Imagine sweating and pushing yourself to complete one more set…in silence. Impossible, right? For many, exercising without music is like sleeping with the lights on – doable, but much more difficult and much less enjoyable.
In a recent study published in The Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, 12 competitive male athletes listened to music at 120-140 beats per minute during a 10-minute warm-up, then performed a 30-second sprint on an indoor bike. Two days later the same study took place but without any warm-up music. The findings revealed that listening to fast-tempo warm-up music did not significantly affect the heart rate or RPE, but it did increase the athletes’ peak power output.

“Music has a profound effect on the nervous system,” Dr. Paul Spector of Pantheon Medicine said. “Physical exertion in different cultures where the music appears to be an essential component allows levels and duration of physical output that were not possible without the musical stimulus.”

Another study showed that subjects who cycled in time to music found that they required 7 percent less oxygen to do the same work when compared to music playing in the background. The implication is that music has the potential to make you more energy efficient.

No wonder so many athletes listen to fast-tempo music. But, it’s not only because it boosts blood flow, the music’s beat reflects the heart rate, or beats per minute (bpm). Look at a yoga enthusiast, to ease their heart rate and mind they listen to slower-paced music. The music helps calm their body, practice balance, and move with ease. Similarly, runners usually want to pick up their pace, tunes with faster beats allow their foot pattern to move faster and more efficiently.

Listening to music in the tempo range of 120 to 145 bpm is the the optimal level of stimulation for exercise and reaps a multitude of benefits, in part because:

  • Music helps take the mind off of the physical activity.
  • There’s a human connection to music that causes an emotional touch. A song from your childhood may boost energy because it was something you always listened to while playing in the backyard or a song that played from your first rock concert may boost your spirits.
  • Music makes you feel inclined to move instead of sit. If you hear a song in the background, you might notice your knee bouncing to the rhythm. That’s your body wanting to move to the beat.
  • Synchronizing your movement to music enables you to perform more efficiently, which results in greater endurance.

Safe to say, many of us love and depend on our go-to workout jams, so why not get the music started a little sooner? Cue up some tunes as you prep for your next workout, it may be just the boost you need to take it up a notch.

What are your favorite playlists to workout to?