You probably know by now that music can affect your workout in positive ways, but did you know there are now numerous scientific studies that confirm this concept?

Before we dive into exploring the latest studies on this concept, let’s take a trip back to 300 B.C., when this method was first introduced by Ancient Rome. In an article published by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), Carl Foster, Ph.D., at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, Exercise and Health Program, explained Romans utilized this concept by placing drummers on ships to keep rowers in sync and motivated.

“The guy is sitting there beating on his drum and he drives the basic rhythm of the rowing,” he wrote. “Part of that is coordination – you want the rowers to row together – but part of it is that people will naturally follow a tempo. It’s just something about the way our brains work.”

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This principle is used even today in spinning, yoga, and, oddly enough, rowing classes. The basic idea behind “synchronization” is that you step up your exercise rate to match the music. This is why the most common type of music for most people is something with a lot of beats per minute (BMPs), but we’ll touch on that later.

Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., at London’s Brunel University School of Sport and Education, said music helps reduce the “perception of effort significantly,” and can even increase one’s endurance by 15 percent.

Later on in the ACE article, Karageorghis explains that three underlying elements of music influenced an individual’s exercise performance directly. Taken from the American Council on Exercise:

  • The tendency to move in time with synchronous sounds (tapping your toe in time with music or the beat of a drum)
  • The tendency of music to increase arousal (the desire to move rather than to sit)
  • The tendency for music to distract the exerciser from discomfort that might be related to exercise

The results of this research led Karageorghis to describe music as, “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.” What may come as an even bigger surprise is that not only does simply listening to just any music help, but specifically music of your choosing.

In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers found that when subjects had the option to select their own tunes to work out to, their moods, levels of fatigue and intensity of their workouts was greatly improved. They even found that some subjects in the tests could jump higher while doing box jumps than those who listened to no music.

So, you might be thinking to yourself, “OK, awesome, now I’ll just load my workout playlist up with super dope crazy awesome 200 BPM dubstep!”

No.

Karageorghis, the guy mentioned earlier with more than two decades of experience in this subject, suggests that you choose songs to mirror your heart rate for the particular level of exercise you’re doing. While warming up or cooling down, songs with an 80 to 90 BPM range are the best. For moderately intense workouts, choose something with 120 to 140 BPM. Anything more than that is unlikely to improve workouts.

Now that you are armed with this newfound musical knowledge, get out there and put these studies to the test for yourself. BPM for songs can be calculated with various apps or found online.