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