The Case for Working Out Without Music

You may already be in a gym and realize that you’re picking up your phone, opening an app or turning on the radio to play music while working out. But some people insist that it’s dangerous to listen to music when exercising because of how distracting it is. However, there are pros and cons for both sides depending on the person. The answer might depend more on your personal situation than anything else–but if you’ve been considering this decision yourself (or have heard someone talking about not listening), I hope this article helps clear things up.,

The “working out without music reddit” is a blog post that discusses the benefits of working out without music. The author argues that there are many advantages to working out without music, and provides some examples of how it can be done.


I’ve been working out with music for as long as I can remember. 

Metallica and DMX were generally blasting over the awful PA system in our dank weight room as I lifted weights with my football team back in high school.

When the iPod first came out, I put up a workout playlist that included an unusual mix of indie music and Rage Against the Machine. 

When I first bought my garage gym, I installed a Sonos speaker so I could listen to music while lifting weights. My exercise playlist has evolved over time. During my garage gym days, I went through a Rage Against the Machine period. I went through a ’80s hairband period and a Taylor Swift phase when I grew bored of it. I went through a stage when I listened to a lot of Bleachers. I even went through a phase when I only listened to the soundtracks of 1980s police series. 

When I was trying for a PR, I always played The Killers, even if the music of my normal training sessions varied. “All These Things I’ve Done,” in particular. I don’t know how many personal records I’ve set as Brandon Flowers sang in the background, “I have soul, but I’m not a soldier.” 

For me, music and fitness were inextricably linked. 

Until this past year, that is. I can’t recall the last time I exercised with music playing in the background. 

And, oddly enough, the stillness is appealing to me. Here’s why you may want to turn your audio player off as well.

The Benefits of Exercising Without Music (or Podcasts)

When you observe folks working out, you’ll notice that they’re wearing headphones 95% of the time. It’s also not difficult to comprehend the near universality of listening to music while exercising. 

Lifting weights or going for a run for no other reason than to lift weights or go for a run, as Daniel Lieberman pointed out in our recent conversation about the development of exercise, is a highly contemporary and, when you think about it, pretty strange occurrence. It requires work, might be tedious, and does not necessarily provide instant gratification. As a result, it’s difficult for us humans to continually be ecstatic about doing it. As a consequence, we look for anything that will give us a boost of inspiration and divert our attention away from the dreary work at hand.

Music is shown to be effective. Kelly McGonigal discussed studies that demonstrates that music may help you work out harder and longer in our podcast about her book The Joy of Movement. Music with a pace of 120 to 140 beats per minute tends to be the most motivating, with songs about battling and pushing oneself physically and mentally (rather than love) being particularly energizing. Music that strikes this matrix may have a genuine “power up” effect to it, allowing you to seize the exercise bull by the horns. 


While there are many advantages to working out to music, there are also some advantages to exercising without it:

Silence brings renewal. From the moment we wake up until we go to sleep at night, our lives are filled with noise. The complete cacophony of human-created stimulation that fills our screens and clutters our thoughts, not simply aural noise. Moments of true silence, when there are no inputs, are rare and far between.  

Workouts are ideal for squeezing in those rare moments of stillness. To be alone with your thoughts, with just the clanging of weights and the beat of your breath as company. Your mind will experience a replenishing, calming quiet as a result of this silence. It may have a retuning and clarifying impact, as monk Thomas Merton put it: 

Not all men are meant to be hermits, but everyone needs enough stillness and seclusion in their life to hear the deep inner voice of their own genuine self at least once in a while.

A cloister may be made out of a garage gym or a jogging route.

Creativity in problem-solving is boosted. Silence has its own merits, but it may also provide more practical and even monetary benefits. 

While some study suggests that music might help with divergent thinking — the capacity to come up with fresh, creative ideas — the majority of studies reveal that music actually hampers creativity. This is especially true when it comes to convergent thinking, in which you filter your cloud of thoughts down to a single, accurate problem-solving answer, and especially when that solution necessitates the receiving of an insight. Convergent thinking, ironically, is the kind of creativity that has been proven to be boosted by exercise. Essentially, listening to music while exercising undermines one of the advantages of exercise.

While working out to music may help you think more freely, enabling random ideas to spring into your brain, exercising in solitude is the way to go if you’re searching for more particular, concrete insights into your personal and professional challenges.

When I’m lifting weights, I don’t do much creative thinking of any sort; in fact, I like the way my mind becomes blank. Kate, on the other hand, often composes articles while on quiet trail runs, gaining insight into certain wording options. It’s possible that the difference is due to the dynamics of weight training vs steady-state cardio.

Increased productivity. One disadvantage of listening to music (particularly podcasts) while exercising is that it might cause your exercises to take longer than they should.

There have been studies that show music can be a distraction when exercising, as Alex Hutchinson pointed out in our podcast in which he answered a slew of exercise-related questions: “If you’re listening to a podcast or music that you’re really, really into, you’re likely to slow down and take it easy unconsciously.” Everyone has had the sensation of feeling like you’re efficiently multitasking when completing a home job while listening to a podcast, only to discover that the activity took twice as long because the attention you provided to the audio unconsciously delayed your motions.


The fact that music may be distracting is probably the main reason why I quit listening to it while lifting weights. It was only recently that I realized it was hurting me more than it was helping me. 

Instead of tinkering with my playlist or listening to music in between sets, when I’m lifting to the sound of quiet, I simply go in, do my job, and leave. A exercise that would normally take me 75 minutes is completed in 60 minutes.

Of course, whether or not you listen to music or podcasts throughout your exercise is a matter of personal taste and what works best for you. To add some diversity and complexity to your workout, try listening to music during some of them but not others; for example, listen to music when performing cardio but lift weights in quiet; or listen to music while lifting weights but not during your rucks.

You may also consider utilizing music in your exercises in the same manner that caffeine is best used: as an additional boost to have on hand for those times when you truly need it. The next time my motivation is severely waning and I need a boost, I’ll most likely turn up the music again. I mean, I’m not a soldier, but I have a soul.  



The “best way to listen to music while working out” is a debate that has been going on for years. Some people like to listen to music while they work out, while others feel as if they are more focused without any background noise.

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