Pump Up the Jam!

Working out with music? Find out why some songs rock and others fall flat.

If you’re like most people who workout, the thought of listening to yourself pound away on the treadmill is a pretty discouraging and unappealing one.


Nothing livens up a workout routine like your favorite playlist or latest radio favorite. (We’ve all seen the latest Taylor Swift/iTunes commercial right?!)

But why does music improve a workout?

It’s almost like a weird type of performance enhancing drug. Well, the good news is that it isn’t a PED (phew!) and there is actually some scientific evidence to suggest why we perform better while listening to music. Read on to find out!

One of the ways music helps your workout (and probably most noticeable) is it helps your body set a cadence.

One of the most important qualities of your workout music is the tempo. Your body has a natural tendency to try and keep a rhythm; this rhythm or beat is typically 120 bpm (beats per minute).

What’s awesome about this?

Glad you asked. In a recent analysis of music created between 1960 and 1990, 76,000 songs appear at this tempo.

Not your eras of music? No worries. Your average speed of a top 40 club mix is about 128bpm; so there’s no need to jog to Motown hits every day. Speaking of jogging, the average speed of a music track for a run – a bustling 160bpm!

music to improve training_2

Maybe you like listening to music while you work out because it makes you feel invincible. Well studies show that this may be at least partially true.

Music has been shown to compete with physiological feedback for the brain’s attention; essentially it disrupts the feedback loop and makes your body forget how hard it’s working.

Don’t get too intense though: music is most effective in low to moderate intensity exercise.

If that’s not enough, music has been shown to be a mood enhancer. Ever feel like you’re in the zone while you’re working or cleaning the house while listening to your favorite hits from the 80’s, 90’s and beyond?

The good news is the same thing can happen during your workouts. Often, we associate certain songs with certain memories. Channelling that memory can boost the motivational power of the song and possibly enhance physical performance.

Just one more reason to work out to throw back tracks.

Need some tips to create the perfect workout playlist?

Here’s a shortlist:

• Match the song’s tempo/cadence to your movement, either in the beat or lyrics.

• Choose artists that put you in a positive, empowered mood.

• Look for lyrics that encourage and tell you to keep going

Pressed for time?

The good news is new music apps like Spotify or Fitradio can do most of this for you; as long as you input your preferences. Fitradio even has curated non-stop club mixes and timed mixes for interval training (another benefit is some mixes announce what the BPM’s are for each song).

If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, use the following list as a guideline:

Lifting/Light-Cardio 110 to 140 bpm

Running – 128 to 160 bpm

Cycling – 128 to 170 bpm

Connect with Expert Tim Moore

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