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Out with the reliable playlist and in with the new soundtrack – how music can improve your fitness

Music and fitness has always been a relationship made in heaven. The partnership between the music and fitness industries are a tightly knit balance of fashion, branding and effortless balancing between the type of sport and which artist will put their beats alongside. The entertainment factor of sporting events would be nothing without carefully chosen music and there are more and more musicians as sports ambassadors.

Coincidence? Definitely not. The science and psychology behind music and sport has proven that music can drastically improve fitness, and with this, every one of us can benefit from switching to a higher dose of BPM (beats per minute) which echoes that of your heartbeat. The faster the music, the harder you’ll work.

Of course there is a study to prove this, a 21 year long one at that. A 2009 Brunel University (UK) study has proven that the cardiovascular benefits of running in time to your favourite music can improve your fitness, and that matching the beat of the music with the rhythm of your exercise can regulate movement and reduce the oxygen required during running by 6%.

Costas Karageorghis, the sport psychologist in charge of the 21 year long study has stated:

“When you exercise, you go into a state of arousal, at which point the human brain looks for stimuli in your external environment to match. Slow tempo music of 80 – 110 BPM (such as the Beatles – ‘Let It Be’, which is 80 BPM) would be counterproductive, because your brain wouldn’t be able to create with running fast and the slow beat.”

According to Karageorghis, the ideal BPM for your fitness soundtrack should be 120-150 BPM, which will ‘trick your mind’ into feeling less fatigued during an exercise work out. This means training to music lowers your perception of effort, so you can train even harder, without even trying!

I put this to the test and changed my soundtrack from a dance/pop selection to pure alternative, and the change in pace dramatically increased, even though diet, route and weather conditions were roughly the same. Having a blistering catalogue of power punk and ska harmonised with my brain and I found myself keeping up with the rhythm naturally.

The soundtrack to my run, which was 3.5miles (5.6km) all ranged from 150 PM – 160 BPM

  • Green Day – ‘Basket Case’
  • The Offspring – ‘I Want You Bad’
  • Tuuli – ‘Here We Go’
  • The Vandals – ‘My Girlfriend’s Dead’
  • The Distillers – ‘Drain the Blood’
  • Blink182 – ‘Violence’
  • Muse – ‘Hysteria’
  • Muse – ‘Plug in Baby’
  • Placebo – ‘The Bitter End’

If you’re wondering how to make your own playlist, then head on over to here, where it gives you some suggestions of which alternative songs would be ideal for your new fitness soundtrack. If you’re not into alternative music, there is a whole range of different types of music to choose from.

There must be something in the weaving of alternative music and fitness, as there’s an Alternative Women’s Fitness company set up in Australia that looks incredible! Check it out here.

Need a playlist to soundtrack your fitness sessions? Check out the one I use on a regular basis when I need some motivation in the gym.

The table below shows a suggested ideal BPM for your soundtrack based on a variety of training activities:


Why not ditch your reliable fitness playlist and make a brand new one, it just might make your run that bit faster, further and harder?



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