Running and Music: How can music help you during your runs?

Do you ever listen to music when you run? What is your favorite running music? Why does listening to music when we run seem to help? 

Rhythm is a very important element to understanding why music can help during a run. You are probably very aware of how your mind and body react to rhythm. Whether that is listening to your favorite song or simply imagining a catchy melody! 

From academics doing research to individuals sharing their experiences with music and running, we can see the benefits music can have. Sonali Verghese, writing for Runner’s Life, a Medium publication, shares that “running just feels easier and more enjoyable with music. I rely on music, on some form of entertainment, to help me wring every last ounce of energy from my aching legs and grind out those painful final miles.” 

Read on as we tell you about running and music. Listening to music when running can have the following benefits!


Increased Concentration and Motivation

Many scientific studies, as well as testimonials from runners, provide evidence that music increases concentration which can lead to positive effects during a run. 

This enhanced concentration can help runners get into an optimal mindset, increasing the motivation to start and keep running. 

This report summarizes an article from the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. In a nutshell, the study showed that songs chosen for their pleasure and ability to motivate runners indeed improved motivation and helped them run faster than those without any music. 

“…music helped activate the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for decision-making and emotions. This not only helped boost the runners’ moods beforehand, thereby psyching them up for the race, but it may have also contributed to the faster times…”


Enhanced Performance

A writing on a conference presentation in ScienceDaily reported that listening to your favorite music can boost performance, help you get ‘in the zone,’ and decrease exertion. One of the researchers said that “By playing their favourite tunes, we found that participants’ exertion levels reduced and their sense of being ‘in the zone’ increased, when compared to listening to no music at all. The greatest effects were found for music used during training.”

Indeed, matching the cadence of running with the beats of the music can be a great way to enhance performance. 

“Adjusting movement tempo to acoustic stimuli (i.e., auditory-motor synchronization) may be beneficial for sports performance.”

In a study by Robert Jan Bood, Marijn Nijssen, John van der Kamp, and Melvyn Roerdink, they examined the relative effects of auditory-motor synchronization and the motivational impact of acoustic stimuli on running performance. The acoustic stimuli they used included:

  • a metronome with beeps matching the runners’ cadence
  • synchronous motivational music matching the participants’ cadence. 

They concluded that acoustic stimuli may have enhanced running performance because runners worked harder as a result of motivational aspects (most pronounced with motivational music) and more efficiently as a result of auditory-motor synchronization (most notable with metronome beeps). 

These findings imply that running to motivational music with a very prominent and consistent beat matched to the runner’s cadence will likely yield optimal effects because it helps to elevate physiological effort at a high perceived exertion, whereas the consistent and correct cadence induced by auditory-motor synchronization helps to optimize running economy.


Decreased pain, exertion, and perceived effort levels

Music can mask the pain and exhaustion perceived during a run. Research has shown some of the mechanisms in which music decreases pain, exertion, and perceived effort levels. 

Music can have analgesic and anxiolytic effects. This can be seen not only in the context of physical exercise but also in the many applications of music in music therapy

In fact, Sam’s Fans supports music therapy for seriously ill children because of its many benefits. Learn more here


Decreased Negative Emotions and Increased Positive Emotions

Music can increase positive emotions such as happiness and excitement. It can make the experience of running a lot more enjoyable. 

Music can also help relax and recover after a run. Calm music can help activate the vagus nerve, “a cranial nerve at the bottom of the brainstem that helps bring your organs, like the heart, lungs, and digestive tract, back to homeostasis.” 

It can also decrease negative emotions such as anxiety, tension, stress, and anger. 


Granted, there are reasons why running without music can also be beneficial. Esteemed and respected professionals debate whether it is better to run with or without music. You could also try this and see how it goes for you. Yet, we believe that music can have great benefits in your next run. For some people, music can really make the difference between running and not running. 

So, give it a try and let us know in the comments below how it goes! 

By the way, do you love running and music? Then our upcoming Sam’s Fans Virtual 5k is just the event for you! Run a 5k and support music and art therapy for seriously ill children with your registration! Register here.


L. Samuel Gracida

L. Samuel Gracida

Samuel is Sam's Fans Operating Director and our primary blogger!

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