Music and Exercise: Should You Rock Out While You Work Out?

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Music and exercise seem to go hand in hand. For many, music is the one thing that gets you to the gym, helps you dig deep during a tough workout, and keeps you motivated during long runs or bike rides. Whether you can't live without your workout playlists or you only occasionally don headphones, it may be beneficial to listen to music during your workouts. Researchers have studied the link between music and exercise for years, and overall, they've found many benefits to cuing up a playlist when you hit the gym. Here's what you should know:

  1. It Improves Your Performance and Endurance

    It's not an illusion that you seem to perform better when you're listening to music during your workout. One study of cyclists found that they worked harder, rode farther, and produced more power when listening to music. Motivational music can also improve endurance, increase the time it takes to reach exhaustion, and make you feel less fatigued.

  2. It Makes You Want to Boogie

    There are just some songs that make you want to move, and it's not just because they're catchy. Researchers have found that music engages your motor system and can help to induce movement, which is not a bad way to kick-start your gym sesh.

  3. It Helps Get You in the Zone

    We all have that song that automatically gets us amped up. In fact, researchers have found that listening to music can help increase energy and work output, as well as help you visualize your task before you hit the track, trails, or weight room.

  4. It Helps Your Body Move Efficiently

    Do you find that your body automatically moves with music? There's a reason for that. Like a metronome, the beats of a song can influence your cadence, particularly in sports like running and cycling, and make it easier to maintain an optimal pace. Studies have also shown that your body moves more efficiently when exercise is performed in synchrony with music.

    So when you're making your next running playlist, be sure to pay attention to the beats per minute (bpm) of each song. Choose songs that correspond to the tempo of your workout—songs with less bpm for your warm-up and cooldown, and songs with more bpm for your main workout. According to Costas Karageorghis, PhD, from Brunel University in London, the sweet spot is between 120 and 140 bpm.

  5. It's a Good Distraction

    It's no secret that the reason many of us chose to listen to music while exercising is to distract ourselves from discomfort and boredom. In fact, music can keep your brain busy and boost your mood, which may be one reason why tunes can keep you from thinking about how hard your workout is.

  6. It Keeps You Motivated

    Motivational songs on your playlist can flood you with positivity at just the right time. It may also make it a little easier to push through your training session when the mental demons and self-doubt start to surface.

    When to Tune Out

    There are times when you should keep it quiet. Music can make it hard to listen to your body, covering up aches and pains that you should pay attention to. Plus, with headphones on, you're more likely to miss out on your surroundings—from chirping birds to swirling clouds overhead. It can also be unsafe—especially if you're running early in the morning or late at night, cycling in traffic, or hiking in the woods.

    Ultimately, whether you combine music and exercise is a personal preference. If that includes a jamming playlist, be sure to lower the volume to prevent damaging your hearing. Find what works best for you and you'll be more likely to stick with your exercise routine.

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