How Music Enhances Your Workout

How Music Enhances Your Workout

It’s not just you. The perfect playlist really can take exercise to the next level.

By Lucy MaherUpdated January 22, 2021


For David B., a Peloton Bike owner from Dallas who has been riding since 2014, the right playlists are key to getting in a good workout.

Jenn Sherman’s playlists are always first-class,” he says. “Her music continually hits the right spot. She rides to the rhythm in her class, and therefore, the music becomes an essential part of the exercise. The beat of the music and the exceptional selection continually motivate me, which is why I keep coming back for more.”

Turns out David—and Jenn—are on to something. A 2018 study divided walkers into three groups: those who listened to a TED Talk while they walked, those who walked to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and those who walked in silence. The researchers found that the music listeners experienced a 28 percent increase in enjoyment while they walked, compared to those who walked in silence and a 13 percent increase compared with those who listened to the podcast.

“It has long been proven that music is a motivator for changing our moods,” says Brittany Johnson, a licensed mental health counselor. “We use music to get us pumped up for a big game or competition. We use music to help calm down or set a romantic tone. If you are having a difficult time exercising, turn on the songs that get you the most excited, and you will notice that it helps you get in the mood and push through your workout.”

For some Peloton Members, the music played by an instructor can mean the difference between a chill class and one that has the potential to be PR-setting.

“The choice of music is a deeply personal thing,” says Jason R., of Westchester County, New York. “For me, regardless of how I feel before the ride starts, if I know there's a hard rock track, I know it's going to drive me. The Metallica Ride by Kendall was amazing; it nearly launched me over the monitor!”

Knowing the playlist ahead of time can help motivate riders, runners or app users, which makes the published playlists of on-demand classes invaluable.

“If you’re taking an on-demand class, you have the luxury of being able to view the playlist beforehand, which gives you, the Member, total control of what you work out to,” says Peloton instructor Leanne Hainsby. “If there is a song you know you love on that playlist, then you already have a connection to the workout before doing it. If you plan your workouts in advance based on the playlists you like, you are more likely to stay committed, because you know you’re going to enjoy it.”

The tempo of the music, as well as the lyrics, also play a role. Leanne says that high-tempo beats can help exercisers get through a challenging workout. Empowering messages in songs might also boost your mood and leave you with a positive mindset, she adds.

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“The type of music played can really help to get you into the best vibe possible for the workout,” she says. “For example, I will play music in a low-impact ride that really helps to maintain the ‘low impact’ vibe, and I will play music in a HIIT ride that has beat drops, strong bass lines and high energy to create the vibe I want you to have during the workout.”

Of course, there will be days when it’s hard to feel motivated to work out.

Leanne’s advice? “For the days you don’t feel like working out—and we all have them—have a playlist ready that is full of songs that have motivated you in previous workouts,” she says. “You want the songs that make you feel empowered, energized and motivated all in one place. It’s the boost from these songs that’ll have you not only working out, but hitting a personal best when you least expect it.”

Find the perfect music playlist for your next workout on the Peloton App.

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