I actually did a science project back in Middle School on the effect of music tempo on running speed. I found (from my expertly done study) that fast tempo does, in fact, increase running speed. Fortunately other studies have been done on the same topic.
One study had participants cycle for 25 minutes while listening to 6 popular songs on 3 separate days. On one day the researchers increased the tempo of the songs by 10% and on another day they decreased the tempo of the songs by 10% (without telling the participants). They found that speeding up the music increased distance covered by 2.1%, power by 3.5% and pedal cadence by 0.7%. The slower tempo reduced distance covered by 3.8%, power by 9.8% and pedal cadence by 5.9%. Another study found that fast tempo music (125 beats per minute) improves endurance by 15% and mood while working out. Another study found that music can even improve efficiency (by keeping people at a steady pace). Participants who cycled to the beat of music reduced their oxygen consumption by 7%.
Interestingly, slow tempo music was found to speed recovery faster than no music or fast tempo music. Specifically, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and pulse improved faster when listening to slow music.
So, throw on some motivational music when you workout. The song I picked for the study back in Middle School was Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson. Feel free to try that song, try this motivational playlist created by the expert in this field, or go with fast tempo songs of your choice.
Bacon, C. J., T. R. Myers, and C. I. Karageorghis. “Effect of music-movement synchrony on exercise oxygen consumption.” The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness 52.4 (2012): 359-365.
Karageorghis, Costas I., and David-Lee Priest. “Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (Part I).” International review of sport and exercise psychology 5.1 (2012): 44-66.
Karageorghis, Costas I., et al. “Psychophysical and ergogenic effects of synchronous music during treadmill walking.” (2009).
Savitha, D., N. Mallikarjuna Reddy, and Chythra Rao. “Effect of different musical tempo on post-exercise recovery in young adults.” (2010).
Waterhouse, J., P. Hudson, and B. Edwards. “Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports 20.4 (2010): 662-669.