You already know a killer playlist can make your workout much more enjoyable. But, it turns out that there’s a whole body of research around how sound can influence exercise. Music can increase your sense of motivation around working out, push you to perform at your best, better manage fatigue, and encourage you to stay on track with your fitness goals. Learn how different styles and genres of music can help you conquer any workout, every time you grab your headphones.
Listening to music makes you work harder, recover faster, and keep moving.
It’s no secret that listening to music definitely enhances the overall experience of working out, whether it involves fast or slow songs. When it comes to running or cycling, for instance, studies claim that listening to fast-paced tunes can encourage you to work harder. Plus, loud songs may contribute to optimal workout performance.
Choosing the right genre or song can help you perform more reps during a strength workout, too. “When I was a competitive lifter, I used to select specific songs for big lifts that would change from week to week as I found new songs that I loved,” explains Nick Rizzo, training and fitness content director at RunRepeat.com. “The thing is, all of these songs fell into the category of some form of intense, high-energy, angry style of rap. Whatever it was, it helped me enter a flow state faster, feel unstoppable, and get hyped up.”
It’s all about your music preference.
That’s not to say that your HIIT and strength workouts require loud, fast music every time. Fast music can increase the intensity of exercising. But, slow music assists with a quick recovery time, while lowering blood pressure and decreasing heart rate. According to Aaptiv Trainer Kenta Seki, a successful workout comes down to figuring out what type of music you prefer to move your body to. “I have a friend who prefers to listen only to slow R&B love songs while doing intense strength workouts,” he says. “Of course, that may not work for everyone! But, the key is [that] it works for him.”
Even yoga varies. “If you want a restorative, calming practice, then ambient music, slower tempo songs and instrumental are great,” says Aaptiv Trainer Jade Alexis. “If you are looking for more of a ‘workout’ yoga class that is up-tempo and faster-paced, pop, rock, or even hip-hop might be perfect. And, if you are able to master your breathwork, then the sound of your breathing is all the music you need!”
Matching your workout pace to specific music genres can lead to better coordination—and results.
Just like a warmup and cooldown can protect your body during a workout, beginning with a slower song, switching to a higher tempo, and then back again can be beneficial to your mood and physical performance. For instance, a study of 26 runners discovered that music with a tempo of 160 to 180 bpm (beats per minute) was ideal to boost cadence for speed. But, in any workout, exercising to music forces you to move your body to the beat of a song. This can affect your coordination and motor skills.
That’s exactly why Seki likes to match music tempo to a workout routine when he’s planning Aaptiv classes and playlists. “Sometimes our mind consciously or even subconsciously makes us match the pace of our body movement to a song’s tempo,” he says. This is especially useful during endurance workouts, or any exercise with repetitive motions. It reduces perceived exertion and amps up your motivation to work harder.
Music that mimics your body movements also helps you use energy more efficiently since it stimulates the motor area of your brain. “Tempo sets the tone,” adds Alexis. “With that said, you can move slowly to fast music and vice versa. Sometimes the emotion in the music is what can drive and affect the workout more so than the actual tempo of the song. Also, the lyrics within the music can alter your mood. Positive empowering music will do just that—empower you and leave you with a positive mindset.”
Music distracts your brain and puts you “in the zone.”
When you hit a wall in your workout—you’re bored, tired, distracted, or worn out—music can offer a welcome distraction. Science says that your favorite songs are associated with memories. You can use emotions related to those memories to channel your energy. Listening to music may also help you begin a workout, and decrease how hard you think you’re working. This might allow you to exercise longer than planned.
That’s not to say that music replaces hard work. In difficult workouts, researchers say that music won’t necessarily override a sense of fatigue. That’s why the benefits are primarily seen with moderate-intensity exercise. Additionally, there’s a big difference between fatigue and pain. You shouldn’t use music to distract yourself from sharp, stabbing, or shooting sensations in your body. If that happens, talk to your doctor. But, Seki says that having a variety of music options saved can help keep your mind entertained. As a result, changing your music might completely change your workout.
“It all comes down to what motivates you as an individual, even on a day-by-day basis,” says Seki. “The same genre might not always evoke the same type of energy out of you. Some days you might need high energy EDM to get moving. Other days you might feel like listening to slower pop or hip-hop, instead. There are so many factors that can contribute to this, whether it’s the pace of the song, the lyrics, or simply the way [that] the music makes you feel.”
Now that you know how different genres of music impact your workouts, head to the Aaptiv app, where BPMs meet RPMs, to try a workout in any category, expertly synced to your exercise speed and type.