HealthTraining & Performance

What’s the Best Workout Music?

Music helps get me through my workouts, and I’ve read that it helps people go stronger longer. But is there a certain type of music I should be listening to in order to get that boost?

(Photo: Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock)

Bust out the Britney Spears! Research suggests working out to music with a beat similar to your cadence is the most motivating, decreasing your perceived exertion while increasing how hard you train. For walkers, that tends to be music with around 120 beats per minute, while runners may want something closer to 180.

But tempo is just one part of the playlist. One recent study found that people walk faster to simpler music, even if it has the same tempo as more complex songs. In other words, music with without much variation in loudness and pitch is more motivating, possibly because it’s easier to pick up and stay with the tempo.

Speaking of volume, researchers at the UK’s University of Plymouth found that cranking it up might also enhance your work out, making you train at a higher intensity than you would with the tunes turned down.

Of course, if you need a break from your favorite band, a metronome matching your cadence can increase your time to exhaustion just as well, and may make you run more efficiently, according to a new study.

And when it comes to post-exercise recovery, slow it down. An Indian study found that listening to slow music after exercising will lower your pulse and blood pressure faster than silence, or your usual workout tunes.

Need help finding workout music? A slew of smartphone apps like Cruise Control: Run, Pace DJ, and SynchStep will match your music to your cadence.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Crank up simple, upbeat music with a cadence-matching tempo.

Support Outside Online

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.

Contribute to Outside
Lead Photo: Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock
More Health