The Soundtrack of Success

It has become pretty close to common knowledge that music can lift you up, in more ways than one! It can hep you recover emotionally, lift your mood, keep you going on the treadmill, or help you push yourself further on those last few sprints or bench press reps. “Research on the interplay of music and exercise dates to at least 1911, when American investigator Leonard Ayres found that cyclists pedaled faster while a band was playing than when it was silent” (Ferris Jabr, Scientific American). In fact, music is such an effective motivator that U.S. Track & Field (the official national governing body of long distance running) bans athletes from using iPods or music while competing to avoid giving any athlete a competitive edge. Pretty strong statement I’d say.

However, research also shows us that the type of music you choose is arguably the most important aspect of adding a tune to your workout. Studies have concluded that the most important qualities to look for when choosing your playlist are tempo (the speed of the track) and rhythm response, the term psychologists use for “what makes you want to shake your groove thang“. It may seem straightforward to some, but choosing a track with a fast paced tempo will push your body harder because you naturally will want to stay in beat as well as the music makes you want to be active. In a recent study done, when people were asked what kind of tempo they prefer when at rest (seated, tapping fingers on a desk, etc.) they generally picked around 120 ppm (beats per minute). However, when asked the same question while running, that jumped up to 160 BPM. We naturally want to mimic our heart rate to the beat it

Secondly, the genre of music. Obviously you don’t want to force yourself to listen to something you don’t like. That being said, research has shown that the following types of music are the most effective workout music because they have elevated tempos while also incorporating elements of relieving the negative emotions we have while working out (i.e. getting bored, feeling tired, feeling repetitive).

  • Pop
  • Rock
  • Hip-hop
  • EDM (Electric Dance Music)

You know what this means?!? The next time you’re headed to the gym or out for a run, make sure to grab your headphones on the way out the door and crank that music to eleven for a more exhilarating and driven workout.


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