If you’ve ever struggled through a silent workout because you left your headphones at home or felt a surge of energy when your favorite song comes on, you know that, when it comes to exercise, music matters.
Research has shown that listening to music while you work out can elevate mood and make exercise seem easier. One study even suggested that it may help moderate exercisers work harder.
Building a scientifically sound workout playlist, however, requires more than just setting your iPod to shuffle and pressing play.
Here's how to do it in just three easy steps:
1. Decide if you want to move in time with the music.
2. Opt for tunes with a strong, energizing rhythm, uplifting melodies, and inspirational lyrics.
3. Structure your playlists like your workout.
You don't start your workout at a sprint, so don't start your playlists that way. According to a 2011 study, "music tempo should be selected with the expected exercise intensity in mind, and be sequenced to contour in accordance with changes in heart rate." Gradually increasing the BPM as your heart rate increases will help you stay motivated, even if you’re not using music synchronously.
Additionally, research suggests you should pay attention to how your mix works as a whole. If you're going to spend a half an hour on the treadmill, "consider the congruence of musical pieces that appear in close proximity " and aim for cohesion. Abrupt changes in style or speed should be saved for transitions between exercises.