Music Aids Post- Exercise Recovery


Quick summary (for those who don’t like to read, LOL) – Research shows that relaxing and/or motivational music can significantly reduce blood lactate and other post-exercise factors during post-exercise recovery. Personal trainers, sports coaches, physical therapists, etc., can make practical use of these findings when training clients, but probably not group fitness instructors. Individual exercisers can also incorporate listening to music post-exercise on their own for benefits. Read on for details…

As reported in the April 2013 issue of Health magazine:

Music doesn’t just motivate you during a tough workout, it can aid recovery, too. Folks who ran hard for six minutes, then listened to up-tempo tunes, had a faster reduction in lactic acid (the stuff that causes sore muscles), compared with those who didn’t listen to any music, one study found. Researchers used songs with 140 beats per minute (BPM); you can find songs with the right bpm…at

Unfortunately, Health didn’t provide the source for the study. After some searching, I THINK this is paper they are referring to:

Eliakim, M., Bodner, E., Meckel, Y., Nemet, D., Eliakim, A., Netanya, I., & Eliakim, A. (2012). Effect of rhythm on the recovery from intense exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research

Findings: Motivational music had a significant effect (compared to no music) on number of steps, perceived rate of exertion and blood lactate. Using rhythm beats only (derived from the original music) also had significant effect on number of steps and blood lactate. Music used was “previously shown to enhance recovery (1. a Western CD collection of greatest hits of all times converted to dance style, 140 b·min, strong bit, played by portable MP3 device using headphones at a volume of 70 dB) or 2. only to the rhythm beats derived from the same songs. (Christina’s note: I added the 1. and 2. to emphasize that there were two different types of music used)

I don’t have subscriber access to this journal, so I have to go by the abstract, but…contrary to what Health magazine implies, this study does not appear to suggest 140 bpm music as optimal. The focus of the study was on using actual music vs rhythm beats derived from the same songs, seeking to find whether rhythm beats would prove as effective. The 140 bpm songs just happened to be the music they used. Other studies (see examples below) have used different music and obtained similar findings. In fact, the abstract also makes a great point – “The optimal music and rhythm selection is yet to be determined.”

I have done some research on music and exercise impacts, and studies that focus on impacts of music on recovery are few and far between. Most of them, however, suggest relaxing music post-exercise, with greatest benefits observed after 15 minutes. “Relaxing music” however, means different things to different people. Here are a few summaries:

Jing, L., & Xudong, W. (2008). Evaluation on the effects of relaxing music on the recovery from aerobic exercise-induced fatigue. Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 48(1), 102-106.

Findings: Relaxing music has better effects on the rehabilitation of cardiovascular, central, musculoskeletal and psychological fatigue and the promotion of the regulatory capability of the kidneys. The music used for this study was “‘Acupuncture on the Mind’, produced by Wang Xudong, 2001 Taipei Fengchao Records LTD) with headphones connected to a portable CD player.

Ghavam-Bakhtiar, R., Nikbakht, H., Ziaee, N., & Mohammadi, M.  (2012). The effect of relaxing music on changes in blood lactate level during recovery following a maximal exercise session in young female athletes. International Journal of Sport Studies, 2(9).

Findings: Relaxing music provides greater reduction in blood lactate (compared to no music), thereby potentially reducing stress and speeding post-exercise recovery. They do not clarify what they used as “relaxing music.”

Practical benefit for fitness professionals

Despite the type of music used, most (if not all) studies agree that significant benefits occur after listening to music for 15 minutes post exercise. In some case, exercise participants were lying down while listening to the music. Personal trainers, sports coaches, physical therapists, etc., can incorporate 15 minutes of music therapy at the end of an intense training session to aid participants’ recovery between sessions. However, group fitness instructors will not be able to leverage these findings, since a typical cooldown during a group fitness class is 5-10 minutes, with participants disappearing soon after class ends.



One comment on “Music Aids Post- Exercise Recovery

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