What Is The Best Music For Exercising?

Hello!  Sometimes I hear people ask is music good for exercising, and if so which music is best to listen to?  Before I give a blanket answer to address those questions, I’d like to give a little background on what research has shown regarding the subject.


Over the last decade research on workout music has grown quite a bit. This has helped psychologists and psychiatrists develop theories about why music affects exercise so much for many people.  It’s also helped them gather ideas as to how music changes the body and mind during physical activity.

Music can distract people from pain or fatigue, elevate their mood, improve their endurance, and reduce their perceived effort.  Another words, if someone listens to music it’s likely they can jog farther, go longer on an elliptical, or do more reps with weights without realizing it.

Sometimes people get in such a zone while exercising with their music it almost feels like a PED (Performance Enhancing Drug) to them.  For some who exercise, music is essential to achieve peak performance.  Some people prefer audio books, podcasts, or soothing sounds, while others rely on harder beats and faster lyrics to keep them motivated.

The extent to which a person identifies with a song’s emotional state can also have an effect on how motivated they feel.  For some exercisers the rhythm of the melody may be more important than the lyrics.

What is the best music for exercising?




Factors of Workout Music

Some of the more important factors of workout music are tempo, speed, and rhythm response.  Most people will by instinct sync their movements with music such as nod their heads, tap their fingers, etc, and these movements are caused by those factors.

The type of music that initiates this movement varies from one person to another.  In a research study of college students, the most popular types of music were hip-hop, followed by rock and pop in that order.


Research has also shown that most people prefer rhythms at 120 bpm (beats per minute) when listening to music.  For example, when most people tap their fingers they settle into a rhythm of 120 bpm.  However, when running on a treadmill most folks prefer music around 160 bpm.


Even though most people don’t move in exact time to their workout music, being synced up to it can help you use energy more efficiently. When you move in rhythm to a beat, your body may not have to make as many adjustments to coordinate its movements.

Brain Activity

Recent studies have uncovered how music encourages people to keep exercising.  Your body constantly monitors itself through a process called homeostasis.  It’s basically your body’s way of keeping things balanced. After a certain amount of exercise, physical fatigue begins to set in.

What is the best music for exercising?







Your body will identify certain signals such as lactate build up in muscles, increased heart rate, elevated sweat production, etc, and decides it needs to slow down.  Music challenges these physical signs for your brain’s attention.  This in turn can change your perception of your workout and make it seem easier so you can go a little longer.  It helps relieve negative feelings like exercise is boring and hard.

However, when doing high intensity exercise music tends to lose its power to affect fatigue.  It’s usually more effective with low to moderate intensity exercise.  Your brain uses information it receives from one sense to help it understand another.  What people see and feel while listening to music can change what they hear.

Music and movement can work together within the brain as well.  That’s why if someone is siting still and listening to music many times they’ll feel an urge to move.  The auditory nerves connect with the motor neurons to make them want to move.


Music can have a profound impact on your overall workout performance. There is no best music to listen to that fits everyone.  You should decide on music that you prefer and how well it motivates you to go the extra mile.  Once you do that I think you’ll find that music can definitely be an aid to improving your results.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine wrote a very informative article about music and exercise that you can see here.  What type of music do you like to listen to when working out?  Or maybe you prefer not to listen to music when exercising.  I’d love to hear your answers, and if you have a question or comment please leave them in the comments section.  Thanks for reading and have an awesome day!


photo credit: Runner on the pier via photopin (license)


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