The Perfect Workout Music for You (What Science Has to Say!)

When I say that some workout music helps you push yourself more, and is more motivating, I know that probably sounds like the most obvious thing ever…So then, let me get more SPECIFIC! I’m going to help you hack your workout music mix and stimulate brain chemicals to work out longer!

In fact, listening to music at all when you work out helps “induce alpha brain wave activity which…leads to a state known as ‘flow,’ which is an ultimate motivational state.”

This was said by Dr. Costas Karageorghis, who did a study at Brunel University in London that involved looking at almost 7 million playlists, to put together the perfect playlist! (And guess what, that exact playlist is on Spotify now if you want to check it out.) So if anyone knows what he’s talking about, it’s this guy…

Basically, he and his team picked the best songs by performing MRIs and testing heart rates of people to determine their fitness level, and then examining them as they worked out to different songs. The researchers concluded that you should match your movements to the beat of the music…which is something you probably do already…But then, you should slowly increase the intensity of your workout, by increasing the beat of the music slowly.

Karageorghis says to go “1 or 2 BPMs beyond your comfort zone.” He doesn’t say exactly how you go about doing this…But the way I would do it is, pick a song that I like working out to the beat of, figure out how many beats per minute it is with a website like this, and then try to find another song I like that’s just a little bit faster.

Then, during your next workout, you’ll be in the mindset of, “OK, I’m making this just a little more intense!!”

I’ve noticed that on YouTube, you can even choose how fast music is playing. So for an even more challenging version of this, listen to songs on YouTube when you work out, and change them to “1.25x” speed to indicate to your brain that it’s time to MOVE IT!

workout music

Karageorghis says that he noticed the effects of dopamine that is caused by listening to music, too. He said that if a song was MOTIVATING enough, then people in the study reported that even though their heart was beating fast, they were out of breath, and were super tired, the soundtrack did two things:

  • pushed them to keep going
  • helped them feel LESS pain, because they were thinking of their fatigue in a more positive way.

So, other than listening to the playlist put together by Dr. Karageorghis, what type of music should you be listening to?

Well, I know you were probably thinking it would be dance music or something super fast, but according to a study published in Scientific Reports, heroic music like orchestral music (the type of thing you hear in movies) may actually be better. Here’s an example:

You go, you warrior, you!! 😉

Let me know in the comments: What type of workout music do you listen to? Does it depend on the type of workout? Do you ever listen to something slow? What keeps YOU going??