Getting in shape is one of the most popular new year’s resolutions, but only 12% will actually achieve their aims. To help reach those goals, music streaming site rara.com has partnered with Dr. Jack Lewis Ph.D. to consult on how music can actually affect the brain and assist in realising get-fit plans.
Dr. Jack Lewis, an expert in how the human brain works, looked for music that would deliver the maximum performance enhancement during exercise – known in scientific circles as ‘ergogenic’ benefit. The findings were surprising; while many assume fast-paced dance music makes for the best workout music, other factors can prove crucial in readying the brain for exercise, and maintaining focus during a tough workout session.
Dr. Jack Lewis’ tips for the perfect gym playlist1. Try out classical music to feel the benefits of both motivation and relaxation
Dr. Jack says: “energetic but not overly fast classical music can be ideal in the gym. Not only does upbeat music increase speed, strength and endurance, but the relaxing qualities of classical appears to reduce heart rate, blood pressure and lower perceived exertion, at the same time. In addition, relaxing music has been shown to lower levels of cortisol in the body, the hormone associated with stress. I’d recommend Beethoven’s Symphony No 4, 4th Movement.”2. Listen to music before exercise to get ‘in the zone’ like an Olympic athlete
Dr. Jack says: “Listening to upbeat music (around 120-130 bpm) before lacing up your trainers gets your brain into a highly aroused state. Music at this tempo or above stimulates the Reticular Activating System, the part of the brain that increases alertness and prepares the body and mind for action. Technologic by Daft Punk (128 bpm) would be a good choice here”3. Choose songs that are ‘beautiful to the ear’
Dr. Jack says: “Try to choose songs that mean something special to you personally – ones that remind you of something motivational or inspiring. This could perhaps be a song from a favourite movie or a track that reminds you of a great holiday with friends. Research shows that the premotor cortex, an area of the brain involved in planning sequences of movement, is stimulated when subjects have been played music that is beautiful to their ear. Tracks we’re not so keen on are less effective in stimulating this region.”4. Match playlist tracks to desired heart rate for optimum results
Dr. Jack says: “It is important to match your tunes to your desired heart rate. Musical beats robustly stimulate an area of the brain called the basal ganglia which initiates movements and also has recently been found to increases crosstalk between areas responsible for generating hearing and movement. This may be why we have a natural tendency to match the energy of our movements to the beat. For beginners just getting into fitness music of a moderate intensity, around 125-140 bpm, would be most effective. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People is in this range. However more experienced trainers or athletes will need to step this up; 162-168 bpm seems optimal for them. Hey Ya by Outkast would be an effective choice.”5. Motivational music appears to benefit women more than men in certain activities
Dr. Jack says “Pumping music like the kind played in aerobics classes or circuit training has been shown to be especially effective for women. In tests, women were able to perform more repetitions in a medley of different exercises relative to men when motivational music was playing. We’re not certain why this is as yet, but it may help explain why classes often have a female majority.”