Choosing your music playlist for sports

Choosing your music playlist for sports

Listening to music allows us to inhibit signs of fatigue that the brain sends during sports. When our body realizes that we are tired and wants to quit the sport, it sends signals to the brain to ask it to stop and take a break.

Reading TimeEstimated reading time : 3 minutes

How the brain perceives music and interprets it?

When the brain perceives music, even very simple tunes, a beautiful alchemy takes place. Thus, a set of distinct neurological processes combine to enable us to listen to and enjoy music.

There is no unique music center in the brain. Let’s discover first the purely mechanical aspects that are implemented when you listen to a beautiful melody. As the name suggests, it is the auditory cortex, which plays the most important role in the treatment of sound of music. An integral part of the temporal lobe, the auditory cortex, takes the information received in the ear and assess it in terms of height – ie the frequency vibrations- and volume of the sound.

In addition to the auditory cortex, other parts of the brain handle different aspects of music. Thus, we know that the rhythm is taken into account in a minor way by this organ. Collecting simple and regular rhythmic notes, such as tapping fingers on a 1-2 tempo, activates the left frontal cortex, the left parietal cortex  and the right cerebellum. The most unusual and rich rhythms involve other regions of the cerebral cortex and cerebellum.

In addition to this perception, the brain must interpret the sounds that arrive. It manages the tone. The tone is defined as the construction of a musical structure around a central frame.

To interpret the tone, the brain still involves other parties. The prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and many parts of the temporal lobe play a critical role in our ability to recognize the tone of any song. It therefore appears that the perception and interpretation of the music mobilize three of the four lobes of the human brain. These are the frontal, parietal and temporal. Only the occipital lobe, responsible for visual processing, is not affected by this activity.

sport musique

These elements are only the basic mechanical aspects required for listening to music. Music has a deeper impact on the brain. We all know that a good song can trigger a cascade of secondary reactions, often unintentionally. An obvious example is our propensity to move with the music tempo. We do not talk about dancing yet, which is an active and independent process, but about simple movements that we make even unintentionally. This is the case when you tap your finger on something while listening to a song. This is caused by the stimulation of neurons in the motor cortex.

What the musical rhythm brings to sports

For most people, listening to music actually causes physiological reactions.  Playful music with a fast tempo and a high tone can make us breathe faster, while sad music, performed in a slow and minor tempo may slow our pulse or cause a rise in blood pressure.

Because we love repetition, our brain is constantly trying to predict what will happen next, based on a model like the rhythm of a song. This explains why we end up tapping our fingers or dancing while listening to a tune.

This ability of music that makes us feel good also brings other benefits. Distinguished specialists have proven that music can reduce pain. In addition, it can also improve our cognitive abilities. For those of us who listen to music while working or doing sports, music can even improve endurance. This has been demonstrated by several studies.

Phelps listen music


Just as silence does not help us to be better drivers, or to be more creative, it is not very helpful when we do sports. In 1911, Leonard Ayres, an American researcher, was able to show that cyclists have pedaled faster while listening to music, than without music.

This is possible because listening to music allows us to inhibit signs of fatigue that the brain sends during sports. When our body realizes that we are tired and want to quit the sport, it sends signals to the brain to ask it to stop and take a break. Listening to music competes with the body to get the attention of our brain. This helps to overcome these fatigue signals. However, one must be careful; music is especially beneficial for low and moderated intensity activities. In case of a high intensity activity, music is not as powerful to gain the attention of our brain. Music also enables a longer and stronger training. It can effectively help us use our energy more efficiently.


What type of music should we listen to during sports


It is important to know how to choose your workout playlist. You should know that there is a limit for the music to be beneficial for sports. This limit is about 175 BPM (beats per minute). Any higher tempo does not seem to add more motivation. Here are some frequency levels for some musical genres:

– Disco is 120 BPM

-Pop is 110-140 BPM

– Hiphop is also 110-140 BPM

– House music is 120-150 BPM

– Dubstep is 140 BPM

– Rock (and its variants) is between 110 and 160 BPM

In sport, it is rather recommended to combine different tempos. This provides better synchronization and allows you to find the right rhythm for our sportive activity.

For a quiet sport

– slow, between 100 and 110 BPM

– moderated, between 110 and 125 BPM

– fast, between 125 and 135

For a more intense sport

– slow, between 140 and 150 BPM

– moderated, between 150 and 160 BPM

– fast, between 160 and 170 BPM


Music makes us happy and provides important benefits to sport.  Just keep in mind that everyone is different.  Listen to your body and everything should be fine.

Leave a reply