Are headphones as integral to your exercise setup as your trainers and water bottle? Well, you’re certainly not alone. Music and sport are a dream team, a duo confirmed as vital not only by amateur athletes but also backed up by studies. In this article, we’ve gone through years of research to bring you the 4 most interesting reasons why music is such an effective training partner.
1. Music is a great motivator before you begin training.
Whether it’s professional footballers, boxers, or marathon runners, all of these athletes share the same ritual before a competition: they get in the mood with music. The reason why we see so many athletes on TV entering a stadium with headphones in their ears is that the right music can help us focus and push ourselves. A fact that was proven in a recent Brazilian research study. Specifically, they looked at the effect of music before, during, and after training on the performance of experienced runners. Listening to self-chosen, motivating music (110 to 150 bpm) before the run had a physiological effect on the body and was shown to reduce vagotonia in the athletes. Vagotonia is a state of the autonomic nervous system in which the body is more attuned to rest and recovery. Simply put, the music in the pre-workout made the runners feel more energetic, more focused, and more driven .
Listening to your favourite songs before you start your workout can motivate you on days you’re feeling a bit sluggish, giving you more energy to start your workout session.
2. Music is the perfect distraction for when the going gets tough.
We all know the point in a workout when it hits us – can we really do one more repetition or round of push-ups? This feeling is a warning, a flashing sign that the muscles in our body are getting tired. Here’s where music can help us once again.
Studies have shown that music distracts us from these potential roadblocks and increases our stamina. The effect can be explained like this: Exhaustion signals of the body, such as a fast heartbeat or heavy breathing, are weakened by music so that we end up concentrating less on the current bodily strain. How well music distracts us from physical fatigue also depends on the intensity of the training. This effect is particularly effective when engaging a light to moderate challenge. In the case of training with great exertion, the physical fatigue signals are too strong and the distracting property of music loses its effect.
Nevertheless, studies have shown that music still has a positive effect on the subjective perception of the training which at least ensures that we feel more pleasure during the activity. After all, if you listen to your favourite music when things get tough, you may focus on the positive emotions aroused by the beats and thus have more fun during your workout .
3. Music pushes your performance.
Even though we’re starting to sound like a broken record with all this talk of studies, here’s another fact that has been proven by research – athletes engage in a longer and more challenging workout when they listen to music.
This is especially true for endurance training such as jogging or cycling. Since the same movements are performed over a long period, they can easily be synchronised with music. With faster rhythms in their ears, the study participants were able to increase their speed. For cyclists, the ideal song tempo was between 125-140 bpm and for runners, it was between 123-131 bpm . Sports scientists at Brunel University UK were even able to prove that their test subjects who used treadmills were able to increase their performance by a full 15% with the help of music .
If you want to give yourself that extra push during your next workout, it’s best to put together a playlist of songs in advance. Find songs that will motivate you and increase your speed without being so fast that they will push you too hard.
4. Music helps your body recover faster.
Music is not only great support before and during a workout – but it also helps you recover after your workout. The cool-down after a workout is so important because it helps the body switch to regeneration after exertion by slowly lowering the heart rate again and beginning the process of repairing the muscles.
A study (last one!) with 60 subjects looked into how listening to fast, slow, and no music at all affected the post-workout phase . The results showed that slow beats effectively lowered blood pressure and heart rate, which resulted in faster recovery. The subjects who listened to slow music, therefore, recovered in a much shorter period compared to those with fast or no music.
No matter if it’s soul, classical, or hip-hop, the next time you listen to relaxing music after a workout while stretching or taking a few conscious breaths, you will not only prevent stress on your cardiovascular system but also speed up your recovery time so that you can start your next workout stronger.
Whether you want to get in the mood for your workout on days when you’re not so motivated, or if you just want to run that extra mile with your favourite songs, or simply relax to calming melodies after your workout – music can sweeten every phase of your workout. Try it next time you sweat and take note if it improves your performance.
 Marcelo Bigliassi et al. : How Does Music Aid 5 km of Running? In: The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 29(2), February 2015, S. 305-314. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263970872_How_Does_Music_Aid_5_km_
 Costas Karageorghis, David-Lee Priest: Music in Sport and Exercise: An Update on Research and Application. In: The Sport Journal, July 2007. http://thesportjournal.org/article/music-sport-and-exercise-update-research-and-application/
 stas I. Karageorghis, Leighton Jones: On the stability and relevance of the exercise heart rate–music-tempo preference relationship. In: Psychology of Sport and Exercise 15(3), January 2013, S. 299-310. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259160570_On_the_stability_and_relevance_of_the_exercise_heart_rate-music-tempo_preference_relationship
 Costas Karageorghis, David-Lee Priest: Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (Part II). In: International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology 5(1), March 2012, S. 67-84. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3339577/
 Dr. Sheetal Diliprao Bhavsar et al.: Effect of Different Musical Tempo on Post-Exercise Recovery in young adults. In: IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences 13(5), May 2014, S. 60-64. https://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jdms/papers/Vol13-issue5/Version-1/N013516064.pdf