Music can motivate you to work longer and harder, says David-Lee Priest, PhD, a health psychologist and researcher at London's Brunel University.
"Fast music, especially, provides us more information to process, which may distract someone from the physical sensations of fatigue and block signals to stop exercising," Priest says.
But not all fast songs do that. If the music is too fast, it isn't likely to boost your performance or endurance, says Brunel University sports psychology expert Costas Karageorghis, PhD. He has studied the effects of music on exercise for more than 20 years.
"Findings show there is a sweet spot, in terms of tempo, between 120 and 140 beats per minute," says Karageorghis, who has studied the effects of music on exercise for more than 20 years. "Beyond that, it doesn't improve enjoyment or any other psychological variable while exercising."
It also depends on who you are.
If you're an elite athlete, or if you work out a very intense level (about 70%-80% of your aerobic capacity), you're already so into it that music may not give you as much of an edge.
But for most people -- who work out at a moderate level a couple of times a week, music is definitely a plus. It's a pleasant distraction, which can help if you find exercise boring, Karageorghis says.
For them, music is like the "cheese sauce on top of the broccoli," Priest agrees. That is, music helps them tolerate exercise, and may motivate them to work out more often.
Choosing Your Exercise Playlist
Whatever musical style you favor, you might want to check the beats per minute (bpm) on an app
Karageorghis suggests choosing songs that mirror your heart rate, depending on the level of exercise.
For instance, he recommends slower songs that have tempos within the 80-90 bpm range, like "Stereo Heart" by Gym Class Heroes or "Twilight" by Cover Drive, when you're warming up or cooling down.
As you pick up the pace to a moderately intense level, Karageorghis says songs within the 120-140 bpm range are ideal -- such as "Starships" by Nicki Minaj (125 bpm), "Domino" by Jessie J (127 bpm), and "Turn Me On," by David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj (128 bpm). Songs over 140 bpm are unlikely to improve workouts, he says.
Don't Rely on Music
If you're a runner who races, don't get too used to having a musical soundtrack on your runs.
Here's why: Some races ban music. In 2007, USA Track and Field, the U.S. governing body for running, banned portable electronic devices weeks before the New York marathon. For runners used to having an iPod handy, this put them at a definite disadvantage compared to those who didn't listen to music while training.