Why you should exercise to slow workout music

It’s a sweaty gym studio, music playing. You desperately try to move along the beat while pedaling like crazy. But you find it increasingly impossible to synchronize with the music and lag or stop altogether. While you may blame your tuning, it may actually be the music that’s the problem.

Most of us assume that it gives the ability to play music with a fast beat per minute (BPM). Internet lists of the best workout songs are full of tracks that reach very high speeds. We’re encouraged to hear 180 bpm for CrossFit and 170 bpm for Zumba—but neither is based on scientific evidence.

Instead, a wealth of sports psychology tells us that listening to slow music is actually the most effective.

The power of music

Hundreds of studies have demonstrated the beneficial power of listening to music while exercising. Published in research journals Psychology of Sport and Exercise It was found that the time spent enjoying music increased by 28 percent Another review It was an effective strategy for managing pain and fatigue.

There are two ways to listen to music while exercising. Asynchronous apps are when you keep it in the background but don’t consciously match your movements to the beat. It can act as a distraction, and during easy and moderate intensity workouts, it can help you exercise longer before feeling tired.

Synchronized applications are when we use music as a pulse or metronome. Research has shown that setting your workout to a beat can make exercise more efficient and even reduce oxygen consumption by up to seven percent.

Limit of synchronized songs

But getting the synchronization right is harder than it sounds. Tend to play fast-tempo music with a high bpm during an intense workout. The logic we tell ourselves is that if we can move to the beat, our workout will be better.

However, research tells us that the harder we’re working, the harder it is to process a complex piece of music, especially if it’s fast.

For example, many people try to reach 180 strides per minute in a fast running session because this is considered the optimal cadence. This means listening to tunes with 180 bpm. “It’s not in most people’s listening repertoire. It’s very fast, and for most people, 180 is pretty intense and it’s very difficult to maintain coordination,” said the sports psychology professor. Kostas Karaorgis, who has been studying the effects of music on exercise for more than two decades.

Karageorghis recommends running a half beat instead. “Find a track that’s 90 beats per minute. It’s probably going to be on a lot of people’s playlists because it’s a lot of rap and urban music BPM,” he says.

The trick is to use slow beats to match every other movement. For example, when running, you might take one stride cycle—two steps—for each beat. The same method can be used for all kinds of synchronized activities like spinning, rowing and even HIIT training.

But be aware that it may be better to listen to nothing when you’re working out at high intensity. “Research suggests that music at very, very high intensities has no effect,” says exercise psychologist Leighton Jones, PhD. “You’re just working too hard, and your body is screaming too loud; it can only hear that noise from your body.”

The asynchronous sweet spot

If you’re just looking for background inspiration, tempo actually has a limited range of functionality with asynchronous music. Regardless of exercise intensity, studies have shown that people are able to reach their “flow state” when listening to music between 120 and 140 bpm. But slow music like 100 bpm also has positive psychological results.

“Our advice is to avoid anything below 100 bpm when you’re working really hard and anything above 140 bpm when you’re taking it easy,” says Dr Jones. Apps like Muze can be an easy way to create playlists at the exact tempo you’re looking for.

For extra fun, embrace the lyrics too. Our recs? Try Lionel Richie Running with the night (120 bpm), Bryan Adams’ run to you (126 bpm), or Lenny Kravitz’s Where are we running? (130 bpm).

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