Shaping Up with Workout Music

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Listening to music while working out is an ideal boredom breaker, but did you know it can also boost your athletic performance and make your hard-earned hours in the gym even more effective? Let’s look at a few of the benefits of music during exercise and how to build a motivational workout playlist to suit your session.

The Benefits of Music with Exercise
More Optimism: The largest (and possibly most rewarding) benefit of listening to music during exercise is that it promotes a positive attitude. In February 2020, a team of researchers published an article in Psychological Bulletin that reviewed different studies on music and exercise. They found that people who listened to music while exercising felt more positive no matter how intense the workout or their experience level.

Push Harder: Listening to your playlist of workout motivation music has also been shown to reduce what gym-goers call “RPE” or “rate of perceived exertion” and discomfort. This is a scale from 1-10 which rates how difficult you found the exercise, and how many more repetitions you have left in yourself at the end. A study found that listening to your preferred music genre created improvements in maximum strength, endurance, and a reduced RPE rating. Exercise feels easier with music!

In the Mood to Groove: The more rhythmic and groovy the music, the more we want to move, nod our heads, tap our feet, or break out into dance. A study in Brain Cognition found that “high groove” music activates the “motor system,” or the area of our brain which makes us move. Workout music is like nature’s motivation to get moving, combined with some motivational “eye of the tiger” style lyrics and you’re unstoppable!

Designing Your Perfect Workout Playlist
You might think that the ideal workout music is something hard-hitting and fast-paced, like a thumping EDM bassline or some gritty rock tunes, but there are many other factors we can consider when constructing our perfect playlist.

Find the right pace: Have you tried matching the tempo of your workout songs to the tempo of your movement? One study found that the ideal tempo (speed) for cycling is between 124 and 140 beats per minute, whereas, the ideal tempo for running on a treadmill is a narrower range of 123 to 131 bpm. These ranges are the easiest to move your feet in time to the beat or maintain energy during strength training. You can use tools like to help find your best tempos.

Music isn’t just for high-intensity workouts either – a slower tempo can suit lighter or slower workouts such as walking, yoga, or pilates. in creating music which will synchronize to your breath and energy.

Create a musical journey: It’s a good idea to start and end your workout with some calmer music to ease you in. SoulCycle instructor Parker Radcliffe likes to build his playlists with the first song to “establish strength,” the second song to “get the oxygen moving through the body” and reach full intensity by the third song.

Is Workout Music for You?
With music or without, exercise is very important for our overall health. By using music, we can get more of what we need out of our exercise experience, whether it’s some motivation, a steady beat to run to, or just something to make the experience even more enjoyable.

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