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How to Create an Optimal Workout Playlist

Insights from the latest research on the interplay of exercise and music
iPod



Marcus Quigmire, via Wikimedia Commons

Here are some criteria to keep in mind when selecting songs for your workout playlist:

Tempo: Most people prefer quick-paced songs when exercising. Try songs between 120 and 145 beats per minute (bpm). You can use songbpm.com or Google to determine the tempos of various songs. Some people choose even faster music, but recent research suggests that tempos above 145 bpm do not provide much additional motivation

Rhythm response: Choose songs that make you want to get up and move. This is a highly subjective quality of music, but strong beats usually work well

Familiarity and cultural associations: Current hits and personal favorites are good choices, especially if they are associated with athletic prowess or overcoming adversity

Personal significance and empathy: The stronger your emotional response to music, and the more you identify with the singer's perspective, the more motivated you'll feel. Songs that evoke particular characters, complex narratives and vivid scenes, such as songs from musicals, can elicit particularly powerful emotions

Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University, one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, shares some songs on his current workout playlist:

"Domino" by Jessie J (127 bpm)
"Wild Ones" by Flo Rida featuring Sia (127 bpm)
"Love Me" by Stooshe featuring Travie McCoy (128 bpm)
"Off the Wall" (119 beats / min) and "Thriller" (118 bpm) by Michael Jackson

He also recommends these artists:
Rihanna
Madonna
The Black-Eyed Peas
LMFAO

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