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Move To The Beat! How Music Affects Your Brain And Body

Music has the ability to move us, both physically and emotionally. From getting us on our feet, to setting a mood and pace for workouts, music has been a key as an integral part of human experience and culture for thousands of years!

But have you wondered how music impacts our bodies and minds when we engage in physical activity?

The power of music for motivation and enjoyment

Your body naturally syncs with the beat of a song when you are exercising while listening to music. Music activates the area of the brain that controls movement, enabling your body to carry out repetitive motions effectively [1]. Listening to music can stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, creating a positive feeling of enjoyment and motivation during physical activity.

The role of music in regulating exercise intensity and benefits

The music you choose can have a significant impact on the pace of exercise, affecting respiration and heart rate. According to research, individuals who listen to music with a faster tempo, tend to increase their pace and exertion level during exercise. This may be attributed to the fast beat of the music, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, leading to an increase in heart rate and respiration. Conversely, music with a slower tempo can have a calming effect on the body and can be beneficial for activities such as yoga.

Benefits of listening to music during exercise include:

  • Elevated mood and motivation - Listening to music during physical activity has the power to elevate mood and increase self awareness. According to research, you are more motivated to do something when you’re in a good mood! [2]

  • Distraction in a good way - When exercising while listening to music, we frequently pay more attention to the music than to the discomfort and bodily suffering that come with exercising. Music helps you get into a mental state where distractions are tuned out and to be fully engaged with the physical activity.

  • Enhanced enjoyment - Music provides a pleasurable and optimistic diversion during exercise, transforming the workout from a tedious task into an entertaining pursuit.

The impact of personal preference on music and exercise

The impact of music on exercise performance and enjoyment is heavily influenced by personal preference. Opting for music that you enjoy can result in sustained high intensity and longer periods of exercise, as opposed to listening to disliked music. Studies have shown that listening to preferred music enhances motivation and engagement in physical activity, leading to better overall performance and vice versa.

Here are some tips for incorporating music into your workouts:

  • Create a workout playlist - Selecting music with a tempo of 120-140 beats per minute that has a fast pace and strong beat is recommended for high-intensity workouts such as running. This tempo can assist in maintaining a consistent pace, as well as enhancing endurance during the workout.

  • Select music based on exercise type and intensity - For strength and resistance exercises, music with a slower tempo and a strong beat around 80-100 beats per minute is ideal. For yoga and stretching, it is recommended to choose music with gentle melodies and a slow tempo. For high-intensity interval training (HIIT), dynamic tempo music that can match the changes in intensity of the workout is beneficial. For low-intensity workouts, calming and relaxing music can be a good choice.

  • Consider songs with motivational lyrics - Look for songs that have lyrics which inspire and motivate you. This can help you push through workouts and stay focused on your fitness goals.

Limitations and suggestions when listening to music during exercise

While music can have many positive effects on exercise, there are also limitations. For example: The use of noise cancelling headphones or earbuds during outdoor exercise as it may affect one’s situational awareness.

Here are some suggestions when listening to music during exercise:

  • Safety - Make sure you are aware of your surroundings when listening to music during exercise, particularly if you are running, cycling, or walking in areas with potential hazards. You may consider using only one earbud or using headphones with open-ear designs that allow you to hear ambient noise.

  • Volume - Listening to music at a high volume can damage your hearing and also make it difficult to hear warnings from others. You may consider using headphones with noise-cancellation or adjusting the volume to a safe level.

  • Wireless connectivity - To avoid tangling cords or having to hold your mobile devices during exercise, you may consider using Bluetooth-enabled headphones that can connect to your smartwatch or smartphone.

Overall, music has a significant impact on our bodies and minds during exercise, such as increasing motivation and enjoyment. By understanding how music tempo can impact our bodies, we can make mindful and strategic choices when it comes to music that can enhance your exercise experience and optimise your workout performance.

So why not create a playlist, turn up the volume, and let the music guide you towards a healthy life!

About the writer

Charmaine is the Wellbeing Intern at Actxa Wellness and she is a second year student from NTU Sports Science & Management. As a highly driven individual, she believes that the greatest wealth one can have is health, and hopes to be able to promote sport and wellness as a way of life!


[1] Nation, F. (2021, December 16). How Does Music Affect Your Workout? | Fitness Nation. Fitness Nation.,and%20physical%20and%20mental%20stress.

[2] Schäfer, T., Sedlmeier, P., Städtler, C., & Huron, D. (2013). The psychological functions of music listening. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.


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