When you exercise, what do you listen to? Your own music? The gym’s music? Silence?
Well, there’s good news: You can crank up the tunes because the right kind of music can take your fitness training to the next level. In fact, science suggests it can actually boost your athletic endurance and performance while helping you enjoy your training.
For example, in a Canadian study, researchers discovered choosing your own music can actually boost your performance and enjoyment while doing a tough HIIT workout. Another study even found that music could boost muscle power output — meaning bigger weights and more strength gains over time.
And it goes beyond the difficult, adrenaline-pumping exercises; for lighter intensities of training — like easy cycling, jogging and other types of steady-state cardio — music acts as a distraction so you can feel more comfortable and less tired as you exercise. This translates into being able to run longer and harder without accumulating the same fatigue.
Listening to music during warmups and workouts can even lower how your heart responds, which means lower heart rates and blood pressure while you exercise.
And finally, there’s some research on how music can affect your body’s stress response after exercise. A study found music can impact your autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for maintaining the balance between your sympathetic (“fight-or-flight”) nervous system and you are the parasympathetic (“rest-and-digest”) nervous system. According to the research, using the correct music can generate “faster recovery and a reduction in cardiac stress after exercise.”
It turns out music can make a big difference in your fitness. Now, here’s how you can put all this information together!
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Here’s the thing to consider: When it comes to your playlist, opinion is everything. What one person might enjoy, another might loathe and vice versa. (For example, heavy metal can be pretty polarizing.) Learning from the studies, the key is to always choose the music you enjoy — so don’t worry about what other people (or music critics) think.
Next, have your music sync with the speed and intensity of the exercise you’re doing. It’s pretty common sense based:
- If you’re lifting a maximum-effort weight, play music to pump you up and get you amped and excited.
- If you’re doing a fast-paced circuit, listen to fast-paced music, which can help boost your performance.
- If you’re doing a low-intensity activity like an easy bike ride, jog, hike, etc., pick something slightly slower so you can feel at ease while still distracting you from fatigue.
- If you’re doing stretches, yoga, etc., listen to something gentle and relaxing so you can calm your nervous system to help you rest and recover.