The incredible effect of music on your members' fitness performance

The incredible effect of music on your members' fitness performance

Music and exercise. They seem to naturally go together, and many gym-goers, runners, and other fitness enthusiasts swear that they’d never get through a workout without their favourite playlist.  

But why?

What effect does music actually have on gym-goers – and how can you use music to improve members’ fitness performance and overall satisfaction?

The relationship between music and exercise has been studied for almost a century. In fact, a 1911 study by American investigator Leonard Ayres found that cyclists pedalled faster while a band was playing than when it wasn’t.

Ever since then, there have been hundreds of studies that try to understand just what it is about music that makes people push harder when engaging in exercises from strolling to all-out sprinting. Understanding this link might let leisure operators choose the best music to play in facilities or to recommend to members, which in turn might improve physical performance, increase member satisfaction, and boost retention rates.

Here are the ways in which music can help improve your members’ physical performance and progress towards their goals.


  1. Music makes people want to move

One of the things that makes music such an effective workout motivator is the relationship between tempo (the speed of the song) and what psychologists call rhythm response (how much a song makes you want to tap your feet, nod your head, or dance).

This is what makes most people instinctively move in time to the music, even if they’re usually the shyest person in the world.

Whilst the type of music that gets this response varies a little from person to person (and culture to culture), fast songs with strong beats are particularly stimulating, which is why they are heavily featured on most people's workout playlists.

Even if people don’t feel the need to run or move in exact time with their workout music, the instinct to synchronise with music might help members to use energy much more efficiently.

Moving rhythmically to a beat means that the body can get into a rhythm, so it may not have to make as many adjustments as it would without regular external cues.

Research has even shown that participants who cycled in time to music needed 7% less oxygen to do the same work as cyclists who did not synchronise with background music.

Essentially, music can act as a metronome that helps gym members keep a steady pace and conserve energy, helping them go further and push harder than they usually would. This means that members might feel that they are making more progress. This is good news for leisure operators, as a good playlist can increase member happiness and satisfaction with your services. And satisfied members are much less likely to cancel their membership.


  1. Music creates a distraction

Aside from helping people get into a rhythm when exercises, music can also be a really good distraction from the physical exertion of a workout.

Subconsciously, the human body is always monitoring itself, which is why many gym-goers and runners hit a ‘mental block’ at a set number of minutes into their workout. After a certain time, physical fatigue sets in because the body recognizes a high heart rate, increased sweat production, and rising levels of lactate in the muscles and decides it wants to stop.

This is where music comes in.

Music competes with your brain’s desire to stop because it is better at getting your attention. It’s happier, louder, and more fun than your brain’s signals.

What’s more, music often changes people's perception of their own effort throughout a workout. Running a 5k or doing an extra 10 reps seems so much easier when you’re listening to your favourite song.

The benefits of distraction are best when someone is doing low- to moderate-intensity exercise. Music can sometimes lose its power when up against high-intensity exercise as the physical feelings of tiredness are much stronger, but it can still change the way people respond to that fatigue.

The right music can help elevate your members’ mood and persuade people to push through the feelings of fatigue, rather than giving up. This will help your members make better and faster progress towards their goals.


  1. Music can help promote relaxation and recovery

This one might be surprising, given the ‘get up and move’ nature of the other two benefits. But recovery is just as important as exercise itself for your members. Proper recovery will make sure that members are not injured, exhausted, or burned out, meaning that they’ll be more likely to visit your facilities long into the future. An overworked member might cancel their membership, so the right music can help your members take care of themselves.

Music can reportedly relieve some of the negative short-term effects of high-level exercise, such as acidosis and elevated hormone levels, thereby enhancing performance. Listening to calming music can also bring your heart rate down faster, relax your muscles, and encourage a more gentle cool down.

Encouraging your members to add a few slow, gentle songs to the end of their workout playlist can also signal that they are expected to cool down, stretch, and refuel in a safe and thorough way. This is a much-forgotten step, so clearly signalling the need through music can help to encourage this.

With proper recovery, your members will progress faster and improve their fitness performance.


In conclusion

Music is undeniably great for members’ motivation and progress. The challenge is then using this knowledge to boost your retention rates, member satisfaction, and your bottom line.

One way in which leisure operators might do this is to recommend particular playlists every time they communicate with their members, refine the music played on the gym floor, or even to simply recommend that members find their own groove.

Xn Leisure is a leading authority on all things membership related. To find out more about our extensive range of membership services and how we can help your business thrive, get in touch today.

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