My primary form of exercise is an hour-long strength training class set to loud and rhythmic music, and the genre of music they play during these classes spans a wide spectrum. My own musical tastes lean strongly toward classic rock and 90’s metal/alternative, and so I’ve been rather horrified to find myself absent-mindedly humming Justin Timberlake the afternoon after I work out.
How important is the music we listen to while we work out?
We all have an intuitive sense that a great playlist will lead to a better workout. Amazon lists a whole list of “exercise cds” and chances are if you pick up the ipod of anyone who regularly hits the gym or the pavement, you’ll find at least one workout or running playlist.
Can a Better Playlist Lead to a Better Workout?
As reported recently in the New York Times’ Well blog, researchers asked 12 young men to exercise on a stationary bike while they listened to music tracks that varied in their tempo. The results revealed that at least for this type of exercise, a faster tempo led the participants to voluntarily push themselves harder – they increased their pedaling, their heart rates, and the miles they covered. They also reported enjoying the music more. Interestingly, they correctly reported that the workout was more strenuous with the higher tempo -- indicating that the music’s tempo affected motivation rather than perception.
So fill your music player of choice up with music you enjoy, and choose the fastest tempo versions you can find (sometimes you can find workout or dance versions of popular songs with faster tempos). I won’t be downloading any Justin Timberlake, but I will neither confirm nor deny that my iPhone now carries a Duffy tune after it was repeatedly used during my favorite biceps track.
What are your favorite workout tunes?
Sarah Rose Cavanagh, Ph.D., is professor of psychology in affective science at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. To learn more about her research, please visit http://bit.ly/sarahrose.