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How Your Music Influences Your Workout

Anthony J. Yeung
by Anthony J. Yeung
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How Your Music Influences Your Workout

When you exercise, what do you listen to? Your own music? The gym’s music? Silence?

Well, there’s good news: You can crank up the tunes because the right kind of music can take your fitness training to the next level. In fact, science suggests it can actually boost your athletic endurance and performance while helping you enjoy your training.

For example, in a Canadian study, researchers discovered choosing your own music can actually boost your performance and enjoyment while doing a tough HIIT workout. Another study even found that music could boost muscle power output — meaning bigger weights and more strength gains over time.

And it goes beyond the difficult, adrenaline-pumping exercises; for lighter intensities of training — like easy cycling, jogging and other types of steady-state cardio — music acts as a distraction so you can feel more comfortable and less tired as you exercise. This translates into being able to run longer and harder without accumulating the same fatigue.

Listening to music during warmups and workouts can even lower how your heart responds, which means lower heart rates and blood pressure while you exercise.

And finally, there’s some research on how music can affect your body’s stress response after exercise. A study found music can impact your autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for maintaining the balance between your sympathetic (“fight-or-flight”) nervous system and your parasympathetic (“rest-and-digest”) nervous system. According to the research, using the correct music can generate “faster recovery and a reduction in cardiac stress after exercise.”

It turns out music can make a big difference in your fitness. Now, here’s how you can put all this information together!



Here’s the thing to consider: When it comes to your playlist, opinion is everything. What one person might enjoy, another might loathe and vice versa. (For example, heavy metal can be pretty polarizing.) Learning from the studies, the key is to always choose music you enjoy — so don’t worry about what other people (or music critics) think.

Next, have your music sync with the speed and intensity of the exercise you’re doing. It’s pretty common sense based:

  • If you’re lifting a maximum-effort weight, play music to pump you up and get you amped and excited.
  • If you’re doing a fast-paced circuit, listen to fast-paced music, which can help boost your performance.
  • If you’re doing a low-intensity activity like an easy bike ride, jog, hike, etc., pick something slightly slower so you can feel at ease while still distracting you from fatigue.
  • If you’re doing stretches, yoga, etc., listen to something gentle and relaxing so you can calm your nervous system to help you rest and recover.

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About the Author

Anthony J. Yeung
Anthony J. Yeung

Anthony, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, is a fitness expert at Esquire, GQ and Men’s Health and gets guys in shape for their wedding at GroomBuilder.


4 responses to “How Your Music Influences Your Workout”

  1. Avatar John says:

    I play smooth jazz for walking. It does the trick for me.

  2. Avatar Jessie says:

    100% agree! My performance is greatly influenced by music. There are 2 trainers that teach my Bootcamp HIIT class, one plays an awesome blend of 90’s-now hip hop and the other 80’s rock. I like 80’s rock, but it freaking kills my energy for that style workout.
    My running mix is a blend of drum and bass, hip hop, alternative, anything with a good cadence.
    Lifting exercises involve mostly TOOL, Led Zeppelin, etc
    Cool downs and stretching needs to be some calm edm and some lighter alternative music.

  3. Avatar HughLeSage says:

    My preference is the ABC produced Cardio Classics CDs

  4. Avatar Jen says:

    One other thing I found; I tend to lose count if I’m singing along to the lyrics. Which in the end means I tend to do a few more reps, no harm, just saying…..

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