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Here’s how music finetunes your workouts 

Here’s how music finetunes your workouts 

Working out with music provides many benefits including enhanced focus and performance capacity, reduced perceived exertion and improved oxygen utilisation
Going through your workout sessions playing music provides many benefits which include enhanced focus and performance capacity, reduced perceived exertion and improved oxygen utilisation
Performing your workout sessions to the tune of music can help increase focus, performance capacity, motivation and delays workout exhaustion. Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K / Happiest Health

Music sits at the top rung among many things that make life happy and complete. For many, it is an indelible part of their daily routine, a background score of sorts – for the chores, during office commute and workout sessions.

The practise of playing music during workout is common. Gyms play fast and energetic beats, and it is believed to help those working out set a tempo. Then there are those who use earphones while going through their fitness routines. It is known to boost energy and help in elevating one’s performance.

“Music always acts as an energy booster while doing exercises,” says Stefy Jackson, a fitness trainer and former judo wrestler from Thrissur, Kerala. “It enables people to increase their focus on the workout and motivates them to exert more effort. Most people get bored while exercising alone for a set amount of time every day. Additionally, it makes people easily tired. Playing the apt music helps to forget fatigue and increase performance capacity.”

Relationship between music and workout

There are many positives associated with working out to music. Science attributes this connection to human psychology and explains it through the key concepts of arousal theory of motivation as well as flow state.

People are motivated to take certain actions in order to keep their physiological arousal at its optimal level. The arousal theory of motivation states that each person has a specific arousal level that is appropriate for them. People look for stimuli to raise their levels of arousal when it falls below the optimal level.

“Music is a tool that everyone, including athletes, can utilise to reach the ideal degree of arousal,” says Kunashni Parikh, a Mumbai-based clinical and sports psychologist. “If a person is demotivated to do a workout, music can help to pump them up. That is where the optimal theory of arousal comes in.”

Flow state refers to a state of mind where an individual is completely focused on a single task or activity past the point of distraction. People perform at their best when they are in the flow. Music helps them to get into the flow state and aids them to continue their work out without being distracted.

Understanding one’s relationship with music

In order to benefit from music, an individual must understand their relationship with it. One needs to understand what tune or beats work for them. Knowing the right kind of music is significant either to pump oneself up or put oneself in a calmer state during workout.

“It is a frequent practise to play some kind of workout music in gyms to motivate people,” says Jackson. “But everyone does not need to get actual benefits from it. Each person has a different taste in music. Therefore, exercising while listening to one’s favourite genre of music will yield the best results.”

Music enhances affective responses

Music has a huge emotional quotient as it can enhance the functioning of the limbic system which helps people to process emotions.

“Motivation is all about being fuelled by some kind of emotion,” says Parikh. “The emotion to do or achieve something which gives people a sense of accomplishment. There is a strong relationship between emotion and motivation, and music can fuel that entire cycle.”

Parikh adds, “In some instances, athletes’ bodies have a very low state of activation. They sometimes feel nervous and kind of freeze up before the game. In these situations, they require some beats that can pump them up. On the other hand, they sometimes feel very jittery and need music that can calm themselves down. Something slow, not fast tempo.”

Tunes reduce perceived exertion

Perceived exertion refers to one’s self-assessment of the intensity or energy expenditure while working out. It is based on the bodily sensations that a person feels when engaging in physical activity.

“Workout music can push people further than their perceived exertion limit,” says Parikh. “This also occurs when a person gets worn out while playing a game. When the crowd starts cheering, athletes forget their fatigue and get that extra energy to push even harder.”

Music increases oxygen utilisation

Music can enhance oxygen utilisation during workout by amplifying one’s attention.

“The more one is in tune with the music, the more charged up one feels,” explains Parikh. “The more blood flow to the brain, the higher the rate of oxygen absorption. In this way, music affects the brain’s ability to absorb oxygen.”


  • Workout sessions listening to music has many benefits and science attributes this connection to human psychology.
  • Factors such as degree of arousal, flow state, genre of music and affective responses fuel the many benefits of playing music during workouts.
  • Advantages of listening to music include increased concentration and performance capacity, motivation, delayed workout fatigue, reduced perceived exertion and improved oxygen utilisation.

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