McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Sports

February 20, 2014

The science of workout music

You're bundling up for a chilly morning run. Or about to climb on the elliptical for a high-energy workout. Or warming up before a weightlifting session.

What's the first thing you reach for?

 Your earbuds, naturally.

Studies have shown that listening to music that fits the cadence of what you're doing - running, cycling, aerobics - makes you work harder.

 "The metronome aspect, the synchronization of movement to music, is the most important," says Carl Foster, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse.

The idea of synchronizing movement to a beat is nothing new, he points out: In Roman galleys, the drumbeat drove the pace of the rowers. "But there is also the distraction and arousal that music brings," Foster says. They both matter, but it's unclear how much. "There's definitely more buried in music that affects us. But we don't know exactly how to tease it out."

So, how to pick the "right" music?

If you want to make a workout mix based on tempo - or BPM, for beats per minute - various Web sites, including www.songbpm.com, can help you determine the tempo of your favorite music to see whether it fits your intended activity. Or you can go to sites such as www.motiontraxx.com that offer playlists at a certain BPM for running and cycling as well as other activities. Other sites include www.workoutmusic.com and www.powermusic.com.

"Music is positive energy," says Deekron "the Fitness DJ" Krikorian, who produces fitness playlists for MotionTraxx. "So when I put together playlists, I look for intensity, positive feeling and cohesiveness."

 If he finds a song that feels right in terms of mood and intensity but has the wrong tempo, he might manipulate the BPM to fit the type of exercise intended.

 "The beat becomes very important anytime there is repetitive movement," Krikorian says. "Our instincts tell us to move to the beat. Our feet tell us to move to the beat."

The ideal cadence for running is a hotly debated topic in the running world, and variations in stride length mean finding your ideal tempo could take a bit of experimentation. Some sources say an eight-minute mile corresponds with a BPM of 170; others go up to 200. Some suggest the ideal running cadence is in the 170s to 180s. And some studies show that faster may be better for injury prevention.

If that sounds like too much work, try a group fitness class; cycling, step and aerobics instructors have been leveraging the power of the beat for years.

 Ingrid Nelson, a cycling instructor who packs her tempo-driven classes at Washington's Biker Barre, says intensity, style and cadence are all important when putting together her playlists.

"I like a lot of '90s hip-hop and usually stay in the range of 95 to 105 BPM," Nelson says, aligning the beat to the cyclers' revolutions per minute. But she might go as low as 80 or as high as 120 BPM for hills and sprints, respectively. When drills are aligned with the beat, she says, participants "connect with music" and "relax into the pulse."

As for other fitness activities such as step aerobics, the tempo hovers around 130 BPM, says Harold Sanco, group fitness director and instructor at Results gym in Washington. "You have to pick music that is both safe and effective," he says. "If you are going too fast, you risk injury and you're not working out effectively because you are not getting the full range of motion."

But Sanco says music is important beyond tempo and genre; it also helps put participants in a lighter mood.

"Music can make people happy no matter what their day has been like," he says. "It entertains and educates."

               

Rachel Goldberg, co-owner and instructor at Washington cycle studio Ride D.C., says her music choices go beyond BPM, style and genre. She uses the phrasing of the music to get the most out of her rides.

"When you marry your body's movements with the music it's a more holistic experience," she says. "You start flowing with the music." If there is a chorus or other recurring crescendos in the music, Goldberg might use those to increase the intensity.

"The music becomes your North Star - it guides you."

It also distracts you - something many of us have relied on during a long treadmill workout. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise, says this is the aspect of music that resonates the most with him. "I enjoy using music as a distraction," he says, adding that music can keep you going no matter how tired you are.

Distraction, whether it be music or even a comedy show, can be helpful in a workout - at least in the beginning, Foster says.

That's where the importance of the beat and arousal come in. "After about 20 minutes or so, 'Larry the Cable Guy' is not enough to keep us going," says Foster, who used comedy in one of his studies. "We need more than a joke to carry us."

      

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
Poll

Do you agree with the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision?

Yes
No
     View Results
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
NDN Video
Famous Internet Cats Help Big Cause With Viral Video Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian Snoop Dogg Narrating Animal Footage Is Perfect Tigers Acquire David Price - @TheBuzzeronFOX Russell Brand Slams Sean Hannity Over Gaza Conflict Segment Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Brian Williams Reports on Daughter Allison Williams' 'Peter Pan' Casting News Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.