Move to the Beat… Tune Up Your Workout Playlist!

Music is everywhere. We hear it when we go to the grocery store, in the elevator, while driving in the car, you name it. The soft tones, depending on the music choice, help to ease the mind, creating a more pleasant environment or shopping experience. Music helps to low anxiety levels and allows the mind to relax. This can also be useful during most exercise activities. At the gym we listen to music to help pump us up, block out unwanted stimulation (other conversations, weights crashing, etc.), and it helps to keep us motivated and moving. There is a reason why the theme song from Rocky tends to play in your head while running up a huge flight of stairs. It has been shown that positive experiences and mindsets produce positive feelings and a desire to repeat the activity. It has also been shown that lyrics that are related to determination and strength may also enhance motivation to exercise more intensely and/or for longer.

Music can be used to motivate you in the gym and help to keep your heart rate and energy up while taking an intense class. It can also be used to enhance your physical performance, making you work harder without thinking about it too much. All you need to know is the total beats per minute (BPM) for the songs you want to listen to. It is extremely easy to find the BPM of a song from your iTunes. Simply follow the directions below to find out which songs will have the BPM listed in your music library.

  1. Find the song you wish to know the beats per minute for in your iTunes library, and select the song by right-clicking on it. A long menu box should appear directly under the song.
  2. Click the button that says “Get Info”. This will take you to a larger pop up box where you can locate various information about that specific song.
  3. Click the tab on the top of the box that says “Info”, and look under the box that says BPM. If the box is blank, it means you will have to manually enter the beats per minute of the song. If you know the tempo of the song, you can type in the BPM yourself.

Once you have an idea of the BPM, play with the songs and see which ones correlate with your running speed. You can challenge yourself by throwing in a few songs that are at a faster BPM than your normal gait. The idea is that you will continue to run with the beat without noticing that you are running faster. It has even been shown that when patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease listen to music at a specific BPM, they tend to walk more fluidly without as many stutter-steps that occur without music.

There have been some studies that show it is not always the most beneficial to listen to music while performing exercise at a competitive level. Elite level athletes need to stay focused on their task and all the different variables that occur throughout their competition. This can be as simple as a slight turn out of the foot or more complex such as respiration rate compared to heart rate. Not to say elite level athletes do not listen to music at all while exercise. Simply put: music creates a dissociative environment (the feeling of ‘zoning out’) which is what most people are looking for. Athletes thrive in the associative state and do not need the distractions as much, especially during competition.

Overall, music is an extremely useful tool for the everyday exerciser. If you find you are not enjoying your workouts as much, try some music to make the experience more entertaining. When you go for a run, try playing with the BPM to see what happens. You may find yourself running faster and more efficiently based solely on the music you choose!

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