How Music Improves Your Exercise Performance

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By J. E. Hinners, MD MPH


It’s very rare for me to do a workout without music. For me, it makes the workout ten times more enjoyable, and it often gives me additional physical motivation and relaxation.

Does science show if and how music actually improves your workout?

While many of the studies that have been conducted are not reliable since they do not have sample sizes of 50 or more (as was explained in one of my previous articles), it is still possible that future studies with larger sample sizes and greater study power might be able to confirm the same findings.

Here is a some of possible ways that music may affect exercise:

  1.  Music MAY SPEED UP PERFORMANCE during the beginning stages of your workout (one study of 15 male long distance runners; one study of 11 male cyclists)
  2. Music MAY HELP YOUR WORKOUTS LAST LONGER, even though self-perception of physical exertion stays the same (one study of 30 females on treadmills)
  3. Music MAY CAUSE GREATER POWER OUTPUT, even though self-perception of physical exertion stays the same (one study of 12 male athletes supports this finding; one study of 10 male cyclists contradicts this finding)
  4. SLOW & FAST MUSIC MAY BE EQUALLY EFFECTIVE in improving performance speed and duration (previously mentioned study of 15 male runners; previously mentioned study of 30 females on treadmills)
  5. Music *MAY NOT* AFFECT POWER OUTPUT IN ANAEROBIC EXERCISE (one study of 28 males performing anaerobic power tests)

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise

  • Aerobic exercise (e.g., long distance running, cycling) is low to moderate cardiovascular physical activity that requires oxygen and increases the heart rate.
  • Anaerobic exercise (e.g., sprinting, heavyweight lifting) is shorter, high-instensity physical activity that requires more oxygen than your body readily has available; glucose is used for “fuel” instead of oxygen.

For the Love of Music

Music lifts the soul and can make working out just that more fun. And we all know the “fun” element can help give staying power to any routine, fitness or otherwise.

Well now there are just that many more reasons to love workout music, as it might just amp up the actual performance of your exercise.

Do you listen to music when you exercise? How does music affect your own workouts, whether aerobic or anaerobic? 

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