How working out with music can help you get better results
- 2 Minutes Read
Does working out with music pump-up your exercise routine? Learn how music improves your workout with the right tempo.
Many gyms seem to prefer playing (or blasting!) hard rock or heavy metal in harmony with the grunts and clangs from weightlifters. Runners, skiers, cyclists, and walkers can often be seen with earbuds and moving to a beat only they can hear. But does having a special workout playlist power-up your routines? According to research from Costas Karageorghis, an associate professor of sport psychology at Brunel University in England, the answer is a resounding "Yes!"
Karageorghis created the Brunel Music Rating Inventory, a questionnaire that asks people to rate the motivational qualities of music related to sport and exercise. For over ten years, Karageorghis asked participants representing a wide array of demographics to rate a song's motivational qualities based on a 90-second clip. The result: tempo matters!
The most beneficial music tempo for exercising lies between 120 and 140 beats-per-minute (BPM), representing most of today's dance music and many rock songs. Karageorghis believes that this tempo proves most suitable for workouts because it roughly equates to the target heart range for most individuals during exercise. And faster isn’t better—the benefits seem to level out over 140 bpm.
If you need inspiration for songs within the 120-140 BPM range, check out these tunes:
Fast-paced music helps get us going, but what does that mean for slow music? If we listen to slow music while working out, will it make us slower or weaker? According to Dr. Len Kravitz at the University of New Mexico, slower music may negatively affect our workout. Dr. Kravitz cites an earlier study testing college students performing aerobics in three different musical environments (stimulative, sedative, or without music). The study found that those listening to sedative music underperformed compared to those listening to stimulative music or no music at all. Another study showed that listening to high tempo music contributed to prolonged exercise durations at higher intensities along with a faster heart rate recovery.
However, a study of cardiac rehabilitation participants showed that participants reported lower levels of perceived effort when listening to sedative music (e.g., "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers) compared to stimulating music (e.g., "It Don’t Come Easy" by Ringo Starr). So perhaps working out with slower music could help you feel like you aren’t working so hard. Slower tunes would also be a good choice for warm-ups and cool-downs.
Lastly, another obvious benefit of listening to music while exercising is its ability to distract us from negatives, such as fatigue. It can motivate us to go further because no one wants to stop their workout in the middle of a great song!
SoSo what do you listen to when you exercise? Share your "Top 5" must-have songs for your workout in our Community. Who knows, you might find some new tunes!
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This blog was reviewed and updated by: Sue Heikkinen MS, RDN, CDCES.Exercise->Aerobic & Cardio Exercise->Tips Weight Loss->Motivation