Do you listen to music while you work out? Many do, claiming motivational and rhythmic benefits from plugging in your earphones and pushing yourself to limits unheard of. But whilst we like the sound waves penetrating our eardrums as we work out, we tend to differ on what music suits the purpose best.
Dr Costas Karageorghis, Reader in Sport Psychology at Brunel University, has the answer: “A range of musical factors such as the lyrical content, tempo or rhythmic feel can affect our physical responses, making certain songs more suited as an accompaniment for physical exercise.”
Dr Karageorghis has created several playlists on Spotify, the popular internet music service, that contain specifically selected songs for the type of work out you choose to do, and provides the psychological explanations for why these songs positively affect your exercise.
The first playlist is the Insanity workout, an intense boot camp-esque programme. Dr. Costas says: “This selection of music is structured to give extra staying power and has the highest average tempo of the five fitness trend playlists with a stimulating 140 bpm that's sure to keep the adrenaline flowing. Tracks are selected to contour the participants' heart rate, with the highpoint reached with Sigma's Changing, a pumping track at 171 bpm that will keep you revved up to the max.”
1. Sing - Ed Sheeran (BPM of 120)
2. Heroes (We Could Be) - Alesso ft. Tove Lo (BPM of 126)
3. Let's Go - Calvin Harris ft. Ne Yo (BPM of 128)
4. Lips Are Movin - Meghan Trainor (BPM of 139)
5. Dare (La La La) - Shakira (BPM of 144)
6. Don't Stop - 5 Seconds of Summer (BPM of 150)
7. American Beauty/American Psycho - Fall Out Boy (BPM of 151)
8. Changing - Sigma ft. Paloma Faith (BPM of 171)
9. Bang Bang - Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj (BPM of 150)
10. Marilyn Monroe - Pharrell Williams (BPM of 117)
The second playlist, Tabata, is an intense, interval based workout. Dr. Costas recommends a fast tempo playlist: “This playlist is second only to Insanity in terms of its intensity, with an impressive average tempo of 118 bpm, and is characterised by powerful lyrical affirmations such as 'I don't ever want to give up' and 'I'm stronger than I've been before’.”
1. Everything Is Everything - Gabriel Garzon-Montano (BPM of 86)
2. Figure It Out - Royal Blood (BPM of 108)
3. Wrapped Up - Olly Murs ft. Travie McCoy (BPM of 122)
4. Won't Look Back - Duke Dumont (BPM of 124)
5. Time Of Our Lives - Pitbull & Ne-Yo (BPM of 124)
6. The Night Is Still Young - Nicki Minaj (BPM of 128)
7. I Will Never Let You Down - Rita Ora (BPM of 128)
8. Break Free - Ariana Grande ft. Zedd (BPM of 130)
9. All About That Bass - Meghan Trainor (BPM of 134)
10. Sugah Daddy - D'Angelo & The Vanguard (BPM of 93)
The third is for the cardio fans, a dance playlist with a strong and steady rhythm. Dr. Costas explains; “The rhythm of the songs is an important part of this playlist: an easily extractable metre (or rhythmic pulse) facilitates the central goal of expressing the music through movement. With an average tempo of 111 bpm, as well as uplifting lyrics, the tracks on this playlist score highly for danceability and are loaded with musical features that promote rhythmic movement.”
1. Fancy - Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX (BPM of 95)
2. Boss - Fifth Harmony (BPM of 103)
3. Problem - Ariana Grande (BPM of 103)
4. Uptown Funk - Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars (BPM of 115)
5. Crazy Stupid Love - Cheryl Cole ft. Tinie Tempah (BPM of 120)
6. Right Here - Jess Glynne (BPM of 120)
7. I Loved You - Blonde ft. Melissa Steel (BPM of 123)
8. Fireball - Pitball ft. John Ryan (BPM of 124)
9. Real Love - Clean Bandit & Jess Glynne (BPM of 125)
10. I'm Not The Only One - Sam Smith (BPM of 82)
The fourth is for gymnastics, where mental strength matters; 'This playlist has a mid-tempo feel with an average of 112 bpm to reflect the slow, steady movements and isometric contractions ' i.e. holding a position like an Iron Cross on rings, or a handstand. Music helps to block out the muscular pain associated with this form of exercise and these tracks have strong dissociative qualities ' they take your mind off the ache.'
1. Good Kisser - Usher (BPM of 98)
2. Ghost - Ella Henderson (BPM of 105)
3. My Love - Route 94 ft. Jess Glynne (BPM of 120)
4. Come Get It Bae - Pharrell Williams (BPM of 120)
5. Go All Night - Gorgon City ft. Jennifer Hudson (BPM of 121)
6. Pushing On - Oliver $ & Jimi Jules (BPM of 122)
7. Gecko - Oliver Heldens & Becky Hill (BPM of 125)
8. When A Fire Starts To Burn - Disclosure (BPM of 124)
9. Funknroll - Prince (BPM of 98)
10. Stay With Me - Sam Smith (BPM of 85)
The final playlist Dr Karageorghis has created is CrossFit, a melting pot workout that incorporates powerlifting, Olympic weightligting, gymnastics and athletics. The science here is about crafting the perfect backdrop: “Accordingly, the music is not used in a synchronous mode to direct the movement patterns; rather it plays asynchronously (or in the background) to enhance the training environment. The music should not be particularly loud given the internal sense of rhythm and stream of the trainer's verbal instructions required to master the high-intensity movements involved. This is another mid-tempo playlist (average of 113 bpm) that creates an ideal sonic backdrop.”
1. Don't - Ed Sheeran (BPM of 96)
2. It's My Birthday - Will.i.am ft. Cody Wise (BPM of 101)
3. Fun - Pitbull ft. Chris Brown (BPM of 114)
4. Waves - Mr. Probz (BPM of 120)
5. Rather Be - Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne (BPM of 121)
6. I Wanna Feel - Second City (BPM of 122)
7. My Head Is A Jungle (MK Remix) - Wankelmut & Emma Louise (BPM of 124)
8. La La La - Naughty Boy ft. Sam Smith (BPM of 125)
9. Art Official Cage - Prince (BPM of 130)
10. Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran (BPM of 79)
Mehdi Punjwani