Need This New Finding? The Best Kind Of Music For Exercising

You may have just made a New Year's Resolution to get in shape this year. So you are heading off to the gym several times a week to get your heart rate up, burn calories, and stretch those muscles. It can be so easy to loseZumba Aerobic Workout (Photo by roanokecollege/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Zumba Aerobic Workout (Photo by roanokecollege/Creative Commons via Wikimedia) your determination and enthusiasm once you are there. Scientific studies have shown that listening music can help keep you going longer and stronger during a workout. New research shows that just any music won't do -- there are specific criteria to the best music to use when exercising.

Perhaps Richard Simmons was ahead of his time cashing in on Sweatin' to the Oldies!  For some that is information that rocks the foundation of their imagination! Pun intended. Music can detract people from pain and fatigue, elevate mood, enhance endurance, and help reduce how much effort it seems to take. Listening to music during a workout may even help increase metabolic efficiency..

The truth is there is science behind picking out the perfect workout music for getting physical, according to Dr. Costas Karageorghis, an associate professor of sport psychology at Brunel University in England, who has studied the effects of music on physical performance for 20 years.

He created the Brunel Music Rating Inventory, a questionnaire that rates the motivational qualities of music in the context of sports and exercise. For nearly ten years he has been administering the questionnaire to people representing a variety of demographics. These people listen to 90 second snippets of songs to rate the motivational qualities for physical activities. He has equated listening to music to using a legal performance-enhancing drug. Many races now ban runners from listening to music during the competition.

One of the most important qualities music must have for optimal use while exercising is a tempo of 120 to 140 beats per minute. This is the range of much contemporary music, such as rock. This beat also corresponds to the target heart rate for people exercising.

When choosing the best music for exercise, it is also important to also consider the mental and emotional messages you are receiving through it and go with those that are positive and strengthening. This adds to the motivation to keep moving and stay strong.

"Push It" by Salt-N-Pepa and "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Snoop Dogg are in that range, as is the dance remix of "Umbrella" by Rihanna, This is good music for the average exerciser. For a more intense workout like a hard run, Dr. Karageorghis recommends Glenn Frey's "The Heat Is On." 

Basically, the music that routinely falls within the correct beats per minute is dance music. This should come as no surprise since dance is a great form of cardio. 

Push (Photo by Crossfit girl/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Push (Photo by Crossfit girl/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)In a 2012 study C. J. Bacon of Sheffield Hallam University, Karageorghis and their colleagues, found that participants who cycled in time to music needed 7 percent less oxygen to do the same work as cyclists who did not. Music functions as a sort of metronome, helping people maintain a steady pace, reducing missed steps and maximizing energy expenditure. 

If your workout of choice is walking you may not need quite so many beats per minute. For a bit of a stroll you only need about 115 to 118 beat. For a power walk you can pump back up to 137 to 139. For race walking and running you are back up to the work out beat.

Compilations, aimed at women doing cardio, like "Shape Walk - 70's Hits Remixed," contain no pauses between songs. That unwavering beat allows a person to synchronize their movements with the music, something that is crucial according to Kate Gfeller, a music professor at the University of Iowa.

The bottom line is that the music should provide good timing cues. It should have a consistent beat throughout. This helps you move more efficiently, keeps you motivated, and builds your enthusiasm. Among the songs that people say help them "Gonna Fly Now" (the theme from Rocky) comes up most often. Personally I like just about anything by Abba and "Let's Get Physical" by Olivia Newton John.

Now that you know what will get you motivated get out there and pump up the jam!

Sources: Scientific American, New York Times