When you’re at the gym, it’s no surprise to see most of your fellow fitness enthusiasts rocking a pair of headphones hooked up to an mp3 player or smartphone. In fact, it’s more of an anomaly to see someone working out without some music.
Why has music become such an integral part of our workouts? Is this just another fitness trend or does listening to your favorite mix improve your workouts? Could it even be hindering you?
You might be surprised by the answers. Here’s everything you need to know about how your workout playlist affects your fitness.
The tempo of your workouts can have a significant impact on the overall effectiveness of your training program. When you listen to music while you’re working out, your body will sync your movements to the underlying rhythm of the music, which results in a more even pace.
According to a study published in the Sports Medicine-Open Journal, participants who worked out with music specially selected for the correct tempo of their workouts managed their pace better and increased their overall workout time by 261 minutes per week over those who didn’t listen to music. That’s almost four and half more hours of workouts per week they could complete, simply by choosing the right music to pace the workout.
Another way music can help you increase the intensity of your workouts is through distraction. A study done by the Scandinavian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports found when participants were listening to a fast-paced playlist they enjoyed, they unconsciously increased their workout intensity by more than two percent.
Researchers concluded the music provided a distraction, allowing the study participants to ignore pain and fatigue to keep working out longer than those who didn’t listen to music. Music also makes you less focused on your exertion because it distracts your brain, which can contribute to your ability to work out longer and harder when listening to music.
How To Choose Your Playlist
When putting together your workout playlist, you might be tempted to create an extensive list of the most high-energy songs you can find. A playlist like that could potentially backfire, though, and cause you to burn out from overstimulation.
To maximize your workouts, start by choosing songs you enjoy and then match them to the tempo and rhythm of your planned workout. Your playlist for a six-mile run should be different than your playlist for your strength training workout.
One way to choose the right music for each workout is to consider the beats per minute of each song. A rate of 120 BPM is a reasonable baseline beat for most people. Based on the type of workout you’re doing, you should choose music in the range of 121 to 180 BPM. The optimal BPM for each workout will vary, depending on the type and length of activity and the intensity level you want to achieve.
Where To Find Music
A music service such as Spotify is a great place to create and save playlists for all your different workouts. There is a huge variety of choices, and Spotify will even suggest new music to match your tastes. Plus, you can access it on any of your devices. Using a music streaming service also means you never have to worry about a computer malfunction wiping out your music library.
Unfortunately, some of your favorite tunes might not be easily available, due to location-based content restrictions. Using a Virtual Private Network is an easy way to avoid those content blocks and be sure you can always workout with your favorite playlists.
Songs To Get You Started
Still not sure what you want to put on your workout playlist? Here are a few songs to get you started.
- “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
In addition to being the anthem for runners everywhere, this song has a BPM of 143, which makes it great for a longer, steadily paced workout.
- “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled
This song comes in at 150 BPM. Try putting it after the midpoint of your workout to give yourself a little boost in the home stretch
- “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten
With a BPM of 176, this song will inspire you with both its motivational lyrics and its upbeat tempo.
- “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore
The lyrics to this song remind you that with a little effort, you can do anything. It has a BPM of 146, so it’s perfect for keeping up your intensity during a longer workout.
- “Work” by Iggy Azalea
At 140 BPM, this song is another great choice for a long workout. Plus, the lyrics will pump you up for a hard workout.
- “Harlem Shake” by Baauer
Though it’s light on lyrics, this song makes you want to move. With a BPM of 138, you can add it anywhere in your workout.
- “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera
If you need a high-intensity kick in your workout, this song is perfect. It’s got a BPM of 189 and is guaranteed to raise your heart rate.
- “Times Like These” by Foo Fighters
This song has a BPM of 148 and helps you channel all your feelings and frustrations into energy for your workout.
- “Back in Black” by AC/DC
This classic is a blast from the past. At a BPM of 188, this song will ramp up your intensity to the max.
Check out these songs to figure out what BPM range works best for you and your workout style. You can also use SongBPM.com to find the BPM of your current favorite songs.
Listening to music not only helps the time go by more quickly during your workout; it can also help you achieve measurably better results from your time spent in the gym. Now, put in your earbuds, crank up your music and “Work It.”
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