There are many benefits to listening to music during your workout. And with the right tunes in your ear, you can enter a “flow state” while getting your sweat on, wherein music helps induce the same alpha wave brain activity we usually experience while sitting on the couch. Ideal workout music should give you the feeling of working on autopilot rather than overexerting yourself, and also help immerse you completely in the routine.
But what songs specifically drive you to hit your personal best? World record-holding marathon runner Paula Radcliffe loves listening to Kanye West. 3-time Crossfit champion listens to Tabata Songs. But if you’re not a fan of Kanye or Tabata, there are plenty of other options out there.
According to Scientific American, a phenomenon scientists call rhythm response, where your body tries to align its respiration rate and heartbeat with the music you're listening to, is the key to the ultimate workout playlist. Dr. Costas Karageorghis, a leader in sports psychology, and his team of psychologists conducted an analysis of 6.7 million Spotify playlists with the word "workout" in the title and compared the beats per minute (bpm) of each song.
They discovered that certain music genres are more effective than others, and to complicate things further, the type of music you should listen to also depends on where you’re up to in your workout.
Of course, results also vary depending on the person and their tastes, but it seems that pop music contains the best bpm to kick things off in the warm-up and again while cooling down at the end.
Whether running on a treadmill or a trail, hip-hop provides the best rhythms, while dance club music is more effective if you’re focused on high-intensity workouts such as strength training.
There's not-so-great news for rock enthusiasts, though. Frequent changes in tempo can disrupt your natural rhythm, so you will to avoid the latest Van Halen soundtrack come gym day.
While not an exact science, it seems like hip-hop is the way forward. Most hip-hop songs have a bpm of between 65 and 75, which is what many scientists consider to be the optimum range. If you really want to optimize your playlist, you can check out the site Song BPM, which tells you a track's bpm, and curate your playlist accordingly.
Before you grab your protein shake and head out on your sweaty way, there are a few other factors to consider.
1. Although music with a regular beat can reduce energy inefficiency, there’s a ceiling that takes hold around the 145bpm mark. According to research, songs faster than that won't make you work out any harder, so don’t bother with Minor Threat, NOFX, or Slayer if you think that's likely to push you past the pain threshold.
2. People are more likely to maintain their exercise regime with songs they’ve picked themselves, and it’s also vital to keep mixing things up to stave off boredom over the long term. But with so many options out there, we recommend you first draw some initial inspiration from your own workout choices.
3. Once you’ve played around with your picks and decided which songs are worthy of inclusion in your own playlist keep things exclusive. Karageorghis suggests that workout playlists should only be listened to during the workout itself, or you run the risk of becoming desensitized to the music’s positive effects.
4. Finally, make sure your AirPods are secured snugly with Earhoox. Exercise is hard enough as it is — don’t put yourself through loose fitting earbuds, too.
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