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Music: Exercise Motivator or Relaxation Tool?

In the September 25, 2023 issue of Advanced Natural Wellness, I mentioned how much I love to put on some music and bop around the house while I’m doing chores.

I do the same thing when I’m ready for some more purposeful physical activity.

For example, I love listening to the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” when I’m walking on a treadmill. With the speed set at 3.5 miles per hour, I find it’s the perfect tune to give a bounce to my step and a boost to my brain.

I literally put it on repeat – “Sweet dreams are made of this… Who am I to disagree?” – and it keeps me going much longer than I normally could go.

Music really is powerful when it comes to your health.

During exercise, music with a strong beat or tempo makes your body react. It makes you start tapping your fingers, bouncing your feet and even nodding your head back and forth.

This is a phenomenon known as “preferred tempo.” When you listen to music that matches your natural rhythm, it excites the circuits in your spine that control movement.

Your body literally wants to get up and start moving!

That makes listening to music a great way to get your brain and body primed for a workout. And it can really come in handy when it comes to boosting your performance.

Move to the Groove!

When your exercise is synchronized with music it helps your body use energy more efficiently. At the same time, you use less oxygen than you would otherwise. You might even find yourself exercising longer than normal.

That’s what happens with me on the treadmill. I stay on the machine much longer when the right music is playing.

For one thing, your body will naturally “move to the groove.” When this inborn instinct is activated, you’ll forget to make habitual adjustments to your gait and movements. They’ll be effortlessly coordinated, thus preserving energy and oxygen.

For another, getting lost in the music will keep you distracted. This makes it less likely you’ll get bored, and more likely that you’ll push through fatigue.

So whether you’re sprinting, bicycling or just walking a treadmill, doing it in time with your favorite beat not only makes your body want to move… it also increases performance, stamina and recovery.

But that’s not all.

Relax Your Way to a Healthier You

Besides helping with exercise, music is also a great relaxer. A nice, soothing melody will help your heart rate to slow, your blood pressure to drop and your aches and pain to fade away.

Personally, I like to wind down every evening with music by Judy Collins or Andrea Bocelli. Often, I’ll combine this with my mindful breathing time.

The calming effect of music works so well that when people listen to music before or after surgery it reduces anxiety and decreases their need for pain medicine.

Now, here’s the thing.

It doesn’t matter whether you listen to music to improve your exercise performance or to relax. Either way, you’re doing your body a world of good.

First of all, exercise and relaxation are both great stress busters. And as you well know, stress is inflammatory and contributes to most major illnesses. This includes heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain, obesity and more.

So the more often you move your body… and then take time to let your brain and body unwind … the less your chances of these problems.

Second, taking time to exercise, and relax, are both great for your heart.

The moderate to vigorous physical activity gets your blood flowing, powers up your heart muscle and boosts oxygen levels. Then, relaxing to music lowers your blood pressure and slows down your heart and respiratory rate.

Plus, they both help you sleep better and improve pain symptoms.

So all in all, music can add health to your life – whether you use it as motivation to exercise or to promote relaxation.

I recommend combining both methods. Move your body to the beat early in the day, and soothe yourself with harmonic melodies before bedtime.


Hole J, et al. Music as an aid for postoperative recovery in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2015 Oct 24;386(10004):1659-71.

Epel ES, et al. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Dec 7;101(49):17312-5.

Michaelis K, et al. Passive listening to preferred motor tempo modulates corticospinal excitability. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Apr 24;8:252.

Bacon CJ, et al. Effect of music-movement synchrony on exercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2012 Aug;52(4):359-65.

Waterhouse J, et al. Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Aug;20(4):662-9.

Simpson SD, et al. The effects of synchronous music on 400-m sprint performance. J Sports Sci. 2006 Oct;24(10):1095-102.