We all know that upbeat music can help us pick up our workout pace. But psychologists are still investigating why it helps us work out both longer and harder.
According to Costas Karageorghis, PhD, an associate professor of sport psychology at Brunel University in England, the beats per minute (BPM) of a song influence the efficacy of any cardio workout. His most recent study, published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, involved 30 subjects who listened to music with a moderate tempo of 125 BPM. Compared with a no-music control group, those listening to the music had a 15 percent greater output of endurance.
Music helps athletes dissociate from sensations of fatigue, explains Karageorghis, who has been studying the effects of music on athletes’ performance for 20 years. He notes that the BPM in music can also stimulate or calm athletes prior to competition, and help synchronize their movements with an optimal tempo.
Which tempo is right for your workout? Try 80 to 90 BPM for warm-ups and cool-downs, 137 to 139 BPM for fast walks (about 4.5 mph), and 147 to 160 BPM for runs. (An iTunes plug-in, Tangerine!, lets you create BPM-based playlists.)