to music when you workout. As a matter of fact, I also listen to music when I’m cleaning. The music seems to take you somewhere else and before you know it, time has passed.

    I really enjoyed reading and looking throughout your website. You have a great site and very good information on how music helps with working out. Overall I love it. Your content is very clear. Your images relate to the topics. And navigating through the site was very easy. Great job!!

    1. Hi, and thank you for your comment. That’s exactly how music can help with exercising, or cleaning! I’m happy you had a good experience viewing the site and hope you’ll enjoy future posts as much. Your support is greatly appreciated.

      1. Music and cleaning! Why have I never thought of this before? I’m not much of a gym goer but cleaning is something that most of us have to do whether we want to or not. I think I have just stumbled upon the ideal way to make it less of a chore – I won’t go so far as to say playing music when I clean is going to make cleaning fun – but just – well, less boring 🙂 Maybe a higher bpm will make me clean faster too…
        Anyway thanks for an awesome article – I’m off to give that tip a try!

        1. Hello and thank for your comment. Well if you ask me cleaning definitely burns calories and can end up being pretty tiring depending how much of it you have to do but it’s no where near as enjoyable as a workout but music will make it less boring and may well make you do it quicker!

  4. That really was an interesting read … music has been a big part of my life as a radio dj so I know all about how it influences our mood .
    I’ve recently decided I needed to get fit again so whilst jogging I always have my headphones in and music on … really glad I visited your site as I’m now going to make it my go to place for fitness advice. Wishing you all the best 👍

    1. Thank you for taking the time to post this comment. I’m glad you found it interesting and you’re happy having visiting the website. I hop you find future posts as inspiring. All the best to you too!

  5. This was quite interesting! I remember when I took a master’s degree a few years back and was going to read the exam. It became easier when I listened to some music in the background I liked. I came a little in the flow.

    So I absolutely believe what you write here, that music is also good for training. Also notice it at home when I’m going to do the boring cleaning job here – some music gets me in a better mood and doesn’t think about how boring it is 🙂

    Thank you very much for your article.

    1. Hi, and thanks for your comment. Music definitely helps with activity of any kind, and definitely the the boring types! I’m glad you like the post and found it interesting.

  6. Hi Chris, another great article. I know music can help me to push more during the workout so they definitely are benefits. I never thought about listening to slower music for cooldown as I generally let whatever was playing during the workout continue until it ends. I’ll have to try this option and see how I find it. Thank you for the tip.

    1. Hi. Thank you for your comment. I never considered listening to slower music after exercising either and usually just want to keep listening to whatever I am already but it’s said to help. I’d be interested in what you think of it.

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