How can music affect your workout?

How can music affect your workout?

People seem to have conflicting views regarding whether or not they find music a useful accompaniment or more of an unnecessary distraction when it comes to exercise. For those that do enjoy music during a workout, opinions will vary as to whether metal, dance, rap or any number of different genres is the best accompaniment. Whilst these decisions are ultimately shaped by personal preference, we wonder if any readers are likely to change their mind after learning the results of this study (1).


12 male participants were asked to cycle at a self-chosen work rate whilst listening to a 15 minute program of six songs of varying tempo.  The participants repeated this on three separate occasions, however they were not told that the tempo had either been increased by 10%, decreased by 10% or played as normal in the separate sessions. Heart rate, perceived rate of exertion, distance covered, work done and cadence were all measured in addition to thermal comfort and how much the participants liked the music.



When the tempo was increased by 10%, increased distance covered (2.1%, power (3.5%) and pedal cadence (0.7%) were seen when compared to when the music was slowed down (where falls of 3.8%, 9.8% and 5.9% were seen respectively). Perceived exertion (2.4%) and the enjoyment of the music (1.3%) were also increased with the increased tempo and fell with the decreased tempo (3.6% and 35.4%).

Our Take

The results certainly indicated that an increased tempo was beneficial for exercise performance and enjoyment in this population and could just help you achieve that little bit extra from your cardio workouts. Unfortunately, female participants and weight-training exercises were not considered in this study and are two elements that we would like to see explored in future research, as the results may well be very different. We would also welcome studies examining the effects of varying genres on exercise performance. For those of you want to make use of this study in your training, a song tempo of 120-140 beats is recommended.


Before some of you dismiss the above as simply one study that may not be relevant to your goals given that it was performed under very specific conditions, you might be interested to see the results from various studies shown below:


  • Listening to music has been shown to decrease stress (2, 3)
  • Dance music has been shown to increase the levels of antibodies in your system and boost your immune system (4)
  • Listening to upbeat music has been shown to increase free throw performance in “choke-susceptible” basketball players (5)
  • Music has also been shown to increase your mood when performing boring work (6). If your workplace allows it, this could definitely be worthwhile to get you in the zone if you like to hit the gym straight after work.

Although most of the studies have used limited populations as participants, we do feel there could be some merit in using music to increase performance. Whilst we don’t think music could possibly be considered one of the most important factors affecting workout performance, it may help you achieve that little bit extra from your workout. Plus from a personal point of view, there are few more motivating feelings than listening to a motivating piece of music after sipping your favourite pre-workout drink.

Set against this, it should be noted that at the elite levels in sports such as weightlifting and powerlifting, world records are set without the use of music and it is argued that a lack of noise can result in a deeper connection between the mind and body which could possibly translate into improved performance.


Author: Hassan Muzaffar



1. Waterhouse J, Hudson P, Edwards B (2010) Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. Aug 20 (4) pp.662 – 669.

2. Chang MY, Chen CH, Huang, KF (2008) Effects of music therapy on psychological health of women during pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Nursing. Oct; 17 (19) pp.2580 – 2587.

3. Lin Han, Li J, Sit J, Chung L, Zuo J, Ma W (2010) Effects of music intervention on physiological stress response and anxiety level of mechanically ventilated patients in China: a randomised controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Nursing Apr; 19 (7-8) pp.978 -987.

4. Orini M, Bailon R, Enk R, Koelsch S, Mainardi L, Laguna P (2010) A method for continuously assessing the autonomic response to music-induced emotions through HRV analysis. Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing. May 48 (5)  pp.423 – 433.

5. Mesagno C, Marchant D, Morris T (2009) Alleviating Choking: The sounds of distraction. Journal of Applied Sports Psychology Apr; 21 (2) pp.131 – 147.

6. Ladenberger-Leo E (1986) Effect of music on the general feelings of persons performing monotonous work.  Medycyna Pracy 37(6):347-52.

© 2012, Hassan Muzaffar. All rights reserved.