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American Heart Association

Workout motivation - struggling? 

Your playlist may rev up your workout


4 Minute Read

Looking for ways to rev up your workout? Your playlist may help you not only stick with an exercise program, but even improve performance. In a study focused on sprint interval training, researchers found the participants' peak power output and heart rates were higher when listening to motivational music than when listening to podcasts or no audio. Participants also rated their post-workout enjoyment higher after listening to music.

Costas I. Karageorghis, an author of  a study published in Psychology and Exercise said the findings offer another way for people who may be struggling with motivation to stick to their workout plan. People who create their own exercise playlists actually enjoy their workout much more than those who just select music randomly, said Karageorghis, a professor of sport and exercise psychology at Brunel University in London.

"Ideally, if you turn your playlist over every couple of weeks, it will keep it fresh,” he said. “It will be more stimulating, and you're likely to derive greater athletic and psychological benefits than if you simply listen to the same playlist over and over."

The American Heart Association recommends people get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, (or a combination of both) each week. But for those who don't love exercising, those totals can seem like a tall order. So, Karageorghis, who also is the author of the book “Applying Music in Exercise and Sport”, suggests creating a playlist with music starting at about 120 beats per minute, or the pace of a brisk walk. As workouts intensify, the tempo of the music can increase up to about 140 bpm.

For Paige Cervantes, a professional trainer based in McKinney, Texas, the right music can rev her motivation in the weight room even on a tough day. 

“There was something about that beat and the guitar playing that would just kind of set the mood to where I could lift heavier and almost get to the point of getting a little angry," she said, noting that listening to heavy metal music “would kind of bring up the fight in me. Bubblegum music doesn't do much for me when I am trying to lift weights." 

Increasing the tempo is one thing, but Karageorghis cautioned to be careful not to apply the same idea to volume.

"In many exercise facilities that I visit, the music is way above 80 decibels," he said. "If you're able to maintain a comfortable conversation with the person next to you, the music volume is probably about right."

Karageorghis’ previous research shows even when people exercise beyond comfortable levels, such as levels higher than 75% of their maximal heart rate, music can put them in a better mood — despite the associated fatigue or exhaustion — than when the workout includes no music.

Those positive effects on mood are important, said Russell Pate, an exercise science professor in the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health. Sticking with a workout routine depends on a lot of different factors, including support from family and friends, he said. "But the more positive it is, the greater the likelihood they'll choose to do it again tomorrow and the day after that."


Article provided by the American Heart Association

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