How to Use Music for a Better Workout

Three Methods:Mood-Boosting MusicMusic Workout StrategiesMusic-Inspired Workouts

Many people use iPods, phones, tablets and stereo systems to listen to their favorite music while they workout. With at least 173 million iPod users, this device and smart phones have both proved to be especially helpful for exercise. They are small and can often be clipped to your body. Scientific studies have shown that music actually benefits your workout in a number of ways, including improving your mood, increasing your intensity and helping you to be inspired to go a little bit further. Choosing the beats per minute (BPM), volume and timing of your favorite workout music can help your workout to be more beneficial to your mind and body. This article will help you to use music for a better workout.

Method 1
Mood-Boosting Music

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    Create playlists of 30 or more minutes of music that inspires you to move. Use your iTunes program to pick and choose upbeat, fast-paced music. It has been shown that listening to your favorite music can positively affect your mood, which can help lead to a better workout.
    • A Penn State University study found not only that their "sample of students report more positive emotions after listening to music, but their already positive emotions were intensified by listening to music."
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    Save your playlist until you start the moderate or intense part of your workout. It has been shown that the positive effects of music are greater if you use the music strategically. Do your commute and your warm up without music, and then switch it on when you are ready to do the intensive cardiovascular parts of your exercise.
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    Distract yourself from pain or fatigue using music. Save your favorite songs for the moments when your heart is at its highest beats per minute (BPM). Unlike reading and watching television, which can lower the intensity of your workout, songs with high beats per minute have been shown to distract you while they make your workout more intense.
    • While studies show that music can effectively distract you from pain and fatigue, it should not be used to distract you from chronic pain, simply the uncomfortable feeling of working out at high intensity. Do not ignore signs of acute pain or dehydration.

Method 2
Music Workout Strategies

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    Warm up with songs that have approximately 110 beats per minute. If you choose to listen to music during your warm up, start with a slower song. Go to to find songs that are around 110 beats per minute.
    • Songs at around 110 beats per minute are also good for pilates moves and weightlifting, where you are in a stationary position. You should still aim to choose songs with a good beat that helps you count out your seconds as you hold muscle sustaining positions.
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    Increase your cardiovascular moderate workout with music that has at least 120 beats per minute. You may want to choose songs that slowly increase in BPM, working up to 180 BPM, such as "In Da Club" by 50 Cent. A British study showed that as songs increased their tempo by 10 percent, exerciser's aerobic intensity also increased by 10 percent.
    • Choose songs that match your body's ideal BPM. This is generally thought of as 220 minus your age. So if you are 30, 190 is your maximum heart rate. A moderate workout would be at 60 percent of your maximum heart rate (114) and an intense workout would be at 80 to 90 percent of this figure (152 to 171).
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    Use the songs' structure to workout in intervals. Interval training has been shown to increase your speed and help with training. Workout at a slower pace during the verses and then workout intensely during the chorus.
    • For example, if you are jogging outside, jog at a comfortable pace during the verses of a song and sprint during the chorus. Find what songs work best and adjust your playlist to your interval training.
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    Increase the volume of your music as your workout gets more intense. For most people, their heart rate is higher at the end of a moderate workout or during intervals. Keep your music at a lower level until your heart rate is high and then increase the volume.
    • British studies with cyclists showed that this made people workout faster. Keep your iPod at 80 percent or less of its capacity to prevent hearing loss.

Method 3
Music-Inspired Workouts

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    Take a Zumba class. These classes are designed to use moderate to high BPM Latin-based music and dance moves to create a healthy cardiovascular exercise routine. Most gyms hold Zumba classes inspired by this music.
    • If you are embarrassed to dance in public, rent or buy a Zumba workout video. They are also available on instant streaming on Netflix or through many public libraries. Put on good cross-training shoes and do the routines. You may find you workout more intensely if you raise the volume on your TV.
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    Take dance classes. Anything from jazz to hip hop to salsa dancing classes use high BPM music in their routines. The warm up usually includes learning the moves. Near the end of the class, you do the routines in succession, creating a fun and successful aerobic activity.
    • You can also learn hip hop or salsa routines through the Internet or workout videos. Learn several dance routines and do them to your favorite music, combining both mood-boosting and strategic music use.


  • If you want advice about what songs to add to your playlist, then go to or download the Running Playlist application to your phone, at
  • If you want to figure out the beats per minute of your favorite song, you can do it manually. Use the site to tap out the BPM. After a while, you may get an ear for songs with high BPM.


  • Be careful not to listen to an iPod at full volume capacity. Studies have shown that this leads to hearing loss. Instead, start with the volume at a low level and increase the volume slightly as your workout increases in intensity.

Things You'll Need

  • MP3 player
  • Headphones
  • Playlists
  • Running Playlist application
  • Zumba class or workout video
  • Hip hop, jazz or salsa dance routines

Article Info

Categories: Motivation to Exercise