The Secret Behind the Best Workout Music

The Secret Behind the Best Workout Music

Sep 01 2015

Looking for a simple way to increase your performance and endurance? Add some tunes!

By: Kristina Rich, CPT, CET

For many athletes, a good playlist during their workout is a must-have.

However, there’s more to workout music than just entertainment. A study conducted by Brunel University found listening to music can actually enhance endurance by 15 percent. Not only that, but for some athletes, music helps them train harder by shifting their focus away from their physical constraints.

Athletes that run in rhythm to the music use up to seven percent less oxygen to perform the athletic task at hand.

If you’re looking to add some pep to your step with music, know not all tunes will produce the same results. Music with 120 to 140 beats per minute will work best. Anything slower than that won’t have the same effect. The reason for that lies within the reticular activating system, a core part of the brain where thoughts, internal feelings and outside influences come together. Simply put, it’s the brain’s attention center. The research conducted at Brunel University found that music within the 120 to 145 beats per minute zone actually stimulates the reticular activating system, creating motivation for competition much like a stimulant would.

Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., the lead researcher of the music study at Brunel University, also found that athletes that run in rhythm to the music use up to seven percent less oxygen to perform the athletic task at hand. Additionally, the right tune in the right environment can delay an athlete’s perception of fatigue. Combine these benefits with the truth that music is generally enjoyable, and it appears listening to a good beat is the perfect performance enhancer.

If you’re looking to add music to improve your workout performance, there are a few things to consider.

  1. Tempo – To get the most out of your music, look for songs with beats per minute (bpm) of 120 to 145.
  2. Priority Health - Personal Wellness - Workout Music - Selecting MusicGenre – Pick something happy and in line with your targeted bpm. Techno, upbeat pop and hard rock are all good choices because the songs tend to have a higher tempo.
  3. Lyrics – Words can be powerful and motivating. Pick songs that will help inspire you to keep going. Repetition can also be good in terms of keeping your pace strong.
  4. Memory – When putting together your playlist, think about the memories associated with the music. Fill your list with songs that help you recall happy times.
  5. Organization – The way you structure your playlist could have a big impact on the overall success of workout. For example, do not put a slow song directly after a song with extremely high beats per minute. Instead, reserve your slower songs for your natural cool down toward the end of the workout.

Need help compiling a playlist for your next workout? One of the best apps is called RockMyRun for iOS and Android. With this app, you can choose how many beats per minute you would like to run to and RockMyRun does the rest, selecting songs to match your pace.

About the Author: Kristina Rich, CPT, CET, is a Wellness Coordinator at Priority Health. She helps implement wellness programs for employer groups as well as promotes wellness within Priority Health and in the community. Kristina is a certified personal trainer and cancer exercise trainer through American College of Sports Medicine.