We’re guessing something like 95% of people prefer working out to music over exercising in silence. (OK, to be fair, we don’t have a proper research study to point to, but we did a poll of the Baby2Body team, and this holds true!).
With the advent of wireless headphones (and can’t-live-without AirPods) it’s so easy to pop music into your ears and jam out while you sweat. But have you ever given thought to exactly why it’s so nice to exercise to music, or how certain songs can make a good workout even better?
Music has been shown to improve our workout experience in so many ways it’s actually astounding. It’s been shown to help individuals deliver higher levels of endurance, power, productivity, and strength. So, today we’re talking about the science behind how you can get the best workout possible with the help of a great playlist, what songs are best to workout to, and of course sharing some of our favorite Baby2Body playlists to keep you inspired.
Let’s talk about why music and exercise go so well together…
Firstly, exercising or not, music is a fantastic way to modify your moods. We all have those days where the thought of working out feels like the last thing we want to do… but music acts a source of motivation and positive reinforcement for movement. A 2012 study showed that participants who listened to music that they really liked experienced higher levels of serotonin that put them in a better mindset for their workout. Music and exercise both release those feel-good chemicals in your brain – such as serotonin, dopamine and opioids – that not only make us feel happier (thus associating exercise with positive feelings), but can also dull your pain and make you less susceptible to feeling fatigued from the exercise at hand.
Now those feel-good hormones won’t numb all the pain and fatigue of a tough workout — and that’s where music comes in with it’s second workout-friendly function: it provides distraction. When it comes to physical challenges (like a tough workout) our mind is our number one enemy. Your muscles start fatiguing and your brain jumps in to say, “hey, let’s just stop and rest!”. But when you’ve got music in the background, your neural circuits have something else they need to process, which means you and your body can keep pushing through that final effort. Many people also point to music as a relief for potential boredom that can be caused when doing repetitive physical activities.
If you’re looking for a track to boost your moods and prevent boredom — look no further than our Dance It Off playlist. You’re going to love it, trust us.
Now let’s talk about how music can help you take your workouts to the next level, as listening to the right songs can impact both exercise efficiency and endurance.
How music can make our movements more efficient
Our bodies aren’t perfect machines, and that goes for elite athletes too! We can hold a pretty good rhythm, but our bodies don’t always move as fluidly as possible. Research has shown that listening to songs with a similar cadence to your workout pace (while on a run, for example) can help you fall into a steadier rhythm, making you more efficient in your movements so you burn less energy. So if you’re going for that personal best, music might just help you get there!
To take advantage of this you want to pay attention to tempo which is measured by BPM (beats per minute). Music that has a BPM similar to the pace we’re exercising at can impact us in a very deep way. The neurons in our brain can synchronize with the tempo of the music, helping us perform repetitive motions with more ease and speed, and our body responds too! Listening to songs with a steady tempo can also help regulate our blood pressure and heart rate as we exercise. To get an idea of the right BPM for you, a good spin class should use music around 125 to 140 BPM, while runners should try for 123 to 131 BPM (think “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas or “Hot N Cold” by Katy Perry).
However, as useful as it can be to try and match our exercise to our BPM, at the end of the day it’s about what music works for you! And that brings us to the importance of choosing songs that speak to you.
Why you need a *great* playlist, not just a good one when exercising
We said that listening to music can help increase endurance, and that’s true. Studies have shown that groups who listen to music while exercising have a longer exercise duration than groups that don’t listen to music. In one particular study, music listeners exercised 15 minutes longer per workout and another study found that people who listened to music while working out logged an additional 4 hours each week compared to non-music listeners.
But exactly what songs you queue up can make all the difference. Researchers point to the emotional impact of music as an important player in keeping you going stronger, for longer. Songs that we connect to, lyrics that resonate with us, or beats that inspire us are shown to be the most impactful when it comes to exercise motivation. The next time you listen to a song that just puts you in a mood (a good one), add it down to your workout playlist.
But of course, we’ve already done the work for you! Our Home Workout playlist is full of feel-good songs. Ahem, feel-great* songs.
However, a workout playlist doesn’t only have to be for those higher-intensity tough workout days. A calming playlist can be a great compliment to gentler, lower-impact routines like Pilates and yoga.
Now if you regularly practice yoga and prefer soothing silence, absolutely have at it. But total silence can be hard to achieve in our everyday lives (especially as a busy mama), and music might actually help you settle into your flows a bit easier. Calming music has been shown to focus our energy really effectively: enhancing feelings of relaxation and comfort, improving the flow of our body moves, helping clear our mind, and making sure we’re not distracted by other outside sounds.
Hop on over to our favorite playlist for a more mindful yoga session:
If you’re looking for more music inspiration, make sure to follow Baby2Body on our Spotify where we have everything from a high energy dance mix and an everyday workout playlist, to music for mindfulness, and songs to ease you in or out of your busy day. Happy listening!