How Music Affects the Brain

Listening to music while you do things like around the house or exercising can be more than just enjoying the song. Music actually affects your brain in a particular way that can help make exercise more enjoyable. Research has shown that music can provide as a distraction from feeling fatigued or experiencing pain during exercise. It’s also shown that music can lift your mood, increase your endurance, trick your brain into thinking you’re not putting in as much effort as you are and can even promote an improved metabolism.

According to Priest and Karageorghis (2008) from Brunel University in London, while listening to certain music, people tend to run further, cycle longer, and swim faster than usually would without music, and without even realising they’re doing it.

Best type of music for exercise

Memorable Melodies

To pick the best type of music for your own playlist, pick songs which evoke certain memories or emotions; such a song you and your friends used to listen to before a night out when you were younger. It doesn’t have to be the rhythm or underlying melody that determines how effective a song is at motivating you.


For others, the speed of the song is more important than the song itself. People have an innate urge to adjust whatever it is they’re doing to match the tempo of songs they’re listening to (such as tapping their feet or if they’re dancing). The tempo can vary from person to person, but usually a fast-paced song with a strong beat helps the most. The songs with the most effect rhythm on motivation include songs of 145-160 beats per minute (bpm) (Moelants, 2002).

So the next time you’re feeling low on energy, maybe try making a new playlist to listen to while you do your physical activity. Want to know what songs have a tempo of 145 bpm? Check out the list below for some examples!

Songs with temp of 145-160  bpm

Check out to find more songs that may interest you. You can also check out the new “run” option on Spotify to play songs with a certain BPM.

  • “Toxic” – Britney Spears
  • “We Didn’t Start the Fire” – Billy Joel
  • “Born to Run” – Bruce Springsteen
  • “That’s not my name” – The Tings Tings
  • “Marry You” – Bruno Mars
  • “We Built This City” – Starship
  • “Can’t Hold Us” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • “Times Like These” – Foo Fighters
  • “1901” Phoenix
  • “Shake it off” –Taylor Swift
  • “Happy” – Pharrell Williams
  • “Don’t Stop me now” – Queen


Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

How Music Affects the Brain
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