Whether you've turned up your favorite song to get yourself to the gym on a rainy morning or used music to clear your mind before bed, you know the perfect playlist can go a long way.
But it's more than just a boon to our emotional health; music can have profound effects on our physical well-being, too. One awesome benefit of rocking out to your favorite tunes is the major motivation it'll deliver to your workouts.
In fact, listening to music while exercising produces "higher than expected levels of endurance, power, productivity and strength," according to a March 2012 study from the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. That lift was so significant, the study authors actually wrote "music can be thought of as a type of legal performance-enhancing drug."
Maybe that's why pro athletes aren't allowed to use headphones while competing! But for your next run, bike ride or trip to the gym, this performance-enhancer's definitely on the table.
The Perfect Running Music for a New Personal Record
The right music can help runners work harder and last longer. But what makes a good running song? Ideally, your music of choice syncs up with your running speed, and experts have pinpointed the sweet spot for beats per minute (BPM) at 120, which roughly matches the average exerciser's heart rate when working out. Go-get-'em lyrics don't hurt, either.
Get Pumped to Pump Iron
The cadence of your favorite jams is less important when you're strength training than when you're on the run, but the right music can still boost your performance in the weight room. In fact, a June 2015 Perceptual and Motor Skills study found that music can lead to "a significant increase of strength endurance performance" during weight-lifting workouts — as long as you pick the right kinds of music.
What to Listen to During a WOD
CrossFit is notoriously tough, which means your motivational music is extra important as you box jump or burpee your way through the final minute of a killer every-minute-on-the-minute workout of the day. We asked CrossFit coaches and athletes to share their secrets to building workout playlists that'll make you feel like a superhero.
The Best Jams for Your Next Cardio Workout
A January 2019 PeerJ study found that music can encourage you to keep at your cardio workouts longer. And — bonus! — any genre will work. The key, much like with running, is the song's BPM. For moderate cardio like jogging or an elliptical workout, you'll want to stick to songs between 120 and 140 BPM. But you can amp things up for a more vigorous cardio workout with songs at a BPM of 150 or higher.
Power Your Pedaling
The perfect cycling music pushes you up hills under heavy resistance and is the wind at your back during those dead-sprint straightaways. A July 2018 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that music that matches the beat of your pedal strokes can actually make hot, sweaty cycling workouts feel easier. Don't forget your pace will naturally change throughout a class or outdoor ride!