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How Music Drives Exercise

By +Carolyn Richardson on Sep 17, 2011 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

What would your life be like without music?  A ride in the car, a dinner at a restaurant, or a workout at the gym may seem a bit drab without a soundtrack.  But there’s more to music than preference.  New research is exposing just how music affects our ability to move.  Significant physiological changes occur when music is present in our daily lives.  Specifically, new research suggests that music can, relatively speaking, improve performance during exercise. 

Brain Power      

Charles Emery, a clinical psychologist at Ohio State University, recently went beyond music’s effect on the body to explore how the brain is affected by music during exercise.  After studying men and women in a cardiac rehabilitation program, he found that the participants scored twice as well on a verbal fluency test when they listened to music than they did without music.  His results support scads of research about the power of music.  "I've always thought that music had many benefits for people, and increasingly people use music when they exercise, so it seemed like a logical next step in terms of a research project," Emery says.

Tempo as a Motivator

Another Ohio State University study found that subjects climbed stairs faster when music had a faster tempo.  The aim of the study was to show the tempo of music would cause an increase in motor activity, which it did.  The suggestion is that the body synchronizes with music during physical exercise, similar to how music is used as a cue for dance.    
I Heart Music

A study published in Heart found that the tempo of music correlates to changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.  Researchers used different styles of music and varying tempos on musicians and non-musicians.  They found that music increased breathing frequency and that the change in breathing was proportional to the tempo of the music.  The results carried over to heart rate and blood pressure as well with a positive correlation to increased tempo.  Once the music stopped, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing decreased below where they were before the music started, suggesting a calming or relaxing effect.  Musicians showed more sensitivity to tempo changes than did non-musicians.

Pain Reliever

During exercise music can also take the edge off of the pain of exercise.  A study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise showed that perceived exertion during low and moderate exercise was reduced by 10% when participants listened to music.  Furthermore, the ability for music to avert attention and improve mood staved off feelings of fatigue during high intensity.  The key to music’s affect was not in alleviating pain, but rather it affected how the brain processed information coming from muscles. 

Your thoughts...

How does music affect your workout?  

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I like listening to music especially while cycling, I try to test myself by trying to keep up with the tempo!


I know I cannot have a good workout without music

if I forget to take my mp3 player to the gym it is game over for sure!Foot in mouth

No music equals No cardio.  Which in the early 90s I was running with no music and I dont seem to remeber any issues.  Of course I was not running as much nor with the intensity I am now.  Also that was before MP3s ect ect most portable music players were still bulky at that time compared to today.

Interesting post -- it would be more interesting if it discussed appropriate beats-per-minute (BPM) for certain exercises and levels of fitness . . .

Music certainly plays a big part. Workouts can be boring without it. You can't do good cardio without Motorhead ;o). Louis Prima is good for cycling.

Music is ALL important in my routines!

Sadly though music acts almost like electricity. You just gotta move when you hear it. This fact HAS lead me to dancing in clothes shops sadly...

i could not workout without my music!!!

I download music that makes my body want to move. The tempo dictates how fast I move.  I find it much easier to keep a faster pace when I listen to music that has a faster tempo.

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Can anyone suggest some good up tempo tunes with a good driving beat?  I searched for aerobic-music company on internet and couldn't find anything that let me hear samples.  Thanks!

I completely agree! Without my MP3 I might as well go home!

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I find myself dancing in my chair at work as i listen to music, and i am not a 'dancer' by any means.  But i find myself moving, being overtaken by emotions and moods.  with my torn knee, I cannot move easily in exercising, but one of these days when i get it fixed, look out!!!

I could not cycle on the stationary bike without music. I'd go nuts.

I find my walk goes much faster if I bring my IPod and my dogs. I take the dogs because they keep my company and the bears away. I live in northern Manitoba.

My house work goes better if I have music on.

The eliptical and my MP3 player are a must - I have a routine of certain songs I listen to while working out.  I play different songs to either pick up or slow down the tempo.

Lady Gaga and Adele are two of my favorite motivational singers and I'm a 61 year old grandma.  Also helps me do that 9 - 10 minute mile on the tread mill!

Original Post by: bmau257956334

The eliptical and my MP3 player are a must - I have a routine of certain songs I listen to while working out.  I play different songs to either pick up or slow down the tempo.

Lady Gaga and Adele are two of my favorite motivational singers and I'm a 61 year old grandma.  Also helps me do that 9 - 10 minute mile on the tread mill!

Impressive... keep it up!

Music is played at my gym, often pretty crappy music, but I don't mind. I do mind when the volume is so high that I cannot hear my own MP3 player. And often their music is so loud it is ear damaging to the class participants. Here in Thailand it is not cool to complain or educate them to the hearing damage they are causing, but I do anyway and occasionally they will turn it down a bit.

It's gotta be some Hardstyle for me!! It's not my usual type of music but I do love it for when I work out, motivates me and helps me want to go until the songs are over lol ... Wink

I have to agree with these results. My treadmill workouts are much more successful when the gym I go to is playing fast paced pop and hip hop even though that's not my favourite music. :-)



So very true!  I can hoop twice as long with music, loving the songs, hooping to the beat and doing fancy footwork makes for a real workout!

I notice I can barely even make it through a workout if I don't have my music.  When I'm listening to my ipod and an upbeat fast song comes on I notice my energy level goes up and I'll even get bold and up the level I'm currently on, the cool down music is perfect for when I'm stretching.  Music is one of the best motivators, I'd have to agree.

There is no way I can workout without my tunes. 

Music really does  help a lot in working out.. It's such an energy booster!

I absolutely love aqua zumba. The music gets you moving like nothing else.

I must be the lone little fishy swimming against the tide. I’m a
walker, and although I walk at a fairly brisk pace, I would rather use my time
preparing for the day in my mind, and just smelling the roses, rather than
listing to music… be it head banging or Mozart. Silence can be peaceful &
serene, or scary to some, don’t you know! I do love music, just not while I’m
walking. Love & peace.     

Thefirst year that i was on Track and Field at school, i could not keep up, i was at the back of the pack the entire year. But i knew i could do better, i played soccer for 13 years at that point in my life, and i could not seem to understand why i was no good at running!

Then i got my iPod :) and now i can run faster and farther and longer than before, so it's true music helps, it takes skill to trick your brain!

Music does make a lot of difference to me when I workout too.  I can be on the treadmill and be slowing down and getting ready to call it a day and a good song comes on my mp3 and it seems I just have to speed it up for a little bit longer.  I get done and my mood is so good too.  It makes me think I should listen to music more around the house too.  I think I would probably feel more energetic.

I have been positively addicted to listening to music while I work out, especially when running. 

Last week I downloaded a new running/ exercise app for my phone and found something surprising on a long run the other day.  The app tells me my speed for each mile as well as the total for the entire run, and my fastest lap by far was the one where I had turned the music off (rain threatened to soak my phone/ player so I put it away). 

AND, it was the seventh mile of a seven mile run, so it should have been my slowest lap due to fatigue. I even had a couple of fun experiences interacting with people, including one chubby woman telling me "good job!" for running in the rain, and saying "you too!" back to her as I hauled my chubby self up the hill :)

Today I plan to do 7.5 miles and I am going to try some with music, some without. 

Original Post by: dap1941

i could not workout without my music!!!

What's wrong with dancing in clothing shops?  Sounds like scads of fun to me hehe!

Original Post by: scottcholliday

Can anyone suggest some good up tempo tunes with a good driving beat?  I searched for aerobic-music company on internet and couldn't find anything that let me hear samples.  Thanks!

Hi!! check out these tunes

Walking at the beat of these songs will make you sweat at the end of each of them!:), they are also grat for repetitions, outstanding beats and cool melodies,  have a go aat the dark side of music :) ed ed ed



For Free downloadable 1 hour long mp3's of fixed-tempo workout music, specially good for running, check out Podrunner at   I couldn't run my daily 4 miles without it.


Well...duh to this article, I could have told you all of this without a big study *wink* Laughing

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