Fitness Education: How Music Impacts your Motivation

Here is the scenario.  You prepared for your workout the night before by packing your gym clothes, sneakers, and toiletries.  The next day you arrive at the gym, change into your workout gear and you are ready to go.  Then quickly you realize that you need to grab your earbuds or headphones!  You look in your bag and they are not there.  You find that you are disappointed and upset with yourself that you forgot them and you say, “How am I going to get through this workout without my music!”  If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.  Music can have a tremendous impact on our level of energy, motivation, and enjoyment in terms of getting through a workout.  Here are several ways that music can impact your motivation:

Music can provide a welcomed distraction

Music can help us to tune out the world and tune in to ourselves.  We can focus more on what we need to do in that exercise session and escape from what was stressing us at work, home or school.  When finished, we are better able to cope with how we perceive those stressors as our minds tend to be in a more relaxed state.

Music can elevate your mood, especially if you are listening to something you enjoy that has a positive memory association. Music combined with physical activity can have a work-enhancing effect along with a boost of the body’s feel-good chemicals known as endorphins.

Music can get you through a high-intensity exercise session

A 2019 study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise took a look at the psychological and physiological effects of motivational music in (insufficiently trained) subjects who were inexperienced with sprint training and performed a sprint interval training protocol.  Key findings for subjects in the music group were:

Post-exercise enjoyment was greater than those subjects who listened to a podcast or no audio.

The general psychological responses were more positive than those who listened to no audio or a podcast.

The subjects experienced more positive emotions such as pleasure and enjoyment post-exercise.

Music can promote relaxation

If you are seeking to reduce stress through relaxation from an activity such as meditation or yoga, music can help make you feel more centered by calming the body and mind without much effort.  Similar to meditation and hypnotism, slow rhythmic music alters brain activity that resembles the trance-like state of meditation to bring about relaxation.  To maximize the benefit of relaxation, it is important to choose music that you enjoy, preferably without lyrics.

Music helps maintain your pace

When engaging in a self-selected activity such as running, stimulating music with a good beat can help you keep pace.  The rhythm of the music has been shown to enhance mood, reduce the perceived effort of the exercise, improve energy efficiency, and lead to increased work output.

It can make you feel like you want to dance to the groove!

A groove can be described as a way the beat feels incredibly good within the music.  A 2013 study published in the journal Brain and Cognition examined the effects of listening to groove music on the motor pathway of the brain that is responsible for controlling movements in the limbs and trunk.  The results of the study showed that hi-groove music strongly activated the motor system which promotes movement in the listener.  So, creating your own playlist or participating in a dance-oriented class like Zumba that has a ‘groove’ you like will get you moving!

So, when it is time to plan your next fitness session, don’t forget to include your favorite music.  It might just be the inspiration you need to escape, stay on pace, get charged up, or to simply relax and unwind.

Brain Cogn. 2013 Jul;82(2):127-36. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2013.03.003. Epub 2013 May 6