The Soundtrack of a Healthier Life
Why making a playlist can help you push your workout to the next level
Would you take a yoga class with a heavy metal soundtrack? How about a high-energy aerobics class based around the somber quietude of a Brahms piano concerto? Would you go back to a salsa dancing instructor who refused to play anything but the experimental ambient works of Brian Eno?
If you said ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, your view of music’s role in fitness may be very imaginative. For patients of JSAPA Weight Loss Surgery, exercise is a fundamental part of weight management, but finding the right workout playlist can be an integral part of getting the most out of your routine. Though it shouldn’t take much testing beyond watching how your feet react to one of your favorite up-tempo songs, research has shown just how effective music can be at directly affecting everything from your mood and energy levels to your breathing and heart rates.
The Magic of Music
The intersection of music and fitness is complex, involving psychological and physiological impacts that are so intricately woven together that researchers still do not fully understand them. However, extensive research has proven the impact that music can have on physical performance. In one study published in 2009, scientists found that basketball players who were apt to choke under pressure during games performed significantly better when shooting high-stakes free-throws after listening to the infectiously catchy melody and lyrics of Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” A year later, British researchers found that faster music was capable of increasing pedaling power, heart rates and motivation in healthy, college-age men on exercise bikes.
Studies like these prove music’s usefulness for a variety of purposes while exercising. It can help us increase our levels of performance and focus on powering through a workout. It can distract us from fatigue, boredom, discomfort or nervousness. It can serve as a tool for relaxation as we cool down, helping to reduce heart rates and stress.
Your Perfect Playlist
For the best results with any workout playlist, you should try to match the tempo of your tunes to the pacing of your workout. Though most exercisers who hit the gym crank their headphones up to stave off boredom, they may be missing out on the extra motivation provided by putting together the right playlist.
Experts recommend exercising to uplifting songs that match the energy level of the activity you’re engaging in. For most moderate aerobic workouts, the tempo should be between 130 and 150 beats per minute (BPM)—think “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees—and should gradually slow down towards the end of the workout to help you cool off.
The ubiquity of mobile devices has made this increasingly easy, as the days of making a mix tape or burning a CD are behind us—iPods and iPhones both have the capability to create a playlist directly on the device, without a computer or any other technology. If making your own playlist doesn’t sound like much fun, these devices also offer the opportunity to find premade playlists or podcasts that feature great exercise music.
What are some of your favorite songs to sweat it out to? Share them in the comments below.