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The Best Music for Exercise and Working Out

The Best Music for Exercise and Working Out

Written by

James Picken


January 9, 2023



Learn how music can affect your performance and help you hit PBs using behavioural science

We all know the importance of exercising to both our physical and mental health. But it's not always easy to feel motivated.

One of the most important factors to motivation when working out is the music you choose to listen to. At Startle, we know the impact music can have on behaviour and mood (especially as music providers for some amazing gyms)- so what’s the best music to listen to to get motivated in the gym? 

Does music help with working out?

Research shows that the right music can boost workout performance and even encourage you to exercise for longer

“Humans have a tendency to lock into a rhythm, and that has a direct influence on physical work rate.”

-Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., a sports psychology profressor at Brunel University London. 

Listening to tunes while you workout can reduce how tired you feel (studies show that listening to music will reduce your perception of how hard a workout is by 10%), distract you from the strain on your muscles, improve your mood, and it can even influence your heart rate to be faster or slower. Ultimately, if you’re struggling through a set and a song you love comes on, you’re likely to enjoy the exercise more. 

Exercise can be great for our mental health as well as our physical, so the endorphins of the exercise in combination with the influence of music can be a winning combination to make you feel great post-workout. 

What type of music is best for working out? -


Is there one type of genre which is best to work out to? Well, like with a lot of things in music, it's subjective. Although genres like garage, house and hip-hop are largely popular in settings like gyms, it's largely because of the characteristics they share. It's also worth keeping in mind that listening to music/genres you already like is handy, and maybe even things you don't listen to outside of the gym, so you associate the music with the activity. Your workout playlists should also be highly syncopated, so there's not too many breaks where you can lose work out momentum.

Consider the tempo

When choosing the right music for your workout, BPM is one of the most important things to consider. Matching the tempo of a song with your heart rate can keep you motivated to push through. 

Not sure what BPM to go for? Here’s a general guide, depending on the type of exercise you’re doing:

  • Yoga, pilates and low-intensity activities: 60 to 90 BPM 
  • CrossFit and HIIT: 140 to 180-plus BPM
  • Zumba and dance: 130 to 170 BPM
  • Steady-state cardio, e.g jogging: 120 to 140 BPM
  • Weightlifting: 130 to 150 BPM
  • Warming up: 100 to 140 BPM
  • Cooling down: 60 to 90 BPM

If you’re really keen on getting the most out of your workout session, why not curate the perfect playlist, transitioning between BPMs?

A carefully curated playlist

Perfect playlists are our bread and butter. 

Preparing your playlist before hitting the gym can really enhance your session. Why not have specific songs in time with specific parts of your workout? That way, you can know if you’re on track time wise and the music will match your heart rate.

You also don’t want to have to dig your phone out from your pocket mid-set - having the perfect playlist set out will stop you from having to have an unintentional break (unless you’re using it as an excuse - we won’t tell). 

What are the cons of working out with music?

Still wondering if it's better to work out in silence? Despite what seems an endless list of benefits to working out with music, there are some potential downsides.

Firstly, if you're exercising outside, it can take away from some of the mindfulness benefits of hearing natural noises - think birds singing, the wind in the trees, or even your own breath. Especially with workouts like running, being able to hear your actions (e.g footsteps) can give you valuable feedback on your performance.

It's also important to remember - safety first. You need to be able to hear traffic and be aware of your surroundings.

If you're exercising indoors, it can eliminate the social aspect, especially in a gym. Sometimes we need to have a session with our headphones in, hat on, in the zone, but it does mean that there's less chance of social interaction and making friends in the environment. If you're training with a partner, it can reduce the likelihood of you having conversations, and essentially isolates you more.

Using a pair of earphones that are easy to pause and adjust the volume can help with some of these cons, and it's all down to the type of exercise you're doing and your goals.

The best workout songs

Just for fun, we took a look at Men's Health's top workout songstheir BPMs, and what type of exercise we think they’d be great for.

Top 10 best workout songs

Song BPM Exercise
PowerKanye West
154 Weightlifting
Lose YourselfEminem
171 HIIT
Level UpCiara
153 Dance
PressureMartin Garrix & Tove Lo
115 Jogging
"Savage Remix"Megan Thee Stallion & Beyonce
84 A cool down treadmill strut
What's My Age Again?Blink 182
158 Running
JuicyDoja Cat
170 Weightlifting (squatting, obviously)
PynkJanelle Monae
101 Warming up
171 CrossFit
94 Yoga

Music for Gyms

With all this in mind, if you own a gym, work as a personal trainer, or anything similar, you might be wondering if you're making the most of music in your customer experiences. As a music provider, we're here to help.

The music you play overhead can have a real impact, and shouldn't be overlooked. Using Spotify (or other streaming services) isn't legal for businesses due to licensing laws, so make sure you're playing the right (legal) tunes as this could be the reason people come back to you and don't go elsewhere.

We work with some amazing gyms, and we can help curate the perfect playlist for you, or we have some great Startle playlists for working out ready to go.

Now it's time to hit the gym!

Music for stretching, for sprinting, for spinning and spotting, for treadmills and dumbbells and doing just one more rep. 

If this sounds like something you need, find out more about our background music service for gyms and leisure centres or contact us directly today.

The Best Music for Exercise and Working Out

James Picken

Creative Director at Startle. It's my job to produce and execute our music output, making sure everything is sounding, feeling and performing just right for our customers. When I'm not doing this, you can find me either walking my dog, remixing 90s divas on Logic Pro X, returning overdue library books or throwing weights about in the gym.

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