What Music Can Do for Your Workout

What should you do when you're ready to quit before your workout is over? How about when you just can't pick up the pace?  Experts say: Pump up the music.  Studies show that cranking up the right music can motivate you to exercise longer, harder, and have more fun.  

Regina Brooks, ACE certified fitness instructor at Lloyd Athletic Club in Portland, Oregon says, "Music is an important motivational factor in a workout.  When you think you can't possibly do one more repetition, the right workout music comes on and the endorphins kick in all over again."  Workout music also acts as a way to distract exercisers from how hard they're working and can improve concentration, endurance, muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing during exercise. 

Researchers from The Ohio State University agree.  They found that exercisers perceived less exertion when they jogged with music. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness says that music enables participants to continue exercising for a longer period of time.

For the last 20 years, Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist at Britain's Brunel University, has been conducting research on the connection between music and exercise. His work is published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Karageorghis says four factors contribute to a song's motivational qualities:

1) Rhythm response 

2) Musicality 

3) Cultural impact and

4) Association

Rhythm response and musicality are "internal" factors that connect us to the structure of the music.  Cultural impact and association are "external" factors that reflect how we interpret the music.

Rhythm response is tied to the song's beats per minute (bpm) and how well it matches either the cadence or the heartbeat of the person exercising.  Musicality is melody and harmony. An upbeat, energetic song is likely to make us exercise at a higher intensity than a slow tempo song. 

The external factors are related to our musical background preferences and what we associate with certain songs and artists.  We might switch off the music and jump off the treadmill if a song comes on we hate.

Brooks says, "Music can make or break the workout.  The more intense a class or sport the more you look for a strong beat; not always a faster beat, but stronger for intensity. Cadence keeps you in sync.  Music also adds to interval training and forms a beginning, middle and end to a workout."  

How do you choose the right workout music? Download playlists from iTunes or Amazon.com that match your musical tastes.  Or create your own workout music by selecting tunes from your music library.  Aim for songs with about 120 beats per minute or go for tunes you love to dance to.  Don't forget to finish your workout with a "cool down" piece with a slower tempo.  Then, pop on your headphones, lace up your sneakers, and start exercising.