Yep, all your time spent on those workout playlists is 100% worth it.
You know the feeling – coming to the end of a run or spin class, you’ve hit a wall and don’t know how you’re going to make it, the perfect tune comes on and, suddenly, you’re flying again. The right song can turn you into Mo Farah – pushing you through that barrier and helping you work harder than ever. For many of us, getting through a HIIT session wouldn’t be possible without a little help from Beyoncé, Rihanna et al. Leaving your headphones at home is basically as bad as forgetting your sports bra – they’re equally essential.
But why is music so important when we work out? Turns out there are some actual scientific facts behind it.
Need a workout tune to get you fired up? Here you go:
1. it helps distract you
Your brain is surprisingly easy to fool. When you’re powering through a workout and focusing on the fatigue, laboured breathing and aching muscles, music can act as an effective distraction. By playing your favourite songs you allow your brain to focus on the positive feelings you get from music, rather than how exhausted you are.
2. it boosts your mood
A 2013 study found that people listen to music in order to “regulate mood” – and we all know that your mood can have a huge impact on your effectiveness in the gym. Music, like sex and chocolate, releases dopamine in the brain – the neurotransmitter driving the brain’s reward system – so music helps you to chemically associate working out with feeling happy.
3. it keeps exercise fun
There aren’t many opportunities to spend an hour listening to your favourite songs back-to-back – and it’s undeniably fun. If you know you’ve got your favourite diva medley or house bangers to listen to, even that freezing cold 6am run suddenly feels more appealing. And fun is key to keeping you motivated. Exercise has to be enjoyable to be sustainable – the right playlist can transform your workout from punishment to pleasure.
4. it’s good for your mental health
Music has been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety. Songs with a calming tempo and no lyrics are perfect to help clear your brain of worries and focus on nothing but your workout. That 2013 study also found music can help you “achieve self-awareness”, so it can be crucial in connecting you with your innermost emotions. Try pairing your chill-out tracks with a Vinyasa yoga session for the ultimate Zen experience.
5. it helps you pace yourself
The right rhythms can help you keep to the beat of your workout and pace yourself for the best performance. Whether it’s the perfect spinning song to up your speed for that final hill climb, or a steady track to help you regulate that first mile of a marathon – finding the right BPM to fit your pace can be a game-changer.
6. it breaks your workout up
There’s nothing worse than clock-watching during a workout. An hour on the treadmill can feel horrifically daunting – but music can help break it up into manageable chunks. An hour? That’s just Taylor Swift’s 1989 album, or 15 of your favourite songs.