19 of the best songs for running and workouts (playlist included)

best songs for running and workouts
(Image credit: JBL)

Music and exercise make a great team. Science has long credited the positive effects a good playlist can have on one's energy, performance and mood, and a musical pick-me-up is rarely more necessary than when your run or training session hits peak effort.

So whether you are a seasoned runner or just getting out of the starting blocks, we're sure you can benefit from some inspiring music to play through your sport and running headphones. Look no further than our pick of the best running songs. 

There are epic belters from Queen and The Killers, plus plenty of hands-in-the-air climaxes – indeed, these training tunes may be the only running buddy you need. And to get you listening to these tunes right away, we've put together playlists on our favourite music streaming services.

Vessels - Elliptic

An ideal warm-up (or indeed cool-down) track, this electronic/post-rock instrumental is all about the slow build, getting you out of the gates with an atmospheric, lo-fi beat and sparkly synths before shifting up the gears and developing into a livelier composition. Don't forget to warm up.

Broken Bells - After The Disco

A side project between Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and The Shins lead singer, James Mercer, Broken Bells have released two albums of melodic synth-driven pop since their formation in 2009. After The Disco, the title track from the second, is one of the duo's more sanguine, with a bouncy bassline that'll force a spring into your step.

Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now

Even if this Queen song seeped into your headphones just as you were crossing the finish line, you wouldn't be able to stop until it was over. A neuroscientist, Dr Jacob Jolij, even heralded this endlessly energetic, driving rock track as the world's best feel-good song, based on a formula that measures beats per minute, the scale the song was written in and the number of different chords used. You can't argue with the science. Just don't burn yourself out trying to travel at the speed of light.

The Knife - Pass This On

If an infectiously rhythmic, steel drum-led chorus doesn't get you going – perhaps with a bit of air drumming to keep your arms moving in sync with your legs – we don't know what will. This Swedish electronic duo's 2003 hit is an exotic, summertime fusion of steel drums, shakers and pacy beats. Check out the Deep Cuts album for more of the same.

Teleman - Song For A Seagull

Creators of indie-pop songs that are impossible to sit still to, Teleman give you no choice but to move to its melodious euphonies. Song For A Seagull is underpinned by a steadfast beat that serves as a giddy foundation from which charming guitar ditties, vibrant synths and harmonious vocals build. And it's all about escapism, making it ideal running fodder.

Lady Gaga - Poker Face

We hardly need to tell you why this song makes the list. With a steady beat that's ideal for interval training, this electro-pop banger will prime your pace and empower your run.

The Cult - She Sells Sanctuary

Underpinned by a killer goth-rock bass line, this '80s cult classic is one for the more rock-inclined runners out there. Another meaty, surging track to help propel you towards the finish line.

Gipsy Kings – Pida Me La

"Soundtracked by Catalan rumba" – there's a title for your Strava profile. There's no such thing as running too fast to the French group's breakneck flamenco pop, which not only has a suitable tempo but is also musically interesting enough to help you forget what you're doing for a few minutes. Shut up, legs.

Dynoro & Ina Wroldsen - Obsessed (Tiësto Remix)

You can always count on Tiesto to take a beautiful song, sprinkle his magic over it and make it into something... positively more intense. Arriving last spring as an instant dancefloor hit, it's destined to find itself on many a running playlist thanks to its solid beat and uplifting melody.

The Killers - Mr Brightside

Perhaps one for the home straight (just as it is a perfect end-of-the-night song), this beloved British anthem has it all – high-tempo drums, contagious hooks and inspiring lyrics.

Panic at the Disco - High Hopes

Inspirational in nature (apparently based on frontman Brendon Urie's childhood dreams of becoming a rock star), High Hopes is nothing if not catchy. As soon as the blaring horns open the track, you know you've got an upbeat few minutes ahead of you.

DJ Fresh ft Sian Evans - Louder 

The fact that this track was high-octane enough to be used for Lucozade's Sport Lite advert, and was the UK's first dubstep chart-topper, makes it an indisputable candidate for any kind of exercise playlist. It's stimulating from the off, with a breakbeat drop that will have you forgetting the sweat dripping down your back.

Alan Fitzpatrick vs. Patrice Rushen - Haven't You Heard 

By upping the tempo to 130bpm and rejuvenating the punchy bassline, Alan Fitzpatrick has souped up Patrice Rushen's 1979 dancefloor classic into an even more exhilarating experience. Get into your stride before this seeps into your ears and it will help see you to the finish line.

The Prodigy - Firestarter

With an unrelentingly breakneck pace and galvanising synth strings, Firestarter is like a draconian running coach exercising tough love and demanding you up the effort, at least for the four minutes of its duration.

Andy C & Fiora - Heartbeat Loud

One way to drown out the sound of your own heartbeat is by listening to anything from the godfather of drum and bass' discography. With a banging rhythm courtesy of some grand piano playing, emotive vocals and a driving bass line, Heartbeat Loud is another dancefloor anthem to help you forget how many miles you have left.

Hell is for Heroes - I Can Climb Mountains

Evolving from its iconic guitar plucking pattern opener to a proper feel-good, fist-pumping rocker, I Can Climb Mountains will be nostalgic for many and motivational for even more.

Neon Steve (feat Sweetie Irie) - NRG

Saving Neon Steve any embarrassment, NRG does live up to its title ('energy', get it?). The bassline delivers ten fold, and you couldn't ask for more from *that* drop.

Bill Conti - Gonna Fly Now (Rocky theme)

How could we not? A galvanic swell of horns, pianos, bongos and guitar riffs, one of popular culture's most iconic, inspirational theme songs will see your run finish in Rocky-style triumph. Don't forget the shadow boxing.

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Three Little Birds

Our cool down pick for its chilled-out vibe, which will help you bask in the warm glow of a job well done. Don't forget those warm-down stretches...


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.