The Science Behind Picking The Right Workout Playlist

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Most people love to listen to music when working out as it helps to pump them up. Working out can be pretty tough, and if you’ve got the wrong playlist you can end up feeling demotivated. We’ve looked at the science, and there are proven ways to pick the perfect workout playlist.

Listen to music you love

You want to get your heart pumping to get the blood flowing around your veins. The more blood you get to your limbs the better you’ll be able to work out, and the less you’ll tire. Scientists at the University of Maryland discovered that listening to your favorite tunes can expand your blood vessels by 26%. This means there is more oxygen in your blood which improves performance. Listening to a bad playlist was proven to constrict your blood vessels by 6%, making it harder to work out as there is less oxygen pumped around your body.

Match the tempo to the workout

When training, people match their output to the music, which is why spin classes often blare out super fast-paced music, to keep you pedaling quicker. A 1996 study found that people gripped harder if they listened to music with 130 beats per minute (bpm) in comparison to music with 90 bpm.

When working out at high intensity it is better to listen to music that is faster, but if you’re training for endurance events, then slower music is better for you. The slower the music, the slower you’ll work out which can help you leave gas in the tank for the later stages. Play music that’s too slow though, and you won’t be pushing yourself, so experts recommend listening to music around 100 to 110 bpm for endurance training.

Adding volume

The journal Social Psychological and Personality Science published a study that discovered listening to bass-heavy music can boost your effectiveness while working out. Queen’s hit “We Will Rock You” was found to be incredibly effective in making people feel more powerful and also to make better sporting choices. People were 27 percent more likely to listen to their gut when listening to bass-heavy music played at a higher volume, helping them gain an edge.

Motivational lyrics

It isn’t just beats per minute that has been proven to make people work out better, it’s the lyrics too. Picking a song with the right tempo will help you to workout at your desired pace, but what about when your muscles begin to tire and training becomes harder? The Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology published a study that found motivational music drives athletes harder than music that isn't. Music with lyrics written to keep you pumped and motivated are proven to be more effective. It’s always worth adding a few of those later in the playlist for when you're beginning to struggle. “Eye of the Tiger,” anyone?

Music is an important tool in making sure you get the most from your workouts. In some cases, it can give you an extra 20%, while keeping you on track for your ideal workout tempo. Now you just need to put together your perfect playlist!

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