Do Workout Songs and Music Make You Exercise Harder?

Learn 3 ways to get a better body with workout music.

Ben Greenfield
3-minute read
Episode #40

Over at the Get-Fit Guy Facebook page and Get-Fit Guy Twitter page, I recently asked all you listeners what your top workout songs are when you want to exercise harder or just get out the door in the first place.

Click here for the list of tunes that you came up with, which range from Will Smith to AC/DC! But now that you have the crucial tunes for getting you moving, how can you use music to exercise harder? In this article, you’ll get the best workout songs and workout music, you’ll find out whether music makes you exercise harder,  and you’ll learn 3 ways to get a better body with workout music.

Do Workout Songs and Music Make You Exercise Harder?

In 2010, British researches had 12 men ride a bike while listening to music. During each 25 minute bicycling session, the researches adjusted the tempo of the music to go 10% faster or 10% slower. They found that speeding up the music program increased how far the participants rode and how hard and how fast they pedaled, and slowing down the music had just the opposite effect!

Interestingly, the study participants actually reported liking the music more when it was played at a faster tempo. A 2008 study that was also performed on cyclists found that it was far easier for the cyclists to pedal when they were following the tempo, or beat, of the music.

Furthermore, another 2009 study found that basketball players could shoot better free throws when they listened to catchy, upbeat music. Researchers have suggested that the same positive distraction that helped those basketball players shoot better can also distract us from fatigue or pain experienced during exercise.

Finally, in 2003, researchers observed that people who listened to music during exercise actually improved their mood, the speed of their decision-making processes, and even their verbal fluency. That means you’ll not only be able to exercise harder when you listen to music, but you may actually get smarter too!

But beware: once you get up to very high intensities, studies have shown that music doesn’t provide any additional benefit--so if you’re trying to set a marathon world record, sneaking in a pair of headphones probably won’t help. And also beware that participants playing music on headphones is outlawed in many sporting events.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.