Tune Into Fitness

Music has become an integral part of our daily lives.  Beyond just listening to music on our personal devices, there is a constant soundtrack going around us in grocery stores, elevators, business offices and even when waiting on hold on the phone.  TV shows, for example, have gone from just using music for opening themes to now having music throughout to help set the mood and accentuate drama.

A 2017 study measuring the “Effect of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate among young adults” cites previous research by C.I. Karageorghis and P.C. Terry which states: “Music captures attention, triggers a range of emotions, alters or regulates mood, increases work output, heightens arousal, induces states of higher functioning, reduces inhibitions and encourages rhythmic movement.”

Wow!  Music sounds like a pretty powerful medium, right?!  It makes sense that the fitness industry has used this research to try to improve outcomes and keep people motivated to stay fit.  Technology companies design portable devices to enable runners and other athletes to take their preferred music along for the workout.  Walk into any gym and it’s likely you’ll be met with loud, driving, upbeat, music.

While we may think of music as purely entertainment, it turns out there is scientific evidence that it can actually help you exercise!  Multiple studies have examined various aspects of style and tempo and how it relates to exercise intensity, performance and duration.  Music is shown to have an, often sizeable, positive impact on exercise.  Here is a summary of a few key studies:

  • A 2006 study published in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport found a significant interaction between exercise intensity and music tempo (rate of speed). Undergraduate students rated their music preferences using a 10-point scale, and cycled to reach 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90% of their maximal Heart Rate.  None preferred slow tempo music for exercise at any level.  By a large margin, medium and fast tempos were preferred at all exercise intensities.  Additionally, as exercise intensity increased, the preference for faster temp music did as well.  This finding was confirmed in a similar study in 2011.
  • The 2007 study “Psychological effects of music tempi during exercise” explored the effects of music tempi (the speed of the music) on music preference, intrinsic motivation, and flow during long-duration exercise. They compared medium tempi, fast tempi, and mixed tempi and used no music as the control.  While all of the music tempi produced higher scores than no music, there was one tempo that out-ranked the others in multiple aspects.  Medium tempo music rated highest for preference, intrinsic motivation, and interest-enjoyment. Researchers concluded that medium tempo music was “most appropriate for an exercise intensity of 70% maxHRR.
  • A study published in 2017 in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology looked at music preferences a little differently. Almost 300 fitness center members in Korea were selected to participate.  While they were fairly evenly divided (45% – 55%) between sedative and stimulating music during warm-up, just over 91% preferred stimulating music during their workout.
  •  In the 2017 study, “Effect of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate among young adults” they investigated music’s effect on heart rate and exercise duration, as well as psychological effects on 50 young adults (ages 19-25). It revealed that music significantly increased both the duration of exercise as well as the maximal heart rate.
  • Additionally, previous studies have shown that intense workouts can make it difficult to process other sensory input, like music. However, at more moderate intensity, both internal and external information (eg. music) can be processed.   Therefore, music may provide motivation and distraction during moderate intensity exercise, leading to increased duration.  Even at intense levels, when music is not able to change the perception of fatigue, the motivational effects may have a positive impact.

Despite the varied study settings and objectives, all showed that music can make a positive impact on a person’s exercise experience.  Larger studies may be conducted in the future to obtain more uniform measurements and data.   For now, we can see that there is enough evidence to show that music can help make a workout not only more fun, but also, more productive.  So, put the lullabies on pause, get your jams going and get moving!

If you have not been exercising and have questions about starting a fitness routine, your doctor of chiropractic can help you determine realistic fitness goals that are right for you.  If you don’t have a chiropractor, you can search a listing of TCA member doctors near you at https://www.tnchiro.com/find-a-doctor/.



Karageorghis,CI; Jones,L; Priest, DL; Akers, RI; Clarke, A; Perry, JM; et al.  “Revisiting the Relationship Between Exercise Heart Rate and Music Tempo Preference”.   Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, Volume 82, 2011, Pages 274-284. January 23, 2013.

Karageorghis C, Jones L, Low DL. “Relationship Between Exercise Heart Rate and Music Tempo Preference”.  Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, Volume 77, 2006 – Issue 2, Pages 240-250. January 23, 2013.

Lee K, Ahn HY, Kwon S. “Music’s Effect on Exercise Participants by Exercise Session”. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 29:2, 167-18. 2017. DOI: 10.1080/10413200.2016.1220991

Karageorghis CI, Jones L, Stuart DP.  “Psychological effects of music tempi during exercise”. International Journal of Sports Medicine,  2008 Jul; 29(7):613-9. Epub: Nov. 30, 2007.

Thakare AE, Mehrotra R, Singh A.  “Effect of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate among young adults”.  International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacolog, 2017; 9(2): 35–39.   Published online: April 15, 2017