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How Music Influences WorkoutsMany people like to listen to music during their workouts, whether in a group ex class, on a run or weight training. The style of music doesn’t matter – rock, pop, jazz, country or dance tunes – but it definitely should be what you enjoy.

Music can be a powerful motivator, a welcome distraction, a boredom buster or simply entertainment during exercise sessions. Put together some playlists loaded with your favorites to help keep you inspired and adhering to your fitness regimen. If you need inspiration to assemble workout playlists, discover how music influences exercise.

How Music Influences Exercise

Research continues to demonstrate that music affects your motivation to move. Ever watch a Zumba class, which is driven by the beat? Even if you don’t want to dance, music can be an important component of your sweat sessions. Here’s how:

  1. Stimulates mental arousal – Studies show that direct connections exist between auditory neurons in the ears and motor neurons, which control movement. So the body reacts physically to the sounds around it. Researchers who reviewed the psychophysical effects of music on exercise noted that music stimulates the brain, which, in turn, can better prepare the body for movement.
  2. Improves coordination – Music provides a beat with which to synchronize movements (think group ex classes), and moving in this way can stimulate feelings of harmony, satisfaction and self-confidence.
  3. Boosts performance and muscle power – Research indicates that music can increase energy and thereby contribute to greater stamina and muscular strength and endurance.
  4. Reduces perceived exertion and fatigue – As music can fuel physical performance, it also serves as a mental distraction so exercisers are less likely to focus on the difficulty of workouts or the feelings of fatigue. That means you are motivated to run the extra mile, take on indoor cycling sprints or crank out the last few reps.
  5. Increases relaxation – For less intense exercise modalities, such as yoga, Tai Chi or stretching, music can help calm the mind and slow down the body to release stress and muscular tension.
  6. Promotes recovery – One study concluded that music can help maintain the balance between the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system, which influences the body’s stress response after exercise. This means a decrease in cardiac stress post-workout, and a faster recovery.
  7. Enhances mood – Listening to music that you like can positively affect mood and encourage the release of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone. Just consider how you feel when you hear your favorite song in the car, at a party or on the gym floor.

What’s the Best Music?

There is no prescribed “best” music for exercise. What’s most important is to choose music that you like. However, speed and tempo of music play a role in how tunes impact your workouts.

It makes sense that you should warm-up to slower songs, roughly around 120-126 beats per minute (bpm). For strength training, mid-tempo music between 128-135 bpm works well, and if you’re taking on HIIT or cardio, aim for 140-160 bpm to push your pace. And cool down or stretch to slow songs, at 100 bpm or lower.

Ideally, create your playlists to correspond to workouts – so you’ll have some for running, others for elliptical or rowing sessions and separate ones for yoga or Pilates. You can use Apple Music, Spotify or whatever source you like, or access premade playlists if you’re short on time.

One tip – always include an extra song or two to make your playlist a bit longer than your planned workout time. This way, if you’re motivated to keep going, you don’t run out of music!