Great work if you can get it. Or so many would describe the latest research by Dr. Costas Karageorghis, deputy head of the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University, London, who recently analyzed more than 6.7 million playlists in order to design the ultimate soundtrack for a workout session. Collaborating with Spotify, Karageorghis chose songs based not only on popularity but also on beats-per-minutes (BPM) and scientific principles meant to coax a stronger performance from your basic gym rat.
One might think compiling the perfect exercise soundtrack is simply a matter of individual taste and feeling — or business as usual for any DJ worth his or her salt — but science elevates Karageorghis’ work beyond the merely personal. “Music helps to induce alpha brain wave activity which is responsible for our dreams and rest states,” he explained in an interview with BBC News. “This leads to a state known as 'flow,' which is an ultimate motivational state in which sportspeople are completely immersed in what they are doing and feel as if they are functioning on autopilot.” To this end, his mix begins with warm-up and stretching music and then transitions to cardio songs, which gradually increase in intensity. Next, the playlist migrates to strength-training tunes and then concludes with mellow cool-down songs.
“Music lowers your perception of effort. It can trick your mind into feeling less tired during a workout and also encourage positive thoughts,” Karageorghis told BBC News. In a complementary study, Karageorghis and his colleagues surveyed an array of unprofessional athletes and discovered that men and women have somewhat different taste in exercise music. For men, the Rocky theme song, "Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, is apparently more motivational, while women find themselves more inspired by the songs of Rihanna and Lady Gaga. The team’s survey, as discussed in The Telegraph, also found that women are more likely to exercise before breakfast while men workout during lunch or in the evening most of the time. Knowledge gained from previous studies, including one published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, also supplemented Karageorghis’ recent effort to design an exercise playlist. For the 2008 study, Karageorghis recruited 30 participants willing to exercise on a treadmill while listening to rock and pop songs, including music by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Madonna, and Queen. He and his team instructed participants to keep strict time to the beat. The researchers observed that the music, which had been chosen based on tempo and other scientific principles, enhanced endurance by 15 percent while boosting the "feeling states" of exercisers, helping them to gain more pleasure from their workout routine.
Ready to workout? The top 20 songs as selected by Karageorghis and his team:
- Roar by Katy Perry — 92 BPM
- Talk Dirty by Jason Derulo ft 2 Chainz — 100 BPM
- Skip To The Good Bit by Rizzle Kicks — 105 BPM
- Get Lucky by Daft Punk ft Pharrel Williams — 116 BPM
- Move by Little Mix — 120 BPM
- Need U 100% by Duke Dumont ft A*M*E — 124 BPM
- You Make Me by Avicii — 125 BPM
- Feel My Rhythm by Viralites —128 BPM
- Timber by Pitbull ft Ke$ha —130 BPM
- Applause by Lady Gaga — 140 BPM
- Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft Ray Dalton — 147 BPM
- Happy by Pharrell Williams —160 BPM
- The Monster by Eminem ft Rihanna — 110 BPM
- Love Me Again by John Newman — 126 BPM
- Get Down by Groove Armada ft Stush and Red Rat — 127 BPM
- #thatPOWER by will.i.am ft Justin Bieber — 128 BPM
- It’s My Party by Jesse J — 130 BPM
- Play Hard by David Guetta ft. Ne-Yo and Akon — 130 BPM
- Burn by Ellie Goulding — 116 BPM
- Royals by Lorde — 85 BPM