How the Right Playlist Can Improve Your Workout

Running that last half mile or doing 50 extra crunches is a little easier if the right song is pushing you. That’s because music helps you exercise longer and faster without feeling as tired. In the words of sports psychologist Costas Karageorghis, music is like “a type of legal [performance-enhancing] drug.”

Sync and Flow

The effects of music on exercise consist of three parts, according to ACEfitness. First, music establishes synchronization during your workout, encouraging you to pedal to its beat or run to its tempo. Second, it increases your sense of arousal by making you want to move rather than sit still. Music also distracts you from the sometimes uncomfortable aspects of exercise, such as bad weather.

Combined, these processes allow you to stay more positive, think you’re not working as hard, use less oxygen to accomplish a given task, exert energy more efficiently and help you reach the state of “flow” — that feeling where your body seems to be running on autopilot.

Beats Per Minute

Hip-hop, pop and rock are the most popular genres of music for workouts, but your personal tastes should guide you when making a playlist. Instead of focusing just on genre, think about how many beats per minute (BPM) there are in a catchy song. Songs with 120 BPM may actually appeal to one’s inner rhythms — particularly when performing between 30 and 70 percent effort, says Dr. Karageorghis in Live Science. When walking or snapping their fingers, people naturally settle into this pace.

While running, some people like to listen to songs with a faster BPM, say 160 or even 180. However, 150 BPM is where most associated benefits drop off. To determine the BPM of specific songs on your playlist, you can use a site like, or any number of mobile apps that analyze your favorite tunes.

Trying to get in better shape? See more posts about exercise.

Ten to Try

When making a playlist, consider a music service like Spotify, Rhapsody,, 8tracks or Google Play. You can create your own or even borrow from other users’ lists. For some inspiration, here’s a sample.

  • “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory
  • “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars
  • “The Fighter” by Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood)
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
  • “No Church In the Wild” by Jay-Z (feat. Kanye West)
  • “The Greatest” by Sia
  • “Evacuate the Dancefloor” by Cascada
  • “Protect Ya Neck” by Wu Tang Clan
  • “This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris (feat. Rihanna)
  • “Something In the Way You Move” by Ellie Goulding

Notice anything? These songs all hover around 130 BPM, which is perfect for a moderate walk or bike ride. Tune up your fitness this season and see what the effects of music on exercise do for you.

Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.

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