The Science Behind Music and Sports

“Peak and mean power as well as enjoyment were better…with motivational music, individuals reached better physical performance and also enjoyed the highly strenuous activity more.”

In the experiment itself, participants ran at their determined speed under three conditions: 1) with no acoustic stimuli 2) while synchronizing movement to a metronome and 3) synchronizing to motivational music. The subjects ran for as long as they could and the experiment stopped on the subjects’ indication of exhaustion. In concordance with the previous study, there was surprisingly little difference between the performance-boosting effects of syncing to a metronome or to motivational music: both resulted in longer times to exhaustion, the subjects could run for approximately two minutes longer with the metronome or the music than in silence. However, motivational music decreased perceived exertion, but the tick of the metronome did not. The metronome in turn was better than motivational music in producing consistent cadence of running strides, meaning a steady running tempo. The researchers speculate that synchronization supports physical performance because a steady rhythm makes movement more efficient. Motivational music would in turn support performance by helping individuals work harder.

“Music supports emotions related to physical performance — by listening to motivating music, people find the inner strength to work harder”

This tight link between music, motivation and physical performance has led some researchers into the realm of the avant-garde. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute have in fact created gym equipment that double as musical instruments: you play them by exercising (called “jymmin” by the researchers)! A study published in the prestigious journal PNAS on the effects of these gym-instruments showed that the musical agency (the action of producing music) that this equipment produces is highly motivating and results in less perceived exertion during exercise. More information about the equipment can be found here. Looking forward to gyms that provide “jymmin” lessons!

Written by Ketki Karanam, Co-Founder and Head of Science at Sync Project


1. Karageorghis, C. I., & Priest, D.-L. (2012). Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (Part I). International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 5(1), 44–66. doi:10.1080/1750984x.2011.631026

Sync Project on Medιum

Developing music technology for health & wellness.

Sync Project

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Developing Music Technology for Health & Wellness.

Sync Project on Medιum

Developing music technology for health & wellness.