Physical Effects of Music When Exercising or Doing Sports: Study
Thu, September 29, 2022

Physical Effects of Music When Exercising or Doing Sports: Study


Music has been associated with boosting cognitive functions in various activities, but a new study shows its ability to give physical benefits when exercising. The main significant effect of listening to music while exercising is improving performance outcomes.

The positive effects of music during workouts were unveiled by researchers at Brunel University London, the University of Southern Queensland, and the University of the Sunshine Coast. Music has been found to be a powerful force in bolstering the mind and body of active individuals. Regardless of the exercise or sport, music could influence the psychological and physiological responses, psychophysical responses, and performance outcomes of listeners. The results of the study were published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

The Global Trend in Fitness

According to a report by Les Mills, an online source of fitness workouts and related information, the dominant generations in the fitness world in 2019 were Millennials and Generation Z. Both generations comprised 80% of health club members worldwide. As such, gyms and health clubs could not deny the implication of the so-called Generation Active in driving the fitness business sector. The report highlighted that Gen Z were people born in the mid-1990s to 2010, while Millennials were born in the early 1980s. Thus, Gen Z people were between 8 and 24 years of age, and Millennials were between 25 and 38 years of age.

The data suggests that the average age of all members of health clubs was 36.4 years. That was found to be older than the average age of new members: 30.2 years. When the approximate number of new members was calculated, more than 50% were younger than 30 years. Across all adults, the report revealed that 8% were casual members, 21% were members who lapsed their membership, 22% were never members, 24% were members, and 25% were uninterested in exercising. Still, out of those who were active in health clubs, 35% were Gen Z, 45% were Millennials, 14% were Gen X, and only 6% were Baby Boomers. The latter two would be significantly older than the two generations.

So, what were the factors that motivated Gen Z and Millennials to become active members? While socialization, creative workouts, and physical appearance had strong influences, the greatest factor was workout experiences. Particular subjects within exercises were motivational for both generations. Around 68% of Gen Z were motivated by balance, 64% by routine, 60% by prevention, 61% by rejuvenation, 62% by results, 57% by challenges, and 37% by social interactions. Meanwhile, about 70% of Millennials were motivated by balance, 66% by routine, 65% by prevention, 65% by rejuvenation, 61% by results, 55% by challenges, and 41% by social interactions.



Music and Exercising

It is no surprise that many active people prefer listening to music while exercising. Some prefer upbeat music to energize their mood, while others prefer calm music to improve their focus. Whatever music is chosen, the listener is assisted to complete their exercise routine and achieve their goals. But what are the benefits when listening to music and exercising at the same time?

In a study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 139 published works that examined and quantified the effects of music listening in exercise and sports activities. A total of 598 effect sizes from four different categories of potential benefits were determined. These effects were identified in psychological responses, physiological responses, psychophysical responses, and performance outcomes.

A total of 3,599 participants were identified in those published works. Each participant represented at least one effect size in one category. Physically, the effects of listening to music during exercise were substantial enough to be quantified. The overall physical effects were apparent in physical performance, perceived exertion, and oxygen consumption of the listener. Though, there were no significant effects of music on the heart rate.

"Probably the biggest influence of music on exercise, based on these findings, is that listening to music during exercise can make you feel better about what you have done. Experiments that manipulate whether people are listening to music while exercising find that people feel more positively about the exercise when they have listened to music than when they have not," said Dr. Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, who was not a part of the study, as quoted by US magazine Psychology Today.



In relation to real-world settings, the study proves that music generally enhances an active person's physical performance and extends their threshold of tiredness. Because the tempo of that music inspires the mind, their body cooperates with the brain to focus on the task at hand. This makes them feel like they are exerting less effort, compared to if they were in an environment without music. The same effect urges them to do some intense workouts that match the tempo of their music.

The influence of music and its tempo sharpens the attention and concentration of the listener. The resilience of attention and concentration can divert the mind and body from the exertion effort, and even pain caused by normal muscle soreness. If no music is playing in the background, the person will likely be more attentive to their exertion and signs of pain. Although sensing pain is necessary when exercising, not every type of pain indicates that the body is suffering from an injury. Normal soreness is a sign that muscles are getting stronger or bigger.

However, the effects of music on the body during exercise are greater on attention and focus, compared to performance outcomes. This is because music appears more impactful during exercises than in sports. When music is playing during an exercise or workout, the person has more freedom to listen and focus. When music is playing during sports, the person has less freedom because they have to concentrate on sports mechanics and conditions to win the match. Still, it does not mean music is detrimental during sports.

For adverse effects, music does not seem to cause consequences as long as the person puts safety above listening. Remember, wearing earphones or headphones can restrict awareness of the environment. Active people who want to listen to music while exercising should always be mindful to avoid hurting themselves or others.