Ever notice how every single workout class is accompanied by a high-energy playlist? Or how Olympic athletes prep for big events with headphones planted over their ears? There’s a reason: Music can transform how you feel about exercise and what you get out of it.
Below, the top five reasons why workout music rocks.
5 Reasons to Tune In To Workout Music
It can increase your speed. Listening to an upbeat song can cause you to pick up your pace when you’re doing cardio, whether you’re riding a bike or walking around your neighborhood. Even if you aren’t matching your movement exactly to the beat, you’ll still go faster to more energetic music, say researchers.
It can make you more powerful. The impact of music isn’t just felt when you’re doing cardio—it can also help with resistance work. California State University at Fullerton researchers found that people who listened to music while strength training were able to squat jump with more explosive force and velocity than those who did the same movement in silence.
It can make exercise feel easier. Whenever you exercise, your brain notices how difficult the activity feels—a concept called perceived rate of exertion. Thus, hard exercises like sprinting register as requiring more effort than low-impact workouts like walking. But a review of research has found that if music is playing, your workout will feel easier—even if you’re pushing yourself harder than usual. One theory is that your brain only has so much attention it can give things, so if music is taking up some of your focus, you have less to devote to how tough the workout feels.
It can boost your mood. Not only is exercise going to feel easier, but you’re also going to enjoy it more, finds the same review on working out to music. This holds true no matter how fast or slow the music is—simply play music you like and you’ll have a better time!
It can keep you motivated. Feel like you’re on the cusp of giving up? Playing music before a workout can put you in the right mindset and boost the odds of you actually doing it. And listening to some of your favorite tunes during your workout can help you stick with it week after week (likely because of all the benefits stated above).
How to Pick the Best Workout Music
When putting together a playlist, consider the kind of workout you’re doing. “If it’s something where you want to move fast, like running, find a song that’s 155 to 180 beats per minute,” says Jacque Crockford, exercise physiology content manager at the American Council on Exercise. “Kenny Loggins’ song “Danger Zone” is around 155 beats per minute while “I’m So Excited” by The Pointer Sisters is around 180 beats per minute.”
The opposite also holds true: If you’re doing a relaxing yoga routine, play music with lower beats per minute.
You can probably tell whether a song is fast or slow, says Crockford. But to get uber specific, you can also find the exact beats per minute of most songs online.
Need some inspiration? Check out these playlists designed specifically for different workouts.