The Science Behind a Good Exercise Playlist: Select the Proper Music

Cluster fitness classes have one thing in common, be it SoulCycle, orange theory, CrossFit or Zumba – all play intense music through the speakers. Even while fighting muscle burn, the beats keep you motivated and help you have a good time.

Turns out we listen to music while working out for a good reason, and it’s about more than just pumping ourselves up for a good sweat session. Research shows that music, especially high-tempo, high-intensity music, can increase training performance and even motivate you to exercise longer.

If you’re wondering how you can maximize the benefits of music for exercise, you have come to the right place. In this article, learn how and why music influences your physical performancehow to create the perfect playlist for profit and where to find a workout playlist made for you.

Read more: The best smart home gym workouts of 2022: Peloton, Mirror, Tempo and more

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Why does music improve training performance?

There is no lack of research on psychological effects of music. A good tune can help lift your mood and help you focus, but it can also motivate you or give you a competitive edge, which is where exercise applies.

Music affects your workout performance in a number of ways, including:

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule: music may not help you when you’re struggling with SUN or an injury, but most of the time, you can expect the above benefits.

person running on the road outside

Studies show that running to upbeat music can help you run faster, and the same goes for cycling.

Stage 7 Photography/Unsplash

How do you make a good workout playlist? Consider the BPM of each song

When it comes to improving workout performance, choosing a playlist is all about tempo. Matching the music tempo to your desired heart rate will keep you pumped for the duration of your workout, while mismatching it can do the exact opposite.

Think about what happens when a casual song plays in the middle of your workout; For example, you’re playing upbeat trap music or heavy rock, and suddenly an ’80s love ballad comes on. You stop, pull your phone out of your pocket, and skip it. Or maybe you’ll get over it, but all you can think about is how you can’t wait for it to finish, thus interrupting your focus on training.

Creating the perfect workout playlist is really quite simple. Just focus on two things: the pace and the type of training. The more intense you want the workout to be, the more optimistic the pace should be.

Finding the tempo of a song in beats per minute is like finding your heart rate. Musically inclined people will find it easier to count the BPM of a song; if you have problems with that, this handy song BPM tool to be able to help. Just enter a song name and get the BPM.

These general tempo guidelines should help you get started with your exercise playlist:

  • Yoga, Pilates, and other low-intensity activities: 60 to 90 BPM
  • Power Yoga: 100 to 140 BPM
  • CrossFit, indoor cycling, or other forms of HIIT: 140 to 180 or more BPM
  • Zumba and dance: 130 to 170 BPM
  • Steady-state cardio, such as jogging: 120 to 140 BPM
  • Weightlifting and powerlifting: 130 to 150 RPM
  • Warm up for exercise: 100 to 140 BPM
  • Cool down after exercise: 60 to 90 BPM

If you want to get even more scientific about it, design your playlist tempo to support interval work. For example, if you plan to do an interval run where you run fast for 3 minutes, slow for 2 minutes for a total of 30 minutes, you can create a playlist that supports that goal. In this case, I would hire a fast-moderate-fast structure. Just make sure the length of the songs is close to the time intervals.

Other factors, such as bass, volume, and lyrics, can also influence your performance, but focusing on tempo helps simplify playlist selection.

Try exercise playlists on music services like Apple Music, Spotify and more

Don’t want to bother with your own playlist? try one of these music streaming services who already have hours and hours of music specifically for training.

radio adjustment: The entire premise of Fit Radio revolves around specific BPM workouts. You can find pre-made playlists for all the different heart rate ranges in almost every genre. One thing I love about Fit Radio is that the DJs mix up playlists with quick cuts and mash-up songs, so you get a lot of variety.

RockMyRun: This app is similar to Fit Radio in that DJs create playlists by genre, BPM, and activity. Despite the name, you can use RockMyRun for any type of exercise. The quick tweak feature that allows you to quickly change the tempo of your playlist gives this app an edge over others.

RockMyRun App Screenshots

RockMyRun helps you run faster with BPM specific playlists.

App Store/Screenshot by Amanda Capritto

apple music: Apple Music has an entire section dedicated to workout playlists. Go to “explore” and then “Music by Mood” to find the fitness category. You’ll find playlists for weightlifting, yoga, HIIT, and more, as well as genre-specific playlists. Playlists are updated frequently, so add something to your library if you like it.

Spotify: Like Apple Music, Spotify has a wide range of pre-made exercise playlists and is always updating the current playlists and adding new ones. Playlists are rated by BPM, but they also have names, like Beast Mode or Rock ‘n’ Run, to help you decide if a playlist is a good fit for a specific workout. helps you find or create the perfect playlist for your run based on your pace. Just enter your mile pace and the app will offer you a list of songs that match that pace. You can also search for popular music, which is sorted by beat.

rhythmDJ: This app scans your music library to find the BPM of songs to create tempo specific playlists. You can also choose from a number of pre-made playlists or let the app identify your run/walk pace and play songs that match.

Just one thing before you hit the gym: be careful not to play your music too loud, as Loud music can cause hearing loss. Y headphones are a common culprit. Oh, and if you’re going for a run or a bike ride, take care of yourself.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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