How Music Affects Exercise


How Music Affects Exercise

Don’t you hate getting to the gym and realising you have forgotten your earphones? Listening to music isn’t just beneficial for your mood. Science suggests that it can actually improve the quality of your workout.

Blasting your favourite beats distracts you from the pain you feel when exercising and can even speed up the rate at which your body clears lactate.

Keep reading to learn more about how you can fine tune your workouts with some fine tunes.

Rate of Perceived Exertion

Whether music can improve one's pain tolerance is an interesting area of study. ‘Rate of perceived exertion’ (RPE) refers to how difficult you consider something to be.

For example, doing reps of a heavy leg press until failure would be a 10/10 on the RPE scale.

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Listening to music while training can reduce your rate of perceived exertion.A study found that athletes doing treadmill workouts find them much easier if music is playing while they run.

Many other researchers have replicated this study and found similar results. Sports scientists at Brunel University discovered that music can reduce your RPE by 12%.

The fact that music has statistically significant effects on people's ability to tolerate strenuous activity is astounding.

Participants in another study also reported that they enjoyed their workouts more when music was playing (compared to workouts when they listened to a podcast instead).

This means that music may simultaneously distract you from the pain of exercise while also making the workout seem in retrospect to have been a more enjoyable experience.

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Improved Recovery

Music can enhance your ability to recover from bouts of exercise. Studies show runners clear lactate much faster if they listen to motivational music after their quick 6 minute sprints.

Lactate is something produced in the body after exercise and high concentrations of it indicate fatigue. If your body is more efficient at clearing lactate, you will be able to tolerate more strenuous exercise.

These results have been confirmed by a number of studies. Runners who listened to slow tempo music after completing a hard run recovered faster.

Listening to calming music after a bout of hard exercise can slow down your heart rate and encourage your body to clear lactate faster. Bear this in mind for your next endurance workout.

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Stimulates Your Brain

Musical interventions have also been used to improve an athlete’s cognitive abilities.

One study found that netballers shoot with more accuracy when music is playing in the background. This could be because listening to music helps one achieve a flow state.

More research is required in this area but it is well-known that music affects the brain in numerous ways.

It can trigger different emotions and release a range of chemicals like dopamine.

Increased levels of dopamine have been shown to reduce the intensity of pain an individual feels.

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Many of us might have experienced this ourselves but the science actually backs it up. Listening to your favourite tunes can help you tolerate higher levels of discomfort.


Your music selection matters to some degree. This is because the tempo of the music can affect your heart rate.

Apparently your heartbeat will try to match the beat of the song you are listening to. This is known as ‘synchronicity’.

A study found that cyclists who listened to fast tempo music cycled harder than those who had slower or very fast music playing. The ideal music tempo will depend on what exercise you are doing. If you want to move fast, then play a song with a higher number of beats per minute.

According to research done by CI Karageorghis, the ideal tempo for  typical endurance workout is around 120 BPM. It shouldn’t be too fast, nor too slow.

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Additionally you shouldn’t play your music too loudly. Around 70-75 decibels is ideal. Any louder than that can be stressful and demotivating.

Fun fact, Haile Gebrselassie synced his pace to a song called Scatman when he broke the 10,000m distance running record.

This shows how powerful an upbeat song can be on your mood and exercise capabilities.

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Music is one of the best legal performance enhancers, especially for those doing endurance workouts.

It is proven that people are more likely to exercise for longer periods if they have music to listen to.

Not only does music stimulate the brain, it also helps you recover faster, exercise more efficiently and can improve your goal shooting accuracy!

Now that you know the benefits of the beats, jump on Spotify and start curating some fresh workout playlists.