Cadence: How Music Can Lead to Safer Running

By: Vincent Brinas, PT, DPT, physical therapist, Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center

Long distance running is a common form of exercise around the world. For many, the use of music is beneficial, even essential, to endure the miles added on each week. It serves as a distraction whenever our bodies show signs of giving up too early or as a motivator, setting the tone so that we can run forever like Forest Grump. A majority of us listen to music at higher tempos because they somehow make us run faster. It is not magic or an illusion, but a subconscious way of changing your running form, specifically your cadence. This article explains how changing your cadence can improve your running form and prevent running-related injuries (RRI).

Cadence is the measure of total steps you take in a minute. Recreational runners may average 150 to 180 steps per minute (SPM), while elite runners may reach even higher cadences. It's a variable that universally can be adjusted to allow us to run faster across all age groups. Research has shown that a 5-10% increase in average cadence may lead to several benefits:

  1. A decrease in peak impact load or the vertical ground reaction force upon initial contact

  2. A decrease in stride length, which reduces likelihood of stress fracture

  3. Improved kinematics and reduced peak loads at the knee, ankle, and foot

Overall, runners can reduce their risk for running-related injuries by incorporating cadence training into their running program. All you need is a device that plays music or a metronome app. Music can serve as a tool within your training as the tempo of the song can be the auditory cue to maintain or increase cadence throughout your run.

For example, if you’re running an average of 155spm and you want to increase it to 160spm, then making a playlist of songs with tempos at 160 beats per minute (bpm) can help. The use of a metronome can be another alternative to gradually increase cadence (visual indicators are in every metronome if auditory stimuli is not appropriate). Initially difficult to sustain, the goal is to maintain a higher average cadence comfortably, which, as expected, comes with practice.

Most people have heard that “180” is the ideal cadence; however, cadence is a variable that is specific to the runner themselves. It is more important to first know your average cadence and use that number as a baseline for your training program. That way, it is more personal and geared specifically towards your running needs. The relationship with running and music go hand in hand just like Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum… even though the theme song is set at 84 bpm.

If you’re currently experiencing a running-related injury, then talk to your medical professional before initiating cadence training or a running program. You may also benefit from a physical therapy evaluation specific to runners. Call 973-322-7500 for more information.


Vincent Brinas, PT, DPT, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy at the Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center. He primarily treats patients with vestibular disorders, concussions, and runner’s with running-related injuries. He completed his bachelor's degree in health sciences and his doctorate in physical therapy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia in 2016. He received his certificate of completion in vestibular rehabilitation at Emory in 2022. Vincent is an avid recreational runner, participating in races throughout the country such as the Norvo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon, Tunnel to Towers Tower Climb NYC at One World Observatory, and the Red Bull 400. Outside the clinic, Vincent enjoys watching films, cooking cuisines from different countries, or hiking across the country.

The Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center Rehabilitation centers are open and ready to help you achieve your goals. With four locations in West Orange, Millburn and Livingston, the experienced and compassionate staff at Cooperman Barnabas Rehabilitation offers adults and children the specialized care they need to resume an active life after surgery, injury or illness. They are committed to providing patients with the most advanced services in a safe, caring and soothing environment. For high-risk patients who are unable to visit in person, telehealth is an option. Patients do not need a prescription for physical therapy services.


  1. Mark te Brake, Niki Stolwijk, Bart Staal & Bas Van Hooren (2022) Using beat frequency in music to adjust running cadence in recreational runners: A randomized multiple baseline design, European Journal of Sport Science, DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2022.2042398
  2. Musgjerd T, Anason J, Rutherford D, Kernozek TW. Effect of Increasing Running Cadence on Peak Impact Force in an Outdoor Environment. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2021 Aug 1;16(4):1076-1083. doi: 10.26603/001c.25166. PMID: 34386286; PMCID: PMC8329321.