Pros and Cons of Wearing Headphones While Working Out 

(Last Updated On: September 13, 2018)

Are Headphones the Right Fit For You? 

If you are running on a treadmill in your home or pounding the pavement at your local park, there’s a good chance you are wearing headphones.

But did you ever stop and think about it?  Are your headphones good to wear during a workout? Are they helping or hurting your performance?

We got to thinking about this topic and decided to tackle the issue head on.  Here are our top pros and cons for headphone use during a workout.

Pro #1 – Music Energizes You!

First things first.

Music can energize you!  It can put give you that extra spark to tackle a hill, or give you that “kick butt” attitude to pump up the settings on your treadmill.  It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it makes you feel like you can conquer any challenge.

Listening to your favorite song can definitely get you geared up for a great workout. Did you know that the right playlist can actually affect your mood and keep you energized?

Con #1 – Hearing Problems Caused by Loud Music.

Having a great playlist can certainly help keep you make strides, but make sure that you are aware of the volume of your headphones. While you’re blasting your favorite song, you may also be doing long term damage to your hearing.

So, be smart about your volume level.  Or, perhaps your home workout can simply be accompanied by the speakers on your treadmill rather than headphones.

Pro #2 – Music Could HELP Your Pacing.

The BPM (beats per minute) of your music can help with motivation.  It can also be very useful to manage your running pace.  Match the beats per minute of your playlist songs to the desired pace of your workout to help keep you on track.

Sports psychologist, Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D, who studies the effects of music on athletes, suggests using fast-tempo songs (greater than 120 bpm) for high-intensity workouts. Days that you’re doing a long run or something less strenuous, opt for music with less than 120 bpm.

Account for pace changes over the course of your run when you are choosing your pacing music. This way, you won’t have a slow heartfelt ballad begin playing during the last leg of your 5K run.

A treadmill with preset workout programs can also be a very useful tool to help regulate your pace.  The iFit programming available on ProForm and NordicTrack treadmills will give you a personalized coach and a virtual landscape to enjoy while you run.

iFit Live on a ProForm Power 995i treadmill – Use a smart device to view your running route.

Cons #2 – Music Could HURT Your Pacing.

It’s important to listen to your body while you run.  You’ll be a more efficient runner if you’re able to adjust your pace and your breathing based on the run itself.

Whether you’re running a sprint or a marathon, different stages of the run require you to make adjustments. If you are relying on your headphones to tell you the right speed, you might be missing some important cues from your body.

Pro #3 – Headphones Can Block Out Distractions. 

Whether it’s aggressive music pumping through the gym sound system, people yelling, cars honking, or the sound of the television in the next room, distractions come in an endless variety of forms.

Wearing headphones can help you eliminate the hustle and bustle of your surroundings so that you can focus on your run.

Con #3 – Maybe They Muffle Too Much Sound?

Ok, yes.  We concede.

Sometimes it is actually good to hear those sounds we just described above.  Cars beep their horns so that you don’t get hit.  And a yelling person may actually be warning you of danger.

If you run in a rural area, or a park where you are more isolated, you need to be able to hear any potential danger in your vicinity. Your safety always has to be your primary concern.

If you are at home running on your treadmill, you may need to hear if one of your kids calls for help.

So, maybe this particular pro/con set cancels itself out?  When you are running, you should be aware of your surroundings.

runner's gym bag

Pro #4 – You’ll Have Increased Running Performance.

Listening to music has been found to actually help boost your running performance when used properly. And we aren’t talking tiny increases either. Studies have shown an increase in workout length of up to 70%!

This means that you can use those headphones to help run farther, faster and longer!

Con #4 – You Lose Some of the ‘Zen’ Experience.

Your headphones act as a barrier between you and the outside world.  They could be viewed as a distraction themselves. This can be especially true if you are listening to music using your phone. Any texts, emails, or notifications that you hear come in will be in the forefront of your mind, taking your focus away from your workout.

Running can allow you to clear your head and be present in the moment. You can focus on your breathing and the sound of your steps and let the rest of the world disappear for just a little while.

ProForm Power 995i - Read full review here.

ProForm Power 995i – Read full review here.

Pro #5 – Your Run Will Feel Easier.

Sometimes a bit of a distraction may be just what you need. A study performed by the British Psychological Society found that listening to your favorite music makes you feel like you are exerting less energy and gives you that feeling of being “in the zone”.

The music works as an external stimuli which keeps you from focusing on internal stimuli, like fatigue. It effectively helps you forget that you’re feeling tired, so that extra mile feels that much easier!

This can be really useful when you have a day that just feels a little off. Put on your favorite jams, power up your home treadmill, and you’ll be killing your run without even thinking about it.

As you can see, your headphones can do a lot more than distract you as you work toward your fitness goals, but you don’t need them to get there.

You can use them to your advantage or you can use your workout as a way to enjoy a moment of peace. It all boils down to what works best for you and feeling your best while you do it.


1)  You Asked: Will Earbuds Ruin My Hearing? Markham Heid: December 15, 2017

2) Synchronizing music to exercise: How the right tempo means a better workout; Laura Beeston: April 6, 2017

3) Listening to your favorite music boosts performance; British Psychological Society: April 17, 2012