How listening to music can improve your workout

If you want to get more from your workout, then stick your headphones on and listen to a fast-paced playlist of your favourite tunes. Countless studies suggest that music can enhance your workout performance in several ways.

Listening to music

© Jacob Lund / Adobe Stock


The power of music

Scientists have been studying the powerful effects of music on physical performance for over 100 years, but it goes back even further than that. During Roman times, rowers working on Roman Galleys reputedly co-ordinated their rowing rhythm to the beat of a drum. This not only helped them to follow a tempo, but it made them work harder.

More recently, studies suggest that if you exercise, you’ll get more from your session if you listen to music. But just how does this work?


Boosts speed

When you exercise to music, your body starts to match movements to the beat of the music. Thus, fast-paced tunes will boost your speed, whether you’re pounding the treadmill or pedalling a bike.

Yet, it’s not just keeping to the music’s tempo that can make you go further and work harder during your exercise sessions. If you listen to sings that have inspiring lyrics, this can also motivate you to go the extra distance.


Increases strength

You don’t just have to be doing cardio exercises to benefit from music’s power. Studies have shown that those who do strength training experienced more powerful squats and faster reaction times when accompanied to music.


Improves endurance

Countless studies conclude that exercising to music can increase the length of your workout session. In fact, one study found that participants who listened to Latin-inspired tunes were able to go for almost a minute longer during a cardiac stress session, compared to those who didn’t listen to any music.

There are several reasons why endurance and stamina improve when listening to music. It could be because music distracts the brain so that it helps to block any feelings of fatigue or pain that you might experience during a workout, encouraging you to carry on that bit longer. Plus, if you’re listening to music that you enjoy, it will boost feel-good hormones in the brain, improving your mood and keeping you in the zone for longer.

So conclusive is the evidence that music can boost endurance that professional athletes in America were banned from listening to music during competitive races, as officials said it gave them an unfair advantage over those who didn’t listen to music.


Gets your blood flowing

Listening to music when exercising helps to get the blood flowing around the body faster. In fact, one study found that cyclists who pedalled to their favourite tunes could perform at the same level as those not listening to music with 7% less oxygen in their systems.


Makes you motivated

Exercising while listening to music can motivate you to carry on for longer, but researchers also suggest that putting a few inspirational tunes on before your workout can put you in the right frame of mind for exercising. If you struggle to get to the gym, listening to music beforehand could help increase your chances of getting down there in the first place.


Match your music

Researchers suggest that if you want to reap the benefits of listening to music during low to moderate level exercise, match the beats of a song to a particular activity. This helps you to keep in tempo with the rhythm.

Cyclists should aim to find tunes with a tempo of 125 to 140 beats per minute, or bpm. On the other hand, if you like to hit the treadmill, choose songs with a bpm of around 123 to 131.

If you like to wind down towards the end of an exercise session, perhaps with some stretching or yoga movements, the pace of the music should also drop, too.

You can check the bpm of different songs by looking online. Choosing your playlist to match your workouts is often a personal choice, and there might be a bit of trial and error involved until you find the right songs that work best for you.