Study Finds How Listening To Music Affects Your Workout

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Woman Working Out and Listening to Music

Image by Jacob Lund / iStock

Can boosting your workout really be as easy as throwing on your headphones when you hit the gym?

According to new research from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, yes! And it helps in more ways than one.

Through their review of almost 140 studies on music's effects on exercise, researchers found listening to tunes during physical activity affected performance, oxygen use, and even how much you enjoy your workout.

Here's what they found.

The existing research analyzed in this study included nearly 3,600 people, with some studies dating as far back as 1911. They looked at sport-related activities and exercise routines in relation to music but left out things like dance, which usually involves music already.

Not only was music found to strengthen positive feelings during exercise, but it also improved oxygen consumption, which sums up both a more efficient and enjoyable workout.

Peter Terry, Ph.D., dean of graduate research and innovation at the University of Southern Queensland says, "No one would be surprised that music helps people feel more positive during exercise, [but] the fact that music provided a significant boost to performance would surprise some people. And the fact that music was shown to improve physiological efficiency would certainly raise eyebrows."


So what should we listen to while working out?

"Music has been described as a legal performance-enhancing drug," Terry mentions—so what kind of music is best for working out? According to the research, it depends what your goal is.

If you're doing an endurance activity like distance running, for example, a slower-tempo song might help you maintain a slower heart rate so you can run longer. On the other hand, if you're doing more short, explosive workouts like HIIT or sprints, faster music will keep your heart pumping.

Generally, though, faster music was found to be better for working out overall. One recent study actually found music can evoke 13 distinct emotions, one of them being "energized or pumped up." We'll bet those songs are the ones you should add to your running playlist.

Take it from Spotify.

And speaking of playlists, when it comes to what kind of music people like to listen to while working out, Spotify can tell us a lot.

They recently put out stats on workout and wellness trends based on Spotify listener activity. According to them, there are over 54 million workout playlists.

Based on their report, running and yoga get the most playlists respectively, with Eminem's "Till I Collapse," listed as the most popular workout song, followed by "I Don't Care," by Ed Sheeran with Justin Bieber. You can check out that full report for more workout music inspo.

So whatever your taste in tunes, give this trick a try if you're looking for an easy way to improve your workout (if you don't already). Get started with this five-minute HIIT workout you can do in the length of a song or two—just don't forget your headphones.

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