If the upbeat music blaring at your local gym isn’t helping you get any fitter, you’re not the only one. While studies suggest that music helps us get the most from exercise, the type of music that gets you in shape isn’t what you’d expect.
Fast-paced dance tunes favored by gym-goers worldwide are actually not as beneficial for working out as classical music. Studies suggest that classical music may produce the best results.
Neuroscientist Jack Lewis, who scoured reports of research in the field, came up with a list of musically-themed advice for those wanting to make the most of their workout. Lewis found that, while all music helps motivate people to work out harder and longer, classical music has additional benefits.
Classical music that is somewhat upbeat in rhythm helps relax the body, for one. “Not only does upbeat music increase speed, strength and endurance, but the relaxing qualities of classical music appear to reduce heart rate, blood pressure and lower perceived exertion, at the same time,” the independent consultant notes.
“In addition, relaxing music has been shown to lower levels of cortisol in the body, the hormone associated with stress. I’d recommend Beethoven’s Symphony No 4, fourth movement.”
Lewis also recommends matching music with heartbeat, listening to faster beats as a workout session gets harder. A faster beat is more motivation, and it also instructs the brain to energize the body, according to Lewis. For warming up, a song with about 116 beats per minute (think Michael Jackson’s Rock With You) is perfect.
When effort increases and heart rate rises to 140bpm, Lewis asserts that Beethoven will be more appropriate. When exercising flat out, with a heart rate of around 180bpm, the fast pace of Tinie Tempah’s Pass Out should provide the necessary motivation.
At the other end of the scale, the gentle pace of Johnny Cash’s Heart of Gold will help those cooling down.
Lewis also suggests trying to choose songs that have personal meaning, ones that “remind you of something motivational or inspiring.”
Lewis maintains, “Research shows that the premotor cortex, an area of the brain involved in the planning of movement, is stimulated when subjects have been played music that is beautiful to the ear. Tracks we are not so keen on are less effective in stimulating this region.”
Do you find music helpful for working out?