Press-Republican

FYI...

February 22, 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.

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