Does Listening to Music Help with Your Workouts?
It is a perfect summer morning. You wake up to get dressed for that long, anticipated run. Everything is laid out neatly from the night before. After sipping on a cup of coffee, you are about to leave the house. Just then, you realize that you forgot your earphones. Like many others, you may enjoy listening to music while running. You feel that by listening to your favorite songs you can run harder and for a longer duration, and it makes you feel more motivated and energized. However, is there any science to back this up? Let’s find out.
How is music related to motivation and performance?
Countless studies have tried to examine the relationship between music and exercise.
According to a research in 2019, by Meaghan E Maddigan, Kathleen M Sullivan, Israel Halperin, Fabien A Basset, and David G Behm, cyclists who listened to popular instrumental music set at 130 beats per minute performed 10.7% better on an indoor cycle trainer than those who did not listen to music
To further emphasize the importance of self-selected music, a study by Thakare, Mehrotra, and Singh showed that young male and female runners performed better and spent more time on the treadmill when running while listening to self-selected music than the day when they ran without any music. When running with music, their maximum heart rate values were significantly higher than when running without music. The latter indicated that their rate of perceived exertion was lower, and they could push themselves harder.
The above studies show that listening to music is beneficial when running or cycling. Several studies have shown music increases strength and training intensity duration. It creates a pleasurable stimulus, influencing how you perceive the effort to lift heavier weights. This is shown in studies where participants increased bench press 1 repetition maximum by 5.8%. Also, there was a 16.8% rise in strength endurance when listening to music versus non-music.
Now that we have advocated for listening to music while exercising, you may be curious to know about the preferred genres for gym users. In a study by Hallet, 40% of gym users liked listening to intense and rebellious music, which includes rock, metal, and other related alternatives. 22.7% were fond of the upbeat and conventional category, which involves pop and country, while 29.7% of them preferred energetic and rhythmic music, such as dance, soul, and rap. Other types, like reflective and complex music (4.7%) and spoken word (2.3%) were unpopular among users.
Why listening to music while exercising can be a good thing?
As you see, studies have shown the benefits of listening to music while working out according to three proposed explanations.
1. It may allow you to separate thoughts from feelings, which can ultimately change your perception of unpleasant thoughts, narrowing your attention, and reducing the sensations of fatigue during exercise.
2. It can alter psychomotor arousal (movement or muscular activity associated with mental processes) and can act as either a stimulant or a sedative before and during any physical activity.
3. Lastly, during continual submaximal activity, you are predisposed to respond to rhythmical elements related to music. So, you may end up being synchronized between the tempo and your movement. Thus, music can contribute by making physical activity or exercise a more harmonious and less-stressful experience.
So, what is your preferred music? Is it rock, jazz, or pop? Whatever your choice is, make it a point to tune into your favorite playlist to make your workout a pleasurable and optimal experience.
1. Brandt N, et al. (2019) Effect of Self-selected Music on Affective Responses and Running Performance: Directions and Implications. International Journal of Exercise Science 12(5):310-329.
2. Hallett, R., and Lamont, A. Music for Exercise: A questionnaire study.
3. Maddigan ME, Sullivan KM, Halperin I, Basset FA, Behm DG. 2019. High tempo music prolongs high intensity exercise. Peer J 6:e6164. DOI 10.7717/peerj.6164
4. Silva, N. R. dos S., Rizardi, F. G., Fujita, R. A., Villalba, M. M., & Gomes, M. M. (2020). Preferred Music Genre Benefits During Strength Tests: Increased Maximal Strength and Strength-Endurance and Reduced Perceived Exertion. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 003151252094508. doi:10.1177/0031512520945084
5. Thakare, AV., Mehrotra, R., Singh, A. (2017) Effect of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate among young adults. Int J Physiol Pathophysiol Pharmacol.; 9(2): 35–39. Published online 2017 Apr 15