Does Music Increase Athletic Performance?

I enjoy listening to music when I am skateboarding, snowboarding or biking and I’m sure many of you enjoy listening to music while you are working out or to pump you up right before a big game. I listen to music during these activities because it helps me focus, try harder, and stay motivated. I began to wonder if there was some science behind why listening to music while doing something athletic seems to help me perform better.

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Music can be a great motivator, especially when you want to perform at the peak of your athletic ability. Music can help us focus on the task at hand and drown out weighing factors such as fatigue. A study conducted by Brunel University had thirty participants run on a treadmill while motivational or pop music was played. The participants were instructed to keep running on the treadmill while following the beat of the music. The scientists found that participants could go for much longer, to the point of near exhaustion for some, while listening to motivational or pop music. The scientists also noted that the participants were in the “feeling state”, meaning that they felt good, while exercising more often when they were listening to motivational or pop music. The study concluded that listening to motivational and pop music can increase endurance by 15% and make working out more enjoyable.

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While I believe this study was conducted well and shows positive results towards music positively increasing athletic performance, I believe a confounding variable for this study would be a person’s music taste. The study concluded that only pop and “motivational” music increase endurance while running due to the upbeat tempo of the music. Clearly not everyone has the same taste in music and it makes me wonder if pop or motivational music would be as effective for people who do not like either of those types of music. For example, would someone who enjoys listening to rock and roll experience the same boost in performance from listening to pop music as someone who enjoys listening to pop music would?

It is no fault of the study since it was conducted this way purposefully but I believe it would be interesting to see the results of listening to different types of music and running on a treadmill while being told NOT to keep tempo with the music (At least not deliberately). On a similar train of thought as before, would a person who likes rock and roll perform the same as someone who likes pop music if they are both listening to their preferred types of music?  


Brunel University Study Source –

8 thoughts on “Does Music Increase Athletic Performance?

  1. Brendan Mironov


    I played basketball competitively in high school and found myself listening to music before every game and practice. It became so second nature to me that it was part of my routine before every game. Like your blog mentioned, it helped me stay motivated on the task at hand as well as calmed my nerves and made me overthink things less. I felt relaxed when I listened to music. When looking at the study performed by Brunel University, I could not help but notice that the study was only conducted on 30 students. Do you think that this is too small of a sample size to truly be able to say that music increases athletic performance? I also feel like there are some other third variables that could be accounted for like gender, weight, and overall health of the participants. Would other activities like reading before big games be able to keep someone as motivated and relaxed as listening to music?

  2. Hannah Margaret Mears

    I am really glad someone wrote about this because as an athlete in high school I always found myself working harder to a beat. Music always put me in a better mood as well as boosted my motivation to keep going during a tough workout. I always wondered if my track times would have improved had I been able to listen to music while I was running because I felt like when I trained with music outside of competition I ran better. Also, my soccer coach junior year let us listen to music during practice and it actually made people work harder because they were happier. I think it would be interesting to do a trial on athletes, especially track athletes to see how their performance would increase if they would be able to listen to music during race. I personally think that my mile time would drop if I had some music to give me an energy boost in those last couple minutes. Wouldn’t it be something to see the difference in performance just based upon a simple song? I found an article that perfectly displayed what I was going for. It lists 4 major ways that music can enhance athletic performance. I think you should take a look at it to see if any of those ways sways you to believe in the theory more. LINK

  3. Jessica Heckler

    Great blog post!! This topic is very interesting and I can really relate to it. Before all of my soccer games I always insisted on listening to the same three or four songs to pump myself up and really get in the zone. Even though I am more of an alternative music fan, the songs I listened to were almost always either some weird throwback to the 90s or rap. I know, a very strange mix, but for some reason they always got me ready to go for my games. However, I think most of the reason why I loved jamming to these songs before the game was because they made me laugh and put me in a great mood to start the game because I could laugh with my teammates about them beforehand.
    This study is specifically on music while working out, but I think it would be interesting to test athletes playing sports where they can’t be listening to music the whole time and see how pre-game and pre-practice music affects their overall performance. This would either destroy or encourage all of the crazy pre-game song and playlist rituals of many sports teams! A way they could test this is with an experiment where a team would be given a certain drill or task to do with two trials, one listening to music beforehand and one without music beforehand and comparing the performance results! The null hypothesis would be that music does not enhance performance and the alternative hypothesis would be that music enhances the performance of the athletes. This is an awesome topic and I would love to see more research done on it!

  4. tmv5147

    Awesome post! I would think everyone would totally agree with this because everyone who competes no matter what activity it is wants to be at their very best. The one main point that really stood out to me was when you said “drown out weighing factors”, you see all this modern day technology with the noise cancelling headphones . You would have to think that companies like Bose consult with scientist like the ones who conducted such experiments to see how they can gain an advantage in the market and create a modern product which will attract consumers. Another great point you made was, what’s considered “motivational”. I enjoy all types of different music but obviously up tempo beats are what I would prefer when working out or before a game. I know for a fact that my dad would want nothing to do with that playlist before he goes out on a run.

  5. Cristen Heaton

    I have to say, I am the complete opposite while I am working out/running. I love music but when I get on a treadmill and start running I can’t listen to any music, it’s too much of a distraction! Weird, right?! I thought this blog post was great though. I agree with you when you said there were obviously cofounding variables such as the music type. I have a lot of friends who go to the gym with me and when it comes to music tastes we are two different people! Since the study also concluded that it increases endurance by 15%, is that enough to actually make a difference? I actually found another study that relates to the same topic but instead it talks about music tempo. There was a couple different tempos tested while exercising and I think it’s really cool!

  6. Hannah Gluck

    I found this very interesting because in high school my teammates and I would blast music in the locker room before games to get us motivated. I was wondering if this worked in the same way? Because I obviously don’t listen to music on the field but I definitely feel like it pumped me up. This got me thinking so I decided to look into it and I found this article that talks about using music to get in tune before and after a game. Researchers found that music can affect brain structure. It has also been found to enhance perception, attention, control, and emotional responses. So to answer my own question yes music does enhance performance even if you are not listening to it during your activity. Although I think there are slightly different effects on the brain these studies prove that music does increase motivation, therefore increasing performance at the same time.

  7. Jillian Nicole Beitter

    I really enjoyed reading this! I don’t run much but when I do I like to listen to music. I’ll usually set up a playlist before heading out. The music I choose is usually upbeat, like you said most people listen to. Personally though, the music isn’t exactly motivating for me. It helps with my focus more than anything. I need a beat ti run at and something to think about. When I’m running I tend to listen to the lyrics and it kind of takes the focus away from the idea of me running. I actually find it a lot harder to run without headphones in. You mentioned how there tends to be a certain type of music people listen to when they run, so I decided to look into that further. I actually found this interesting study that some people do listen to classical, jazz and instrumental music. The reasons behind their music choice are explained in the article if you’re interested!

  8. Mairead Donnard

    This is such an interesting blog. I know that when I am working out, I need to listen to music in order to remain motivated. Just when I think that I cannot go on any further, my favorite song will start playing and I will become motivated again. While this might work for me, this may not be the case for everyone. I know other people, like my dad, who think about their life when they are jogging. All in all, while a majority of people might find that listening to music assists performance while jogging, I think that it depends on the person. What works for one person, might not work for another.

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