Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

Bring on the Beat!: Workout music pumps up motivation, while building fitness.

Apr 04, 2011 03:02PM ● By Joan McCutcheon

Who can keep their feet still and their body-motor idling while listening to Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild? Or, for post-Boomers, AC/DC’s T.N.T.? As Sonny and Cher sang succinctly in The Beat Goes On, “Drums keep pounding a rhythm to my brain.” Music is, indeed, the magic that can boost our heart rate, energy levels and mood—it’s a perfect workout buddy.

During the late 1990s, noted sport and exercise psychologist Dr. Costas Karageorghis conducted studies to determine if listening to music aided the physical performance of athletes. His research revealed that it could reduce our perception of effort and divert fatigue; positively affect mood and motivation; enhance the acquisition of motor skills; and be either stimulating (useful for vigorous exercise) or calming (helpful for Pilates, yoga and cool-down sessions). Karageorghis concluded that music is “an often untapped source of both motivation and inspiration for sport and exercise participants.”

Karageorghis further emphasized the importance of synchronizing music with activities. He advised, “For a piece of music to truly inspire the listener, it must have strong rhythmic qualities that match the activity at hand, and also a tempo that matches the predicted heart rate.” In addition, “The melody and harmony of the music should promote a positive mood state; that is, they should energize the listener and increase vigor.”

One of the largest music-exercise matchmakers in the world is Power Music, a leading source for fitness professionals and the public. Its website,, offers thousands of compilations from a music library that encompasses most musical genres. Exercisers can create their own playlist via MP3 downloads or buy ready-made CDs appropriate for each activity and suited to their preferred style of music.

National fitness guru Tracey Staehle is partial to upbeat, popular Top 40 tunes when she’s walking outdoors or on her treadmill. “I like songs that are happy and have a great beat to keep me going,” advises Staehle, whose exercise DVDs include the bestseller, Walking Strong, and her new Walking Stronger. Some of her current favorites are Rihanna’s Please Don’t Stop the Music and Usher’s Yeah!—which she says are a great help in moving uphill. “I like songs that have a beat I can focus on,” she explains. “That way, it helps keep the workout fun and pushes me to work harder.”

Much commercial dance music and numerous pop-rock songs bounce along at 120 to 140 beats per minute, a rate that coincides with the average person’s heart rate during a routine workout or fitness walking. These lists of suggested tunes all fall within that range. They’re a ready-made, fun way to listen for the magic beat that helps us get a move on.

Classic Rock & Disco
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
Dancing Queen – ABBA
Feelin’ Alright – Joe Cocker
Help Me, Rhonda – Beach Boys
Listen to the Music – Doobie Brothers
Love Gets Me Every Time – Shania Twain
Turn the Beat Around – Gloria Estefan

Tracey Staehle’s Personal Playlist
All Summer Long – Kid Rock
Bad Girls – Donna Summer
Don’t Change – INXS
Fire Burning – Sean Kingston
Love Story – Taylor Swift
Pocketful of Sunshine – Natasha Bedingfield
So What – Pink

Sources: Dr. Costas Karageorghis, Brunel University, UK;,