The Influence of Music Preference on Exercise Responses and Performance

2024 a New Year with new resolutions – is it time to get fit and how can the music preference in your gym help?

A recent study by Christopher G. Ballmann at Department of Kinesiology, Samford University states that, “Listening to music has been repeatedly shown to have ergogenic benefits during various modes of exercise, including endurance, sprint, and resistance-based activities.”

This has dramatic impacts for gym owners and the success of their business, are you getting the music right in your gym, could music help motivate your clients to go harder, faster, further with their exercise routines in January?

“Music is commonly incorporated into training regimens by recreational exercisers and competitive athletes alike. While specific modalities of exercise elicit varying physiological responses, listening to music has been shown to modulate many of these responses (i.e., heart rate, catecholamines, muscle activation) often leading to improved performance. Furthermore, listening to music during exercise may positively impact psychological (i.e., mood, motivation) and psychophysiological (i.e., rate of perceived exertion, arousal) changes, which may allow for favorable responses during an exercise challenge.”

1. Introduction

There is an ancient connection between music and exercise, “Descriptions of listening to different types of rhythms and melodies during competition or battle have been noted to go back thousands of years. Even centuries ago, different types of music often had the power to propel individuals to conflict or peace between cultures and religions. Indeed, early emphasis on the importance of music preference has been described to affect individuals’ overall feelings of positivity or negativity ”

Music is associated with sporting competitions and sporting events. Athletes use music to inspire them, “Elite athletes have reported listening to music during exercise training sessions, pre-competition, and warm up on the basis of their belief that it improves mood, motivation, and aids in achieving top performance levels. With this, large amounts of investigations have focused on the potential benefits of music during exercise primarily as, but not limited to, a means for improving peak performance.”

The effects of music in the gym are multifaceted, “Listening to music has been shown to improve performance in endurance, sprint, and resistance modes of exercise. The ergogenic and performance-enhancing effects of music may be achieved through several different alterations to the exercise response. Music has been shown to potently reduce the perception of fatigue and exertion through dissociation and distraction during exercise. Increases in arousal and neural activity while listening to music have been shown to accompany improved exercise performance . The synchronization of music and exercise may result in improved running economy, efficiency, and overall performance. Listening to music prior to and during exercise has been shown to increase motivation and effort, leading to improved performance outcomes. Improvements in performance may also be mediated through improved mood, exercise enjoyment, and increased feelings of power. Thus, the effects of music on exercise performance are multi-faceted, allowing for possible benefits in a wide arrange of athletic populations and exercise modalities.”

2. General Exercise Responses While Listening to Music

Music has been postulated to influence exercise performance through three main types of mechanisms: psychological, physiological, and psychophysiological

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2.1. Psychological

Music can influence your mind; “Psychological changes with exercise have been widely described to influence sport and exercise performance. Psychological responses influencing exercise performance may be related to well-being, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral domains which may impact both exercise compliance and capacity. For example, lower tension, depression, anger, and higher vigor have been associated with more successful athletic performance. Independent of exercise, music has been suggested to influence multiple psychological domains. Indeed, previous evidence has reported improvements in positive feelings, mood, and subjective fatigue while listening to music. ”

2.2. Physiological

In turn music can influence the subjects physiology, “The collective evidence suggests that music induces alterations in physiology in two broad areas: (1) neural activation (i.e., brain activity, autonomic responses, etc.), (2) metabolic responses (i.e., VO2/energy expenditure, lactate clearance, hypothalamic pituitary axis control, etc.). ”

3. Music Preference and Exercise Performance

Getting the music right, the key for gym owners is making sure the music played is suitable to the environment; “A broad working definition of preferred music is any song, genre, rhythm, etc., which individuals deem most favourable when presented with an array of music choices. Musical preference may remain static or exhibit fluidity, as increased exposure to certain melodies may possibly increase or change preference over time. Non-preferred is deemed least favourable when presented with musical choices.”

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3.1. Endurance Exercise

Getting the music right can help clients exercise endurance, “Endurance exercise is heavily reliant on being able to repeatedly sustain muscular force and combat fatigue. While music has been widely shown to improve endurance exercise performance, music preference may determine the efficacy of performance enhancement and psychological responses to exercise…”

3.2. Anaerobic and Sprint Exercise

Still more to learn in regards to the connections between music and exercise.

“Overall, the effects of music preference on anaerobic exercise are the least understood. Rasteiro et al. investigated whether listening to preferred music could induce changes in anaerobic threshold intensity. ”

3.3. Resistance Exercise

The importance of music in resistance training is more established, “Music is a widely used training tool by strength competitors and competitive athletes in the field. Various studies have confirmed the ability of music to impart the enhancement of strength, repetition volume, and the attenuation of fatigue during resistance exercise…”

3.4. Pre-Task/Warm-up Music and Performance

Sometimes music is not allowed at events, what is the difference?

“Many sports and contests do not allow for the listening of music during competitions, leaving music studies which intervene with listening during exercise of limited value. In these circumstances, listening to music immediately prior to giving effort (i.e., pre-task) or during a warm-up may be more applicable and practical. Both pre-task and warm-up music have been shown to improve performance in a variety of exercise modes, including endurance and resistance-based exercise.”

4. Practical Applications and Conclusions

“Music provides a very practical means for which to improve acute exercise performance. Music is easily obtainable, cost-effective, and potent as an ergogenic intervention. It is important to the current review to note that music can be easily personalized and individualized. This allows for athletes and coaches to fine tune music interventions on situational or characteristic bases. In the field, music is very commonly listened to during exercise or recovery, similarly by both competitive and recreational athletes.”

It is a simple to change the music in your gym, it is a quick and cost effective way to increase performance and enhance the atmosphere instantly.

So why not give it a go and get preferred music in your gym, visit our gym page for more details or sign up for a free one week trial with instant access here 




N.B. This research received no external funding.