Whenever I exercise, a rather weird habit of mine is that I really like to listen to super sad, very emotional music, even if I'm doing a high-intensity workout. While many people seem to enjoy heart-pumpin' pop music, or something with a dance-worthy beat, the closest I get to that is like, a power ballad. Seriously, nothing gets me moving and sweating quite like the tunes most people use to cope with a broken heart or the death of a beloved pet. But apparently, the trick for figuring out how to find good workout music actually does have something to do with your emotional connection to those jams. In my case, all those tunes that make me want to bawl my eyes out just really get to my heart, and get me powering through those last few painful minutes on the treadmill.
It's certainly no secret that working out while listening to music makes the whole thing significantly easier for both your body and your mind. It does your brain some serious favors, as the tunes often act as a distraction, and they help you feel a little less susceptible to being taken down by feelings of pain and fatigue.
Music encourages people to keep on going, despite how the movement is starting to tax the body. Pretty powerful, no?
But research also shows that when you identify with the emotions that an artist is conveying through a song, it makes you feel more motivated, no matter what the actual emotions happen to be. Costas Karageorghis, a leading expert on the psychology of exercise music at Brunel University in London, told Scientific American that our bodies are basically trained to respond viscerally and emotionally to music.
We identify with the emotions and ideas that are interwoven with the song, and the deeper we identify with or feel inspired by it, the more it might push us to keep going and keep on feeling right along with the song.
Music can be such a powerful tool that you'll want to consider what it is exactly that you associate with the song. For example, you might find yourself a little more motivated when you're pumping some iron to that one Kate Bush song that reminds you of the first time you made out with your high school crush, rather than the Sade album you and your dad listened to the summer you had mono. For some, identifying with the emotional state of the singer helps to motivate the workout, while others enjoy a good workout flow because of the cadence of the lyrics, the tempo, or even the bass of a song.
Interestingly enough, it's true that most people seem to prefer jams with a good beat and a higher tempo. A 2012 survey of college students' favorite workout music showed the following breakdown: Roughly 27 percent like to exercise to hip hop music, 24 percent prefer rock, about 20 percent like to sweat it out to pop music, and last but perhaps not necessarily least, a little less than 13 percent of those surveyed like to listen to country music when they work out.
While most people probably don't move exactly in time with the music during a workout, it turns out that doing so is actually pretty darn good for your body.
Not only does your endurance improve, but your body actually uses less oxygen, too.
But again, my friends, it's really all about finding what works best for you, and it's possible that your playlist might change as often as your moods do. I say, no matter what, just go with it. If you're feelin' one of Taylor Swift's new songs, then jam the hell out to it. If you're vibin' with a Sam Smith ballad that makes you tear up all through your ab circuit, who cares? Whatever makes you feel motivated to move, just enjoy it.
As for me, I'll be over here doing a few burpees with Morrissey blasting in my ears.