workout on treadmills at the gym. workout on treadmills at the gym. Research shows music can aid in exercise recovery. (Photo: Skydive Erick / Shutterstock)

Want to recover from exercise faster? Listen to music

Don't take off those earbuds after the workout is over – keep listening, for speedy recovery.

Sometimes, after an especially dreary or frustrating day at work, you find yourself tapping your steering wheel and pumping your fists to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger." You don't care who's watching. You're in it now, belting out lyrics like a rock star, maybe giving your horn a little celebratory honk at the end. Suddenly, you're smiling, breathing a little easier. The doldrums of the day are starting to subside.

Cheesy as it may be, that quintessential '80s anthem played a part in your recovery from a challenging or stressful situation. As it turns out, that same method can help you recover from other demanding or strenuous activities, including exercise.

Researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that listening to motivational music – that is, upbeat music or music with inspiring or powerful lyrics – can help you not just during your workout, but after it, too. The study, published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, yielded three significant findings:

  1. People who listened to dance-style music after an intense exercise session were able to take more steps during their recovery. 
  2. Their blood tests showed a drop in levels of lactate, which is a substance that builds up during strenuous activity, at a faster rate than those who didn't listen to music during recovery.
  3. The subjects who listened to music reported that they were feeling better than those who didn't, at the same time period after the workout. 

Trainers, gym rats and fitness experts, many of whom were already aware of the benefits of music during exercise, are now taking notice of the after effect as well. David Tao, a former collegiate rugby player who's now training in competitive weightlifting, included music in his list of "18 Scientifically Proven Ways to Speed Recovery" for health-and-fitness site Greatist. He said that in addition to up-tempo dance tunes, slower, relaxing tunes can also help reduce blood pressure and pulse rate. 

"Researchers suggested that listening to slow-tempo music post exercise can actually help restore the heart rate to closer to what might be in a resting state or before exercise," Tao said. "It helps the body do that in a nice, controlled manner. On top of that, it can just help reduce stress."

In short, just keep those earbuds on!

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