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The Sport Information Resource Centre

Many studies have shown that music provides a welcome distraction from discomfort and is a great mood booster. It encourages a person to move with the beat of each song and has the capacity to increase energy and improve physical performance. This is great news for anyone that may have trouble motivating themselves to exercise since all of the above have great applications for both the recreational exerciser as well as the elite athlete.

  • Music can reduce feelings of stress or anxiety before a competition or race.
  • It has the potential to switch a negative mood to a positive one.
  • Your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) will likely be lower and thus you may work longer and push harder.
  • Moving to a beat may help you master a variety of movement patterns and increase your motor skills.
  • Listening to music increases the chance that an athlete will experience a flow state. This means a person will essentially ‘lose’ themselves in what they are doing. It is considered to be an optimal state where an athlete will be relaxed but with a complete concentration and focus on the task at hand.

How do you pick a playlist?

Obviously music is very individualized so when you are working out on your own, pick songs that get you pumped up and excited to move. Ideally the best exercise music should be between 120-140 beats per minute (BPM). You can figure out the BPM of a song the old fashioned way by simply counting, or you can access software online that will calculate it for you. There are endless ways to customize your playlist and the music you pick will depend on your taste and the type of exercise you are performing. For example, if you are running at a steady pace on a treadmill, a playlist that slowly increases the BPM with the ‘power songs’ added at the end can provide the motivation needed to finish your workout strong.

If creating your own playlist seems too time consuming, there are plenty of exercise compilations available for free or to purchase online.

Keep them coming back!

Studies have shown that listening to music directly influences the enjoyment of the activity being performed. One of the number one compliments or complaints for fitness classes is on the music. This means that if you are leading a group workout class, the music you play (and the volume it’s played at) is a very important consideration when designing a program. The right song selection can be that extra bit needed to get your participants coming back week after week.

When someone listens to music they enjoy, they tend to experience less pain and fatigue and have lower levels of perceived exertion. There are also indications that people will push themselves to work harder and move faster than they would without music. Incorporating music into your workout or exercise class is easy and provides a lot of positive benefits that can occur before, during or after physical activity so pick some songs and get your body moving!

References Available from the SIRC Collection:

Bassett J, West S, Shores K. The Effects of Asynchronous Music on the Physical Activities of Youth in Supervised Recreation Activities. Journal Of Park & Recreation Administration. Spring2011 2011;29(1):80-97.

Jones L, Karageorghis C, Ekkekakis P. Can High-Intensity Exercise Be More Pleasant? Attentional Dissociation Using Music and Video. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. October 2014;36(5):528-541.

Karageorghis C, Terry P, Lane A, Bishop D, Priest D. The BASES Expert Statement on the Use of Music in Exercise. Sport & Exercise Scientist. June 2011;(28):18-19.

Koç H, Curtseıt T. THE EFFECTS OF MUSIC ON ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE. Ovidius University Annals, Series Physical Education & Sport/Science, Movement & Health. March 2009;9(1):44-47.

Senger M. Science Uncovers the Perfect Playlist. IDEA Fitness Journal. September 2013;10(8):48-57.

Tiev M, Manire S, Robert J, Barbara W. Effect of music and dialogue on perception of exertion, enjoyment, and metabolic responses during exercise. International Journal Of Fitness. July 2010;6(2):45-52



The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.