Music has played a part in the commercial fitness industry almost from the very beginning. Whether playing in the background to set the proper mood for exercise or driving the action in a dance fitness class, music is part of the health club experience. With the rise of boutique clubs and small group training sessions that depend on propulsive, energizing tracks to increase intensity, music is more important than ever to the fitness industry.
It makes sense. Music and human movement are intrinsically linked. Not only does a steady beat move the feet, but calming music has a pacifying effect that can lower stress and support recovery, especially in a spa setting.
Plenty of research supports music’s benefits on exercise. “Listening to music during exercise can both delay fatigue and lessen the subjective perception of fatigue,” writes Jeanette Bicknell, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. “It can increase physical capacity, improve energy efficiency, and influence mood. In study after study, the use of music during low- to moderate-level intensity exercise was associated with clear improvements in endurance.”
These effects persist in a health club setting. A Korean study that looked at exercisers in commercial gyms found that “stimulative” music was found to be more “psychologically helpful” to exercisers, but that “sedative” music also had its place, particularly in cooldowns and warmups.
Women, in particular, are attracted to exercise programming that incorporates music. According to the IHRSA Health Club Business Handbook, 78% of women participate in some type of exercise class that is choreographed to music, the second highest exercise preference for women (first is Pilates at 83%).